When my kids came home from school they couldn't believe I would let them destroy our beautiful trees. One of them went so far as to slam their back pack to the ground shouting, "What do they think they're doing?! They ruined our tree!" I could certainly understand their sentiment. It did seem a bit sad. After all, these trees had stood the test of time. They had protected the house from the wind and the sun. They had housed squirrels and birds and maybe even a raccoon or two. They added to the beauty of our home. Yes, part of me wanted to throw down my dish towel and exclaim, "Yeah, what do they think they're doing?"
In truth, the trees had been good but some of them were all used up. One was hollow and very near the house. One was sick and dead branches claimed most of the trunk. Another seemed fine to us but when looked at with eyes that know, it was sickly. The last one was growing so much in the shade of the greater tree that it was deformed and scraggly. Finally, the one that brought the greatest protest was simply being pruned. I reminded the kids of how their dad used to go out to our willow tree in Bettsville every spring and cut it's brances so short it seemed he had given it a butch cut. But before spring had even fully bloomed the branches were full and beautiful again. It didn't seem to help much as our once willow like tree looked more like something you'd see in a movie filmed in Africa.
We've gotten used to the bare yard now and actually the pruned tree is quite neat looking, especially at night with the midnight blue sky and stars behind it's stark blackness. It also opens up the yard so the boys can play ball better. It isn't a tree that is supposed to hang the way it did but the weight of overgrown branches pulled it down. Now it raises it's hands to Heaven and claps with the wind in praise to it's Creator. I have a better understanding now of why Jesus talks of pruning as a good thing. I shudder at the thought of what may have happened in our tiny taste of Hurricane Sandy when it rained and the wind blasted us for days. Would those sickly trees have stood the test or would our warm dry house have been broken open?
The work on the trees was actually a gift to us as a memorial to Aunt Pete. I don't know if they want their names known so I won't say but it was perfect timing. One of our concerns was the trees and how sickly and overgrown they were but we were not in a position to pay someone to take care of them nor did we know how to do it ourselves. When this couple came to us with this memorial it was such a huge relief to know that they would be taken care of. I look forward to someday soon planting a new sapling to shade the porch.
As I've been pondering all that we watched and going through my everyday I have been encouraged to know that God prunes us. For instance, if he is pruning us it means he doesn't see us as one of the hopeless that simply had to come down. When he prunes us, he is looking closely at each piece of our lives and deciding which is necessary and which is too much. It is because of His grace that He doesn't allow us to hold on to every piece that we consider necessary. When He prunes us He has to hold onto us to cut in just the right place and in the right way but we are in His hands and He is the master. He will not cut in any way that would bring harm. In fact, the pruning may hurt but it is for our strengthening.
Similarly, I have been working closely with Suzanne (Marty's Mom) to clean up sections of the house. It still isn't what I hope it will be one day, not even close, but it is better. We have purged a lot of clutter and made it so we can function better. It's amazing to me how having her come to help has kept me going. She would tell you she doesn't even do anything but her encouragement and being able to keep normal tasks running and her help sorting has been an immeasurable help to me. Again, I think of how God purges things from our life. He usually sends someone along to push us even when we don't want to be pushed. He often sends someone else to encourage us to do the right thing even if we are too overwhelmed to do it. He often sends someone to help us bear the burden when we think it can't be done and someone else who can point out our junk so we can make a choice. Neither pruning or purging is fun and often it hurts a lot but God in His goodness loves us too much to let us cling to those things that will harm us, even if it means sending someone we would rather wasn't in our lives. (For the record, that isn't Suzanne or anyone else specifically in my life at the moment.) However, I must admit I pushed back and feared her coming to help because I believed that she wanted me to do the impossible. What I found out is that it isn't impossible. Now I have a home, that while it is not everything I want, progress is being made and we are even starting to feel comfortable. Funny how the things we fight often bring us the most comfort.
My being able to write this today, is even part of the pruning and purging in our lives. Kristin has a job but it's only 3 hours each day worked. However, after six faithful years our car finally drove it's last mile. Now I have to take Marty to work in order to have a car to take Kristin to work. Since our van guzzles the gas like there is no tomorrow, I am not about to drive 20 minutes home just to turn around and pick her up again. So here I am at the library finally working on my blog which is something I feel called to do, but can never seem to find the time, in order to save gas. I don't imagine I'll put all this time into writing a blog so maybe I'll even have time to work on the book I started. Only God knows.
Much of the work that has been done these last few weeks is not going to really show in pictures but I'll include some to show where we are for those of you who like to know. I like sharing. :)
You can click on the pictures and it will make a slide show with a caption under each picture to explain what's going on. May God's grace reign as you are pruned as well.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
My greatest bithday present is that Eli and Noah were baptized that morning. Unfortunately its all video and I can't seem to get it to work on here. If Josh can figure out a way to get it I'll add it later.