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For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. Job 14:7-9
Birch trees not only offer curb appeal but they have many useful purposes. The bark has been used to treat various skin rashes as well as make casts for broken bones. Different parts of birch are used in the production of soaps and shampoos. And, birch sap can be made into syrup to be used on food.
I looked up these fun facts after I was told the birch tree that was planted in my yard needed to be cut down. Because it was so close to my home, the roots were growing underneath it. If I didn’t chop it down, the foundation of my home would suffer severe consequences. Though a tree like this could offer many beneficial qualities, in this case, it was causing more harm than good.
As we pulled into our driveway last week, we came home to a knee length stump where the tree once stood. My nine year old, with all his wisdom, said: “Mommy, if the roots are already under the house, can they still hurt it?” “Hopefully, we caught it in time to stop any damage, but we’ll have to make sure the roots are dead too,” I said.
Our lives can be a lot like this. Beautiful and seemingly purposeful on the outside but rooted in sin underneath. We Jesus lovers want to please Him. But, the temptation of the flesh is always fighting to put forth sprigs and grow. Those of us who find ourselves planted with roots of deceit, doubt or distress know it most likely did not happen overnight. The enemy masquerades his schemes as harmless. He seduces us with conniving tactics:
Excusing office gossip as fellowship.
Turning a hard work week into a reason to party.
Playing house with our boyfriend/girlfriend before saying vows.
What may seem like innocent fun, overtime, is the seed that will eventually damage what we thought was a solid bedrock of faith. A sparingly checked heart creates a massively strong root of unrighteousness. To make sure our infrastructure is that of vitality and not destruction requires us to examine its origins every day. Morning by morning, destroy wicked thoughts, turn from selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23).
In the same way there is hope for a cut down tree, there is hope for us. Our key verse says it will flourish at the very scent of water. For those who believe in Jesus, rivers of water flow from within us. Can you visualize what happens when you drink it, daily?
One of the most miserable, agonizing feelings is the separation from a loved one.
In 2014, I was 7,000 miles away from my children and was only able to talk to them once in eleven days. On the day I arrived home from my trip, I couldn’t put my arms around them fast enough! Though it seemed it had been an eternity, once I held them, it was as if no time had passed. I went from glum to glee immediately.
Today, my brother would’ve blown out 34 birthday candles. I wonder how he would’ve turned out. If the girls would still be chasing him or would he have settled down. I imagine my children jumping all over him and laughing as he was doing one of his famous impersonations.
It’s been almost 11 years since he passed and there is still a pang in my heart. Remembering him is bitter sweet for thinking of happy times spent together is followed by the ache of his absence. Birthdays, holidays and anniversaries often trigger the pain of loved ones who are gone. Days like today forces me to look at my own mortality. Death is just a part of life. It’s avoided in everyday conversation yet the Bible says our lives are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
What do these two different circumstances have in common? The sorrow is temporary. For those who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, we look at each day that passes as one day closer to being in our eternal home-with Jesus. We know there are better things waiting for us that will last forever. (Hebrews 10:32)
As I reflect on the past with fond memories, I anticipate even greater ones to come. I envision colors no eye has seen. Water as clear as crystal. Thousands upon thousands of angels singing in harmony to our King on the throne. A place free of war. Famine. Natural disasters. Murderers. Disease. Where every tear will be wiped from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4) Where we won’t need the light of a lamp for the Lord God will be all the light we need. (Rev. 22:5)
Oh! How I long to be home. Can you picture it?.
For those who have loved ones now departed, time may ease the pain but it doesn’t make you miss them less. It’s okay to still have sad days. Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5) Fix your eyes on the Father and dwell not in the temporary. And, when the longing for our loved one seems to be unbearable, just know a reunion is in the works…until then, let’s get our party hats ready to celebrate.
“You always have it together and look so polished.” “I don’t know how you do it as a single mom with two kids.” That is what a friend at church said to me this past Sunday. “Girl, if you only knew” was my response. I figured it was best to keep it short and sweet.
What I was really thinking was how much of a mess I am. For instance, last week I forgot to brush my little girl’s teeth before sending her to daycare. Some days, on the days I actually wash my hair, I forget if I conditioned it. So, I do it again just to make sure. My closet looks like hurricane Hugo went through it and never recovered. (That was a hurricane in 1989 by the way) And, a few weeks ago, I struggled with feelings of emptiness and little joy.
Let’s go back to this dry season. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My life was as it normally is. Nothing tragic happened. My children were happy and healthy. I was doing everything we Christians do. I read the Bible, prayed and attended church. Why did I feel this discontentment?
Maybe I’m not doing enough for God, I thought to myself. Or, maybe I need a change that would spice my life up. Several weeks went on like this. I prayed for Him to rid me of these depressing feelings. Eventually, it dawned on me how self-righteous my prayer was, so I asked for a heart change.
And one afternoon, while working out at the gym, I felt Him move. As I listened to a song by the group Red called “Pieces.”
I’m here again, a thousand miles away from you
A broken mess, just scattered pieces of who I am
I tried so hard, thought I could do this on my own
I’ve lost so much along the way
Then I’ll see your face, I know I’m finally yours
I find everything I thought I lost before
You call my name, I come to you in pieces
So you can make me whole
Tears filled my eyes. I was hoping if any fell, the sweat beads on my face would camouflage them. I didn’t want everyone to think I was a complete nut. In that moment, it was as if a 50 lb weight had been lifted from my shoulders. “Thank you” was all I could say.
I got so busy working for Him that I lost sight of who it was I really needed. It’s oftentimes when we get stuck in a routine, God will shake us up. When our spiritual lives begin to be check list items, we have a tendency to think we can handle things on our own. Our shake up is a wake up to let us know who our dependence is on.
What can we do when we may look like we have it all together but we don’t feel like it?
Continue seeking Him through prayer and His word. Ask God to reveal himself in a fresh way that opens your eyes to see wonderful truths in His instructions. (Psalm 119:18) Pray He would fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Recall previous times when you’ve gone through trials and God listened and attended to the voice of your prayer. (Psalm 66:19)
Confide in trusted friends and pray for each other that you may be healed. (James 5:16) A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
If you’ve found yourself parched from a dry season,I invite you to whisper this prayer to our King, the spring of living water, who refreshes the weary and satisfies the faint. (Jeremiah 31:25)
Daddy, I don’t know why I’m in this low place but you do. I need you. I ask you to help me learn the lesson you are teaching me. Instead of changing my circumstances, change me. Help me to be thankful as I continue seeking you. Amen.
She was always coming here. To this place.
She would’ve been here sooner if not for the detours.
The road she traveled was long and filled with potholes and sharp curves.
She was often sidetracked by the newly paved streets with shiny signs.
Too often she ventured off this road called chosen.
By the time she went far enough on the paved streets, there was always a dead end warning.
She found herself time and again trekking along the bumpy dirt road when over the steep hill she saw it.
The most glorious sight of bright colors, green meadows and puffy white clouds.
It was as if she died and gone to heaven. Peace filled every fiber of her being.
Instantly, it was all worth it.
Every scraped knee from being knocked down.
Every tear shed from being weary.
All the time it took to get here.
It pained her of the many times she rejected Him and marveled how His response was always the same.
“Your forgiven” He said.
She threw her arms out by her side and the brightness warmed her face.
“You were always coming here.” God said.
By this road. The road to redemption.
Her eyes are so crystal blue it’s as if you can see the ocean waves crashing in. Freckles line her cheeks and nose, each one strategically placed by her Creator. Her chubby little hands fit so delicately in mine. And, when she sleeps, it’s as if I can feel angels hovering over her.
She is my inquisitive, imaginative, and imperfectly perfect daughter, Ava.
Today, the Lord has given me another reason to celebrate. It’s her 4th birthday! It seems like just yesterday, I was holding her in my arms as a newborn. Now, we are getting prepared for 4K. I’ve done nothing to deserve this precious gift the Lord has entrusted me to care for. But Oh, how thankful I am!
Children are so impressionable during these young years. It’s up to us, as parents, to shape them. To prepare them, as best we can, for what may lay ahead. As each day goes by, there are two things I tell her. One, that Jesus loves her. Two, she is beautiful. I tell her this for more than just the obvious reasons. I want to plant God’s word deep in her heart because the world will tell her otherwise.
Tomorrow (or soon enough), she will be a teenager. The pressure of fitting in will fight against her individuality. Beauty will be equated to how small her pant size is. The lie that worthiness comes from boys and being popular, could manifest. She will make wrong decisions and question whether God still loves her.
The time to combat that is now.
She is beautiful because she is a child of God. Period. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
God loves her not for the good works she will do, for they will never be good enough. His great love made her alive with Him and saved her by grace, even when she was dead in her trespasses. (Ephesians 2:4-5). No mistakes she will ever make, can separate her from the love of God. (Romans 8:38)
My prayer for her is God would make her worthy of his calling and fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Friend, it’s my prayer for you too.
We are all a unique masterpiece, custom designed by the Lord for a purpose. He has placed a special calling on every life. Don’t let any negative voices rent space in your mind. If they do, tell them the lease is up because God says otherwise.
Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG) says: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.”
In case you didn’t know or need a reminder, Jesus loves you. You are beautiful.
While browsing cyberspace recently, I came across a tweet that got my wheels turning. There is a book entitled: “One word that will change your entire life.” The concept is simple, yet, profound. The authors describe the book as follows. “One word creates clarity, power, passion and life-change. The simple power of One Word is that it impacts all six dimensions of your life – mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Simply put, One Word sticks. There is a word meant for you and when you find it, live it, and share it, your life will become more rewarding and exciting than ever.”
For me, 2014 was a year of hope. God unveiled new dreams. He orchestrated divine interventions. Connected me with people who helped ignite what was a small flame into a burning desire to write. It was such a pivotal year. As it seems with most things, it came and went with the blink of an eye.
We have now crossed the threshold of 2015. As I write this, there are 354 more days this year. With each day holding new mercies, new opportunities and new chances. What better time to pick a word for ourselves than now?
Before choosing a word, I took some time to pray on it. To really listen to what the Lord was telling me. As I awoke one morning, I clearly heard not one, but two words (which totally messes up the title to this blog). Trust and Move. Trust that His plans are perfect and greater, no matter my circumstances. And, after I feel sure of the direction He wants me to go…move!
Though I would like to say I always trust Him, there have been times when I’ve questioned what His best really is. So, this year, with lots of prayer, I’m going to try not to question. Even if the outcome looks bleak. When the voices of doubt scream. When I’ve made another mistake that I’m sure has thrown me off path. I know if I commit everything I do to the Lord and trust Him, He will help me. (Ps. 37:5)
How can I be sure of the direction He wants me to go? One way is by listening. The irony of move, my other chosen word, is sometimes, in order for me to do that, I have to be still. With my heart set on advancing my writing, it requires me to stop. When dishes are piled up, email notifications are beckoning me to check them and my desire to find the latest bargains at Target stir, He says: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps. 46:10) The best way I can hear from Him is to cease all other activity and soak in his presence. Then, move when He says move.
Being still will allow me to tune into His voice. I will then have a better understanding of the best decision to make. Trusting in Christ will help me to adhere to His loving commands and move.
As we venture into this year, will you join me in placing your trust in the Father and moving when He speaks? In addition, what word(s) will you choose to help you live a meaningful and purposeful life?
Divorce is like death, only it doesn’t kill you. Sometimes, it comes like a thief in the night. Other times, it’s years in the making.
When reality hit that my marriage was at the end of its rope, I felt lost. No matter how bad it became, it was familiar and all I had come to know. But, the end arrived. And with it came feelings of heartache, hopelessness and insecurity.
So, I found myself at the beginning of a new life as a single mom. Not only did I carry the emotions of the dissolution but I had new feelings to throw in the mix. Worry. Uncertainty. Fear.
Over time, my new life became familiar. As my heart healed, I began to look to the future with anticipation.
There’s a line in the movie Hope Floats that has become a favorite. “Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.”
As we are approaching the collision of one year’s end to another’s beginning, it seems only fitting to take a moment to reflect. To look back on how we’ve changed and the lessons learned. It’s also the perfect time to look forward to what is to come. The future is unknown to us all. The beauty in that is possibilities are endless and anything can happen.
No matter what 2014 held, let’s store the good memories, learn from the past but set our eyes on the future. A future that, filled with Jesus, can be one of hope. Hope anchors the soul, keeps our head above water and helps us persevere. Hope floats!
Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT) says: I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
Here is to 2015! May God fill us with joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ( Romans 15:13)
Further reading: Hebrews 6: 18-20 (MSG) says: We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post.
There’s a war going on. An invisible war.
It begins as a whisper of lies.
Slowly seduced with empty promises of worldly fulfillment.
Temptation at every turn.
I look down.
I feel myself slipping.
Falling deeper into his grasp.
I’m without hope. Scared. Filled with anguish.
But, there’s a warmth above.
A light so bright I can’t help but raise my head.
I reach out my hand and instantly feel His in mine.
He pulls me.
He’s powerful. Mighty. Gentle.
I’m growing stronger the closer I get to Him.
He shields me with His wings.
Jesus says: I’m fighting for you. Remain in me. I always win.
I’m filled with hope. Joyful. At peace.
“Do you still believe in Santa Clause”? That’s what I casually asked my nine year old while driving a few weeks ago. He looked at me with a smirk and those eyes. The big puppy dog eyes. The kind that have a hint of sadness and can melt a mama’s heart in two seconds.
His first response was “Mom, I don’t want you to be mad.” “Why would I be mad”, I asked him. He went on to tell me he knew Santa wasn’t real because he had looked through the key hole of his door last Christmas and saw me putting presents under the tree.
In that moment, reality slapped him in the face. All he knew of Christmas, up to this point, was a jolly man in a red suit, presents with shiny bows and the story of Jesus’ birth somewhere in the middle. I’m sure he wondered what else I lied to him about. If Santa wasn’t real then what else wasn’t real?
Without giving his mind a chance to run wild, I gave the best explanation I knew how. It went something like this:
“No, the Santa you know is not real. He doesn’t live at the North Pole with elves who make toys. However, St. Nicholas was a real man. He was born in the 3rd century in modern day Turkey. He was raised as a devout Christian. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Elaborate feasts were held each year on the date of his death – Dec. 6 – and small gifts were given to children, usually in their shoes, in his honor. The Dutch began a tradition of Sinterklaas that turned into Santa Claus in America. From there, St. Nicholas was morphed into a plump, jolly man in a red suit that delivers gifts to all the children of the world in his magic sleigh. But, that’s not what Christmas is about. The only reason we have any cause to celebrate the most wonderful time of year is because our Savior was born.”
As we begin the count down to Christmas day, my son and I have dived into the story leading up to the birth of The Messiah. How doubt, shame and uncertainty led to the miraculous event that changed the entire world. I want him to fully grasp what a miracle it was and is.
But, while they know the real reason we celebrate, I want both of my children to use the imagination God has given them. I want them to keep the wonder of the season in their hearts.
I understand the exciting traditions of cookies for Santa. Listening for reindeer on the roof. Presents under the tree. I still enjoy all of these at the age of 35. However, this Christmas and all that may follow, in addition to cookies for Santa, we will do Happy Birthday Jesus cookies. Before waiting for magical reindeer, we will ponder the magic of what it must have felt like after His birth. More than just wrapped presents, we will pause and be still as the Holy Spirit wraps us in His presence.
The magic, hope and wonder that we are all so desperate to capture year after year during this time is here with us year round! And it all started when a virgin conceived and bore a son whose name was Immanuel. (Matthew 1:23 NLT)
Do you believe?
John 1:9-14 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.