Cut Down the Tree

There once stood, in Kentucky, an old magnificent tree. The tree was beautiful and lush, the pride of its owner. It stood tall in front of her house, a welcoming  piece of nature, a beautiful finishing touch to her homestead.

Much to the woman’s dismay, the strong tree was destroyed in Union artillery fire. After the war it still stood upright, but it’s limbs were bare, dark and twisted. It’s charred trunk was only a painful and sad reminder of the past. The woman who owned the place, would stare at the tree and weep for the injustice of all that had happened. When General Robert E. Lee visited the woman, she pointed out the tree to him, expecting sympathy and at the very least for him to condemn those responsible for what had happened. The wise general took one look at the tree and softly said, “Cut it down, dear madam and forget it.”

Lee knew something that few people come to grasp in life: The tree that once stood there would never be the same again and all the tears and bitterness in the world would not change that fact.

All the tree now held was a constant reminder of the injustice the woman had felt and until she would let it go, she would forever feel victimized.

This story, originally told in Charles Bracelen Flood’s book, “Lee: The Last Years”, gives me much to ponder today. For it is a true story, and a wise decision. And it has been proven very true in my own life. My own “trees” sometimes look quite different, maybe it’s a broken treasure, reminding me of the person who shattered it. Maybe it’s a hurtful email held onto for the very same reason as the woman held on to the tree: to point out the wrong that was done. Those texts held onto, serving as a reminder of what happened, as a means of pointing out the injustice. And ridding ourselves of these tokens of injustice that prove our unfair case is painful because it makes a bold statement: I’m not fighting anymore. But oh, the peace that statement brings!

Although the situation feels quite different when the reminders of the pain are not things, but people, doesn’t it? And exactly how does one move ahead when people can’t just be thrown away? It’s one thing to walk out of prison doors and never see your tormentors again, but it’s quite another to live among them. Is it right to flee when they enter the room? Is it good to ignore their presence, as if they don’t exist? Is it helpful to try to force their hand in making things right?

In reality, “Cutting down the tree” when pertaining to close relationships sometimes feels like a physical cutting off, but what it really is, is a recognition that all my human efforts have failed. And rather than continuing on a dangerous path of tearing each other down, there comes a resolve to live moving forward, instead of trying to regain something from the past.

This is the struggle I have been going through, learning to let those you love make painful and heart wrenching decisions and learning to not fight those decisions. Giving space out of safety and respect. Giving a gentle smile out of love. An encouraging word when appropriate. And always praying and staying soft.

Above all, learning that our hope is in God alone. Our hope is NOT in the actions or responses of others. He alone brings healing where it seems impossible. He alone can make the wrong things right. And in His timing all will be restored.

That burnt, ruined tree, will never be the same. It’s true! However I’ve discovered, that when a dead tree is cut down, often a new shoot springs out of that dead stump. Yes, it takes time to grow and no, it doesn’t look the same as the tree that was lost. But it’s ALIVE, it’s fresh, and it’s healing.

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The REAL Me

Have you ever felt a need to just stay hidden for a while? To wake up and just dawn the old sweatpants and cozy sweater? To not worry about the messy, unwashed hair and makeup free face? To just hide out in your home being YOU?

It’s pretty funny actually, when I think about it. Because around my family, I can do this with no second thought. I can be me. They see the uncovered zits and yesterdays smeared make-up remains. They see the bed head (and let me tell you, my bed head beats ANYONE’S!!) They smell my morning breath in all it’s glory and I don’t care one little bit.

Think about it: here I am, among the most important people who mean more to me than any king, president or celebrity on earth, yet I don’t care AT ALL about trying to put on a show, or to act a certain way.

Because they know me. And they still love me.

Yet the amazon delivery truck pulls up and I FREAK OUT.

Really I do, it’s hilarious.

I run frantically upstairs put some real clothes on, brush my teeth, wash the remains of breakfast of my face and I still feel self conscious answering the door. Why is this?!? Because I can honestly tell you that in reality, I don’t deeply care for the delivery man or woman. I don’t have a special connection with the person who delivers my homeschool books. I don’t know anything about them. They’re not the paparazzi coming to plaster my face over the front of tabloids across the world. They aren’t famous reporters that will humiliate me in their next piece in the New York Times.

They’re strangers, just doing their jobs… but for some odd reason I have just tried to impress them.

I see a unexpected vehicle pulling up in the driveway, and what do I do? I grab six pairs of dirty socks thrown about the living room and put them in the laundry bin. I dash to grab a wet rag to wipe the dirty counters. I quickly try to shove dishes in the dishwasher, hoping that somehow, in someway, I may look more put together, more presentable than I really actually am.

And on social media, I tell the stories that make me and my kids look just so perfect, so put together. Our selfies hash-tagged  #happy and #perfect, really are shot at just the right angle, with just the right filter on the one day a month that our skin has that natural clear glow and the flaws are minimal. And no wonder our friendships online are as deep as a kiddie pool… yet we spend more time in a day pouring into them than we do in an entire week with a friend face to face. And we ask ourselves, with heavy hearts, why we feel so disconnected with the world. Why so out of touch? Why do we feel alone in our struggles, when a quick post on Facebook will get me dozens of “likes”?

You want to know why?

Because when you turn off the Facebook account, and only about a dozen of the five hundred friends still care to talk to you, you realize that “community” on Facebook isn’t community at all. Ninety five percent of those friends don’t notice your absence, because the space that once had your witty posts, will now be filled with another’s cute new baby pictures.

Online presence isn’t real presence.

Our “likes” don’t actually matter. Our posts are forgotten in the time it takes for a person to scroll down the page.

And there’s something chillingly cold about liking a post about a the need to end world hunger and then two seconds later, laughing at a meme about a cute puppy.

The contrasts of serious and comedy put together on one page should completely shake us to the core, but we think nothing of it and barely bat an eye – unknowingly hardening our hearts to the news in the world that should be breaking them.

What generation before us has become so self absorbed? Which people group has become so uncaring and lazy that we can end a friendship or relationship over a two sentence text and think that’s acceptable or even normal? Who has lived before us who would tear down a friend in a single social media post and get hundreds of “amens” in the comments.

Sometimes it takes a break from the fiction in life, to grasp reality. And the reality is, that the people I should be doing my best for are right here in front of me. My house should be clean, for them. My face should be prettied up, for him. Not because I need to be someone else for the people I love, but because I want to be my best for them.

So, assuming you noticed that I left Facebook and Instagram, this is why. I’m choosing to pour into real friendships. I’m spending my time with people in person. Maybe it’s a temporary thing. Maybe lifelong. But one thing I know is that I don’t want to live for the “likes” of strangers, I want to live to love true friends. Friends who care to know the real me, the messy me: The one who makes dumb mistakes and has the most awkward and embarrassing moments. The one who hates wiping counters, and folding laundry, but who loves hosting and baking for guests. The one who sincerely cares about those around her and would give anything to someone in need, but who often forgets to look for them. The one who loves Jesus and imperfectly follows him with all the zeal her selfish heart can conjure up.

That’s the real Heather. And Facebook knows nothing about her.

 

Brokeness

When I was a teen, I read a paper that deeply impacted me. I kept it and to this day it convicts me.

I wish I knew who wrote it, but it has no name. There was a piece on lukewarm Christians in the book “Crazy Love” written by Francis Chan that sounded similar to it, but whether this was written by someone else entirely, or whether it was adapted from Francis Chan’s writings, I’m not sure. However, I still wanted to share it today, for there is something huge we can learn from it:

Pride Vs. Brokeness

  1. Proud people focus on the failures of others and can readily point out those faults. Broken people are more conscious of their spiritual needs than of anyone else’s.
  2. Proud people have a critical fault finding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but view their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate – they have the kind of love that over looks a multitude of sins; they can forgive because they know they have been forgiven much.
  3. Proud people are especially prone to criticize those in authority, they talk to others about the faults they see. Broken people encourage and lift up those that God has placed into authority and they talk to God, rather than gossiping about the faults they find in others.
  4. Proud people are self righteous; they think highly of themselves and look down on others. Broken people think the best of others; they esteem others as better as themselves.
  5. Proud people have to prove that they are right…They always get the last word. Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
  6. Proud people claim rights and have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights and have a meek spirit.
  7. Proud people are self protective. Broken people are self-sacrificing and protect others.
  8. Proud people desire to be served, they want life to revolve around them. Broken people are motivated to serve others and to meet their needs before their own.
  9. Proud people desire to be known as a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and make others succeed.
  10. Proud people have a feeling that “This ministry is privileged to have me and my gifts.” Broken people know that all gifts come from God and on their own they can do nothing.
  11. Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked. Broken people rejoice when others are recognized and lifted up.
  12. Proud people feel confident in how much they know. Broken people are humbled by how much they have to learn.
  13. Proud people are driven to protect their own reputation. Broken people are concerned with being real; they care less about what others may think than about what God knows.
  14. Proud people can’t bear to fail. Broken people can recognize and live within their limitations.
  15. Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people can acknowledge where they were wrong.
  16. Proud people wait for others to come and ask forgiveness. Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled no matter how wrong the other party may be.
  17. Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when corrected. Broken people receive correction with a humble, open spirit.
  18. Proud people try to control the people and the circumstances around them. Broken people trust in God – they rest in him and are able to wait for him to act on their behalf.
  19. Proud people carry grudges and keep a record of those who have wronged them. Broken people are quick to chose forgiveness.
  20. Proud people want no one to find out when they have sinned; they cover it up. Broken people aren’t concerned about who finds out their sin, they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.
  21. Proud people tend to deal in generalities when expressing their sin to God (“Dear Lord, please forgive me for my sins.”) Broken people acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.
  22. Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.                         Broken people are grieve over the cause, the root of their sin. They are more concerned with how their sin has grieved God than the problem it has created in their lives.
  23. Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of respect. Broken people compare themselves with the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for his mercy.
  24. Proud people don’t think they need to repent of anything. Broken people realize the need to maintain a continual heart attitude of repentance.       
  25. The proud people reading this will be mostly thinking of others this may apply to and of who else should be reading this list, while broken people realize it applies to themselves.

 

This list forever changed me. In fact, it completely reshaped the way I viewed Christianity.

Because the truth is, every time I read this list, my thoughts can’t help but turning to others that should be reading it. And those thoughts testify against me: I am proud.

This way of thinking goes completely against popular culture, even popular church culture which says: “Look out for yourself!”

“Take care of your own needs first!”

“Make sure you get your rights!”

“Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t going to lift you up!”

And I wonder, what if Jesus would’ve used these attractive one liners? Where would we be then?

Where would I be then?

The God of “Look out for Yourself” is not in the Bible. The God of “Look what I can do!” isn’t there either. The God of “success and promotion” isn’t isn’t found in the ancient living word of God. The God that speaks, the God that lives, the God that we read about is humble, self sacrificing and absolutely broken for you and me. There is no limit to his love, there is no selfishness in him. He is gentle, he is meek, he is pure.

Don’t fall for the biggest idol out there: The man-made, self-serving Jesus, who benefits me NOW… who is like a church accepted ‘genie in a bottle’. God isn’t a doormat for you to use for your wishes when you please. He’s not a fairy godmother, waiting to make all your dreams come true.

He is a humble, serving, gracious and holy God who is ever searching for lives that will say yes to walking a very different road.

One that gives up my rights.

One that unconditionally loves those who mistreat them.

One that pours out their life as a living sacrifice.

One that puts others above themselves.

One that is humble and broken.

 

Oh, God, may I say yes to this strange, unpopular road you travelled. Help me to walk in your humble, self-sacrificing way.

 

 

Embracing Accusations

I love the Christain band Shane & Shane. If you haven’t heard of them you need to drop everything right now and LISTEN to them. They are incredibly talented, not just at singing but their lyrics OFTEN bring me to tears!

There is one song that they sing called “Embracing Accusations” which I just love.

This morning as I was pondering some of the things I have recently gone through, and I began thanking God for redeeming me from my past of sin and lies, this very song popped into my head and I realized that it was the key to getting through this current battle.

Because sometimes we need to FIGHT Satan…but sometimes we just need to AGREE with him.

What?!? You ask yourself. AGREE with him?!?

Sounds just wrong, hey? Read the Lyrics by Shane and Shane:

Embracing Accusations 

“The father of lies coming to steal, kill and destroy,
All my hopes of being good enough,
I hear him saying, “Cursed are the ones who can’t abide”
He’s right…Hallelujah, he’s right!
The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed,
That I am cursed and gone astray,
I cannot gain salvation… embracing accusation.
Could the father of lies be telling the truth
Of God to me tonight?
If the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine?
I hear him saying, “Cursed are the ones who can’t abide”
He’s right…. Hallelujah, he’s right!
The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed,
That I am cursed and gone astray,
I cannot gain salvation,
Oh, the devil’s singing over me an age old song,
That I am cursed and gone astray,
Singing the first verse so conveniently over me, He’s forgotten the refrain:

 Jesus saves. 

He redeemed us from the curse of sin.”

***

Sometimes we just need to embrace those accusations and say:

YOU’RE RIGHT! I’m a sinner! Hopelessly lost, full of greed and wickedness…But wait – you forgot to add something: Jesus saved me from all that!”

That’s exactly who I was, you’re right!! But I’m not that person anymore! I’m the daughter of the Most High king! I’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ! His work on the cross saved me!

Praise be to God! I’m not who I was!

I’ve been redeemed by his grace.

I’m set free! Glory be to God! He has set us free!

Welcome Here

I’ve noticed that recently more people are stopping by…it’s great to have you! I’m glad you’ve decided to join me.

If you’re looking for a flashy person or a celebrity type figure, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place!

I’m quite an ordinary person: a Christain stay at home mother of five precious kiddos, a wife to an amazing man, a homeschooler, a cake decorator, and a wanna be writer, who lives where winter lasts FAR too long 🙂

By now, many of you will have noticed that my blog isn’t consistently about anything in particular. It doesn’t have a set format, theme or topic. My blog actually came about after a dream I had one night about becoming a writer. This dream stuck in my heart long after I woke up and I realized it was a God-given desire; one that I would pursue as God opened doors for me.

This space is simply meant to be an encouragement for the Christian, but more than that, it was meant to be an honest picture of how life looks.

Many times, I post about the positives in life: Mothering, Christianity, Homeschooling, Things God is teaching me…but other times you’ll notice that I post vague and somewhat depressing pieces: poems and entries that reflect the dark situations and feelings I struggle with. My reason for this isn’t so that I can get my readers to feel sorry for me, or even so that I can “vent”.

It’s because my desire in blogging is to be raw and honest, authentic and real. You can think of it sort of like reading a modern day Psalm: you will get glimpses of my joy, happiness and worship of God, but also pictures of struggles, hardships and pain. Too often it’s tempting to just post the good things, and leave the bad stuff for my journal entries, but this just isn’t real. It gives the false picture that after becoming a Christain, everything is just “great”.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we always walk through life showing others our good sides, rather we show people our true selves so that GOD gets the glory.

My prayer is everyone that visits this place will come to know that Christianity isn’t a neat picture of perfect people with put together lives, rather Christians are ordinary people, with sometimes messy lives.

The point is that whatever is going on in my life, whether good or bad, I will trust God. In my joys, I will praise him and in my hardships I will cling to him.

Either way we worship and trust him because we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

May you find this to be a safe place to be encouraged, to cry, to share, and above all, to gain a true perspective of how God works through ordinary, normal lives, like mine.

Welcome here 🙂

 

 

Accused

There’s much on my heart these days, but very little words come for me to write. What does one say when your heart is crushed?

What does one blog about when you pour out love and receive hatred in return?

How does one prove their own innocence, especially when the accusations have bits of truth mixed into them. How can one defend themselves against the taunts of hell itself?

DECIEVER.

LIAR.

BITTER.

TWO-FACED.

VINDICTIVE.

How can I defend myself against such accusations? Indeed, I can not. For how can I say I am perfect, when clearly I am not? How can I say my heart longs for truth and righteousness, when indeed, I have grumbled, gossiped and complained? I long for justice against those who’ve struck me down without reason. I’ve wanted to justify myself against my accusers.

Yet I’m not any better than them, I have misjudged others as well, even rebuked them in their darkest times. I have opened my mouth and spoke against those who suffered shame. I shook my head at their misfortune. I counted myself as better than them.

Now my self righteousness comes down on my own head. My judgements fall upon myself.

Where can I go, God, other than back to you?

Where can I hide in my time of need, other than under the shadow of you wings?

There is no one who is righteous. Not one. No one longs for peace. No one longs to see the best in others. They all lie in wait, ready to accuse, to spread their hateful venom against the next weakened prey.

When, God, will those who claim to be yours leave me alone to live in peace? When will their hatred for me end? They repaid my blessings with insults. My kindness is repaid with accusation.

Surely I know what Job meant when he spoke: “How long will you torment me and crush me with your words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. You exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me.”

If I am at fault, God, I repent! If I have done this wrong, show me so I can make it right! Don’t abandon me, for I have sought you with all my heart. I cry out to you day and night. I rise early to be with you.

“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My Splendor is gone and all I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him,” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:17-26

I wait, Lord, for you to make these things right.

 

Choose Joy

There’s a picture that hangs on my wall. It’s simple, it’s plain. It’s not really outstanding in beauty. But the second I saw it in the store, I fell in love with it. It says two simple, but powerful words:

Choose Joy.

The life of a Christain is not marked by an easy life, where we live in continual comfort and bliss. It’s not marked as a life where everyone around us simply adores us. Walking with God doesn’t mean that all will go well.

The road to the cross is marked with suffering, betrayal, and pain. But the life of a Christian MUST be marked with something else as well.

JOY.

“Why,” you may ask, “should we joyful? How can you expect me to find joy when the Christain life is so hard at times? When my friends have left me because I don’t do the things they do? When I’m mocked by my coworkers for living out my faith?”

Maybe you’ve even been despised by your very own family, whom you never wronged, yet they turned against you.

Take heart, dear friend, YOU can still choose joy.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12

Have you ever noticed that this verse doesn’t say, “You surround them with favor as with an umbrella on a beautiful beach?”

It doesn’t say, “You surround them with favor, as with a warm fuzzy blanket.”

It says, “You surround them with favor, as with a shield.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t pack a shield along when I’m going on vacation. I don’t bring a shield on a picnic. In fact, I don’t even own a shield. Why?

Because a shield is used for war.

These verses talk about being glad, rejoicing, singing with joy…not when things are easy, but in the midst of war.

Are you crazy?!? Joyful in war? How can one have any joy at all on the battlefield, where death and destruction cover the landscape? Where blood and pain mark the ground?

Now I’ve never been in the army, I’ve never fought in a war. But David, who wrote these verses, was. And not only that, he once fought a battle against a GIANT, with a whole army shaking in fear behind him.

He approached the battlefield alone.

Now I don’t know a lot about war, but what I do know is that there is very little one man alone can do on the battlefield. In fact, there is no chance that one man alone can win a great war.

But David, just a boy, ran up to the battle line and was able to conquer a great enemy, because he knew a great big secret: He was actually not alone. 

God was fighting beside him!

We can be glad, rejoice and sing, because by the grace of God, we are not in it alone! He is by our side! He is our shield! He is our refuge! He is our rock! Praise God, for I am not in it alone!

He is right here beside me, acting as my shield!

Oh, dear friend, is your life hard and full of pain? Have you been struck down and wounded? Have you often felt like you’re walking this road alone?

Take comfort and be filled with joy, for you are not alone! God is your shield. Your refuge. Your rock. He will never leave you. In his presence is fullness of joy!(Psalm 16:11)

“…Don’t grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10