I really didn’t want you to come to my garden to visit.

Welcome To My Garden-I'm Glad You Are Here

We moved to Uganda nearly one year ago. We arrived bleary-eyed in the middle of the night, and even in the dark I could make out the spacious span of our garden {aka: yard}. My soul breathed heavy with discontent from the first moment.

Too big. Too beautiful. Too much.

Waves of guilt and what will others think? flooded me.

Isn’t the word missionary synonymous with sufferer? Put-ter upper with the difficult, dirty, and disgusting?

I am used to the making do, doing without, and bucking up. I want to be seen as tough, hard-core, and “the real deal.”

It never once crossed my mind to say thank you to the Lord for blessing me with the abundant nature He knows feeds my soul, in the midst of a large city. A gift. And I sighed and huffed at the Giver.

No, thankyouverymuch.
Ungrateful for the blessing He lovingly gave me, I was too encumbered by the thought of becoming the not-so-hard-core missionary. Where is my mud hut?

Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

My whole life I have been well acquainted with the part of Paul’s admission in Philippians 4, the part about contentment with little, now God was offering me the opportunity to be content with much.

And I squirm.
And wiggle.
And apologize blessing away.

And then, finally, I relent.
Choosing Contentment

Yes, God, thank You for blessing me beyond my wildest imaginings.
When I wanted to embrace suffering, You sent blessing instead.
A garden that speaks deep into my soul and helps me find You in the midst of the hard.

Every flower blooming, every bird perched and singing on every tree limb,
every chameleon peeking its head through meandering vines.

Thank You, God, for meeting me in the garden, the garden YOU gave from Your hand.
For blessing Your daughter with abundantly more than she could ask or think {Ephesians 3:20}.

Lord, no more hiding or shunning the lavish gifts You give me anymore.
I am choosing contentment when I am blessed with much.

And if you come to visit? I will welcome you to my lavish garden with open arms, and we will sit on my verandah, enjoy the beauty surrounding us, and talk of the goodness of God.

Friend, what ways has God blessed you unexpectedly?
Have you found yourself shying away, explaining away, hiding your blessing?
Have you been tempted to hide your successes, your beauty, your talent, your wealth?
Please join me in the comments and bring your story.

With Love From Uganda,

Joy

photo credit: dave forney
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  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    Joy,
    I admit that sometimes I feel guilty that God blessed me with a loving, caring, godly husband after years of abuse. I got accustomed to hardship and suffering. I “served my time” as a single parent and I have several friends who have gone through divorces (most of them suffers of abuse and infidelity) and they are still single. They struggle to make ends meet and with the pangs of loneliness and here I sit blessed with the gift of a wonderful man to share my life with. Yes, I can relate to where you’re coming from. I am learning the joy of sharing my gift of abundance with my friends (financially and giving of my love and support). I thank God for my many blessings everyday, but you’re right, I need to stop apologizing for the gifts that have been given to me. Thank you!!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy Robinson

      Bev, I could have written your post! Sometimes I almost feel guilty for the blessing and joy I have found in my remarriage. Thank you for sharing some of your story!

      • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

        I love this connection. God is so good to use others to encourage us. :)

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      Bev, this story is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us here. I love what you said about blessing your friends from the gift of your abundance. That is exactly what God wants us to do, isn’t it? Be thankful and love and serve others from our overflow! Thankful that God has blessed you with a wonderful man. Praise HIM!

  • http://www.lifewithtruth.com Lauren

    Joy, thanks for sharing this story! We have experienced some hardships in our lives over the past five years, and God has used those challenges to mold and shape me, teaching me that Jesus is enough even if nothing else is okay. I have come to expect the hard. Today, we’re closing on a home in Virginia, where my husband is now stationed in the Navy, and God has showered us with kindness in providing a home that I LOVE. With a yard that I LOVE. Throughout the entire process I was holding my breath, waiting for something to go wrong, but God, in His rich love and generous kindness is giving us this gift. As I prayed this morning, I was overwhelmed with His goodness, and my undeservedness. Regardless of our circumstances, whether we receive blessings or challenges, they come from a God who remains good, kind, loving, and desirous of our conforming to His likeness. Whatever it takes, whatever is given or taken away, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      Lauren, your story and your blessing brings tears to my eyes. So thankful that God has blessed you not just with a home and a yard, but ones that you LOVE.

  • http://outrageouswonderfull.wordpress.com Anna

    I can so relate. I have been in this position and had a real feeling of I don’t deserve this it must be for someone else. However, this has led to me sharing what I have had, maybe far more than if I felt like I deserved it ( once I got over the embarrassment of having so much). Thank you for sharing your story.

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      The leading to sharing. Yes. Yes. Yes. That is what it is all about, isn’t it? I love those people in my life that have been blessed with so much and in turn bless me big.

      Thanks for coming and sharing with us here. I love this community!

  • Erin.treece@gmail.com

    Thank you, Joy, for your honesty. My family of three is serving as missionaries ourselves and it can be difficult to come to terms with living a more than meager lifestyle. Sometimes I feel spoiled, that I don’t deserve much of what I have. If someone who supports us gives us a hundred dollar donation (a generous gift!) I often think, what would they think if they knew I just dropped 100 dollars on a new pair of running shoes! This gave me food for thought, and I’ve never considered contentedness in this way before.

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      So great to “meet” you Erin! And I’m so glad I am not alone! Yes, it is an interesting dance we dance isn’t it?! Being faithful to those who bless us, and yet taking care of our needs as well. I’d love to hear more about where you live and what you do!

  • Wanderdust

    Joy, I know how you feel! We visited my in-laws for Christmas this year in Brazil (a journey with three kids and both blessings and adventures). We stayed at a beautiful house we rented this year (instead of the tiny cluttered two bedroom apt with family and all of us) and I did feel a little guilty about enjoying the sun and a pool while my friends were in snow and ice. Baby fell in the pool once; he kept throwing bowling pins in it (no walls around it and got hurt) but God protected us. Nothing is perfect. Even great blessings. But the garden was amazing to spend my quiet time in each day and look at the amazing intricacy of the flowers designed each by God Himself and the unique tropical greenery. I understood why Jesus enjoyed spending time in the garden talking with God. (and Adam and Eve). Life itself is a blessing and we are blessed to bless others as well. My husband’s family came for many parties and enjoyed it with us. But Gardens are so special for meeting with God. I used to love spending time with God in gardens in China when I lived there alone, too. Thank God for gardens!!! :)

  • http://www.incourage.me Debi Gable

    Joy,
    You have encouraged me with your story about your garden, & being grateful for all God gives you. I never really thought of my blessings that way. I’ve had some rough times in my life & the result of feeling sorry for myself. My life has been that of a roller coaster, as I have bipolar disorder: high highs & low lows & periods of peace & joy. BUT, for the last 4 years, since my ex-husband/friend had a relapse of cancer, I haven’t had one time where I was high or low. God has given me the strength to be there for John, & most of the time I can handle it. It’s so good to have a healthy mind, even if it MAY be temporary. And, I have many blessings, too, for which I am so grateful. Thank you for sharing the lessons you have learned, as they are very encouraging!

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy Robinson

    I think much of this feeling stems from the mistaken thought that we have to earn God’s favor. Knowing our own hearts, we don’t feel “deserving” when He blesses so abundantly. Yet he longs to shower us with gifts when that is how we can best serve Him. Thank you for sharing your garden and your life with others. I’m sure there will be plenty of hard thing to face yet in life, so enjoy the sweet gift of this season!

  • Chris

    I needed to read this today, Joy! Thank you!!!

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      You are so welcome. Thanks for joining me. :)

  • Debbie Hodge

    Thank you Joy, for reminding us not to overlook our blessings. Not to be guilty or ashamed of them.
    I have been retired for the past two years due to a disability. It is not life-threatening, just very painful. I have been living with this disease for the past 20 years and have many times tried to offer up the pain as a penance for my sins just to get through some of the bad days. But always praying that I would not have to work outside my home.
    When God blessed me with retirement I was thrilled with His blessing. But then I started to feel guilty because some of my friends still had to work. I couldn’t shout for joy when I got to sleep late or stay in my pajamas all day long. I couldn’t express the joy that filled my heart every day as I got to manage my pain much more easily.
    After reading your story I realize that I must start accepting God’s blessings with open arms and praising Him for allowing me to enjoy they last chapter of my life here on this earth.

  • Aida

    After years of living below or just at the poverty line here in Canada. My hubby’s precious parents enabled us to purchase a modestly priced piece of land. We were able to afford the monthly payments and dreamed of the day we could build on it. Fast forward and seven years later we found ourselves in a position to build a home! A home we scribbled and sketched for years, a home that grew from a modest size to larger than we ever imagined possible. We were able to gift a large space to new friends and future neighbors (they’re building up the road) and they constantly tell us how they feel so blessed. I usually feel guilty about how amazing it all is. Those that know us from poverty to now have raised eyebrows and seem to wonder how we succeeded. It makes me feel bad to experience comparison and wonder to myself, “yeah, how do we deserve all this?” I’m glad to have come across your post today and I sincerely thank you for writing it. I love our Lord and how unifying He is within the community of believers because just prior to seeing your post, He gave me the word “contentment” this morning. Until I opened your post, I didn’t realize how that would work on my heart today! Just beyond my garden, I enjoy a gorgeous view of evergreens, mountains and a vast lake. He’s so good and we are showered with blessing. But I have to say, He’s given us amazing parents that believed in and supported us. Glory to God!!!

  • https://amothersway.wordpress.com/ Mj

    Shout-out to *Debbie Hodge!

    Blessings.

  • http://lovellegerthmyers.com Lovelle

    I love this. Contentment is learned and that is something the Lord is really teaching me lately. Thank you for this beautiful post Joy!

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      Lovelle!
      So lovely to see you here in the comments. Congrats on your new marriage! If you can learn contentment regardless of circumstances, wow, that will pay off huge for your future.
      Love to you!!

  • http://godsdailymessageforthedense.blogspot.com/ Cynthia McGarity

    Thank you for this post, Joy. I don’t know why I am still shocked EVERY time I’ve been praying about something and the next morning, His answer is in the devotional I’m reading. (Another way He blesses us abundantly!) I was only yesterday morning considering a house sale and move for my family, feeling a little guilty about the prospect of making a profit on our house and moving to a place a bit bigger where we can host our many friends and family…and it dawned on me as I drove, looking at His glorious rays of sun peeking out at me from behind the clouds and shining on the mountains beyond, that He wants to bless me. And positioned my husband and I in such a way that we could be further blessed and continue blessing others. Thank you so much for affirming what I know I was hearing in my heart. That whisper of love that is such a gift from Him.

  • Darla

    Joy, I loved this post – thank you!
    I just got on this Incourage mailing a couple months ago. I’ve really appreciated it, but there does seem to be an awful lot of writing about all the insecurities and failings and pain of life, and what a mess we are (which is TRUE), but your reminder of the awesome things in life that God brings our way is very refreshing!
    Thank you!

  • Catherine

    Joy,
    After growing up living by just getting by I married a wonderful Christian man. Together we have been able to get a home. I knew was my mustard seed. It has become the tree where birds have found shelter in it. We have been able to help school mates of one child, a friend who needed a home. The most recent is a young family we have been able to help as they have learned to be a family. We thank the Lord for giving us this home that we have been able to allow God to use. Size doesn’t matter. God uses places and people who have their hearts and homes, or gardens, open. i can only say Thank You to my Father for allowing my husband and I the opportunity to be used by Him. Thank you for your story today.

  • http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com Jeanne Takenaka

    I loved your story, Joy. And when you said (via Charles Spurgeon), ““Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

    Yeah, that spoke to my heart. Thank you for this perspective!

    When we moved back into our home in Colorado, my husband came out two weeks early to oversee some of the updates our house desperately needed. When the kids and I arrived? The house had the left over mess of carpet scraps, dirty, um toilets, and some of the aspects of the home we hadn’t “updated” yet.

    My eyes took in the dirty, the work I would have to do. The blinds that were 15 years old. The country blue, tiny-tiled kitchen counter. My heart and my mouth complained. Then God convicted me. I had to apologize to my husband and to God about my discontented attitude. I needed to see the work that had been done, the sacrifice of time on my husband’s side of things. And the beauty that would come . . . in time.

    When I choose not to see the blessings God gives me, I am so ashamed once my eyes and my heart are truly opened.

    I guess sometimes, we just need to see the situations and conditions in our life through God’s lens, huh?

  • Debi Schuhow

    Made me cry….your words set me free.

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      I’m just a blubbering mess today reading and responding to all of these comments. We are crying together. :) Girls can do that, right?!
      Love to you.

  • http://rebekahbeene.wordpress.com Rebekah Beene

    I too am choosing contentment. Thank you for this lovely post. I don’t think God ever expects us to hate the good or the bad. Humbling too to think that I have felt embarrassment with either abasement or abundance. Thank you. And may the LORD bless the work your family is doing in Uganda. I pray for supernatural salvations and deliverances and more in your ministry for the Kingdom and Glory of God.

  • Audrey Hackett

    Well, Joy, I couldn’t believe it when I read your comment. Only yesterday I remarked to my husband that I could see just how blessed we have become recently. Quietly and without any trumpet call things have changed for us financially. I commented to someone just this week that I don’t have to be concerned about our bank balance these days. SOMEONE keeps putting money into our bank account all I have to do is to use it!! For many years with a family of four growing boys we have had to call on Income Support to meet our needs. My husband went blind, I couldn’t get a job that would give us enough to pay our way and we had to become beneficiaries of the state for 10 long years. The downside was that our four sons took a negative view (despite their Christian upbrining) and rather than working together as a team they resented us and our inability to continue to provide for their needs (and wants, of course). Now that has all been resolved and forgiven and we have two of them serving the Lord with success in their finances, married with two beautiful children each. The other two are not yet married but support us now in every way although they are not yet in the place spiritually that we would love them to be. However, each one of them expresses their surprise and pleasure at our newfound prosperity. We are now both dealing with mobility issued, soon (we believe) to be resolved with orthopaedic surgery. What a great God we serve and now our remaining years must be spent in sharing wherever and whenever we can a testimony of God’s faithfulness and constant availability to meet our daily needs as we go through his dealings to mature us even at the most difficult and darkest times. Praise His Name.
    ‘.

  • http://incourage.me/2015/01/welcome-to-my-garden Jan Panning

    Joy,
    This article hit home with me this morning.
    I wrecked my car a week ago on Friday. I was driving my daughter to a store because she can not drive due to an eye problem caused by accident she had four years ago. She made a comment, I looked at her, then at the mirror. Because of that distraction, I hit a parked car on the left side of the road.
    Fortunately, I only have three broken ribs and all she has is a severe bone bruise on her sternum.
    I thanked the Lord that it wasn’t worse, but instead of praising Him for other blessings, I kept praying that the car would not be totaled. I didn’t want a car payment.
    It was totaled because both airbags deployed (probably saving us from more severe injuries) and being a 2007 model, repairs were more than worth.
    I am now thanking God for the accident, waking me up to my distracted driving habits. God will provide the car he wants us to have and we will be able to afford it.
    I have been to content with what we have, but not thanking God and not using my abilities to serve Him as much as I should be.
    Thank God for opening my eyes through you today.
    Jan

  • http://hopehearthome.com Susan Shipe

    It is so common for those with “much” to struggle and yet I have found those with much have the most gracious, humble hearts.
    God has blessed you – shout it from the rooftop – Great is His Name and greatly to be praised!

  • Heather Thornton

    Thank you, Joy, for reminding us that rejoicing in the goodness of God is just as important as rejoicing in the sufferings of Christ. I have really appreciated your vulnerability of late and even shared your story from your recent blog post with my Bible study group on Wednesday. It opened up more doors for the ladies to be vulnerable themselves. Praising Jesus for all that He is doing in and through you!

  • Erika Philip

    loved this so much. Love to you and Dave!

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      Thanks sister. Love you.

  • Amy

    Wow! I feel like I could have written this! We serve in E. Asia and last summer God led us to a really great apartment – but with me fighting the whole way! I, too, didn’t want the comments about how big it was, the judging thoughts of others because it was so new and clean, etc. Even after God very specifically answered prayer after prayer confirming this was his plan, I still feel the need to explain all the circumstances each time people come over (how we ended up living in such a great place). Even though I’ve known this before, reading this has encouraged me to accept God’s blessings and not be apologetic about it, but just offer God the praise. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kathi

    “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty……~ Mother Teresa. Joy I wanted to share this quote. I love this quote as it makes me think about your post, my life and how it’s not the “things” that is the poverty, but the souls who are not filled with His spirit. Invite EVERYONE to your beautiful, blessed garden and backyard. Rejoice and bless others, share your wealth and never hid His beauty. I live your blog and your candor. Thank you!

    • http://joyforney.org Joy Forney

      YES! Thank you! Your words of encouragement brings tears to my eyes. And I am doing just that! Last night we had 4 families over for a big birthday party for a sweet friend. Today, a neighborhood soccer team is practicing, and tomorrow a big, huge goodbye soiree for families that are leaving our community. Blessed to be a blessing!!
      Thank you for your sweet words, Kathi. :)

  • http://faithloveandababycarriage.blogspot.com Ashley

    This was just what I needed to hear today. I was praying about this night before last. I grew up in a home where the worst things usually did happen and now I find myself struggling to overcome that mentality and relax in the joy of where God has me. He’s has definitely redeemed my childhood by giving me an amazing husband, beautiful girl and one on the way. I still can get caught up feeling guilty or trying to explain my talents, anything good away. This was amazing and spoke right to my heart especially the quote. Unbelievable how God leads us to the right words at exactly the right time! Thank you so much for sharing your heart!!!!

  • Erin

    Thank you for this!! After years of desert time, I am being blessed with the most wonderful blessings that I never imagined, but that anyone who knows me well would know I would love!!! And I’m blown away- by God’s kindness, faithfulness, and how well He knows me, etc. And then I feel afraid like maybe it’s a trap or a trick – and I’m ashamed to write that – because really, it is a gift.

  • Susan Gruener

    This post is not what we would usually expect to read…and yet…it is me. I have also been blessed ‘with much’.
    It took me years to fully realize it is Gods ‘decision’ alone who He wants to bless ‘with much’. We are simply to be thankful to HIm and share it with others. It’s all a matter of the heart – which is what He really cares about.
    This was a good reminder for me.
    Thank you!

  • Beth Williams

    Joy,

    After years of “getting by” I was blessed with an amazing husband, house, etc. I felt rich. A few years ago I was blessed again by an increase in pay. Immediately I wanted to share some of that with others.

    During the past few years I’ve not liked my job and prayed hard about it. Every so often God would bless me with a book, coffee cup, cards, etc. just some little thing to let me know He hears and cares. Because of all that I consistently want to share my items, time, money, etc. with others to bless them. I believe that is why I’ve been given these things. God is asking us to “Pay it Forward”.

    Be content with much or in want. Always try to bless others allowing God to shine through!

    Blessings :)

  • Mpho

    Oh dear! I really laughed when I read your article. I felt exactly like that when the Lord blessed us with a 5 bedroom house and 4 bathrooms, with a huge yard that had really beautiful old trees. The first month in that house was not easy as I felt like I was not worth it, then He blessed me with a car…this time around I did not share that info with anyone…lest it sounded like I am boasting…You know like God only blesses me… Well I am feeling so much better knowing that it is not just me, there are other who feel the same. I am slowly settling into this blessing and slowly enjoying it, cause I would even feel guilty just to enjoy it. I really thank Him for this gorgeous gifts He provided for us in 2014.

  • Janet from FL

    Yes, blessing beyond! As a cancer survivor who nearly died, I feel maybe I don’t deserve to be healed as much as others I know who have died from cancer… But I am thankful, and I am trying to use this time wisely, for God’s glory. (http://faithcounts.wordpress.com)

  • Wanda Hogan

    Lord I Wanda just want to think you from pull me through stand my feet on Rock JESUS Thank you Anew