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Gardens & Groundhogs

What gardens and groundhogs taught me about what it means to work out your salvation.

I'm always amazed at how the Lord chooses to speak to us through His creation; to teach us about His character, His design, His Love...  Or in the case of this post, the Lord convicted me about what it truly means to work out your salvation as I observed gardens & groundhogs...

It All Began in the Garden

Our backyard has a beautiful stone wall which separates our yard from neighboring fields.  It was what I loved most about our house when we first moved here many years ago.

Over the years, we have had many different animals reside in those fields, fields that used to be a potato garden.

The first week we were in our home, I happened to look out the kitchen window to see a horse in the backyard!  I then heard a noise and realized it was stampede of horses in the fields.  It was quite unexpected and exciting all at once.  lol.

A couple of years later, cows would graze in the fields, still rich with garden soil.  Sitting out on the deck on a warm summer night, I loved listening as they pulled up the grass, munching away.   I actually found it comforting knowing these creatures were just over the rock wall...

At one time there were pheasants whose mating calls were quite loud and amazing.

Years ago, before turkeys were so prevalent in our area, I saw my first wild turkey in those back fields and a very large Tom Turkey leading them along.

We have also had a beautiful albino red tail hawk take up residence in a tall tree in the back fields.

There have also been wild animals to keeps us curious over the years including a silver fox, a pack of red fox, and several coyotes, all whose late night calls would stop us in our tracks as we stood mesmerized, listening.

On occasion, we've seen graceful deer foraging around in the grass.   I was also quite excited a couple of years ago to see a large buck with a good size rack.

It may sound like I live in the country, but it is actually quite residential, with woods only bordering one side of the fields, which apparently is enough to allow us to enjoy God's creatures great and small.

The cutest visitors to our fields and rock wall are the bunny rabbits and groundhogs with their babies. Unfortunately, their cuteness only goes so far when they start eating the tender flowers off the tops of my plants, and especially, the year the groundhog became our nemesis...

For years, we enjoyed a garden in our backyard.   It was a daunting task at first because as we prepared the soil for planting, we encountered rocks everywhere!  It  seemed as though more and more rocks would continue to rise from the bottom, even once the ground had been tilled.   My husband would say, "We are growing rocks!".

We prepared separate beds and paths around them for easy weeding access.  We placed the garden right next to our deck with a low fence around it. We planted mostly lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, radishes (which we called Gilligan's Island radioactive radishes because they grew so fast and so big!), onions, cucumbers, peppers and one year we even grew corn!  I loved to watch the progress of the plants growth and would excitedly anticipate my favorite squash and zucchini as the plant's flowers first bloomed.  We, of course, watered the garden and tried to keep up with the weeds.  The lettuce had to be thinned out to allow for more growth.  In the end, our diligence reaped the reward of delicious, fresh tasting produce right from our own backyard!

Groundhogs - A Garden's Nemesis

But then the years of a successful garden ended...  Our plants were being eaten!  We had never had this issue before.  Then we realized why...  Our neighbor had a beagle whose favorite place to stay was in his dog house next to our backyard.  Sadly, he died and there was no longer the presence of a dog to keep the groundhog away.   The groundhog ceased the opportunity and ate it!

My husband read up on different ways to deter groundhogs from coming into the garden which included planting marigolds or placing dog hair around the perimeter.  The rabbits made planting marigolds impossible because they would eat the tops of the flowers off, and we didn't have a dog to collect dog hair from.

There there were the fencing options...

We replaced the low fence with a taller one.  My husband went a step further and rigged the fence up to slant backwards at the top.  My neighbor yelled over jokingly, "It looks like you've got a prison fence set up there!".  Well, if felt that way, only we were trying to keep the prisoners out!  It seemed to work for a couple of weeks and then it happened again, signs that the groundhog had eaten from our garden again!

The next step was to put the fence deeper into the ground, but the groundhogs still managed to find a way in.

At this point, we were perplexed because there wasn't a hole coming up into the garden where the groundhog would have burrowed in.  Our deck sat about four feet above the garden.  The only thing we could think of was the groundhog was so desperate now it was climbing our deck and then jumping down into the garden.

We then found an unconventional idea that we thought was worth a shot;  playing a radio outside during the night tricking the groundhog into thinking humans were around.  We tried that and it seemed to work, but certainly wasn't practical.

The following year, we decided not to do a garden anymore because it was so much work to keep the groundhogs at bay. Mike & Karen 0 - Groundhog - 1

Gardens, Groundhogs & the Bible

Recently, I read the following amplified version of Philippians 2:12 which says, 

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence, but much more because I am absent, work out [cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete] your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling [self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend and discredit the name of Christ.]

I have struggled with the portion that says "work out your own salvation..." because I know that the Lord has paid my debt in full.  He and He alone accomplished my salvation for me.  But when I read the amplified words to [cultivate] your own salvation, I saw this verse with new eyes when the Lord provided insights from my own garden experience.

Working Out Your Salvation in the Garden

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 
Ezekiel 36:26

Much like the rocks that had to be removed from the soil in order to cultivate the ground to create an ideal planting environment, so it is that the Holy Spirit prepares us for His indwelling Spirit, first removing our heart of stone and then placing His Spirit within, enabling us to ultimately grow and flourish in the Lord.

Grow and flourish...  The Holy Spirit certainly works in and through us to this end.  But...  there must be a yielding on our part, and a diligence to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In my experience, the term "on fire for the Lord" is usually used when referring to a brand new believer.  The new Christian is so excited for what the Lord has done in their lives, exuberantly sharing the Good News with anyone who will listen.  Yet later on, some of those same believers will lament saying that the "fire died down...".

My husband and I were very excited about our garden when we first planted it.  We took special care to make sure the garden beds were neat and orderly, diligently weeding and watering, looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor.  But then, the weeds would start to grow in earnest, usually when the sun was blazing hot in the summer sky, making the task of removal more tedious and tiresome.  It would eventually become hard to pick out the weeds without uprooting the vegetables because they were growing so close together.

There have been times in my Christian walk where I have started out strong, seeking diligently to walk in obedience with the Lord to work toward living out God's call to me as a wife, mother, servant in ministry and child of the King. During those times, I enjoy God's blessings ten-fold in each of those areas.

And then it happens...  I suddenly grow weary of doing good.  It makes no sense.  I am seeing positive changes in the areas of obedience and then slowly but surely, I grow tired when I begin to face challenges - much like the hot summer sun giving me no incentive to weed the garden. I can so easily fall back to my former ways of being wrapped up in self.  Then sins [weeds] take over, and selfish desires [groundhogs] eat away the fruit that has already grown.   Before too long, I end up getting plucked up with the weeds; once fertile ground, now barren...

Spiritual lessons learned from gardens and groundhogs...

When the Lord convicts in a specific Spiritual area, cultivate beforehand by studying the Word, learning lessons from the Saints lives recorded beforehand in the Sacred Text.  Pray for wisdom and for help to stay the course.

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance... Ephesians 6:18

Exercise discernment in those things that might seem innocent. Many times, the littlest distraction can cause the most damage.  [Remember, it wasn't the coyote, fox, cow or horse that ruined our garden, but the cute little bunny rabbit and groundhog...]

Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil, He prowls around 
like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8

Guard your heart, your thoughts, your eyes and ears, shield them from those things that would entice you away from obeying the Lord.  Build yourself up with the whole armor of God by praying, memorizing Scripture; reading edifying books and blog posts; being part of a church body; listening to praise music or hymns. [Remember the taller fence and the music which kept the destructive groundhog at bay.]

Watch your heart with all diligence, For from it flows the springs of life.  Proverbs 4:23

Finally brothers whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.  Ephesians 5:19

Those things you know are stumbling blocks, weed out of your life.  [Remember the good plant that got pulled up when the weeds closed in.]

He put another parable before them, saying, the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field {garden - emphasis mine}, but while his men were sleeping, {his enemy} came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away...  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.  Matthew 13:24-25

When you start to feel challenged and/or weary in your walk of obedience, cry out to the Lord.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the Godly run to Him and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart 
and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29

God has certainly wired us to be our happiest when we are obedient to Him.  When we start the day in His Word, praying throughout the day, seeking Him in all things, desiring to please Him, diligently obeying, we feel true joy and contentment.  We are working out our salvation in the Garden of Christ Jesus.

As long as we are in these sinful bodies, we know obedience will take a lot of effort and work... 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. Galations 6:9

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.   So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest... I should be disqualified.  
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I have found, the more you do anything, the easier it gets.  This can be true in obedience and in sin...

Let us daily choose obedience, diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling, looking forward to the day we will hear...

Well done good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your Master.  Matthew 25:23

{I share more Biblical insights from God's creation, in my post, Analogy of a Sunflower, which you can read HERE, where I share practical ways to avoid wilting in your spiritual life.}

The next time you stroll through gardens or see a groundhog, let it remind you to continue working out your salvation where you will find happiness through obedience.

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  1. Dear Karen,
    This was such an insightful and well thought out analogy. I am working right now at removing stumbling blocks and weeds from the garden of my own life. The spiritual life is truly like a garden, constantly needing to be examined and cleared of anything that hinders growth.
    I enjoy your writing, you are a blessing.
    Have a pleasant evening......Shirley

    1. Praising God for His insights.

      It truly does need to be a constant, intentional effort.

      Thank you so much for such sweet words of encouragement. They have blessed me. :-)

  2. This is a rich analogy and I LOVE the scriptures you have chosen to illustrate it! Praise Be to God who can keep us from falling and present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy! Jude 1: 25-27?
    Glad I found your sweet blog!!

    1. I am always amazed when I write how the Holy Spirit will bring to my rememberance Scripture verses that fit exactly what the Lord has laid upon my heart.

      Awe. Thanks so much! I'm glad you visited! :-)

  3. Karen, this was soooo good. It's uncanny how this falls in with all the things God has been trying to teach me about cultivating an intentional faith in Him! So thankful for your post, today! Love it!

    1. I love when the Lord knits fellow believers together in their Spiritual Walk and find it more amazing how He consistently does it through the Christian blog community. Iron sharpening Iron.

      Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you visited!

  4. I love the analogy of your garden and our spiritual journeys. It works well and provides a clear picture of how beautiful and lush it can be as well as stark and needing work. Your scripture references are perfect. Thank you for sharing these words to teach and bless us.

    1. Mary, thank you for your kind words.

      I have been blessed by your visit. :-)

    2. Thank you for sharing these words at The Weekend Brew. Blessings!

  5. All of my adult life I have planned to have my children help me in the vegetable garden because there are so many lessons to be learned there. This is a perfect example!
    Great explanation of the things we must do as we respond to what God is doing in our lives!

    1. Shannon,

      Sounds like a wonderful plan!

      Thank you for your kind words! :-)

      I'm so glad you visited!


  6. Wow - I feel like this really resonates with me and the post I wrote for SDG this week about sowing seeds of peace. When the Holy Spirit tried sowing my seeds of peace, they clearly fell on rocky soil (or carried away by the birds!). But God has been so faithful to help me cultivate fertile soil and sow these seeds again!

    1. Jen, Thank you for sharing your story. Praising God for His faithfulness to you. :-)

      Thank you for stopping by.

  7. Growing rocks...

    Been there too.

    What a lovely post. Thank you.

    Join the DanceWithJesus linkup each Friday at

    1. Susan, Thanks so much for your kind words.

      I'm so glad you stopped by.

      I will definitely come join the DanceWithJesus Linkup. :-)

  8. How lovely to see this beautiful picture and listen to the peaceful music. Reading your story made me realize that it does take hard work, dedication and obedience to God for us to see the fruits of our walk, and to glorify Him. Thank you for sharing this today. It was a very encouraging post. Blessings :)

    1. Thank you for your sweet words.

      Praising God that you found peace and encouragement here today.

  9. This is a beautiful, edifying post. So much truth in your analogy of the groundhog and your garden. God bless you, sweet friend. :)

    1. Cheryl, Thank you for your encouraging and sweet words.

      You are so kind. Blessings to you too!

  10. Thank you for sharing this great post with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    1. Thank you for your kind words Terri!

      Thank you for hosting such a wonderful community!

  11. love the correlation between gardening and loving God.

    1. God redeems all His creation for our learning benefit. 😊

      Thanks so much for visiting!

  12. This was a nice article. I have to admit though, I was coming here to find out how to get rid of groundhogs HAHHA... I don't have a problem with them yet but will be moving to a farm in Saskatchewan and I hear that will be something I have to contend with.. Did you ever start gardening again? ...... I found you at the Faith and Fellowship blog :)

    1. Rene, Your comment about hoping to find out how to get rid of groundhogs literally made me laught out loud. :-D

      A farm in Saskatchewan sounds like heaven on earth! All my ancestors were farmers and I just find farmland so peaceful.

      We also started another one this year, but life got too busy. Maybe next year...

      Thanks for visiting!

  13. Thank you! What a magnificent post today. Susan


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