Amy's Landscape

Views from the Florida Landscape

Show Queens of the South

Azaleas are the show queens of the South.  Where the Carolinas and Tennessee may boast their versions of that rhododendron with abundant pride, Florida considers itself the Azalea capital of the world.

Azalea varieties abound profusely, from the petite Duc DeRohan to the spectacular Indica Formosa that grows to tree size.  Azaleas come in countless colors and combinations including white, red, every variant of magenta or purple and Florida boasts them all with rightful vanity in a spring to summer display to beat all challengers.

The one thing they have in common is that they are acid loving plants that flourish in a rich, organic environment.  The wrong soil will quickly spell an end to the life of the most hearty azalea, where the right acidic soil found under every spreading oak will cause azaleas to thrive even in the wild with no human intervention.

Are you in the right soil?  Do you surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, confront you when you’re off the path and encourage you when you’re onto something good?  Or are you allowing yourself to be drained by others with no end to the flow?

What’s your environment like?  Are you surrounded with negativity, by people who continually zero in on what’s wrong or look for problems to steep themselves in?

Do you thrive on drama instead of admitting your contribution to the situation so you can grow up, change and move forward?

Do you get enough fresh air and sunshine, taking time to get outdoors to praise God for whatever beauty you find around you, and thank him for what you DO have instead of whining for more?

What do you focus your thoughts on?  Are you enriched with the nutrients you find in the Word of God and input that uplifts and challenges you, or are you sluggish and isolated because you don’t know what God wants for you or expects of you?

Maybe you need a soil check.  Ask yourself those questions and examine where your head and heart have been lately.  Next, admit to God and others where you’ve been off the mark, ask Christ to forgive you and get moving in a new direction.  It’s not as hard as it seems,  but it takes humility to look honestly at our soil and make the changes we need to thrive and not wilt.

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January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frog in the Pool

It was as if he was going down for the last time.  How long he had suffered I could not tell but from the looks of his movements he’d been long at it.

Padding out to the poolside each morning I almost always saw one.  Somehow in the night they had fallen overboard by mistake or perhaps had been lured by the shimmering stars reflected from the crystal sky above.

But then they were there, first to swim with delight and abandon, to dive and float to their tiny heart’s content, only to find that once they’d reached their fill, there was no way out.

The sheer face of the tiled wall leads to a bull-nosed precipice over which they could not jump, swim or crawl.  And so they swam and they swam and they swam unto exhaustion, finally to sprawl ready to sink for the last time to the black depths below.

One avenue of escape arrived with the morning, a woman in flip-flops and moo-moo, possessing a coffee cup and kind heart.

His struggle tug at my compassion for things living and on instinct I ran for the pole and skimmer, hoping against hope that I would not be too late to save him from his watery prison.

Still, as my redeeming net approached from above, he suddenly took on new vigor, dashing with all his might to the bottom of the pool, using every millimeter of his instinct and strength to elude the only help that could free him!

Time after time I dipped in the net with which to scoop him from certain death and equal to my efforts to save, he eluded me.

How often we dance out this same scene with God.  Drawn to the glitter or the gratification of a toy or a desire, we chase a phantom, one that only leads to our damage.

Yet we continue to try to elude God; we resist his net of safety.  Because it means we must trade our will for his, we choose to keep our rebellion, even if our choice causes such misery.

When we finally give what we call ‘freedom’ up, give in and let go, oddly enough it turns out we don’t lose anything we don’t need to.  We become freer than we were, on a new plane, our eyes open to the reality that the pond was the chain that pulled us down.  The freedom to do it our way leads to death, the bow to obedience leads to life.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Spanish Moss?

Nothing gives so fine a touch to landscaping as edging.  The whirring metal blade carves a distinct line, making every planter look crisp, every driveway or sidewalk appear clean and orderly.

But all Southern landscapers know that just one touch of that blade’s tip on a piece of Spanish moss and instantaneously, the moss will be drawn in and wound tightly around the blade housing.

The smart landscaper knows this to be an inescapable reality and will humble her (or him) self to bend down and move the offending moss out of the way of the blade before the consequences come due.

But, over again, I would say to myself, “This time, it will be different.  Just this once, I will be the victor; I will do it my way without the same outcome, without the same result…”

And every time, without exception, I would have to relearn the lesson.  No matter how fast the blade turned, no matter how much I revved the motor to plow through the moss, the moss always won.

The moments I intended to save by refusing to bend down and collect the moss were lost, and the payment was minutes wasted picking out every tiny piece of moss wound tightly around the blade and housing, sometimes so tightly I had to stop everything and get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pick away at the tighter strands.

Why do we continually think we can get away with something we’ve already seen won’t work; that somehow, even though we do the same dumb thing, this time it will be different, somehow WE are different and we won’t pay the penalties?

God puts consequences in place so we’ll do the smart thing, the right thing, the good thing, for us and those in our lives.  Why do we choose to go back to that thing we know is wrong for us, hoping somehow this time it will be different?  How many times do we have to do the same thing and get the same result until we choose to plug in a different move or humble ourselves and do it his way instead of ours?

What is that one thing you refuse to give in over and give up to God’s sovereignty?

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Turn

What foolishness!  With too much on my mind and without giving attention to what, in reality, I was doing, I turned left, thinking I needed to hit the bank before 4:00 p.m.  But in heading left, I bypassed the post office and another quick stop I could have knocked out had I gone right and then to the bank.  I wasn’t really in the car at all but off someplace in my head, disconnected from what I was supposed to be focused on.  Now I’d have to waste more time I was already pressed for.  In my head I heard, “You can turn around any time.”

What is repentance, but to turn around, do a you-turn?  Many times the thought begins to creep over us that we’re heading in a direction that’s not in our best interest, or we get caught in the fallout of a poor decision or choice, yet we refuse to get it; too prideful to make the you-turn it takes to get back on the right road.

Did you take a left today when you meant to take a right?  Did you head in a direction you were too proud to admit you shouldn’t go?  That’s just the stuff the Christ came to move us through, to help us get off the pride train and make the U-turn we need to go in a direction God has laid out for our benefit.  To continue on is folly but we often do, too arrogant to say we’re wrong and humble ourselves to make the you-turn to real freedom and peace.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pruning of Me and the Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtles are abundant in the South, their showy poms on display with great regularity from spring to fall in every shade of vibrant purple through delicate pink imaginable, even to lacy whites.  Yet every winter, no matter how mild, these proud giants are brought to naught, stripped of their elegant beauty and barely a leaf remains, mere naked frames before the winter scene.

The prudent gardener knows, though, that before the first spring’s tender leaf appears, major surgery must be performed.  Across the Florida landscape, gardeners enact what appears to be a violent attack upon these vulnerable beauties, severely pruning them back to nearly half their size, down to meager sticks rising a few feet from the ground.

How could this process be anything but cruel?  Doesn’t the gardener know what these grand ladies have already endured, stripped and laid bare before the world in humiliation?  Why chop down such meager remains when surely the leaves will return and all will be well once again?

Yet those who spare their Crepe Myrtles this mortification will find them spindly and weak throughout the coming year.  Poms will return but thinner, less bountiful.  It turns out the severe pruning promotes, and in fact ensures, new growth.  And not only new growth but stronger branches, more abundant leaves, denser poms.

Within just a few weeks of this pruning holocaust these genteel lovelies sprout forth multiple branches and leafy decor almost overnight.

Often I think of myself as the Crepe Myrtle and our Father as the Master Gardener.  How I detest his pruning, the agony of the cutting, the sorrow of the loss of the branches he cuts away.  How often has he called me to give someone up, to lose something I cherished, and I begged him not to love me enough to do the work?

At the time, it’s quite impossible to believe his surgery could ever be a good thing.  Yet later, after the tears have fallen and I’ve laid down the fight, I look back to see he didn’t take anything I didn’t need to lose.

I learned something I needed to find out.  I‘m enriched with more understanding, compassion, wisdom than I had before the pruning began.   I, like the Crepe Myrtle, am stronger and more beautiful for his blade, cutting away dead wood I didn’t even know needed to be removed.

What’s your dead wood; what’s the part you’re hanging  onto?  Are you allowing God to prune off the dead wood of your life or holding on to what you‘ve got, willing to settle for the spindly life you have because it’s what you’re used to, when he’s offering new growth and promise of a more vibrant life? Let something go today, something or someone you’ve be clinging to, and dare to believe God loves you enough to do something different, for which you’ll be richer in a sense you hadn’t even seen before.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments