Spring has officially arrived and is getting into full swing now…I love this time of year! It triggers excitement in me as I get outside more; my soul is filled with new life and growth as I take deep breaths of fresh air. I’m a gardener and all of my life I’ve worked hard, filling my yards with flowers and bushes to create lush oases. In Spring, it’s magical to see how new plants push their way out of the ground having been buried all winter and blossoms open on a tree branch that had appeared dead. I love to see plants flourish.

I spent 18 years living in Portland, OR – a fantastic place to live as a gardener. It seems like most everything grows well there, benefiting from temperate winters, long moist Springs, and sunny Summers. You might say I was in gardener’s paradise…I loved it! So why would I move to the high desert climate of Central Oregon? Where average yearly precipitation is just over 10 inches? Where the temperatures regularly swing 50° in a day? Where the soil is dusty and sandy? Where most of what I learned about gardening may well be thrown out the window? What can flourish in a place like this? Perhaps I’m crazy, but here I am…and I love it! And what I have seen has affirmed an important truth:

Everything flourishes when planted in the place where God designed it to grow.

And the corollary….

When planted in the wrong place, even with lots of tending, things will not flourish.

I remember when I was an ambitious but less learned gardener, spending a lot of money on plants one year. They were beautiful rhododendrons and I envisioned how they would look in bloom in my front yard in the Spring. I dug up the soil, loosened the burlap around the top of the root balls and carefully planted the bushes just like they tell you to do. I knew that first year there would be few blooms so I set my sights on how beautiful they would look the next year. I kept them watered and nurtured them all year. I even mulched them with leaves to protect them over the winter months. I excitedly waited for the blooms to pop that Spring. Nothing! As a matter of fact, these bushes were clearly headed for the great plant graveyard…my mulch pile. They were dead by the end of the year. What happened??

Turns out, rhododendrons flourish in acidic soils and my soil was alkaline. Duh! Great plants in the wrong place. They could not flourish there no matter how much I wanted them to; no matter how much I tended them. A waste of money and life. Not wanting to prove myself a fool, the next year I planted bushes that were suited for this soil and they flourished…and without much tending! Life was easy for them. Not all plants flourish in the same conditions.

I’ve taken a liking to the word “flourish”. Curious, I looked up synonyms and “succeed” popped out to me. So, a plant that flourishes is “successful”…a strange way to say it, accurate nonetheless. But I’ve always used the term “successful” to describe things surrounding people’s lives, like a person who makes a lot of money, becomes famous, has a good career or accomplishes a big goal, reserving “flourish” for plants. Afterall, isn’t success laid out clearly in our society? We are called successful if we become rich, or famous, or accomplish some great feat, right? We feel unsuccessful if we don’t make much money, have a big job, or create a great name in our community. Yet I know that God does not look at us this way.

Look at what the apostle Paul says:

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)


14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part!

1 Corinthians 12:14-19 (NLT)

And, Jesus said:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener,He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

John 15:1-2 (NLT)

God is the Master Gardener. Not only does he create us anew, but he plants us where he wants us and tends to us so we can flourish and produce wonderful amounts of fruit. For me, this changes everything.

Perhaps “Am I flourishing?” is a better question to ask ourselves than “Am I successful?”      

Am I crazy? But, doesn’t “flourishing” give a much different sense of what God wants for our lives? He’s designed each of us to flourish in a specific place.

As a gardener, I have had many cases where I planted a good, healthy plant (like those rhododendrons) in the wrong place and they died. I have also planted plenty of good healthy plants in less than perfect conditions and they lived, but did not thrive. No matter how much I tried to nurture these plants, they struggled. Even praying for them did not help. They simply were in the wrong place so they could not flourish.

In my life, I realized that by following the advice of others and some good (though corrupted by fear) personal motivations, I had planted myself in such a place. As an Engineer I was able to get along OK (some even said I was successful) but I was not really flourishing. No matter how much I tried to nurture myself in this environment I still did not flourish.

If I had not made moves to replant myself, I could well still be stuck there, underdeveloped; failing to grow to my full godly potential.

And what about the person who has already obtained worldly success… then what? I think of a retiring person losing the significance of his long-time career, having sufficient money to support his life. Is life now a matter of resting on his laurels, his abilities and gifting waning, unused? “Successful”? Perhaps, but “flourishing”? Perhaps not. How different might his life look if he sought to flourish, planting himself to continue to produce good fruit in this new stage of life. The gardener in me knows that plants strive to flourish their entire life.

Most of the plants I grew in Portland would never make it through one year here in Central Oregon without lots of help. Yet I have seen that even in the arid and harsh environment here, native plants are flourishing…amazing! They are well designed for this climate. God has seen to it that there is a plant for every different environment. Likewise, with us there is a good work for each of our unique selves. You just have to engage in the process to match who God made you to be with work that needs to be done….starting from where you are right now.

Movement toward a flourishing life begins as you engage in uncovering your true self. Become a student of yourself – identify your strengths, what you do better than others. What makes you unique? Adopt an attitude of honesty. It’s common to buy into lies about ourselves as we pose to get things….only to find ourselves miserable. Is this what you really want? Next begin the process of moving into places where you can be that person more. If you find yourself in a place where you require excessive amounts of nurturing, as scary as it may seem, it may be time to explore options and make plans for change. I know because I have been there. Having made several God inspired Jumps in my work, I now find myself planted in a place that I was designed to flourish in.

As you embrace your true self and move yourself into suitable places you will flourish, gain a tremendous sense of fulfillment and produce incredible fruit.

I encourage you to regularly ask yourself some hard questions. Are you well planted? Are you simply surviving or perhaps slowly dying? Are you flourishing? Time is short! Is this how you want to live your life?

Let me help you start the process of uncovering your true self…believe me, this will change the trajectory of your life. This is Step 2 of the Mission Curve™ process introduced in my book, Unlock Your Life, 5 Steps and a Jump to Living the Adventure God Made You For.

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