Chapter 1: Day 6 – Growing into Love

Day 6 of Chapter 1 for Arise & Shine. A devotional and poem written by Anna Smit.

Making Friends with the Rain by Wendy Simpson, used with permission. Wendy blogs at Widow’s Manna, and you can find her artwork on WordPress at Wendy’s Vignettes or via Facebook at Wendy’s Vignettes
 

Recently, as I found my eyes resting on a compliment given to someone else, rather than pressing down the jealousy and insecurity I felt, I brought it before the LORD in prayer. I asked Him to bring me a Word to cleanse me of my sin. He gave me John 15:2: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

I then went to read up on the process of pruning. What caught my attention was the branches that were cut at the base of a tree: the so-called “suckers” that if left to grow would suck out necessary nutrients and weaken the wood. These “suckers” needed to be cut back to the base, not once but three times to form a healthy callus. 

I thought about how words of affirmation are one of my main love languages and how if left to my own devices, I would define my worth based on the words of man. So, every time someone is showered in words of affirmation by man and I am not, is in fact God’s gift to me. It’s His Way of cutting off those sucker branches and strengthening the base of the tree. It’s His Way of ensuring the nutrients aren’t spent on branches that would suck the life out of me.

Each time that sin of jealousy rises and insecurity flares in me, is God’s invitation to come to Him that He may direct my heart to draw its worth from Him. To be reminded by Him that I am seen, heard, known, loved and chosen and even liked by Him, even when man doesn’t see me, hear me, know me, love me, choose me or like me (and trust me when I say I know that I am not always so easy to listen to, get to know, love, choose and like  because let’s face it: I’m human).

It’s Christ’s invitation to lean into His strong trunk that is even now holding me up and rooting me to the place of His choosing. It’s Him reminding me that He wove me in my mother’s womb for a hope and a purpose, so that when it’s time for me to branch out, I will no longer be seeking the praise of man, but lifting up my branches in praise and awe of my Maker alone. Why? Because every branch cut from me, will have lifted away my fear of man, to root me so very firmly in His living and dynamic Word to me, in relationship with Him: my trust, my hope and my life Himself.

So, it’s not about me “making myself stop being jealous” or about pushing away those thoughts of insecurity that rise. It’s about placing that branch in the hands of Jesus, my Good Gardener, and allowing Him to take it away – the branch feeding on human affirmation that is bearing no fruit – so that I may lean into and grow stronger in Him: my base, my stronghold, my life, my comfort and my very breath.

And the Word I then found Jesus giving me to root myself in, rather than the word of man was: 

Colossians 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Perfect here means according to HELPS Word study:

Cognate: 5047 teleiótēs (a feminine noun) – completion (consummation), in its cumulative sense, i.e. built on what has to precede and also supports the stage that must come next. See 5056 (telos).

And bound together in harmony means according to HELPS Word Studies:

4886 sýndesmos (from 4862 /sýn, “closely identity with” and 1210 /déō, “to bind”) – properly, a bond (close union); a close (inner) identity which produces close harmony between members joined closely together (WP).[Note the “close, firm bond conveyed by syn (together,” WS, 242).]

This showed me that the root of my sin of jealousy in this case was the sense that God has been passing me over. He’s continually drawn me into periods of hiddenness, and continually had me tear things down and start over from the ground up. And I realize now that I have felt like He has purposely withheld success from me.

But what He’s showing me here is that each of these tearing down’s have been His cutting away of sucker branches. And that this has been His very necessary discipline. It’s what had to come first, so that I would end up crying out to my God. So, in the silence of those I most looked up to, He would become the One I looked up to most. So, I would find He had all along been inclining His ear to my unspoken yearnings to be seen, known and loved by Him.

He just had to strip away the noise to overshadow me in His light, so I could recognize His face, His heartbeat beating inside of my chest and His Voice singing inside and over me, all along.

Yes: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV).

What I can now see, is that if God had not repeatedly caused me to arise in His Word and to depart, where it wasn’t welcomed, I would have kept my light hidden and covered over to belong and be “acceptable” to others. I would have avoided feeling the pain of past losses and betrayals all over again: pain God intended to uncover and bring His healing comfort to.

I would have revelled in outer success, but inwardly been rotting away, as all the nutrients would have gone into pleasing man and silencing God’s precious Word in me. Each parting and closing down (of ministries and blogs) and starting afresh has been His doing: His purifying of my heart, His rooting of me in His love and Word alone. Oh my heart! So, no! I have not been passed over: I have been loved on. I have been tenderly parented in love. For, just look what I now do when that jealousy and insecurity born of unhealed wounds arises. I come to my Heavenly Father for His Word of affirmation, comfort and healing.

I now know to turn to my Papa, to come boldly before the throne of grace to confess my sin freely and to ask Him to give me a Word to root me deeper in Him. So, yes: my Papa has withheld earthly success from me: not because He was passing me over, but because I am His.

He knew it would destroy the soul of His little girl, who has needed to grow in the knowledge and confidence of His love for her: a love that is constant, abiding and enduring. 

Jesus always knew the wounds of my past. He knew how my Prodigal wandering began when I turned man into my god: when I began to believe man’s word to be His. Now, through all the cutting away He has taught me to discern His Voice from my accuser’s and to deep down know He never ever left me alone all those years: it was always me turning toward and clinging to my fellow wounded humans, who needed God’s love and mercy too, and away from His perfect love for us all.

God has been giving me the gift of growing into Jesus and being firmly rooted in His love above all else. He is uncovering my wounds to wash, cleanse and bind them in His Living Word, to breathe His life and comfort into me and through me into His Body.

So, when jealousy and/or insecurity rises in me, I now know to speak to my soul: 

“Sink into the trunk of Jesus, Anna. Let His healing leaves cover you, so that you might see what He does: how all your brokenness has already been bound together in His wholeness. So that He might remind You how He sees you: as a chosen, beloved and appointed member of His Body. You have not been set aside by Jesus. You have been set apart unto Him and His glorious purposes.

Now dance with abandon in Jesus, Anna. Let His love and grace lead your every step. Let His kindness and compassion flood over you and open your dove’s eyes wide to see what He does: that He has already bound every vital part together into the whole in perfect harmony.

Let His Word continue to wash away the dross and dust covering over His beauty in you, as He affirms who you and those before you truly are. Let His mercy pour out like healing rain and rush over you like a gushing river, covering and claiming every part of you. Breathe Him in that You may dance in step with the Spirit of truth and grace. Jesus is carrying you into your destiny, step by step by step.”

Making Friends with the Rain by Wendy Simpson, used with permission. Wendy blogs at Widow’s Manna, and you can find her artwork on WordPress at Wendy’s Vignettes or via Facebook at Wendy’s Vignettes
 
Dance in Abandon

Come, dance
Here
In abandon
With me.

The lover
Of our soul
He calls us
Forth.

Wild
And free
I AM
In Jesus.

Pointing fingers
Cutting words
Shaming stares
And turning backs:

Wounded man
Cannot tame
These Gospel feet
That call us:

The Beloved.

Our childlike heart
Speaks peace, be still
The Father hears
His Son awaking.

No fear of man
Can snuff out
Christ's love
Bla - zing e - ternally.

Safe here
In our Abba's arms
Come sway
With me.

The breath
Of Life
Our every step
Has paved.

A dwelling place
In His arms
Come, find
Awaken to

His Spirit breath
Declare with me
I AM not lost
But found in Christ.

Yes, I dance here
In abandon
The lover of my soul
He, calls me forth.

Wild and free
The Great I AM
I see Him now
In you and me.

Father God, I bow my knees before You, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of Your glory You may grant us all to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all Your fullness. 

Now to You who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

Living Roots

An allegorical short story by Lisa Enqvist 

First published at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/allegory-searching-for-my-tree/

A friend recently went through my Facebook background. Even to me, my life looks chaotic, though I have spent years trying to make sense of the various stages, places, and situations of my life. 

 

 

This picture reflects my first eight years. I’ve written one book in English which covers these eight years: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. (Available on Amazon and other sources).

 

The following story was born at a writers’ course. As I read it aloud, someone exclaimed, “That is your life!” It is a metaphor for my life. As I continue writing my blog in the weeks and months ahead, I hope to discover and uncover other treasures, just as this Bible verse from Isaiah 33:6 promises:

 

He will be the sure foundation for your times,

    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

 

 

I searched for the grove where someone said I would find my tree, but the road was no longer there. Great excavators had mutilated the landscape. I sat down on a big rock and cried. How could I find my tree? Was it there, or was it destroyed? A little child came and stood by my stone. She looked at me with her big, questioning eyes.

 

“Why are you crying?” She held out her hand.

 

“Come with me. I will show you something.”

 

She led me past the big rocks that the excavator had left. We went past the familiar railroad, the river, and the mountains.

 

Palms swayed in the wind by the ocean. The crabs fled from the foam in an eternal game of hide-and-seek.

 

Was the palm my tree?

 

No. It was too lonely. I didn’t want to be alone.

 

The girl led me on. We came to a road that led to a schoolyard. Around the sports-field flamboyant trees spread their branches. During the hot summer, fiery yellow-red flowers burst out of the twigs. They were beautiful, but the fire that shone from them scorched my heart. The flame tree was not my tree.

 

There were trees with the tastiest fruits. But neither the mango tree with its dark leaves and its juicy fruit nor the guava tree with spiky branches and seed-filled fruit was my tree.

 

The little girl led me on into the middle of a park. When I finally found my tree, I sat down under it. I did not yet understand that this might be my tree. It did not look like any other tree I had passed earlier. All the other trees had a trunk and a crown of branches reaching for the sky. Their roots were not visible. This tree had roots growing down from the branches, as though it needed extra support from every side.

 

 

The wind whispered through the leaves. I heard it say to the tree,

 

“Tell your story so that even the little girl will understand.”

 

The tree began its story.

 

“Long, long ago, I sprouted up out of the ground in a country far away. The air was clear, and the sun shone brightly. The birds flew around me, chirping and singing their songs. Life was good.

 

One day the gardener came from the King’s Palace and began digging the ground around my root. I was terrified.

 

“I’ll die! I’ll die if you move me from here.” I cried.

 

The gardener did not hear my cry. He did not explain anything. Maybe he thought I would not understand. My root broke when the gardener pulled me up. I was sure I would die. There was no way I could survive. My heart was bleeding.

 

The gardener rolled a bunch of damp hay around my root and put me into a sack. I did not know where I was. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to die.

 

Many days later I saw the light. I was in a strange country. I was still alive. I heard someone digging with a spade. I heard a voice saying:

 

“I plant this tree as a symbol of friendship and justice. May it grow tall and give shelter to many children.”

 

The man who spoke held me very gently. I saw a tear run down his cheek. I did not understand anything. He put me down into the hole in the ground and filled the gap with soil around my roots.

 

I was sure I would never grow big. My roots were still hurting. I did not want to know where I was.

 

I didn’t care about the touch of the wind. Nor the freshness of rain, nor the warmth of the sun.

 

I thought stubbornly: I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be here.

 

One day an older woman came alone into the park. She stopped beside me and looked at my drooping leaves. I felt the warmth of her empathy flow towards me. I wanted to tell her my story.

 

She sat down on the ground and listened to my complaint. She understood. She felt my sorrow and longing. It was enough.

 

After that day, I began to see again. I was in a park designed by a king.

 

I grew tall, taller than the other trees. I stretched my limbs so birds could build their nests in them. I noticed that I had aerial roots growing down from my branches. I thought then I would make a swing of them for children. I want to show all the children who find me that I am here for them.”

 

The tree did not have to say more. I understood. It was my tree.

 

I stood up and looked at the tree again. The aerial roots covered its trunk. Dead brown leaves covered the ground. The tree had died many deaths, yet it lived. It still gave protection to the birds and the children.

 

The little girl began to gather the leaves in big piles. Suddenly she was surrounded by a crowd of children. They were playing and hiding under the dead leaves. I heard them laugh and shout in joy. They rolled around the on the ground, so the leaves rustled.

 

The big boys climbed up in the tree. The younger children clung to the swing.

 

Everyone had a place in my tree. After playing, the children were tired. They returned home to their parents.

 

I realized that I must leave my tree. I have to move on. I have to plant trees for other children in other countries. The wind followed me with its whispering melody.

 

 

 

Author Bio

As a teenager, Lisa Enqvist decided she would never be a missionary, never return to her father’s Gospel ship “Ebeneser,” never marry a missionary, never have kids who might feel as rootless as she was. And, she prayed, “Please, God, don’t ever send me to India.” But God knew Lisa better than she knew herself and gave her what her heart truly desired: all the things she asked Him not to give her, healing her heart more and more through the process.

Lisa is a co-founder of a Children’s Home in Thailand. She grew up in China and Sri Lanka as a missionary kid. She now lives with her husband in a small town on the West Coast of Finland. She and her husband adopted four Amerasian children in Thailand. They have given Lisa and her husband Håkan eleven grandkids.

Today, Lisa writes personal and family stories based on saved letters, documents, and personal memories. Since receiving her mother’s old letters in 1983, she has written four memoir books in Swedish and one in English: MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids. Rheumatoid Arthritis has challenged her since writing her first book.

Lisa is a registered pediatric nurse. Her earlier writing experience consisted of newsletters to sponsors of children at the Bethany Children’s Home and regular letters to family and friends scattered around the world. She has saved numerous family letters.

She attended several Swedish writer’s seminars in Finland. After reverting to English in 2011, she completed a course in writing for children and youth at the Institute for Children’s Literature and a Memoir Writing Course at Creative Writing Now. She also wrote articles for FaithWriters Challenge.

She is a member of Everything Memoir Private Group and West Coast Christian Writers. She has attended two Online conferences with the WCCW.

Her book MISSIONARY MOTHER – Around the World with Five Kids, is available from:

https://booklocker.com/books/8211.html

https://www.amazon.com/MISSIONARY-MOTHER-Around-World,

and other online bookstores.

Lisa blogs at: https://lisaenqvistroots.com/