Don’t Be Afraid of Taking It Slow

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When I was in fifth-grade, my class spent a day planting pine tree seedlings to fill areas of a local forest left bare by a lumber company cutting down trees. It was our Earth Day project and I was so excited to get out into the woods. I was even more excited when we were all given a few baby trees to take at the end of the afternoon so that we could plant them wherever we chose.

My parents helped me plant my bundle of pine trees on the border of our property. It wasn’t too long afterwards that we moved away from that house and that town…but my grandparents, uncles, and aunts remained there, living on that stretch of land where I’d ran so many times from my house to theirs. So, over the years, I’d go back to visit our family and always take a look at my trees, too. It felt good to have left something behind, something good that could keep growing; I didn’t live there anymore, but my trees did…so I felt like I was still a part of that land.

I remember when they were knee-high…I remember how impressed I was when they grew to reach my shoulders…I remember how delighted I felt, years later, when I first saw that they had finally outgrown me.

It sometimes feels like it wasn’t really that long ago when I first placed their roots in the ground, but since I’ve planted those trees? I’ve lived in no less than seven new towns, graduated from high school, moved out of my parent’s house to start college, got married and had three babies, watched my little sisters and brother grow up to start families and careers. My oldest baby started high school and my youngest is already 9. 

It has been twenty-four years since I planted those seedlings.

And last week, I stood in that old yard of mine and looked up in awe at those same trees. These trees of such fragile beginnings, once so carefully carried by my ten-year-old hands, are now strong and deeply rooted. They’ve survived snow and thunderstorms, the heat of twenty-four North Carolina summers. The fragile limbs I once knew are now thick branches — and they’re home to birds, to insects, serve as the playground of happy squirrels.

The same trees that I once held in my lap on the ride home from school now touch the sky.  

I haven’t been able to get those trees off my mind since I came home from that visit. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how many years have passed and all that was changing in my life while all the while, those trees were steadily digging roots into earth, drinking in sunshine and rain, stretching inch by inch, reaching higher and higher. They never tired of holding their ground. No matter how many days and weeks and years passed, they simply stood taller.

They had small beginnings, those trees. Little hands planted them and then I had to leave them, trusting them to my grandparents and to their Creator to watch over them as they grew. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, not exactly. I can’t tell you in what year they changed from seedlings or lanky adolescents into mature pines that thrive on their own. All I know is that they stand now in the fullness of what they were created to be.

It took time, and maybe that’s why I can’t get them off my mind — because it’s something I’m learning over and over again…the things that matter, the growth that matters — it all takes time and, usually, more than we expect.

It can be so, so easy to get caught up in looking for quick results. It can become a daily race to make sure we get the right numbers, the right boxes checked off, the right amount of accomplishment. There’s a feeling of urgency to succeed, a worrisome hum in the air that we’re going to get too old to matter, that there are too many people ready to take our place if we don’t out-speak and out-do them right now, right this instant. We feel guilty if we don’t finish our ideas or achieve our goals within the time-frame our culture (and our own panicked selves) expect of us…

But, most often, the truly good things in this life do take time.  The garden of nourishing greens, the caterpillar’s transformation to butterfly, a baby in the womb, a child growing day by day, long-lasting friendships, a forest filled with trees…real growth and real maturity requires time.

And while we grow frustrated with anything that feels too slow, God is patient. And although He can (and sometimes does) change things in an instant, He is interested in consequences that are eternal.  

He cares about the single seeds that are planted. He tends them, watches them grow, looks for harvest that endures.  

The earth is layer over layer, soil rich with yesterday nourishing today.

The stars go on further and there are more of them than we can imagine and not a one of them panics that their light isn’t significant. It takes a sky full to light up the night.

He tells His story through generation upon generation, never growing weary of reaching us with His love.

There is space for you, for us, for our lives. Don’t be afraid of losing your place. Don’t be afraid of running out of time.  

God has entrusted you with a dream, with the work in your hands, with the relationships in your life — be patient with these sacred gifts. Our time is in His hands…so don’t fear the passing of seasons. When we live surrendered to Him, He never wastes time. He uses it to help us grow…what He asks of us is that we follow His leading and do what He enables us to do in the day we are living now.  Offer your best while you entrust Him with the enduring and eternal harvest…He promises to finish the good work He begins in us.

When we believe that it’s all up to us and that it only matters if we get it done as soon as possible – and the sooner, the better – we will begin to live, create, and love surface-deep.

When we begin to believe that our words are important only if they’re the loudest in the room, we’ll get caught up in the clamor and miss the still, small voice that matters most.

If we believe that small beginnings aren’t worth our time and effort, then we’ll never see how beauty can grow.

When we try so hard to keep up with the pace of the crowd, we will lose step with Him.

Let’s be brave enough to get quiet and listen. Let’s be brave enough to take our time. Let’s move to the rhythm He sets for us, His melody of grace.

Let’s be brave enough to trust Him.

Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year – keep digging roots deep into love, keep nourishing your life with Light, keep drinking in the water that you never have to fear will run dry, keep reaching out toward the heavens.

In this simple way, with patience and perseverance, we will hold our ground through every storm and the change of every season…through it all, our Creator will sustain us and we will bear the fruit He intends for us to share.  

Steadily, inch by inch, we’ll keep growing into the fullness of who our God has created us to be.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.-Jeremiah 17:8

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What Matters

It has been a week of busy days…a week of need-to-do and want-to-do and never quite feeling like enough has been done…but I take a deep breath and remember Kailey’s laughter as she chased rainbow-lace-bubbles floating over the grass. I remember Christian’s voice singing all boisterous and free after choir practice at school. I remember the gleam in Sean’s eyes as he sketched a still-life of a lamp in the living room, his pride as he showed me the finished picture. I choose to remember moments like these…the laughter of an inside joke with Neil, the adventure of stopping at a thrift store to see what might be found, the peace of all three kids involved in their books, the joy of all three singing out praise-songs on the way home from church. I will be thankful for these moments, for the time given to me so that I can give it to them. I have had to learn to let go of tightly clutched agendas because love must come first. Everything else that has been marked off a list or is still waiting…most of those things aren’t going to make a forever-impact. But love does.

Investing time…investing attention and heart-focus….investing you  — it matters to the people around you.

And it matters to our Father.

Earlier this week, this was the devotion Christian read aloud at bedtime:

“Am I listening for God’s voice? Or am I listening for my own? I would love to do big things. And maybe I will. But is God really shouting, ‘Go and do big things’? Or is He simply whispering, ‘Come to Me’? Matthew 11:28 says – ‘Come to Me’.”

He wants our hearts listening to Him as He listens to us. He desires communion…He desires to share in our joy and our sorrow. He wants relationship over accomplishments. And in time with Him, we find He smooths away the ragged edges of striving and fear. He soothes the anxious heart. He bears our weakness and gives His own strength.  Instead of being so caught up in doing, we can rest in what He has already done for us…and we can simply be.

For He doesn’t examine what has been marked off your list, but the motivation that made that list in the first place. He doesn’t find your value in what you’ve done, but in who you are…a man or woman made in the Father’s image, surrendered to Him.  That’s the heart He works through…the one pursuing Him and not another checked off goal.

Maybe you will do ‘big’ things. Maybe you will mark every ‘small’ thing off your to-do list…maybe we will simply do the things that must be done for our days to cycle onward in a responsible manner.

But the biggest thing of all, every time, is how we are already loved by our Savior…how we love Him…and how we love the people in our lives.  What matters at the end of every week…at the end of every day…at the end of every life…are those things that will be carried forward into eternity.

For our weekend – I pray that we will quiet our hearts, even if the schedule is busy and the house all chaos, and put our focus on Him. I pray we will see His love in the ever-changing sky, in the Words we see by, in every thing He has made and given. I pray we will find joy in the small things and grace in everything. I pray that we will be so filled with His love and His presence that we will overflow peace and gladness, a water-fall of love over the ones who share our time and our space. I pray that we will love as we are loved.

(And this song is like finding a treasure – because it is the prayer I feel, the words I wanted to find.)

“Day is Dimming”

The day is dimming and I’m yearning for You.
I won’t be satisfied till I see Your face.
Every victory, every loss,
every tick, every cross –
You can put them all in place.

It seems I’m finding more of why
in these moments
I feel like I’m made to sing of how good You are.
The more the years swell by and pass
each seconds more than last.
It’s true by far.

That no profound thought or clever rhyme,
no soaring grand, melodic line.
No theory, philosophy or sign
can explain it,
can explain.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your love that has changed me.
I’d give the world, and all it’s charms
for a moment in Your arms.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere,
a thousand elsewhere….

I still remember what it felt like before You.
I’m grateful every day for how things have changed,
I’ll thank You every way I can
’cause my life only began
when I heard You call my name.

Now, no praise of man,
no great acclaim,
no humble looking kind of fame,
no power, wealth or worldly gain
could satisfy me,
could every satisfy.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your grace that has raised me,
I’d give my whole life to honor You
in whom I live,
in whom I move.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere.

Better is one day in Your courts,
better is one day in Your house,
better is one day in your courts
than anywhere else, oh-
lead me, lead me,
lead me to Yourself…
lead me to Your heart.

Where You are, I wanna be.
It’s Your love that has changed me.
I’d give my life, to honor You
in whom I live
and whom I move.
Better is one day with You
than a thousand elsewhere,
a thousand elsewhere….

Lead me to Yourself,
lead me to Your heart.
I’ll be found in You,
I’ll be found in You.
Here is peace,
here is joy,
here is life,
here is freedom, freedom.

~Brooke Fraser