A House in the Trees

I’ve been reflecting on what it means to love. What it looks like, how it feels, and how to live it out. Nine months of journaling and blogging, focusing on God’s redemptive love for me and my family. Looking at the way Jesus loved and served and allowing the stripping away the Lord wants to do to open my heart to the life and the love He has for me.

And then all at once , He puts a complete stranger on my path to show how she’s living out Jesus’ command to love her neighbor.

“It’s a treehouse in Oregon,” my husband shares. “It sounds awesome,” he continues, turning the computer screen my way so I can see the images he has been examining for the last several minutes.

After I take a moment to catch up, I have to admit, the idea of bringing our girls to a treehouse for a couple of days and escaping our day to day routine, sounds adventurous and wonderful. I imagine leisurely naps among the trees, exciting excursions through the woods, and meaningful family connection time.
“Oh, but wait! Are there beds? What about a coffeemaker? Refrigerator? Oh, and a bathroom?” I blurt out my barrage of questions before any more daydreaming.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.” My husband reassuringly answers.

“Okay, so we aren’t really roughing it. Let’s do it!”

The day of our adventure arrives. The car is loaded with games, snacks, cozy blankets, and comfortable clothes. We head to Tigard, Oregon for the “House in the Trees.”

Driving way too long in our cramped car with two talkative, energetic kids finally brings us to our destination. Stepping out of the car, we are engulfed in lush green vegetation.. Tall, full, leafy trees hanging overhead. And, then I see our home for the next couple of days. Our house in the trees is awaiting us with all it’s charm and character.

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Hearing a door creak behind us, I turn to see a lovely woman walking towards us. The rest of the family seems to scatter to explore our surroundings, while I have the pleasure of talking with our host, the stranger sent to illustrate love. Within what seems like seconds we were beyond talking traffic and weather and down to things that truly matter.

Her eyes spilled over with tears as she boldly and lovingly shared about her family and the community building the treehouse for her son when he was battling cancer. She shared about the trial they had gone through; the ups and downs and how it had forever changed them.

The masks I have been noticing so many of us wear, didn’t seem to exist for her. She openly shared her heart. (Laying Down Our Masks)

Not only that, but she and her family openly shared their home, their life. In a day and age where people have multiple locks, security systems and cameras, our host family leaves their door unlocked to allow their guests into their home. We could come and go as we needed. No guard up, keeping people away. No guard around their hearts or home.

Our weekend in the trees, alongside such a loving, gracious family has me thinking about Jesus; about His love, goodness, hospitality, and generosity.

Jesus longs for all those He invites to come. To come to Him unhindered. There is no guard up. He is safe. We can lay down our masks and walls and just go to Him when He calls. And, all are invited.

Just as our host didn’t only allow family to be their guest and enter their home, Jesus allows all to come to Him.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells about a king hosting a banquet. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Our treehouse host, the stranger exemplifying love for us, did just that. She gathered us at her home, shared her story of the Father’s love in her life, and distributed that love to us.

What about you? Are you sensing His call? In the quiet, are you drawn to Him? He’s drawn to you. The gracious host longs for you to enter His presence with confidence. He’s longing to lavish His love on you, to share life with you, and lead you in the ways you should go. 

Seed Among the Thorns

I cried out. I received salvation. And, I believed.

But, still so many thorns persisted.

The pesky, persistent thorns described in Matthew 13,

 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

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The thorns in my life choked out much of the seed that fell. Growth of the good was slow. It was shaded and undernourished due to the overgrowth of thorns. Little tiny roots took hold, but years and years of thorns reached tall. Their roots held firm, established.

Thorns of fear, depression, anxiety, anger, disease, selfishness, pride.

But, the gardener…

He continued to tend to His seed. There was no negligence on His part. Only love and care. He remained close by, filtering what came to me. Oh, He prunes so lovingly. He pulls away the thorns, little by little as I let them release.

With barren spots where the thorns were uprooted, the Sun can now shine on the seed, the good seed, with it’s little sprouts and thin roots growing deeper.

His fellow workers sowing more seed, teaching the truth, choking out more and more thorns.

The weeds the enemy scattered becoming smaller, withering away without anymore deceitful lies.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a little fruit emerges. It’s new, unexpected, beautiful. The root below was once thin, and is now strong, carrying life, victory, and the Kingdom through it’s cells, feeding the sprout.

The sprout reaches up to the Sun, while it shades out the thorns below. Now it’s the thorns that become thin and shriveled, while the fruit develops.

Because of the One who wore the crown of thorns, the enemy’s power in my life, the thorn bearer, now lies defeated.

 

Dear one, the Lord tends to us so lovingly, so patiently. Pruning, sowing, cultivating. His love is deep, nourishing, victorious. Let go of the old thorns and see the fruit He will bring into your life. 

 

 

No Longer an Orphan

Searching for identity

purpose

belonging

Overwhelming loneliness

Longing to be filled

Suffocating need to achieve

Carrying a heavy burden

Always striving

………………………………..

Hearing the whisper

Accepting the call

Reading the truth

      I am chosen

                  redeemed 

                  marked with a seal

                  heir of Christ

His workmanship

bought with His blood

filled with His fullness

                  adopted as His own

      No longer an orphan

freedom

What I Learned in May

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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Each month, I am looking for pictures of paths as I go about my life. I love paths. They depict a journey, which is exactly where I find myself. On a journey. A journey of leaving behind old, non-fruit bearing patterns, and seeking out the path the Lord has for me. The picture I chose for this month depicts my journey through the month of May. Sharp edges, beautiful, rugged, cutting away, some smoothed down rocks, trees rooted holding on to their foundation for life. Yes, that describes my month.

It’s the cutting away that is rough. It leaves me feeling rugged and edgy at times. But, when it’s all said and done, I am smoother. My heart more beautiful. And my foundation more secure.

Thank you, God. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for not leaving me the way I was. 

Books I am reading (which are aiding in my refining):

Books I am reading with my girls as read alouds:

books in May

A Summary of my learning this month:

Let Your Yes be Yes

Matthew 5:37, Jesus says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

When I have a deep conviction or belief about something, but I allow something to continue which goes against that  belief, I will have anxiety, unrest, turmoil inside…no peace!

An example of this is our homeschool schedule. If I have a belief that our school day should start by a certain time, but I allow my kids to sleep later each morning, dawdle, procrastinate until past our start time, then I am already beginning the day with conflict within myself. In contrast to this approach would be to clearly communicate the expectations the night before and have a plan in place for how and when the kids will wake up. I can expect there will be conflict and complaints about waking up and adhering to the schedule, but I won’t have conflict within myself. I will have peace within myself because my yes will be yes and my no will be no!

Letting Go of Control

The following quote by Sally Clarkson in the book, Different,  summed up what I am learning about letting go of control, “It is possible to be content even when life feels out of control. And, that as long as we assume we could not be happy until we control all the circumstances of our lives, we will continue to be unhappy.”

My prayer closet preparation for the day each morning, allows me to remind myself of God’s greatness. I speak it aloud to Him, not because He needs reminding of His power or Sovereign control, but because I desperately do. I speak it aloud to my loving Heavenly Father, and then I breathe and rest in knowing I don’t control this life. This life which feels so out of control at times, is actually out of MY control. But, it’s not spinning wildly. It’s being held together. It’s been perfectly planned. And, I have a joy in knowing HIs purposes are greater than mine.

People Need Hope

Through desperate actions, an old friend reminded me how hopeless the world is around us. People around us are taking drastic actions each day. Taking deadly drugs, downing large amounts of alcohol, leaving their loved ones, harming themselves, and even killing themselves because they have no hope. If you are a Christian, a follower after Christ, you have a responsibility, I have a responsibility. We need to be sharing about the source of our hope. Jesus is the only never-failing source of hope, and the world desperately needs to hear our message.

1 Peter 3:15 says,  “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect“.

Whew, and we are on to June. I don’t know about you, but for me, this month has been exhausting. Sometimes the Lord turns up the heat and the growth He takes us through is a bit grueling. But, it’s done in love. Oh, dear one, never forget, it’s done in love. Whatever place you may be stuck in right now, He won’t leave you there. He loves you too much to ever leave you there. Look to Him. Keep looking to Him and He will pull you out of that place. 

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A Girl and Her Purple Guitar

She’s relentless.

“Can I just look on Craigslist? Please, mom?”

“Yes, you may LOOOOK. Did I say we are buying? No. We are looking. Your sister just turned 12 and she just got a guitar. You are learning piano and that keeps you busy. You may look and see what’s on Craigslist, but we are NOT buying a guitar for you right now.” My long, drawn out explanation was in one ear, and you know the rest.

Our 9-year-old, Abby, was already entranced in the beautiful instruments she saw flash on the computer screen. “Oh, mom! Look at this one! It’s so beautiful!” Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands together with excitement.

“Yes, that is really nice,” I say while passing by on the way back to the oven to check on dinner. “But, again, we are not buying one.”

After dinner the daunting topic returns. “When can I get one, you guys? I have enough money. I want a guitar so bad! There’s this one that has numbers on the top. It’s for a little kid. I don’t want that one. But, there’s this other one. It’s purple and really shiny. I would love to have a purple guitar.”

“Let’s just wait. You just started talking about guitars a few days ago. I am sure your sister will let you borrow hers when she’s not using it. Besides, I know you don’t believe this, but it’s actually really good for us to have to wait for things.”

Again, my words were tuned out while the daydreaming began.

Abby big guitar

Days passed and this pattern continued. It seemed that an hour couldn’t pass without the word, guitar, entering into the conversation. No longer was it just guitar. Now, she was very specific, purple guitar. She was set on getting a purple guitar.

She’s relentless.

And, I am exasperated.

Finally, it got to where we had to ban the word, guitar.

“No more. We will tell you when we think it’s time to buy one of those, those, those instruments. But, until then, no more talk about gui…those instruments!”

She walked away defeated and I walked away feeling uncertain.

Hasn’t my prayer every day this week been for my girls to draw closer to the Lord? Haven’t I been praying for them to find their own ways to connect with God, apart from me or anyone else? Haven’t I played a large part in instilling a love for music in my girls? Constantly having music playing? Taking them to music class weekly? Insisting they practice the piano?

The next day, in my prayer closet, I realize, I have not even prayed about this purple guitar. It’s been a daily topic. A regular source of contention in our home, but not once did I seek God for wisdom. I answered, “no” before ever bringing it before the Father.

“Lord, you know her desire. But, Lord, I don’t want to spoil my kids. I want them to know how to wait. But, Lord, she loves music. She loves to worship and talk about your love. Please, Lord, give us your wisdom. Give us your heart and your eyes to see what this desire of hers is really all about. And, Lord, if it’s your will that she gets a guitar, please make it clear to us.”

Finally, the peace I needed, rather than the constant irritation around the subject. I still didn’t have an answer but I knew that I was open to what the Lord wanted and wasn’t going into this decision alone.

Towards the end of her piano lesson, I hear the topic come up again.

“Do you know how to play the guitar? I really want a guitar. Mikayla got one. But, my mom won’t let me get one.” I hear her spill it all out to her beloved piano teacher, Lindsey.

Talking from the other room continues, until Abby runs into where I am, breathless and wide eyed. “Can I mom? Please, mom? Come on, mom, please?”

Lindsey, seeing my confusion, explains, “I was just telling Abby about my guitar. I just got a new one last week. I have my old guitar at home. If my sister doesn’t want it, it’s all yours!”

“Really? You just happen to have a guitar at home? Well, it sounds like you need to check with your sister. And, I will need to check with my husband. But, it sounds like it may be a possibility.”

“Oh, just out of curiosity, what color is the guitar?”

“Oh yeah, it’s purple.”

Really, God? I just prayed this morning. I finally just handed this one over to you. Here you are bringing the answer right here to us. We didn’t have to search online and wonder what your plan was. No, you walked that purple guitar right on into our house!

Abby guitar

Now, of course I have no idea if Abby will ever really learn to play the guitar. I don’t know if this is a phase or if she’ll be a lifelong guitarists. I don’t know. And, I don’t have to figure that out. What I do know is that when left on my own, I had anxiety in my heart regarding what to do. I handed it over to the Lord, was flooded with peace, and He provided His answer.

A purple guitar brought right to our doorstep.

Once again, He proved to me:

He knows and cares about every detail of my life.

He desires for me to come to Him with everything.

He loves me.

 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:30-31

 

Laying Down Our Masks

Placing the mask upon her face, she transformed before me. With just the tiger costume covering her little 5-year-old body, her demeanor remained the same. It was as if she had just put on her favorite cozy, fuzzy, winter pajamas. But, once she pulled the tiger mask down to cover her smooth, silky skin, she had changed. My daughter went from being her spunky, silly 5-year-old self, to a stalking, prancing, fierce tiger in the jungle. And, all it took was the mask. She began behaving differently from that moment on. From a distance, I couldn’t even tell she was the child I had studied so closely from the time I first laid eyes on her. Holding true to her character, she remained a tiger throughout her performance. Finally, the show was over and she escaped the cover of the tiger’s mask and head. I spotted the ear to ear grin I always see after a performance. She bounded over to us with all enthusiasm. The tiger was gone and our girl was back.

mikayla tiger

Those masks. We carry them everywhere with us. Pulling them out when a friend calls. Or, when we go to school or work. Walking into an interview. Talking to the cashier at the store.

Even, when we enter church. The place we are encouraged to sing about grace. To lay our burdens at the cross. To seek and find freedom. Yet, the mask comes on.

The other day, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years. Within minutes, she was sharing the most difficult part of her life with me.

“My son is addicted to drugs,” she said bluntly and her shoulders lowered. Her mask was down.

“Oh, is it bad?” I asked looking her straight in the eye.

“It’s really bad. We almost lost him a few months back,” she swallows hard. Taking a deep breath, she continues,  “I really thought it was the end. It’s heroin. It’s so bad. The police picked him up last week. They don’t usually keep them, but this time they did. Now he is in jail.” The mask drops to the ground as she tells his story.

Suddenly, she startles. Looks up at me. “Wow. I must really feel safe with you. I don’t normally tell people all of this. In fact, I have hardly told anyone. When I do, they just look at me and I feel…” her face trails off, and she considers picking up the mask.

“Shame,” I finish for her.

“Yes! Shame. I feel shame. Sometimes they say things that make me feel judged. Or, they judge my son.”

“It could happen to anyone,” I say. Her mask stays down.

“Yes!” she exclaims with tears in her eyes. “When they say it’s an epidemic, they mean it. It’s everywhere.”

“But, Lisa, if you could pray for him…” her voice fades with little hope.

“Yes, I will pray for your son. And, you know what, I will pray for you, as well,” she melts with tears and a beautiful vulnerability.

The Spirit was moving me to pray right then and there in the middle of  the busyness when we were interrupted. And, as  quick as a flash, she replaced the mask, complete with a smile and she was off to her next errand.

I hope to see her again. I pray that she was encouraged and her load was lightened even the slightest bit by laying aside the mask, even just for a moment. I hope she’ll trust again.

I also pray that the Spirit would lead me in the way of Jesus. Not to judge or shame. But to listen with love and compassion. To show my friends and family they are safe with me.

When the hurting came to Jesus, He didn’t share a Bible verse with them. He didn’t judge. He didn’t turn them away.

He loved.

Matthew 5 shows us His heart for the hurting,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.”

As Christians, we are not called to judge, shame, or condemn. But, our great commandment is to love. Read the Gospels and read the accounts of Jesus healing, forgiving, loving. Let that be fresh in your heart as you face the day today. Show someone you are safe and watch their mask fall.

Our world is so desperate to lay down the mask and receive love.

sister love

New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

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These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

by the lake

Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.