Overgrown–Fall Schedule



He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2 NIV

In this busy fall schedule, I’m already out of balance. Opportunities abound—more working hours, upcoming conferences, extracurricular activities. My center stagnates—exercise, family time, household maintenance, leisure, and sleep. I need to cut back somehow.

When I planted my garden in 2006, I set out 16 strawberry plants in a single row. I was too distracted by the needs of my young children to spend much time tending the garden. In three years those original plants multiplied by the hundreds, completely filling a 10’ x 16’ garden swath. By 2009 the berries were amazingly abundant—we picked three quarts per day for three weeks. But the row was so wide that we couldn’t get to berries at the row’s center without smashing precious others. Our harvest was plenty, but chaos loomed.

The next year (2010) the plants produced less prolifically and the berries were smaller. I read up on the plants, learning that berry farmers continually replace two- to three-year-old plants with runners from new plants. They must destroy the old plants to renew the crop and produce a plentiful harvest.

The situation overwhelmed me. Destroy hundreds of plants at the center and transplant dozens more at the edge? That could take a whole weekend I wasn’t willing to spend. I felt guilty for letting my garden get so out of control. I felt grieved about destroying plants that were still producing, though on a smaller scale. Frustrated, I put off my decision another few weeks, the whole garden suffering in wait.

One hot day as I push-mowed the garden’s perimeter, I brazenly cut down one square yard of strawberry plants. Expecting the crush of guilt, I was surprised by enormous relief. I mowed the whole row down and felt the weight of guilt lifting with each forward step. I saved plenty of runners to transplant, which I later moved into a closed bed to keep the plants under control.

This weekend I’m going to reflect on this Bible verse and my gardening experience. I want to destroy what’s consuming valuable space in my schedule—like too much time online. I want to transplant the healthy opportunities into a controlled area so they don’t overtake my schedule—such as setting a timer for writing. I want to maintain the necessary areas at my center so I have peace.

I will never achieve perfect balance. I will always have a wild runner invading tended space. I will always have a dead plant or two that need to be destroyed. However, I will no longer beat myself up with guilt. If I want to be fruitful in my spiritual life and my daily living, I need to tend my garden daily, both planting and pruning by God’s direction.

What do you need to prune from your schedule to increase fruit? What can you replant?


My tribute to Grandpa–Butchering Day, age three


My Grandpa Byron passed away one year ago this weekend. I want to share this memoir poem and my painting of the family farm in his memory.

Butchering Day—age three

Today is a big day at the farm.
All of Daddy’s family is gathered for butchering.
The ladies stand around the table side by side
so close I can’t see.
Mommy lets me poke my head in
and I watch them shake salt and brown sugar
over fat pink hams.
I hear thick white paper crinkle
when they wrap the hams tight.
Great-Grandma’s sink is full of feathers
like a pillow burst open.
I squirm when I see chicken feet
sticking out over the edge.
But the pot on the stove smells wonderful—
we’ll have chicken and dumplings for dinner.
I follow Daddy and my uncles to the smokehouse
where they hang the hams.
The sun lights up spider webs
in the holes of the wooden walls.
I breathe in the crackling fire’s smoky scent.
Outside I tiptoe up to the circle of men
and Great-Grandpa sees me hiding behind Daddy’s legs.
When he asks me to come closer
his blue eyes smile behind thick glasses.
“Watch, little Sarah,” he tells me
as he holds a chicken very still
on the old tree stump.
Suddenly I hear a thud
and the chicken chases me
without a head!
Great-Grandpa chuckles loudly
as I run inside like a scared little mouse.
Great-Grandma gives me a snack
when I tug at her apron—
graham crackers and sweet homemade juice
with grapes inside the jar.
She brings out the box of old toys
that Grandpa played with as a boy.
I play Farm with the metal tractor and wagon
and I play Kitchen with silver dishes and marbles
and little spice tins she saves just for me.
Best of all I like the old picture book
and I snuggle on the flowered couch
to find the story of the fox and crow.
Later I wake up just enough
to feel Great-Grandma tucking me in
with one of her homemade quilts.
I smile inside when she kisses my hair.




When I drive my husband’s truck
I select the Jamey Johnson CD
against my better judgment
so unlike my regular Christian fare.
Yet I choose to slip inside his sorrow.
I’ve listened often enough
to hear the devil’s lies
in my favorite songs on this bitter album.
The lie that Jesus turned his back on him
in a Southern Baptist parking lot
where he routinely got high.
The lie that no one cares where he’s been
once the fame, money, and glory
played out.
The lie that no one understands
his lonesome song.
Perhaps this is his own doing and undoing.
Perhaps he hides his pain away
where no one can see.
Perhaps he bears consequences
like the prodigal son in a foreign pigpen.
I blast the song
until the dash trembles and my ears ring.
As the bass line climbs
I slip back into the darkness
when I believed
no one understood
no one cared
not even God.
Then I used sleep and food as my elixir
not unlike his whiskey, women, and cocaine.
He’s wrong—I understand and sing along
to the words to a song nobody wrote.
Can’t nobody sing along.

I’m drawn to his mournful wail
like a mother to her baby’s cries
wanting to comfort him
wanting to comfort my old self
with the truth:
You’re not alone!
But I only knew that truth
once I turned back to my Father.
When I step out of the truck
with the song resounding in my head
I whisper a prayer of thanks
for my deliverance
and prayers of comfort
for the lonely.