I have always considered myself the opposite of a "green thumb" when it comes to plants. Some may even call me a gray thumb. Really... it's that bad.

Against my better judgement, last summer I decided to plant a Hibiscus bush. I popped that sucker into my backyard, (a sad sad 3 inch slab of dirt) and hoped for the best. To my shock, the little cutie began to thrive! (By thriving, I mean that after one year, I was getting approximately one bloom a month.) But, hey! It wasn't dead!

Sometime in August, I started noticing what looked like a white beard on the leaves. After some time, I got really concerned for my little baby, and did what any plant connoisseur would do... I crowd sourced it on instagram to diagnose the problem. Turns out, my baby was showing evidence of a nasty little infestation of bugs called "white-flies."

After googling how to get rid of them, I noticed a pattern. All the suggestions ended with: "Make sure to get rid of EVERY fly and larvae or you risk re-infestation."

BUT...there was ONE I couldn't bring myself to do... TOUCH the leaves. Flip them over, scrub them, and double check every inch. Something about getting close to bugs makes me develop a paranoid ITCH for days. So, tried cleaning them without touching them. And I'm sure you can guess what happened... yep. They came back. Even after 5 treatments, I still had no luck.

Silly as it sounds, as I was watching all this unfold, I felt God whisper to me a scripture I had read many times.

Song of Solomon 2:15- Catch all the foxes,those little foxes,
before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!***

As I was sitting there in my garden, totally baffled my my NON results, God spoke straight to my heart. "Natalie, you didn't scrub them clean. You didn't check under every leaf. You didn't cut off the dead parts. You didn't care enough for them to catch every last bug that spoiled the plant. Have you done that in your own heart? ***Have you skipped over the creepy parts? Were you too grossed out by some of your sin or past that you haven't gone there?***"

Ouch.

1. Focus on the HIDDEN as well as the visible.

In that moment, I felt that God was asking me to take a moment to dig a little deeper into my heart and not be afraid to lift up the "leaves" and let Jesus scrub away the gross parts of me. The insecurity... the jealousy... the mistakes... the fear... The things that I would never want to tell another living soul.

It's easy to hide the junk with nice clothes, weight loss, saying the right things, etc. But the truth is, the infestation is still there. Looking good is not the same as BEING good! I could have just rinsed off the plants and they'd LOOK ok for a moment, but to get rid of the infestation, you have to search every nook and cranny and expose it. We have to get vulnerable enough to expose the junk, and not be afraid of "looking bad."

2. Dont be afraid to work hard.

Because I didn't have the guts to touch it, the job wasn't complete. Don't we do that sometimes? We think we can do a half-done job and somehow it will get the same results as an in-depth one.

God has been taking me into a new season where I can see He wants to plant some BIG things in me, but He's been asking if I'm ready to put in the work in my self to have a thriving vineyard.

A vineyard is a symbol of new life, producing good fruit, caring and providing for others, giving nourishment to many. When you've got an infestation in your garden, if you don't catch every last fox or critter that creeps in, the garden dies and the possibilities die with it.

You've got to be willing to get your hands dirty if you want a harvest.

3. Actively Prune the Dead parts

This last month I've been taking a careful inventory of what old habits, hurts, & even good things like past dreams I've held on to that aren't relevant to me now. I've discovered that I have to actively cut off dead things in my life for new fruit to emerge.

When the dead parts of the plant fall off on their own, the growth is mediocre. In the meantime they SAP energy from the healthy parts. It takes me going in and chopping off the dying parts of the plant for it to thrive. They actually produce MORE when I do this! It reminded me that I don't need to hold on to things that aren't relevant to my life right NOW. It was time to let go and prune off the old so the new could thrive.

Friends, I want to urge each one of you to dive in to do the hard work of tending your heart. Don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Be afraid that if you don't, your vineyard may die.

God's gentle and caring enough that He's willing to point out to you the areas that are infested. He doesn't do it to crush you, but to motivate you to have the kind of life you were meant for! The hard work you put in to your heart today will produce fruit in your life for many years. Put in the hard work for a healthy heart today, and get ready for a harvest! And I mean GET READY... cuz it's about grow and multiply beyond your wildest dreams :)

XOXO

Natalie