Cultivating Hearts: Planting What Lasts

I was disoriented.

The house in which I had birthed our second child was barely visible.

We had moved away fifteen years earlier and, on a whim while in the area, I decided to drive by to see what it looked like. I don’t know what I was expecting - probably the house frozen in my memory.

But as I turned the last corner I lost my bearings. 

My view of the house was completely obstructed by two giant trees. I stopped the car and stared. Those gigantic trees had not been there when we moved. But they were exactly where two little trees had been.


One spring, not long after we purchased our first house, my husband and I planted four little trees in the front yard, along with a tiny persimmon tree in the side yard. They were the first trees we had ever planted.

We didn't know what we were doing, so I purchased a book (at a bookstore - no one bought things online in 1995!) and from that book we learned how to plant and care for trees. 

The yard had been completely empty. Like most new builds in Texas, the builder had scraped the ground in the front, and the only green was some lumpy sod and a line of small bushes under the windows. So we added five tiny trees.

A year or so later, when our first baby was brand new, one of those little trees started leaning, as if it was so tired it wanted to lay its leafy head on the car in our driveway (I might have been projecting a little.) A green-thumbed friend came by to meet the baby, and as he was leaving, he gently touched the tree and told me I needed to stake it as soon as possible. A bit of wind might snap it in two.

Super-pixelated photo of my little guy and some scrawny trees
So I staked that sapling, and I kept watering it. It stayed supported for years (above you can see the "baby" riding a tricycle a few years later, and it is still getting help.) I was pretty sure I was terrible at raising trees. Really really terrible.

Years passed and the trees grew, but very slowly. Honestly, they embarrassed me. Right there in our front yard, a testimony to my lack of arboreal skills.

See that bendy tree back there? At this point it's 4 or 5 years old.

When our little guy was almost two years old I got pregnant again. At 13 weeks we lost our wee one in a dramatic miscarriage and hemorrhage that landed me in the emergency room. I was crushed.

It hurt so much that our baby was gone; I needed something tangible that would remind me of him, something to honor him. We went to the plant nursery and our two year old chose a tree for us to plant - a White Texas Redbud that would bloom at that time every year.

We planted the redbud in the back yard, and buried our baby at the foot of the tree. His tree grew strong, bloomed faithfully each year, and blessed my broken mama heart.

White TX Redbud image courtesy of Chalet Nursery

Our little side-yard persimmon tree also grew, and we even ate one or two persimmons from it as it slowly matured. Maybe I could do this tree thing after all?

But those front yard trees were still pathetic. Yes, they grew, but I was not happy with the rate. 

In 2003, now with two kids in tow, we sold our house with its scrawny trees. I hoped the next owners would be better at gardening.


Our house the day we left in 2003.

At our new homestead I planted a lot of trees. A LOT.

Not one survived. I am not exaggerating.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter where I planted them, and no matter how much I amended the soil, watered them, and carefully checked them, every single one died. They were eaten by goats or mowed over or blown down or just plain never leafed out.

It was confirmation - raising trees was not my gift.

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As I crept along our old street in 2016, I stared in awe at the trees.

Our old house in 2016.
This is time passing.

This is love and care coming to maturity.

This is something lasting.

And as I think about my tending and my care for my children, I see how often I jump to the conclusion that I am failing. That I have already failed. That it is done - what is now is forever, and these trials won’t pass.

Just like the trees on our homestead, there are times I have failed. Really and truly. Something has changed that can’t be fixed.

But sometimes what seems weak and spindly and ready to be snapped in half is just laying down roots. Sometimes grace is at work deep down, sap is flowing through the veins, and life is pushing through. Living Water is giving nourishment, and branches are reaching for the sky.

My first baby is now twenty. He is a man. He is a strong tree, strong enough even to support his old mama sometimes.
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Tending your saplings is long and sometimes tedious work. Growth can’t always be seen as it is happening. But mama, you are planting something lasting.

Cultivate the soil of your child’s heart patiently. Douse your child with prayer. Don’t give up; a beautiful tree will emerge and one day you will shake your head with wonder.

We All Need a New Beginning

I love the dark early morning. 

The windows are black, the house is still. There is something almost sacred about those quiet pre-dawn hours.

I make a hot drink and snuggle on the couch with my favorite blanket, devotionals, and my Bible. My kitten crawls onto my lap and snuggles in. I am in my happy place.



The dark windows slowly turn to gray. The sunrise is coming. I can’t see it directly from my favorite spot on the couch because the window faces west. But steadily a rainbow grows on the western horizon, signaling the coming day. Three hundred and sixty degree sunrises and sunsets are features of the rural Texas landscape that never grow old. 



From my window I see the field behind our yard, with mama cows and their new babies. The field slopes down to a pond, from which rises a gentle morning mist. On the other side of the pond, another hill rises to crest with a line of trees, forming the horizon. The shifting colors of the horizontal dawn rainbow brighten steadily.

A new beginning. Darkness turning to light. Making rainbows of hope along the way.

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I have had seasons of struggling with anxiety. The anxiety is worst in the very middle of the night.

In these hard seasons the clock almost always reads 2:00am when my eyes shoot open. My heart pounds. My mind floods with worries. There is a full-on battle happening in my body.

I know there are spiritual aspects when anxiety hits; there are physiological aspects as well. I fight the battle with prayer, with Scripture, with herbal tea, with protein.

"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

And in the morning? When my eyes squint open again and the light streams in my windows, there is a palpable shift towards hope. Every single morning is a new start. 

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
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God’s Word is full of new starts, story after story of second chances and new beginnings. How we need those stories! 

My favorite online ministry, HelloMornings, is starting a new session next week, and this time the Bible study is all about new beginnings! I had the privilege of writing the third week, which focuses on David.



Oh that David, what a guy, right? Man after God’s own heart. Great- (times a bunch) grandfather to Jesus. Adulterer and murderer. Yeah. David’s story is for all of us who have steered wrong along the way.

And that would be all of us.

David, Noah, Abraham, Peter, Paul… they all needed new beginnings just like you and me.

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Will you join thousands of women around the globe as they seek to grow in being intentional about starting their day with God? You will be so blessed. You can join a group here, but hurry because registration closes soon!

This session I am so excited to share that for the first time the HelloMornings Bible study workbooks are available in print! You can order a physical copy through Amazon. Or you can get a digital download (with an audio option) here.

You can also enter my flash giveaway - yep, I have some digital copies (plus audio if you'd like) to give away! Yay! You can enter through the Rafflecopter widget below.

The flash part is because this is a speedy giveaway - don’t put it off, it is only open TODAY, closing at 11:59pm PST on Friday February 10.

I will announce the winners first thing on Saturday so that you have time to get your download before the session starts. If I can’t connect with a winner on Saturday I will select a replacement winner on Sunday. Big thanks to the HelloMornings team (I'm especially looking at you Kat Lee!) for making this giveaway possible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For the Mama Who Is Scared for Our Country


There sure are a lot of worried mamas out there.

So many mamas fretting for their children. Mamas fearing what the current election will bring and how it will change their babies' world.

There is worrying on all sides of the fence. Red and blue and independent mamas are crying real tears - dreading “what ifs.”

We wait to hear election results and my Facebook feed is filled with you, dear mamas. Mamas having panic attacks. Mamas cuddling kittens and eating ice cream to distract themselves. Mamas unfriending each other and being angry about people unfriending each other. 

I want to hug all of you. I want to say, “Yes, things will be hard. That is how the future is. It always brings some pain, no matter who our leaders are. But it brings joy too. So much joy, sweet mamas. Look at those worried faces looking up at you."

Because really tonight I am thinking most about the children. All of your beautiful God-given gifts. They see you worrying. They hear the discussions around the dinner table. When you are scared, they are scared too.

If you are walking with Jesus, you know Who is really in charge. You know that no crazy politics can dethrone Him.

 


He has you on His mind, and He has eternity as your plan. He loves those little people in your house far more than you ever can. 

So for those babies, wipe your tears and bake cookies. Read stories and sing songs. Find the beautiful things. Look for them, even if it takes a while. I promise they are there.



I took my baby to vote today. His very first vote in a Federal election. I really didn’t envision it this way when he made these seven-year-old election reform suggestions. But here we are.

He has a say in his country. He may not like his choices, and I may not like mine, but I am thankful we have the privilege of having a part to play.


It was a gray dripping day. The flowers in the front yard were still lovely. The kitten was still curious. The world was still beautiful.




If you are passionate about politics and want to get involved to make a difference, please please do. We need you. 

And if all you feel right now is overwhelmed, just love the people right in front of you. The biggest most beautiful change you can make in the world is to really love the people right in front of you.

So on this election night, as we await the news of who will be the next President of the United States, I come back to what I remind myself of over and over:

Choose love.

Find beauty.

You will change the world.

Stand Firm - The Importance of Sound Theology


Theology is for university types, right? 

Old white men in their ivory towers, wearing cardigans, smoking pipes, and using terms no one understands.

Nah, you know I don't believe that.

Simply put, theology is "the study of the nature of God and religious belief." If you read your Bible, you are immersing yourself in theology.

But sometimes, especially when you are a new believer, even things in the Bible can seem confusing. Certainly all the voices clamoring for your attention on the Internet (including mine) can make things confusing! 

How do we deal with this? How do we know what is right?

Good theology is the fruit of study and of reliable sources. It is worth your time to really pay attention to your theology and make sure that what you believe aligns with the Word of God.

At Do Not Depart this month our theme is "Why Sound Theology Matters for Every Woman." The writing team has taken turns addressing different reasons why it makes a difference for you to think through what you believe.

Today I am writing about how good theology helps you to stand firm. Here is a glimpse...

When I was a young believer, I was both passionately committed, and continuously confused.
I wanted more than anything to follow Jesus and walk in His ways, but I had almost no Bible knowledge. I would hear someone talk on Christian radio, or see a sermon on TV, and not know whether what they were saying was true. I’d have conversations with people of varying Christian backgrounds, and their positions would contradict. Who was right?
Then I would go grocery shopping at the health food store, and see New Age books, and talk with non-Christians, and some of the things they said made sense to me. What was going on?!
Read the rest of my post on standing firm at Do Not Depart. Stand firm sisters!

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