The Thanksgiving Tree

The Thanksgiving Tree

Thursday, June 11, 2015


" ooooo mommy, can I get one more honeysuckle before we go?" Thomas races up the little hill toward our garden. 

Last spring I uprooted a honeysuckle plant growing deep into the woods behind our house and planted it along our fence so my children could have an easier access to these little trumpets of sweetness.  Nearly every morning Emma Faye and Thomas run out to sip a bit before we start our day.  It brings such sweet memories of my childhood when I smell their delicious aroma.  I used to love honeysuckles. 

I've been thinking about honeysuckles a lot lately.  Actually, I've been thinking about a lot of things since my dad's cancer diagnosis. Moments suddenly become more precious; time becomes invaluable. Little inconvenient issues become really not big deals.  How just a drop of sweet can bring such delight.

When faced with unknown futures and worry and fear, it's hard to look past this day.  So I try to stay in the day I've been given.  This now.  Now, my daddy feels healthy.  Now, we are at the beach together.  Now. Is. A. Gift.

"Take every thought captive to obey Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5, says.

What does this mean for me?  It means I grab hold of the worry and fear and believe that Christ will supply the grace and strength for these WHEN I NEED it!  But I don't need it now.  Now, I need little graces.  Sleep. Patience with my children.  Kindness towards my husband.  A clear path of treatment for my Daddy.  Grace and peace for my mom.  He is faithful and He sustains under any hardship.  I drink small doses of it.  Grace from His vine. Beautiful, sweet drops of nourishment.  Daily bread.  Even the smallest amount is sustaining.  I look for it everywhere.  A sunset. Sweet conversation with a friend.  An act of kindness. A moment with loved ones.  A restful sleep. Today, it was honeysuckles.

I am interrupted of this very thought by my own little honeysuckle.  

"Mommy, if Butterscotch has some baby bunnies with like that honey color, let's name him Honeysuckle.  Don't you think that would be a great name?" Emma Faye yells from the honeysuckle bush.

I chuckle... Because Jesus is so sweet like this. He hears our hearts.

"Yes, sweet girl.  I think that would be a really great name," I reply.

A few weeks later.......
                                  ....... Another sweet gift......

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sun Fuzzies

I remember a few years ago, my daughter was playing outside and noticed one of those little dandelion weed things that look like a fluffy, fuzzy little cotton ball on a stem.  You know what I am talking about.  We ALL know.  We pluck them and blow hard and watch all of the little white specks dance in the wind and we smile and we see how many puffs of air it takes to knock them all off.  At least that is how my family plays the game.  My little girl has called them "Sun Fuzzies" since I can remember.  And since she coined that phrase, that is what they have been.  I continue to call them that.  I love that title.  I love her heart.  I was recently reminded of those sweet little balls of joy during a conversation I had with a dear friend discussing the heartbreak of severed relationships.  Sometimes change brings great sadness.  Moving in different directions can be a hard and painful work without a proper perspective.

"Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you;" Genesis 12:1

It's hard, but it's good.  Throughout scripture the Lord scatters and moves His people around; in and out of cities and in and out of relationships.  We see this often in Paul's letters.  We see this in the books of the Gospels.  God is sovereign over it all.  Oftentimes, I interpret unexpected and unwanted change as a being "pushed out".  I view it as cruel, perhaps even neglect from my Heavenly Father. Yet, in all actuality, it is really a being "pulled in".  Pulled in towards His heart... HIS will for me... a turning of the page in my story He has written. Why?  Because He loves us so much.  It can be nothing other than a kindness.  I don't understand all of that.  I just need to "plant" my heart into His truth.  That NEVER changes.  And His truth is that it ALL is for my good...and that His love for me stretches as far as the east is from the west. Therefore, I can loosen my grip on that friendship that has become estranged.  I  can pack my bags and boxes and set out to live in a new city.  I can uproot from the familiar soil I so desperately cling to. My own dirt.  My own security.  My unbelief that He will truly guide me to the land which I will show you.  And most importantly, that His land is actually good and best for me....and I can GO forth.

Afterall, isn't that what Jesus commanded us to do before He left?

"Go therefore......." Matthew 28:19

Just as He created time frames of days and hours and seasons.  Just as He specifically outlined seashores and skylines.  He has framed our very lives.  [Our] time[s] are in Your hand. Psalm 31:15.  I am learning to see the beauty in the going.  Afterall, those sun fuzzies sure do look more magical twirling and spinning in the breeze than frozen stiff in the ground.  So, too, the Body of Christ, loosening their grips and wholeheartedly trusting themselves to the love and direction at the hand of their Lord.

Where will His breeze send you?

Monday, February 17, 2014

waiting in the mudhole

My backyard is a mudhole.  It's been rained through, snowed down, and iced over.  It's a mudhole now.  The grass is trampled under dog's feet and children's toes.  The game of fetch.  The hide and seek race.  The bicycles down the hill.  It's a mudhole.  I keep asking my husband if it's ruined.  If we managed to take our beautiful new yard that was kept so immaculately by it's previous owners, and we just trampled on it and killed it all.  He continues to reassure me it isn't dead.  It hasn't been destroyed.  Afterall, all of the rain and water is actually great for this winter lawn.  It's soaked deep down and the slosh remaining up along the surface is no reflection of the growth underneath...waiting to sprout.

Such is our lives these days.  We have been in a season of great weather.  It has rained hard and snowed us in and iced us over.  Somewhere between the tears and the trials, I am left somewhat of a soggy mudhole myself.

But I am reminded of Spring.  I am reminded of the underneath waiting to sprout.  I am reminded that what is presently seen is no reflection of what is to come.  What is waiting to come.  And that the weather has not been a tool of destruction, but a source of nourishment.  To nourish that which is to come.

I'm okay with this.  I'll wait some more.  Because I know as sure as the sun continues to shine, the seasons continue to change.  I know that because it's winter, Spring is on it's way.  I know this.  It's coming.  The ice is thawing and souls are being watered.... hope is in the is in the knowing.  

Thank you, Jesus... that in this moment, you have given me both.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sacred Years

At the time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  and He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me..  (Matthew 18:1-5)

Today was a long day.  Nothing really different.  Just maybe too many of the "same" kind of days, one right after the other.  I am weary.  I must keep strong.  There's the schoolwork, the housework, the "dinner" work....  Our children do a lot of chores which helps, but there is still and always more to do... more and more.  I keep reminding myself that one day I will miss this craziness.  I know I will and I am so thankful I am aware of it now.  This is a gift of the Spirit.  It stops me in mid task and compels me to reach for a hug from that little cowboy running past me with a sword.  It stops me from answering with a quick, "no" when as soon as I crack an egg.. the footsteps skip through the kitchen, "ooo.. can I help you cook, Mama?"  It helps me be okay with, "I want to stoke the fire" while embers and ash are scattering all over my floor.

My oldest turns ten this month.  I have been a mother for almost a decade, now.  These are and have been sacred years.  Jesus knows just how sacred they are...but not in that we, as parents, must make best use of our time to pour into THEM (which is still very important, don't get me wrong).....but that we, as parents, must make the best use of the time we have with our children and their influence as they pour into US.  ..whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me...

yes, sacred years.

Six Years Old -jp

six years old
brown eyes, wavy hair
dancing around
with the dandelions...not a care
lying in the grass staring up at the bright blue sky

she's too young to learn what "pretty is"
old enough to know just who she is
and that she is..right. where. she. belongs.

every day a treasure
every day adventure

oh, to see life through these eyes
oh, to see life through these eyes
oh, the beauty to behold
when I grow up.....
          I want to be six years old.

six years old
ball cap on his head
hanging real close
because that's what his mother said
while he's running through the back woods
with nothing but his trusty dog

he's too young to have a fear of failure
old enough to crave a little danger
because that's what keeps him brave
and what makes him strong

every day a treasure
every day adventure

oh, to see life through these eyes
oh, to see life through these eyes
oh, the stories to be told
when I grow up....
          I want to be six years old.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Oh, to have the faith of my dog

Henry is our sweet one year old lab.  I have a love/hate relationship with this animal.  Henry is the dog whom I would take in and out, in and out, trying to potty train him and after about the seventh time to no avail, we would come in... he would look at me...make sure I was looking... then urinate all over the floor.  He's the dog that goes nuts at the vet and won't sit still on the scale.  He's the dog who hunts for dirty diapers as if they were treasures worthy of all costs.  He's the dog that when I go to pick him up after being boarded, I'm nauseated.  "Well, Henry ate his bed this time.  Watch him for a few days."  He's the dog who would bolt across the street to visit anything and anyone because apparently the entire world wants to pet him.  He's jumped on the school bus.  He's been in and out of almost every neighbor's garage.  He's chewed too many balls and sports equipment to count.  Not to mention shoes and socks and kitty toys.  Yet somehow through all the destruction, he as managed to wedge a warm spot in our hearts.  

He never jumps on my children.  He waits politely for his food and for us to enter and exit first out of the house or garage.  He started barking furiously one day (which he RARELY does.. another great thing about him) and I went running down to the garage to find that Thomas had opened the garage door and was walking out into our front yard!  (good dog)  He once found an earring that I had lost playing with the kids in the yard and dropped it in my hands.. unscathed.  (good dog)  One night while Josh was taking him out there was a noise and he went and stood in between from where the noise was coming from and Josh.  It was Chris taking the trash out.  But Henry didn't budge until Chris came into sight and then he wagged his tail wildly; as if relieved that Josh was safe.  :) (good dog)  He lets Thomas ride him occasionally.  He's great on his walks....and well, he just loves us.  I never fully understood or realized exactly how much he loves us until recently.

Because Henry was becoming more confident in his surroundings, he was leaving the yard a lot more; wandering out in the street and exploring in the woods.  We decided to activate the electric fence that was installed by the previous owners.  We had a trainer come out and work with Henry.  We set up the flags establishing his boundary and it didn't take but a few hours and Henry found a new motto to live by:  "flag...bad".  This new restriction provided all of us more freedom to enjoy being outdoors and being with Henry.  

The invisible fence was great, however, when I leashed him up to take him for his first walk since the installation, he put the breaks on.  Even though I had taken off his electric collar, all he knew was he wasn't supposed to cross that line.  Remember?  Flag...bad.

I coaxed him.  "come on, boy.  it's ok.  come on.."

He moved an inch.

I asked again.  "come on, Henry.  It's ok.  I promise.  come on..."

He lowered to the ground...tail tucked 'neath his belly...Ears bent low.  He did a little crawl.

"Good boy.  Come on.  I promise... You can trust me.... it's ok.. just a little more"

And with a little whimper, he scampered quickly across the flag threshold and I praised him.  I don't know if he understood me or not, but I told him that he can always trust me.  I will never ask him to walk through that wire unless I know he isn't going to get a shock.  Just listen to me, boy.  
And then it hit me.

Oh, to have the faith of my dog.

Everything he knew to be true, had experienced first hand, over and over again.... screamed this is dangerous and painful.  I was the only voice telling him it was safe.  He had a choice.  He could stay in his safe little yard and miss out on our walk together... new smells...visiting the horses... running down the hills...all the things he loves and brings him joy.... or trust me when I said it was okay to come.  If that's not faith, I don't know what is.  And I realized, this dog, with whom I loved AND hated...whole-heartedly loved me.  He was willing to go wherever I called..even when he knew it could cost him greatly.

There are times certain paths aren't allowed, and times we're asked to take the very road once prohibited.  That's why we must keep our eyes before the One who is instructing us in the way...the when...the how.   His paths never lead to anywhere but Holy ground when we are following Him.

I love my dog.  

We had a great walk that day.  And we have had many great walks since.  Now all I have to say is, "Come on Henry... It's okay to cross."  And without a beat, he marches right alongside me through those obnoxious yellow flags.  Trust like this is love.

Oh, to have the faith of my dog.

" I keep The Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure....You show me the path of life.  In Your presence there is fullness of joy;  in Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:8-9,11

Thursday, October 17, 2013

said the parent to the child

"I want a sister.  I am lonely," cried the little girl as she quit a game of football with her brothers.

Take that up with Jesus.  Share with him about your loneliness.

"You need to put him to bed or something.  Get him out of here!" said the oldest as his little brother entered his room.

I am not going to do that right now, he can have a turn playing.  Go to Jesus with your emotions regarding your little brother.

"Why don't you ever let us watch these movies.  Everyone watches them.  All of our friends!" said all the children.

They aren't honoring to the Lord.  I pray one day you will understand.  

You are loved more than you could ever imagine.  I don't pray for you to understand that or grasp it.  I pray for strength to continue to love you as I am called.  I am called to equip you for life.  I am called to instruct you in how to navigate your way.  I can't prepare you for your future by preparing all things your way.  That isn't how the world works.  I have to train you for entering that battlefield.  Which means I have to withhold some things.  I need to challenge you to actions.  I need to allow you to wrestle with your emotions and with the Lord.. alone..just between you and Him.  But I can give you guidance now.. I can teach you scripture,  I can live and model by when you are an adult, you will know how to seek the Lord.

We come wired to be selfish and seek immediate circumstantial joy in all things.  I have 18 years (Lord willing) to help reset(with the Lord's help) that default, and if I am successful, more after that.  You will experience pain and disappointment in this world.  You must have practice while under my care.  That means I can't give you everything you want.  I can't keep you from having to work and share, because those qualities are actually life-giving to us and our future.  It will  not be my goal to make things easy for you (although I grieve when you grieve), it will however, be my desire to point you to Christ... the author and perfector of your faith.  I will pray that all things... joyful and a means to perfect your faith in Him.  

Tough love?  Yes.  But not in the since, "suck it up, buddy... that's life!" kind of tough love.  Tough love meaning in sweat and tears and wrestling will I fight for you.  Daily, hourly, will I battle in prayer the lies the culture speaks to you that are contrary to TRUTH.  Daily, hourly, will I battle the lies the world whispers to me of guilt when you are sad... when you are deprived of "happiness" (worldly speaking)...  in tears I will fight in prayer for your heart to grasp TRUE joy.. the unwaivering, unfailing, uplifting, grace-giving, always forgiving kind of joy.. flowing... EVER flowing from a life found in Christ.  This joy that so often can only be drawn through wells of sorrow and heartache.  

I am doing you a gross disservice if I plan your days around your TV shows, vacations, foods you crave, games and vices you seek at your leisure.  If I deprive you of learning how to work with no reward.  ask forgivness and experience someone asking of you forgiveness, experiencing conflict.. resolving conflict...thinking of others.. serving others....waiting and waiting for desires... experiencing "no" answers to prayers.  I can't keep cancer from affecting those you love.  I can't keep a friend from breaking your heart or exposing your heart to evil.  (I can try... wow, I can try)... but evil happens.  everywhere.  because we live in a broken, evil place.  I must teach you to find the beauty here.  how to shut out to screams of internet, netflix, amazon, fed-ex trucks, cell phones, ipods..pads..texts...beeps EVERYWHERE.. and notice the dandelion.  Breath in the fragrance of a tea olive shrub.  Pet an animal.  Observe a bird.  Sit on the floor and stack blocks.   Kick a ball.  Jump in a creek.  Be silent.  Love God's word.

These are the reminders of Him.  The enemy tries to drown Him out.  Evil tries to darken what Christ brings to light.  in Him, you will always find the light.  always.  Enjoy what He HAS given you.  If only this day it is but a wild flower.  You are dearly loved.
                                                                                            --said the parent to the child

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's okay to say "I'm Sorry"

Woke up extra early this morning. I can hear the birds having their morning discussions outside the window of my den. The house is silent. My thoughts are loud.

This summer has been a relaxing one. With all of our "moves" this year, we decided to literally plan nothing for the summer but a few trips to the beach and outings to the pool. It's been nice to rest. It's been nice to spend uninterrupted time with my children. We've been reading a lot. We've been playing games and loving animals. We've also been arguing a lot. ugh. But we've also been saying "I'm sorry" a lot. I used to still feel really bad about this. I don't like it when I sin. I detest when I lose my patience with my toddler. I hate my quick temper. I apologize, but I hate that I am seemingly always apologizing for the same things. It begins a terrible cycle of guilt and shame with me, if I'm honest.

"God is just as willing and just as able to sanctify, as He is to redeem" (Stepping Heavenward by E. Prentiss)

I wholly except that Christ gave His life for me so that I may gain eternal life with Him.. forever. I am realizing lately, though, that I am not living like I wholly believe that this resurrection occurs as well in my sanctification. Every apology... every grievance.. He is resurrecting. I am a new creation again and again. He didn't just save me one time. He is saving me every minute... He moves from sin to sin.. cleaning out my heart... purifying.

The more I grow in holiness, the more I see and grieve my own sin... the greater my sin, the greater Christ becomes.

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

Our apologies serve to make it right with those we care for on this earth and to declare to our Heavenly Father, we are unable to make these changes on our own.. we are helpless to our sin.. we NEED a Savior! And He rescues every time and fulfills His promises over and over.

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God." Ezekiel 36:25-28

It's okay to say "I'm sorry."