rooted and grounded

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, 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 you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:14-21

From the first moment I can remember, I loved that feeling of living among my mother’s branches. I could see for miles and see the sunshine and listen to the birds that would rest there. I had friends and siblings nearby and there was nothing to do but soak up sunshine and watch as clouds rolled by.

The Sun he always gave my mom what she needed to grow and survive and provide for those around her.

We relished that time.

We didn’t know what was to come, what, ultimately, we were waiting for.

One cool, sunny morning, the unimaginable happened to me.

My mother shook in a gentle wind and I was torn away and fell. It felt as though I would keep falling in terror that would not end.

When I hit hard on the ground, I cried out, looking up at her beauty and wondering how she could have let me go. I was completely exposed and alone and knew this is where squirrels would come and take others like me.

I was terrified.

Before I could even cry out, I was overwhelmed with that good dirt smell as I found myself atop a moist, dark heap of soil. The Sun enveloped me and I had a glimpse of clear sky.

I thanked him for the comfort and the moment soothed my fear, but it was not to last. Covered and pressed below the surface, I was stepped on. Pressed beneath the dirt I choked and sobbed.

The most difficult time of my life began. That subtle claustrophobia became full blown and I thought I would surely suffocate. Would the Sun leave me here?

Gasping beneath the dirt, I initially sputtered and struggled and resisted. It was as if I was being strangled. As the dirt swallowed me I thought this was the end of all that I am.

The darkness and void of being buried sapped my hope and in the soil I was desolate.

I cried out. Maybe the Sun above could hear me, maybe my mom.

I didn’t even know how to ask for help, but within me there was an urgent pleading. Where once I was surrounded by what I knew and now know that I loved, loneliness devastated me.

What seemed like days went by and I tried to maintain sanity thinking this was all there would ever be—darkness, solitude, nothing but pressure, separation and the feeling of death.

After what seemed like days, the faintest warm bit of moisture reached me there in the tomb I inhabited. It’s warmth was comforting.

Multiple droplets would reach me over the next days and weeks and I began to realize I was finding nourishment in this water that had come from above the surface. I’d even thought I detected radiant heat from above.

My hard outer shell seemed less hard, maybe even soft in a spot or two.

I cherished the nourishment I was receiving as I called out in gratitude for what was given. I took in all that I could eagerly.

The nourishment encouraged me to live, to think that there could be more.

Then came that day.

It was the day when I learned the worst had not yet come. It was a crack that made it’s way from the base of me to the tip top. I was torn and the hurt was unimaginable. I didn’t know I could feel like this.

Broken open I knew I would not ever last beyond this moment. I cried again for help.

The pain enveloped me as the crack spread wider, slowly. It was beyond a deep ache. It was stabbing and throbbing and burning as my outer self was torn away from my tender inner self.

My only covering and protection began to be stripped away. I had relied so heavily on this hard outer covering to protect me and keep me locked away from pain.

Initially those drops that had been a comfort stung so deeply as they found me without my outer covering. They helped separate me from it.

This could not be right. It just couldn’t. Why would the Sun send comfort and nourishment that only eliminated what I most needed—that protective layer?

As I wrestled and struggled trying to find relief and comfort, the warm gentle drops would again eventually become salve to me. They became so sweet and so treasured as I existed in the dark.

My exposed and now fully soft self would bend towards their warmth and the moisture even transformed the dirt around me. It was now soft and almost welcoming. I found it meeting my needs. Maybe I would survive without my exterior.

I also slowly realized as time went by that with my hard shell now removed, I was growing.

Gradually I was getting longer and stronger and could even feel myself moving. Whenever I could I chose to move toward the surface, to where I had last seen sky and sunshine and my mother.

Nourishment came as I focused on gratitude for these gifts of life. One day I realized that it was in fact, day. I was so near the surface and had begun to sprout a leaf. That moment I again felt sunshine on my transformed body made me delirious.

The warmth embraced my tiny leaf atop my single stem as I pushed through the earth.

Breaking through the surface, I was amazed to think that my life was not over but perhaps had just begun. I praised the Sun.

Weeks and months and years would come and go as I grew and strengthened. Now my branches reach far and wide as I work to continue to soak up the Sun.

I have a new covering beyond all I could have asked or imagined. It is strong and powerful and protects me from all that could harm.

Just as when I was a cracked open shell beneath the surface, He was calling to me, sending me what I needed and growing me. He continues to do that within my new covering. 

I could never of imagined what He wanted me to be and now my faith has become sight.

Now I am providing shelter for others and producing offspring of my own. I know what it is to be loved.

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these aren’t the little things

I didn’t plan to have a fifth child. Actually that is true of the fourth as well. Regardless, it is symptomatic of an underlying idea that I think I am actually in control of something which is pretty funny in and of itself. That fourth child, that fifth, remind me of the Ephesians 3 prayer that closes with the acknowledgement that God can and does do more than we can ever ask or imagine. They are light in a lot of dark places.

Number five came along when all the other four had survived until school age, made it past my fumblings and failings long enough to make into the educational system where someone else could be responsible for their well being for more hours in the day. From the moment I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I immediately cried out with thanksgiving. Anyone that knows me can easily testify that is not my normal first response to anything. And yet, the grace of God overwhelmed me with this last unexpected gift.

Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of his attitude and nature as number five has had a grateful heart from so early. He thanks me for everything I do for him. Part of it is purely that childlike contentment that seems to allude us once we pass about second grade. But his gratitude is humbling, contagious. I’ve seen it affect others. In turn I am grateful.

So as I approached this school year with apprehension and as much courage as possible, I still dreaded the day this light would go into another realm to brighten others’ days the way he has every one of mine for five years.

The struggle is more than just his departure, it is what it means for me, at home, alone. I have always wanted to work, to find value in a salary and achievement. With my first kids it was such a wrestling match with God. I kept trying to find a way to do more, to be more. He kept providing a way for me to be home, with more kids. This approaching departure from that pattern did not assuage my angst. If I am honest—which I a more often not—in the recesses of my mind I always thought I would “become something” when I had the time to myself.

We live in a world that explains this is only possible outside of home or when a paycheck is involved. It is an ongoing battle for me. It includes my recently inaugurated job search. The kids will be gone, I have to “do” something more. I need to be more than, well, me. As I have not yet found any such job, there is a vague sense of defeat already.

As apprehensive as I was about this moment, my little man was that thrilled. His excitement was palpable. He was so prepared for this departure that I was and am amazed. Here I believe is the contribution of four much older siblings who talk of lives away from home. He idolizes these older brothers and sisters and desires to emulate them. The only natural progression is to go to school the way they all do: junior in college, junior in high school, sophomore in high school and fifth grader pave the path.

First day jitters were nonexistent for this one who knew his friends were waiting for him in the classroom. (Kids he’s never met are already friends in his mind, be it the playground, the classroom, or passing by on the street.)

Approaching this day made me ponder Abraham taking his promised child to that mountain top. I too, bore a child in old age. Mine was unexpected delight. I cannot fathom the strain and the foreboding as Abraham followed God’s directive to do away with this long-sought-after, long-awaited light of his life that promised so much more for future generations. Surely his knees were feeble beneath him climbing to that inevitable place. Mine were, just getting out of the car to find the kindergarten classroom.

Abraham followed through. But God followed through first. He provided a substitute to foreshadow The Substitute for us all. And there is the origin of gratitude.

My kindergartener hardly looked up from the table once he found his spot. He immediately chose a crayon and went to work. I didn’t drag it out to appease my own pitiful departure. My brave and beautiful fourth went happily to her classroom.

The older siblings have graciously been given a new venture in a Christian school. When I say given, I mean it wholeheartedly. It was another unexpected, highly unlikely happening at the hand of God. As I left them at their new school, I thanked God for delightful surprises like these–this child I didn’t expect, this school I didn’t think possible.

As soon as the quiet approached and I understood where I now find myself, I focused on being thankful, dwelling in the gratitude. Thankful to my Better Way who has provided all along the way. The One who is in control despite my illusions of such. I thanked Him and then thought of my new life without kids during the days. I still have much responsibility for them, to them, even when they are not in my presence.

I thought of the parable of the talents. Immediately I think, I am that guy who only was given one because I don’t have much responsibility, no job of significance. In attempting to stop the negative strain, I thanked Jesus for this role even while thinking I am something of failure alone. Being a mom is not the role of great value, but there is even less of me when they are away. I am not the one with the 5 talents who doubles the fortune. But as in Matthew 25, I want to be faithful, to be commended for being faithful over a little. I prayed as I drove home alone, “Help me to be faithful in the little things.”

I believe He answered immediately:

“These aren’t the little things.”

I gasped.

My precious people are not the little things. I have made them this in my hierarchy of provable success. This life I have been given is not of little significance. There is great responsibility. This is my assignment for this moment in time. Yet I have continued to make plans, believe I am in control, and think I need so much more.

The plans have been made for me and they are those of the Ephesians 3:20 and the Isaiah 29:11 kind. It’s better than I’d hoped for. It’s more than I can ask. I have a future and a hope, whatever that may be. And I am following my kindergartener’s example by clinging to gratitude in this moment.