The day before Christmas break, my son’s second grade teacher gave him a small gift with a hand-written note.

She told him what a “joy” he is and how she loves his “heart of gold”.

“Don’t ever give up,” she wrote in her green felt-tip marker.

Four simple words that might not mean much to another 8-year-old. But my son’s teacher recognizes that he has to put forth a lot more effort everyday than most of the kids in his class to accomplish the same task. The answers don’t always come easily. His hand-writing takes extra concentration. Reading is a little slower.

He read the note several times and then hid it in his room.

This young teacher is wise beyond her years. She understands the power of words.

How words can penetrate deep into a child’s mind. How encouragement can grow there and convince a young heart he can do things he never dreamed possible. How those words are like seeds thrown into one’s brain where they will take root and grow.

I’ve been needing some seeds like that a bit lately, I’ll admit.

My brain and heart seem to need constant gardening to keep things growing in a positive direction. When I get distracted or forget to focus on what is good and positive and true, the weeds start creeping up. They have deep roots that wrap their tentacles around my heart. And then they start to squeeze.

I can hear their lies:

Not good enough.

I’ve actually worked really hard the past few years to pull and tug. To chop and burn. To eliminate those weeds from my life. But they remind me of the Lamb’s Ear in our backyard.

We have pulled it up several times. But if we leave some roots below the surface, it keeps coming back. It sends out its shoots under the ground and unexpectedly, it sprouts in a new location.

It’s kind of pretty. It feels nice and soft to the touch. And it even grows a pretty purple flower in the summer. It covers up the bare spots in the landscape. It makes a great groundcover.

But truly. It’s a weed. Without attention, it will take over the whole yard. It will overgrow every other plant. It will strangle the lawn. Shadow the flowers and even cover the bushes.

Kind of like those words in my heart. In a way, it’s comfortable to keep them there. As an excuse for why I haven’t changed. As a reason I can’t do better. I can choose to let my mind focus on them and believe that they are true. I can stop trying. Believe their lies. Give up.

I’ve been working on my New Year’s resolutions and this one will be my priority: With God’s help, I’m going to do some gardening this year. And I know it could hurt pulling out those roots.

But I’ll be looking for opportunities to sprinkle out the seeds of some beautiful flowers along the way.

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