Lake City Florida. Nowadays it’s where my dad lives. After suffering a massive stroke some twelve years ago, he eventually landed there in the V.A. nursing home. Every couple of weeks my mom and I load up the van and head that way to take him out to lunch. His being there has been a bitter sweet thing. Bitter because I hate not having him closer; sweet because I’m glad he’s still alive. They said at best he’d only last three years. But God! Though it’s hard having to watch him do life from a bed and a wheel chair, even there God has given us many wonderful times together. For sure, every day is a gift.
Once we got over the initial grief of his stroke, and decided to move forward with what we had, things got better. Since then, every step has brought a new appreciation for life and for each other—not to mention the faithfulness of God who turns bitter things into sweet.
One unexpected blessing has been the three hours of driving back and forth to Lake City with my mom. I’ve really gotten to know a lot about her that somehow I had missed while growing up. Take for instance her love for plants. Though I knew she spent her early years on a farm, her deep appreciation for plants was something I hadn’t fully understood. Thanks to Maxwell all that changed. Maxwell you might ask. Yes, Maxwell. Maxwell is the plant man on the side of Hwy 90 not far from the V.A. nursing home. Right there in the middle of what seems like nowhere, Maxwell has beautiful plants lining the roadway. Every time we pass by his house, my mom tells me to slow down. The fact that the plants are for sale sometimes makes the slow down a complete stop. On one particular day, unknowingly, Maxwell handed me a simple reminder that I’ll never forget.
“There’s three things ya gotta pay attention to” he said in a voice equal to the pace of the town where he lived, “The soil, the fertilizer, and the bugs.” Though he continued to explain himself, my mind drifted somewhere else.
Where we are planted, what we are fed, and how we deal with the stuff that comes to eat up our increase are by far some of life’s most important issues. To ignore them, is to despise our God given potential.
On the topic of good soil, and where we put down our roots, the Bible has this to say. “They that are planted in the house of the Lord; they shall flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalm 92:13)
Along the same line, when it comes to our need for fertilizer, the apostle Peter puts it like this. “Desire God’s pure word as newborn babies desire milk; then you will grow in your salvation.” (1Peter 2:2)
As far as bugs are concerned—to me they represent the things that are constantly eating at us, often in the realm of our thoughts—it’s clear we are the ones who have to pull them off. “And we tear down every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (2Corinthians 10:5)
In the end, Maxwell the plant man has a bigger garden than I’m sure he realizes. Not only has he provided some beautiful plants for my mom and our family, but has helped me stay focused on the stuff that matters most.
Pastor R. Goyette
Originally published July 11, 2014 in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader