“When in April the sweet showers fall…” Chaucer was right. He knew something about April. He knew that after the bleakness of February and the bluster that is March, that we could use some sweet showers in our life. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever wondered if your current season just might do you in? Even good things can shake us to our roots if we are not careful.
This past February my prayer was just “Lord, help me make it through this month.” While the rest of the world waited for the blooms of April, my February was ripe with busy.
The invasion, excuse me, visit of my three grandsons kicked off the month. Those three and a half days passed by in a blur of goldfish crackers, visits to Chick-fil-a, GI Joes, crayons, Valentine’s cards for Mommy, story snuggles, and “Come Thou Fount” at bedtime. Why is this so hard? Once upon a time I managed to keep five tiny humans of my own alive and well. My good friend says grandmothers are either tired or lonely. When the boys left at the end of the weekend I was both.
In his song of the same name, Andrew Peterson uses the beautiful metaphor of “Planting Trees” to represent a growing family. “We chose the spot, we dug the hole. We laid the maples in the ground to have and hold. As autumn falls to winter sleep, we pray that somehow in the spring the roots grow deep. And many years from now, long after we are gone, these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn…These trees will spread their branches out and bless someone.” Deep roots lead to widespread blessings.
No sooner were the crumbs cleaned up and the toys put away than I began to prepare for the next set of visitors. My thirteen teaching apprentices were due in for their annual winter retreat. For four days we read, discussed, taught, learned, prayed, encouraged, and feasted. As their leader and head mentor I know firsthand that this kind of intense discipling relationship is the best way to grow teachers who can in turn grow students who love truth, and more importantly, the source of all Truth.
Because I firmly believe in feeding those I love, the 14 of us gathered at my house one evening during the retreat for dinner and a communal reading of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (We’re English teachers. We love this kind of thing!) If I’ve learned one thing from my spiritual mothers and disciplers, it’s that there will come a time to pour yourself out and serve. Our evening together is a precious memory and a reminder that work is worth it. Sometimes our culture seems to say “take the shortcut – it doesn’t matter.” I wanted to show these precious teachers that there was someone who cares for them as they care for others. I wanted to point them to their heavenly Father who cares for them even more. I wanted them to be those firmly planted trees for their students.
In one of her practice teaching lessons, Krystal used Psalm 1 to highlight God’s beautiful word picture of a tree to represent the blessed man. The psalmist doesn’t just tell us but shows us what this looks like. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” A psalm, a simile, a lesson, a truth.
Two days later, when I invited my own writing students into the lesson for the day, guess which Psalm I read to them? Guess what kind of man I asked them to consider? Guess what I prayed for them? Trees. Trees are everywhere.
Time for a break? Of course not. I asked my Bible study group to pray that I would seek the joy beyond my to-do list and lean into the next thing: LT 2018. All the preparations were coming together! Boarding pass in hand I headed for Atlanta. Could I do this and do it well? If I were any kind of tree, I was one in desperate need of refreshment and rest. Instead I felt like a Hurricane-Harvey oak, bent over and ready to snap. Would the Lord show me how to depend on him and not my pitifully depleted resources?
This particular Leadership Training was bittersweet for me as it marked my last as a Regional Advisor. It has been my joy to welcome and guide my “Women of the West” as they experience LT, many for the first time. We laugh, share, pray, and soak up the teaching and encouragement from our PCA sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and daughters. As wonderful as LT is, I know what really matters is how I take this home to the women in Houston, TX at Christ Church. It’s not about me having a wonderful experience with my friends, it’s about the challenge to abide in Christ – to stick closely to him – and pray for Him to be glorified in our women’s ministry.
As Karen Hodge thanked me for serving these women, she gave me a lovely handcrafted pendant, a picture of Psalm 92:12-13. “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Yes, the pendant was in the shape of a tree.
Oh Lord, what a gift! I had spent the month telling little boys, teachers, students, friends, and women who love you that they can be planted firmly in you, like a tree. And in your providence, you have seen fit to bless me with the love of these same women.
Maybe some of you reading this are in a crazy-busy season. Maybe you can relate to the feeling of “am I enough?” or “will I be able to see this through?” I have good news for you: no you aren’t and maybe not. Before you think I’ve forgotten what this blog is all about, may I remind you of something I’ve learned? What matters is not the enormity of our tasks or the strength required to complete them. What matters is that we depend on the rock, the one who is perfectly righteous. Those trees were made to flourish where? In the house and courts of the Lord. Why? So they can declare the goodness of the Lord.
May we stick by the one who causes our roots to grow ever deeper! May we be firmly planted for his purposes!
About the Author:
Renee is passionate about teaching. She loves nothing more than to gather around God’s word with the women of Christ Church in Katy, Texas. She also teaches high-school writing and literature at PREP classes, a homeschool tutorial, as well as mentoring Classical Christian teachers through the CiRCE Institute, and serving on the advisory board of Covenant College. She and her husband Steve have 5 children and 7 grandchildren and Renee’s suitcase is always ready for the next trip. Closer to home you can find her baking, weightlifting, or trying one of Houston’s new restaurants.