Trees. Winter. Joy.

9 11 2011

If you know me or either of my sisters, you will know that the three of us share a special love for trees. I know it is kind of a random thing that the three of us share this weird love for, but it is really nice. There is something about the idea of trees. The fact that they can be planted, or grown naturally. The idea that after years and years of different seasons, they still seem to (well, most trees) grow so mighty and big. I love the idea that trees have so many limbs and trees all produce something different and unique. The pine needles are different from a magnolia tree. Some trees grow fruits and others money pine cones. ha.

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with someone, and it was feeling much like a winter season in my life. Honestly, all the way up till this point, I can honestly sit here and say that I feel my entire life has been nothing but a winter or rather desert season. Much of that desert time, I had hallucinations (figuratively speaking), of good things and good ‘words’ from the Lord. But hallucinations is what I really think they were. I think God spoke things to me for sure, but now that I am truly seeking the Lord and the gospel truly makes sense to me, all that I had before really was nothing compared to the truth I stand upon now. Not to discredit the spiritual journey before this season and the teachings and spiritual experiences from growing up. God was working then in my life just as He is working now in my life. I am not here to discredit my past churches or teachers or people who have walked along side me and with me through this life. Christ is really showing how all of that is being brought in full circle, whether I saw it then or not. So I am deeply thankful for all who have walked and encouraged me on my journey and the Lord is making more clearer my spiritual experiences and showing me how those experiences have now worked in my life. The good and the bad ones.

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Ahem, sorry. Back to trees. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with someone during a hard time. She told me, “Did you know that during winter is when trees actually grow their roots the deepest. And that is what you are doing right now during this winter season. God is just allowing you to grow your roots deeper in Him baby….” That idea has stuck with me since.

As I am now living in the North, winter is literally on its way (it is supposed to snow tomorrow). I have never been a fan of the cold or snow. But Christ is showing me to run with it! Embrace this life! Embrace all seasons for it is Him that is with me. He is allowing every season, every circumstance to come my way. The good and the bad. The joys and defeats, it is all in His hands. As long as I am placed in the center of His will, there is no other place I would rather be.

Since moving up North, I feel like this has been a spiritually small winter. But God knew what He was doing bringing in this cold front. It has been a very lonely few months because I have yet to find a body of the like-minded. I have met a few Christians here and there, but schedules just do not permit the type of investment that I want. I feel like I really do not really have a lot of friends but like two, and I am actually pretty content with that.

I did not see it the first two months of living here, but… I can see so clearly why the Lord brought me up here. At first, I kept thinking it was me who brought me up here. I made the super random and kind of abrupt decision to move, but really God did it. If I didn’t move up North, I wouldn’t have been brought into this super lonely season. During this time, is where I found God in the most… amazing way. If I hadn’t hit the bottom of my dependence on man, rather than on God, I would have never turned to God. The Lord had started teaching me a lot at the start of the summer, to not depend on man. Which has been a huge weakness my whole life. I find a person or two who begin to invest in me, and I turn into …. like a leech! And I just stick to them, wanting to have them ‘fix me’ or love me or something. So being up north, I didn’t have anyone to do that. God wanted to make sure I got this lesson… this lesson to focus my eyes on Him and the gospel. To look to Him for everything and anything that I need in this life. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

The lonely season came. My dependence on man was basically gone because I was alone. God shows up, and the reality of the gospel sinks in. My dependence on Christ is all I need. This might be a slight winter, but I am excited about it. I call it a ‘winter’ season just for the lack of friendships, and the lack of having a church home and the body to invest in, and to serve in. But other than that, this has been the best winter ever. My relationship with God is becoming so deep and rich. This is a rich rich season. I am left alone with my Bible and podcasts all the time! There is nothing better to really spend my time doing. God is speaking like crazy to my heart through the teaching of pastors in other states who are truly preaching His word and the Biblical knowledge is awesome that God is allowing me to understand now that my eyes and ears and heart are open to Him and His truth. I may not have a ton of friends, but I am feeling pretty content in that because, Christ is all I need. Christ is all I want. He is my joy, my satisfaction. He is more than anything in this world that I want. Just like in Ecclesiastes when Solomon says “I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine-my heart still guiding me with wisdom-and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

King Solomon had done it all, yet it was all in vain. It meant nothing. God has begun this lesson in my heart and begun to stir this idea, and transformation in my thinking that honestly, all that I can gain in this life, is meaningless unless it is Christ that I am gaining. I will lose my life in order to gain the eternal life. I want to live with the eternal perspective. The perspective that I can have everything taken away, but my joy is complete in Him, and I will not waiver in my faith just because all the temporary stuff is lost or taken from me.

I do not want to spend my entire life chasing after meaningless things. I spent 24 years doing that. I spent 24 years living a mediocre Christian life. Walking around calling myself a Christian, but the fruits were rare and few. My life did not exemplify Christ too often.

Look at the season you are in. Whether it is a good and happy one right now, or whether it is challenging and exhausting. Take hope in the cross. Take hope in Jesus that He knows. He is right there walking you through that season whether He feels near or not, He is. Sometimes the Lord chooses to be silent to grow our faith, but do not allow the silence to make your faith diminish. Take heart in Christ, and choose to have joy. If you truly believe in the Lord, then your contentment should be in Him, and not your circumstances. Good or bad. Your joy shouldn’t be based on whether your life is peaches and cream right now, or it shouldn’t be sucked dry because you’re feeling a bit defeated. One of my favorite Bible verses is “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:10-11

Choose joy, whatever the circumstance. I am really learning that my joy is rooted more through my thanksgiving and praise to God. It humbles me to realize that He knows what He is doing. I am choosing joy on my lonely days. I am choosing joy when I want to move back to Texas. I am choosing joy when I feel defeated. I am choosing joy when I fall before the Lord and repent of my sins and accept His forgiveness for the billionth time. I am choosing joy when I do not feel I have the strength or want to encourage others. I am choosing joy when I fall on my face and ask for help. I am choosing joy when my words feel like they aren’t even hitting past the ceiling. I am choosing joy when I do not feel God anywhere close. I choose joy when my doubts begin to creep in. I choose joy when God answers the prayers that I didn’t even think He heard. I am choosing joy when my friends are being encouraged, stretched and growing in their faith and trust in God. I am choosing joy when God encourages me through His word. I am choosing joy when the Holy Spirit is at work helping guide me through this life. I am choosing joy when I think about how this life isn’t eternal, but my life found in Him is eternal. I am choosing joy when I can encourage my friends around me who are losing sight of Him during these hard days. I choose joy during the good bad and ugly.

Another favorite verse of mine says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to Him.” John 14:21…

God says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

I choose joy, because it is commanded in the Bible. Those who seek the Lord’s commandments and who are seeking to obey Christ, are the ones who are showing their love for Him. I do not do this to ‘check’ off of some list or out of obligation.I do it because I am beginning to desire to learn what God commands and expects from me, because I am a follower of Him, and I want to honor and obey Him because He says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:1-3

I. Choose. Christ.

I. Choose. Joy.

Joy is something that is given to us, but no everyone chooses to receive and learn to discipline themselves with joy. So I challenge you, to choose joy. No, I am not happy all the time, and I have bad days and moments of anger and throw fits of rage and discouragement, but at the end of the day, I hope and my prayer is that my joy is still found in Christ. At the end of the day, that I choose not to go to bed with anger or with an unsettled heart that is harboring bitterness and sin. I want to live my life to the fullest, and I can only do that when I am looking towards Christ…

My joy is breathed through His grace. His grace is given with every single breathe I take…

During this winter season, my heart is finding its roots through His word. Deep in His word. My foundation is finally becoming solid. I can stand on my two feet only because Christ has allowed that, and because He is the foundation.

And I will close with my two favorite Bible verses (uh oh. If you know me, every pair of shoes that I have are my favorite, and every song on the radio is my favorite. It looks like every Bible verse is becoming my favorite. ha).

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. he is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the streams and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

^ That verse brings tears to my eyes, I am so thankful the Lord saved me, opened my eyes and has planted me in the soil of his word! This scripture is so true and dear to me, because I can see that my life was like the beginning of this verse for 24 years, but when I began to truly put my hope in Christ, the second half became my life. So thankful!

and

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1: 1-3

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