Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4
I spent a day with about seventy 2nd and 6th graders on a field trip Wednesday. We spent most of the day down at Stoney Creek enjoying a perfect spring day. Everything is in full blown sprout, bloom and blossom. I loved listening to the kids laugh, screech and enjoy God’s creation. As I watched them all together I paused to realize just how beautiful God’s work is to behold; kids included! I think I get busy and take it for granted so it was a great day to slow down and soak it all in. I think my eyes were opened to things I hadn’t been noticing so when I got home I took a walk around the house and I was reminded of an old post about a beautiful tree back by the barn. Since spending the day with that many kids outside runs your battery right down to nothing I decided to share an old post about a crazy tree!
We have the craziest tree in our backyard. Dave planted the silly dwarf peach tree more than 25 years ago. As you would imagine with the word dwarf in the description it’s a small tree, peppered with random dead branches. It really is a sad looking little thing but in the spring it’s so pretty we don’t have the heart to cut it down. The tree typically bears five or six peaches every few years so we don’t really pay much attention to it because quite frankly…it’s all about the spring blossoms. Last summer Dave was mowing lawn and saw a few peaches on the ground under the tree and when he looked up he noticed the tree was loaded with peaches. We picked two full buckets of peaches from that tiny little tree. The whole time we were picking we just kept shaking our heads in surprise!
Jesus’s words in this Gospel challenges us not to be like that peach tree. I had no expectations of fruit from that tree but it surprised me and did what it was supposed to do. I hope my fruit is more abundant and consistent than that tree in my backyard. God does expect us to remain in Him and bear much fruit. He expects us to be a vibrant, consistent, living witness to his love and mercy not just a little burst from time to time and then dormancy. The great news, all we have to do is stay connected to the life-giving grace he provides and he will bear the fruit in us. We need to accept his pruning and trimming and correction as we grow because that’s what keeps us strongly rooted and productive.
A Seed To Plant: What kind of fruit does your faithfulness produce. Make a list of the fruits you bear for others.
Blessings on your day!
For in him we live and move and have our being…Acts 17:28
Webster’s dictionary defines a hero as; one greatly regarded for his achievements or qualities. Today is Memorial Day and we are called to pause and honor our heroes. On this day we rightly think of those who protect and defended our freedom but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about another kind of hero. The kind of hero who does great things with the gift of freedom we are blanketed with in this country. The hero I’m thinking about never wore a uniform or wielded a weapon but she went to battle daily. She fought to protect and support her family, defend her faith and uphold things that encourage us all to be good, honest and faithful. The hero I’ve been thinking a lot about lately was named Evelyn and in my book she was a beautiful hero whose whole life was a lesson. On this Memorial Day I’d like to honor her memory and some of her lessons because this world would be a much better place if we all had a little more Evelyn in us!
*A hero likes big numbers. Fourteen is a good one! Evelyn carried, delivered, loved, adored and constantly prayed for fourteen kids. If you think about it, that’s 98 cereal bowls a week, 140 slices of bread a week for lunchtime sandwiches and more than 52,000 diaper changes. What’s even more amazing than those numbers is that each bowl of cereal, each brown bag lunch and each new diaper was offered with a smile and probably a quick prayer. Too much time and too many tasks were not a part of Evelyn’s thought process; it was about loving and serving in a big way.
*A hero is unselfish. Evelyn knew that life was about giving away and not taking or storing up. It didn’t matter if it was homemade bread, hugs or rock-a-by baby minutes she gave all she had away. The greatest act of unselfishness a woman can offer is the gift of her body for the creation of another one. All the aches, pains, morning sickness, and fatigue that go into growing a little human is a true labor of love. Evelyn lovingly and happily spent more than ten and a half years of her life pregnant…saying YES to life no matter the cost to her.
*A hero is joyful. True joy is knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing according to God’s plan. That sums up Evelyn’s life and boy did she live like she knew it! She loved being a wife and mother more than being well rested and living out her vocation brought her more joy than an uninterrupted night’s sleep. She found joy in baby arms around her neck instead of pearls and little fingers tangled around her fingers more than gemstone rings. She knew some days would be hard and long and that some months there would be more bills than money but there was still great joy because trusting in God means you know He is bigger than any problem.
*A hero prays hard one day and harder the next. Being a farmer’s wife and mother to fourteen can either cause a lot of worry or inspire a lot of prayer. Evenly chose prayer! She told me once that there was no such thing as enough prayer and everything that happened in a day was an occasion to talk to God. Evelyn not only prayed the Rosary daily she also made Rosaries to give to others so they could pray too. Over the years she made and gave away more than 14,000 Rosaries. To say she was a prayer warrior is the understatement of the decade!
*A hero is content. I think if we all had Evelyn t-shirts, a great slogan to sum up her life would be; “I love what I have and I have what I love.” Life wasn’t about cars, clothes, homes, jewelry or stuff, it was about the simple, the delightful the “God-given” things. That’s where she put her energy and that’s where she got her peace and beauty!
*A hero finds their happiness in others. Rocking a fussy baby, singing her praises with the choir, watching her kids and grandkids “do their thing” and offering her lap like a throne for dozens of grandbabies were just a few of the ways she found her happiness. She was always the giver of love and laughter, not the seeker of it. She was completely and genuinely interested in the person she was with at the moment. She celebrated, cried, laughed and prayed with others and did it so sincerely and genuinely that you always walked away with a lighter step and a fuller heart.
*A hero realized giving love is about multiplication and not subtraction. Evelyn showed everyone who knew her that the more you love, the more love you have to give. I think she would want us all to know that there is absolutely no such thing as too much love. It’s Evelyn math…how else could she have raised fourteen faithful, happy, giving, positive, truly lovely children if she didn’t use her love multiplication formula dozens of times a day!
*A hero always leads with the smile and knows without a doubt that giggles trump complaints every time! Every conversation I ever had with her began with a giant smile, the touch of her soft warm hand and a beautiful “Oh Sheri, how are you?” I can still hear that sweet, cheerful voice. I never heard her gossip, make a negative comment or criticize anyone or anything. She was a kind and gentle soul with words to build not break.
I learned so much about being a strong Catholic woman and mother by watching Evelyn. She never once tried to influence anybody, she was much to humble for that but what she probably never realized is that it was her example that taught and not her words. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfectly God’s and that’s what made her such a hero! Thank you for living your life so beautifully! May you watch over us all as you live in the presence of the Angels and the Saints sweet Evelyn!
A Seed To Plant: Pick an Evelyn lesson or two and make a plan to live it!
Blessings on your day!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Change is a crazy thing isn’t it. Some folks are terrified of it, others are a little too fond of it and some are stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure out what just happened. Even children react to change in one of those three ways. The past several months have brought so many changes to my life I can’t even remember what things used to be like and thanks to God’s abundant peace I think I’m ok with that.
My family has changed…we are now the proud parents of three high school graduates and two sons past the age of 21. My professional life has changed; I switched from little lovelies to middle lovelies and a new classroom on the opposite end of the hallway. Many of the 6th grade “traditions” changed and lots of old things were done a new way because the teacher before me and I have different gifts. There have been a hundred little changes along the way that have influenced the dynamics of the world around me. There have been new things and replacement things and missing things. There have been births and deaths. There has been sickness and health; good stuff and not good stuff. There have been funny things and great things and tricky things and yucky things. Through it all one thing remains very clear...I haven’t been in charge of any of it! Some of the changes I have liked others I have hated but through it all the love of the Father and his never-failing peace and presence has been larger than life.
As I sat in a folding chair last Sunday watching our “baby girl” graduate from high school I was overwhelmed with the ways things have changed in what seems like the blink of an eye. I resisted the urge to stand on my chair and scream, “STOP! I want the messy diapers and the sleepless nights rocking babies, the strained peas and Little Tike Cozy Coupe all back! I want wiggly kids in church, Cheerios crushed into the carpet and tiny Lego pieces under the table! I want back all those moments I didn’t appreciate because I was more worried about parenting by the book instead of by the heart.” Shannon hung a display of shoes in the garage at her open house. It started with her Baptism shoes and it was followed by First Communion shoes, Confirmation shoes, Softball cleats, Volleyball shoes and Cowboy boots. It was her journey and she didn’t know it but I sat in the garage looking at them sobbing! Those shoes and the pictures that went with them were a vivid display of change. She has grown and changed into a young woman we are so very proud of but none of it would have been possible if things had stayed the same and that would be sad!
I suppose we don’t often think about change in a positive way so I spent some time the past few days asking myself why. I have to believe that it boils down to a couple of things; lack of trust and dislike for being uncomfortable or uncertain. When my kids were babies or when I was in my ninth year of teaching first grade I knew what to expect; I was comfortable and content. I loved and trusted God but when things change I have to prove it. The funny thing about it is when I look back at all the times life changed in a big way, those are the times my faith grew the most. He was there through it all, guiding and loving and comforting. He knows what’s best and sometimes the best thing is to let the change wash over us and allow him to lead us to a place we can only get to as a result of that change. The world around us may change but his love never will! I may not love change, but I love Jesus and I have to work harder at knowing his love is the constant that will bring me beautifully, faithfully and obediently through anything and it will leave me better if I let it.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the changes you are resisting and ask God to soften your heart and help you see his hand in it.
Blessings on your day!
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