This summer has been brutally hot and dry. The only time to do any yard work is in the early morning. It’s a pleasure to walk out to the vegetable garden every morning and see how fresh everything looks, despite some evidence of heat and drought damage on some of the plant’s leaves. The squash and cucumber leaves are full and alert, and the okra stands tall and erect. They look hopeful and seem to be ready to face the blazing sun and furnace-like winds that may soon come. The garden is largely shaded in the morning and so is very pleasant. Birds are singing and flitting from tree to tree, bees are buzzing softly, and life is generally calm and pleasant. But later in the day, in the late afternoon while supper is cooking in the kitchen, I walk back out to check the garden and find a much different scene. The sun and hot winds have done their damage and left their marks. This time I see wilted squash and droopy cucumber leaves. The tall okra looks sagging and defeated. This is bad news indeed for the vegetables that are trying to grow underneath the protection of these large leaves. Without this growth overhead, the squash will become limp, the cucumbers will dry up, and the okra will harden.
I take the water hose and pull it out to the garden, where I stand outside the fence and gently spray the cool water on all the parched leaves. The water drips off of each leaf, washing off the dust and cooling the plants and vegetables in this terrible summer heat. Then I plug the hose into the drip line that Gary wisely installed in the garden when we first planted back in the cool spring. Later when I have given time for the water to do it’s restoring work, I walk back outside to see an amazing sight. The leaves are once again full and pretty, ready to shade their fruit and face another day. It would have been easy to ignore my garden in the busyness of my day but I’m so glad that I took the time to nourish and water it when I did.
It seems that the older I get the more I see people around me struggling with the effects of discouragement in their lives. All of us know what this is like in some form or another. We can be living a pleasant and serene life, strong in our walk and in our faith, and thanking God for His many blessings. We are shaded and fed and watered. Others can see the abundant fruit of our lives. But one day it all changes, sometimes in a moment. A doctor visit; a phone call; a wayward son or daughter; a deep hurt; a car wreck; a painful loss. I’ve watched family and friends that I love face these sad, life-changing events. Now these dear ones are struggling, weighed down with life’s heartaches and burdens. What can I do? Each person and situation varies, but everyone going through tough times can always use the encouragement of a caring friend or family member. Grab the hose and gently spray the water of loving acts – a listening ear, a hug, a meal, a prayer, a card, a phone call. The painful situation may not go away but your care will help to bring nourishment to their soul. Drip by drip your prayers and your acts of kindness will uplift the spirits of the hurting, and will perhaps bring them to the place of bearing fruit again. Paul encouraged believers to take care of each other in I Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” O Lord, may I never get so busy with my life that I don’t take the time to bear my brother’s and sister’s burdens. Help me to know when to water and nourish and love by acts of encouragement and kindness.