The Act of Pruning

creativity is Intelligence having fun

Carl was not happy about being on the other side of the fence.  But he needed to be there as my husband cut down the grape vine that we recently discovered last summer. As Carl made himself known to us by his loud whine, we cut off the branches, pulled off the long thin climbers, and chopped the large vine down close to the ground.

Just like the grape vine, many plants need to be cut back in order to reach their full potential. Year after year, we have cut back our fig tree to see it come back with beautiful leaves and delicious fruit. So even though it looks almost impossible to believe that new vines will grow back and produce grapes, we just have to believe that they will.

It is interesting how God created plants to flourish when they are pruned back.  So why shouldn’t we think that He wants to do the same with us?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

The word pruning means cutting or thinning. So when you think about how God prunes us, you probably aren’t thinking of a pleasant experience but one that will include some form of suffering or pain.

No one likes suffering and the physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial hardship that comes with it. But if we read this scripture again, we know it is for our good and God’s glory.

I personally would like everything to go as I plan but in the times of suffering, I can be encouraged by the fact that God is pruning me so that I will produce more fruit. And as I reflect on my life, I do believe that the hardships have molded me into someone who relies more and more on God.

Carl has also been pruned on several occasions in his life and I do believe that it has helped him to become the sweet little fella that we all love.  Having his tail surgically removed was probably the severest pruning he has lived through. But even though it was extremely painful and he no longer has a tail, Carl has adjusted and become an inspiration to us all.

Carl’s Vacation


Carl”s Vacation

Carl went on vacation last week.  After the episode with his sister bulldog, it was determined that the two dogs needed to be separated. So Carl went down to the coast for a couple of days of sun and relaxation.

As we drove him down to his getaway, we were kind of sad to see him go. We knew his needs would be met but it was still upsetting to think he would be away for the week.

Each night, we would get an update on how he was doing and if he seemed upset to be away from home. And every night we were told that he was doing well, walking to the water, working on his tan, but mostly enjoying being the center of attention.

Being the center of attention is what everyone craves. Deep down we want to be recognized for accomplishing a major undertaking, winning a prize, or just being first. If only the recognition could truly satisfy us. But it never really does.  Once I finish one endeavor, I am ready to begin another with the hopes that I will find the same brief satisfaction.

So if being the center of attention doesn’t bring the satisfaction that we seek, what does?  I have heard that the kingdom of God is an upside kingdom. The world screams at us that it is important to be famous and rich in order to be happy.

The upside kingdom of God tells us something totally different. Instead of having the spotlight on us, we need to intentionally take it off ourselves and place it on God. Jesus states in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Interesting concept.  Instead of trying to make life about us as the main character, we should give God the lead role. Then and only then will we find a sense of satisfaction that we all yearn for.

Carl came home from his time away two days ago. It is hard to tell if he would rather be with us or back in his holiday setting. Either way, just like all of us, it really isn’t where we are but who we think we are.



Goodness in the Pain


It was clear that Carl’s sister was agitated and was not going to tolerate the attention that Carl was receiving from all of the grownups in the room. Her eyes zeroed in and her body began to shiver. The hair on the nap of her neck was raised and before anyone could stop the quarrel, she charged in on her prey.

Immediately, the adults in the room started screaming and attempted to pull the two bulldogs a part. After a couple of horrifying moments, the dogs were separated.  Carl was immediately surrounded by concerned women with sympathetic words and soft pets to his head.

As I gazed into his deep brown eyes, it was clear that he was loving all of the attention he was receiving. As the women inspected his hurt paw, Carl sat as still as possible and looked down with a forlorn expression indicating that he was definitely hurt and would appreciate all the tender loving care they wanted to provide.

The situation was quite alarming for the women who experienced the two dogs fighting at their feet. As for Carl, it was very disturbing and quite painful. But even in the midst of the pain, there was an ounce of good in it.

How can I say there is good when there is pain present? When I was twelve, I was in a serious motor boat accident that left me scarred for life. I was thrown out of a boat and ended up in the exact path of the propeller. After the blades had made mincemeat of my left arm and side, I was rushed to Duke Hospital where I spent one of the most painful nights of my life.

So how can I say there is good when pain is present? I would never wish what happened to me on anyone but I can tell you that something incredible occurred during the pain. An awareness stemmed from that particular day of pain. An awareness that I had a purpose in my life.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that I hold close to my heart because I truly believe it was not only given to the Israelites but to anyone that may not understand the pain in their lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I would never want to relive that summer day in 1969. But as crazy as it sounds, I am grateful for the experience because I believe that God had a purpose in the pain to awaken me to His presence.

It would be great to hear your story on how God changed your life through pain.

As for Carl, he nursed his womb all night long and was still limping in the morning. I am sure he will be fine in the near future, but in the meantime, he sure seems to be enjoying all the attention he is receiving.


Stuck in Fear


Carl and Bee were not happy when I placed the birthday hats on their heads.  It was particularly clear that Bee wanted nothing to do with the pointed apparatus that was stuck on top of her head. Given it was Carl’s birthday, I felt that he deserved a party to celebrate his special day.

But to my two dogs, this was no celebration. The second after this picture was made, Bee leaned over and took her paw and swiped the hat off the top of her head. Carl was not far behind her in his pursuit of freedom from the strap that was holding the hat in place.

Once it was clear that they were not going to keep the hats on, I treated the dogs for being tolerant of my mischievous actions. And in no time, it was clear that my dogs had shaken off the thoughts of the hat and moved on.

Getting stuck or moving on can make all the difference to our emotional and spiritual growth. Every day we are faced with decisions that will cause us to become bitter or better. But there is nothing worse than being frozen in a web of fear.

It doesn’t usually take us long to formulate a fear that keeps us locked up. The web of fear is usually different for everyone and may seem ridiculous to others which causes the person to hold onto them with an even tighter grasp.

Jesus knew the embedded fears of everyone he encountered. He knew that in order for the people he confronted to be free, they had to get unstuck. And if you study out the people that Jesus healed, you will see people that were freed from the prison of fear.

Take for instance, the Samaritan woman.  She lived in the fear of being alone. This fear was so extreme that she settled for a life from going from one man to the next. But when she met Jesus, this lifestyle drastically changed.  No longer did she live in fear of rejection but instead she found her true calling.

On the other hand, the rich man who wanted eternal life approached Jesus, knowing something was missing but fearing that Jesus would address his wealth. When asked what he needed to do to receive eternal life,  “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matthew 19: 21-22

Notice how the man went away sad. Sad and stuck in fear. As I write these words, I am the first to admit that I have fears that I need to address on a daily basis. Hopefully, through focusing on the truth that Jesus shared, I will make decisions to move forward.

Carl has totally forgotten about the hat that was strapped around his head.  After having a filling celebration snack, he has retired for the evening. As I lean over to pet him, I can’t help but think that this is what it looks like to be free from the fears that want to still our joy.IMG_3174



Taking a Ride with God


Hillary a!

I know that some of you are wondering why in the world Bee is riding in a buggy.  Well first of all, she is my baby (ba-Bee). Second, if you look closely, her snout is pressed close to her face which doesn’t give her the airway that her brother Carl has.

Lately, we have noticed that Bee, my French Bull dog, has difficulty walking the three miles that doesn’t impact Carl in the slightest. So when my husband saw a doggy stroller online for only $25.00, we thought we would give it a try.

I wish I could tell you that the first ride in the stroller went without a hitch, but I can’t. Bee couldn’t understand why she had to ride, even though she was winded.  In the first five minutes, she lunged out of the stroller and thankfully landed a couple of feet in front of the buggy.

Just like Bee, there are times that we can’t understand why our ride through life has changed up. We want to walk like we always have but God wants us to take a ride. I am sure Moses felt this way when he met up with God. For most of his adult life, Moses worked for his father-in-law as a shepherd. He was minding his own business when God turned his world upside down.

I am sure Moses didn’t see life beyond the fields that he lived in as he shepherded his flock. But God had other plans for Moses and his insecure self. Moses tried to tell God that he wasn’t the man for the job but God knew better. Instead of walking his usual walk, God had him on the ride of his life. Exodus 3

Have you ever had a time in your life that you went from walking to taking a ride with God?  Were you eager to ride or did you react like Bee and jump out of the vehicle?

Carl also took a ride at the end of the walk. He also wasn’t crazy about being confined and it was clear he only wanted to get out and strut beside his sister. We aren’t giving up on our purchase. So if you are driving down the road and see us pushing a carriage, please come over to say hello to our ba-Bee.


Head Held High

It was like Bee had woken one day and decided that she was going to be an empowered woman. She was not going to tolerate being pushed around by Carl or any other dog that came to the house. Every chance she thought she could take control, she did.

Instead of the docile dog that we had been accustomed to getting to know, Bee has now taken a more aggressive stance. This is clear when she sits with her head held high and stiffens her body right in front of the door waiting for Carl to even dare make his way past her.IMG_3148

How often do we stiffen up when we are faced with situations that we don’t know how to handle? I know for me, I don’t like being placed in an uncomfortable situation where I don’t feel like I have control. Particularly since getting older, I can rationalize ways to avoid the very situations that God may want me to be in.

A couple of years ago, I was under investigation by the school system that I worked in. Talk about an uncomfortable situation. Not knowing what my crime was, I literally had no control over my fate.  How could I defend myself when I had no idea why I was being investigated?

I felt like there had been a major injustice brought against me and I had no way to rise above it.  So why did God allow these circumstances to happen in my life? I will probably never really know until I meet my Maker but I can tell you what I learned from it.

When I was down, with my head bowed and heart wide open, God’s presence was more real to me than at any other time of my life. I felt like I had to hold tightly onto my relationship with God. I was determined that I was not going to become bitter but better!

“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”

Psalm 32:10-11.

I wish I could convince my dog Bee that life is much better with her head held down to God and not held high. But given that she is a dog, only time and experiences will help change her stance. As for me, I hope that all the bumps that appear in my journey will serve as times to pause and remember the love that surrounds me.img_2050.jpg

On Hands and Knees

This time I had to defend Carl in the incident that occurred in the depths of the night. I had an idea by Bee’s behavior that there would be an episode but I was just too tired to get out of bed to deal with it. I wish I had at least tried to stop what was about to occur but as we all know hind sight is best.IMG_2804

Bee was ready for the altercation with her brother and there was nothing I could do as the two bullies charged at each other. Thankfully, this exchange was over almost as quickly as it began. Something had caused the dogs to separate and make their way back to their beds. As I turned on the light and saw the mess, I realized why they had retreated.

This altercation was nothing compared to the one that Jesus caused when He entered the temple right before his crucifixion. “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21: 12-13.

I am sure Jesus didn’t make any friends on this day. Coming into the most important building in the city and turning over tables of the money-changers had to turn some heads. How could one man be so bold as to confront these men that were making money for Caiaphas, the high priest?

Because Jesus knew that selling sacrifices for extremely high prices to the people that were coming to make a sacrifice was wrong and angered God. Given that Jesus came to implement God’s plan on earth, He didn’t have an option but to address this wickedness in God’s sight.

So right before the eyes of everyone in the temple, Jesus knocked over tables and called them robbers.

This incident challenges me to be willing to do God’s will even when it isn’t popular with the general public. I just hope that I will consider what is meaningful to God the next time I see a situation that doesn’t please Him.

As for the mess that lay in front of me, I knew I had to deal with it as quickly as possible.  The short incident between my dogs had ended because of a glass of water that had been knocked off my bed side table. Apparently the water had startled the dogs and caused them to pull away and withdraw to the safety of their beds.

Once I turned the light on and looked in the direction of my pooches, I had to smile at how innocent they appeared. It was hard to stay mad at them, even if they woke me from my sleep and caused me to be on my hands and knees cleaning up their mess.IMG_2372