Sentinel of Life

Welcome to another Five Minute Friday where I’ve joined with a group of writers who gather once a week to “just write” without worrying about getting things “just right.” You’re welcome to join in on the fun over at   http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Today’s word is “tree.”

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Growing up on a farm with acres and acres of woods, my siblings and I spent hours exploring among the trees. These tall sentinels of the hills opened wide to child mind, transforming into magical kingdoms filled with wonder just waiting our discovery…

Tree – stalwart keeper of castle gates swinging open to welcome imagination at play

Tree – escort through the forest, transformed to pirate ship holding treasure and adventure on the seven seas

Tree – leafed sentry turned tepee providing haven for wild “Indians” who had no concept of political correctness as they whooped and hollered, racing their imaginary steeds through forest filled with danger and discovery

Tree – hollowed protector worn by years of standing firm, holding small body nestled within its cavern during repeated rounds of Hide-and-Seek

Tree – watchman providing shade and solitude as teenage body scales its branches with Bible and notebook in hand

Tree – welcoming protector of frame grown older, enfolding adult child still seeking solace within its canopy

Tree – keeper hewn into Cross of suffering, holding the broken body of Grace as life-breath bleeds out to offer me salvation

Tree – sheltering defender, standing firm through the ages, casting its shadow of love over me.

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Constant Through the Trial and the Change

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging consistently the past few weeks. Unlike the title of today’s post, my writing has been less than constant through the trial and the change. And let me tell you, there have been a lot of trials and changes around here lately.

At the top of the “change” list has been the marriage of a son, which occurred this past weekend.

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And as far as the trials go, well, let’s just say that most of them are not worth mentioning. Amongst so many life adjustments, it’s good to have a constant. Something unalterable, consistent, steadfast.

That one thing that remains steady when life is fluctuating and shifting on so many levels.

In the midst of all the roiling emotions that accompany the wedding of a child, I was blessed to be reminded of one of my life’s “constants.” When I looked up to greet the smiling face of a friend who has known and loved me even longer than my own husband has, you can imagine my sense of relief and joy at her presence. Shelley has been my BFF since high school and has stood beside me in cheerleading uniform, bridesmaid dress, and bridal gown.

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Last Saturday she stood beside me once more as I donned the garb of mother-of-the-groom. I can honestly say that seeing her at my son’s wedding was one of the highlights of my day and was a blessed reminder of just how fortunate I am to have a “forever friend.” A rare constant who has remained throughout the changing seasons of life.

From the days of sharing secrets of teenage crushes to the moments of finding our “Mr. Rights,” through the struggles of motherhood and the mixed emotions of “letting go” of our all-too-rapidly-growing adult children, Shelley has been there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes as a lifeline on the other end of a phone line, and sometimes standing right beside me – close enough to reach out and hug.

But always there. Always constant in her love for me.

It’s not like we see each other often or talk on the phone weekly. Our lives and callings have led us states apart, which is all the more reason why Shelley’s presence this past weekend was such a blessing to me. Not only was she there to rejoice with me, she was there covering me in prayer. And that’s the kind of friend I need. The kind of friend who views every occasion as a time to lift me before the throne of grace. The kind of friend who impacts my life with words spoken to the One who gifted us with our friendship and has held us together through the years.

No matter the distance between us, I am confident that Shelley always has my back – even when it’s from her knees.

Contrary to the polite comments posted by long-ago friends on our most recent photo together, we really have changed – more than a bit. And although most of the changes have taken place inwardly, I see the maturing of my own face reflected in the slight “laugh lines” (NOT wrinkles, mind you) around the eyes of my friend, the strands of graying hair covered over by a “quick fix” of L’oreal, and the aging of skin that once glowed with the youthfulness of teenagers.

But my friend remains beautiful still.

In fact, I’m certain that if we live to be 85 or 90, I will look at Shelley and still see her as one of the most beautiful people on planet earth. Because I’m confident she will still be glowing with love. And I daresay, she will still be bending her knees to cover me with her prayers, even if those aged knees can only bow in her spirit.

Because that’s the kind of friend she is.

And the kind of friend I want to be.

The kind of friend who has your back… from bended knee.

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I Can’t Help But Wonder… Do We Exhaust Thee?

Don’t you just love how kids misunderstand song lyrics and subsequently fill in the blanks with their own version? At the age of three, my daughter did that with the words, “In our family, we communicate.” For days, she was skipping about the house singing, “In our family, we can eat some cake!” Silly girl, everyone knows that our family prefers pie.

In similar fashion, I once had a friend who overheard her daughter singing in her bedroom. As my friend drew near to listen, she found little Emily seated on the bed singing at the top of her lungs, “We exhaust Thee. We exhaust Thee. We exhaust Thee, O Lord!” My friend could not help but quip that her daughter most likely had a more accurate perception of reality than adults did when they sang the intended lyrics of “We Exalt Thee.” And while it’s funny to think that young Emily may have clearly portrayed the exhaustion I, as a mother, would feel as caregiver for children as needy as those our Heavenly Father parents, I had to wonder about the truth of her statement. For while it seems true that my incessant neediness would indeed exhaust God, the Bible indicates that is not the case. The truth is, God never gets tired. And the BIG miracle within this truth is that God never gets tired… of me. Nothing makes Him roll His eyes and try to find a place where my whining voice can no longer reach His ears. Nothing.

In the midst of life’s challenges – from the ones that change abruptly to those that linger interminably – it’s refreshing to know that God remains constant. Unchangeable. Unshakeable. Unrelenting. Uninterrupted. Just constantly God.

Isaiah 40:28 portrays it like this:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

Contrary to little Emily’s song, God, who has formed and sustains all things, is not prone to exhaustion. The One who fashioned the galaxies and flung the stars to grace the backdrop of midnight skies never once grows weary at the small task of caring for His children. Just as surely as He holds the universe in place with a whisper and calls the stars by name, so He speaks to the cries of our hearts and stills us with tender hand outstretched. Always wakeful. Ever watchful. Maintaining His sleepless vigil over us, keeping us within His protection night and day. And while we may run in circles exhausting ourselves, God is not susceptible to our soul-weariness. He continues His watch with unrelenting love and a patience that is truly, well… inexhaustible.

The next time you find yourself being tempted to believe that God is tired of you, I invite you to change your tune. Turn those mixed-up words of “We exhaust Thee” into the praises of “We exalt Thee,” then climb into your Daddy’s lap and nestle down for a peaceful nap while He keeps watch over you.

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