The Vine and the Branches

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My family has traveled a lot this summer. We also have a large vegetable garden. Those two things didn’t go together terribly well. While we had some friendly neighbors come water in exchange for picking whatever they wanted while we were gone, we still had a few of our plants die, or stop producing earlier than they should have. We also acquired some serious weeds… and I mean REALLY enormous and gnarly ones.

The worst, perhaps, was a vine. Now, I don’t know much about most weeds, but I do recognize most of the common ones I see in our garden. Obviously we try to get them out before they’re huge, but this vine escaped my clippers for long enough to be quite entwined with our okra plants and was starting on the kale. It seemed to all originate from one spot, but it had spread across the ground, and climbed up every single okra plant, of which there are eight, and they’re all taller than me. You can imagine my disdain for this vine once I finally got around to pulling it up and out of the garden bed.

As I hacked away at this stubborn vine, snipping here, pulling there, rescuing my plants from the surprisingly strong vine that had almost consumed them, I kept remembering Jesus’s words from John 15: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV) Jesus had likened himself to the vine, and the Father to the vinedresser. He likens us to branches, knowing that we may not do anything on our own, if detached from the vine. But stemming from Jesus, being nurtured by his love, his encouragement, and even his admonishment, we are to bear much fruit. In fact, no fruit can be borne if we aren’t being filled by the Holy Spirit.

The more I thought about this strong vine, I noticed the way it had almost lovingly curled itself around each plant, not too tight, but swirling its way up the stalks, around each leaf, splitting off in different directions to leap across to the next plant, and the next. There were also little white flowers sprouting from a few parts of the vine that had been there the longest. This gently flowering vine had made its home, nestled in the garden bed with the good soil I had prepared and tended and watered. The more I noticed the vine’s intricacies, the more I almost began to admire it. You know, if it hadn’t been smothering my beloved (and thankfully resilient) okra.

This strong vine began to serve as an example of how when we allow ourselves to be rooted in something as powerful and good as Jesus, we can be the branches, sent out into the world, lovingly coming alongside others, blossoming and bearing fruit. We can accept and share the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5), those gifts that Jesus has offered, knowing fully that apart from him, we really can do nothing.

Things Toddlers Say 

Hi everyone, and happy Tuesday evening! It’s been a busy day at my house and so I’m a little late posting. Hope you’ve had a great start to your week! Here are our funnies!

J, walking into the room when he’s supposed to be napping: I need to tell you something.
Me: Is it the reason you aren’t napping?
J: No, it’s something else than that. *cue lame story*

J, giving me a compliment: Hey guess what. I love you even when you’re dead. *giggle*

J shoes me a map from his bible.
Me: What’s that a map of?
J: Jesus’s world. It’s been raining there for 3 or 4 or 5 days.

EK asking for Nilla Wafers: Can I have those anilla wipers?

EK after playing with D for half an hour: he’s figuring it out! I’m starting to like babies!

D, sitting in a big boy (regular) dining room chair: Don’t fall!

D, eating my butternut squash soup: Iss dewicious!
My new favorite child.

J: Hey guess what! D thinks the floor is sand! And he even thinks that salsa is a pillow!

D, bringing me pretend cake, singing: Happy to you, iss cake!

J: Hey, let’s pretend tooting is pooping and pooping is tooting!
Me: *eyeroll*

J, rushing up to me: Mom! I have a silly emergency!

Call It a Win.

Our church used to have this banner in our worship space that read “Seek, Find, and Win for Christ”. I never really liked it, mostly because for me, it called to mind a crusade-style jaunt into foreign places to force them into being Christians. I know that isn’t how they meant it when they hung them up, but for some reason, that’s what it conjured in me.

However, this week my century-old church launched its third campus, its second remote (in comparison to the original church building) worship venue. This has been over eight months in the making, including hundreds of people working, volunteering, making calls, donating money, crunching numbers, designing spaces, planning (and planning, and planning some more) and finally executing our first public worship service in the venue this morning. It was a beautiful thing to behold, all our work, prayers, and hopes for the project actually coming to fruition. I knew that God had shown up. He had shown up by preparing the space. He’d shown up by preparing hearts, working out kinks, bringing new people into our space, and just showing up there, in the moment, present in our worship and our teaching, in our conversations and prayers.

After I had time to slow down a little bit, and think on the morning, I was reminded of that banner. I think that for the first time, I felt the sort of victory that the banner had intended to depict. I thought of our advertising we’d been putting out over the past couple of months, preparing a community for a new opportunity in their area to get connected and hear about Jesus – the seeking of new people to come alongside us in our journey. I thought about people who told us they came today in response to invitations of current members, or those who came as a result of a radio ad or a Facebook sponsored post – people who had found us and would now hopefully be wooed by their Savior. I thought of the wonderful morning. A morning wrought with hard work and months of planning, but a morning that went off mostly without a hitch, a well-attended and genuine worship service that planted its first few seeds in a community, in a group of peoples’ hearts – indeed, a win for Christ.

Because, as our pastor mentioned this morning, Christ is center of our services, and of our lives. He’s the reason we do what we do. He’s not just the reason for a season or a guy we idolize because there are some cool stories about him. He’s the reason we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Everything we do should be about him, even if it’s just raising our kids, going to our job, ordering coffee from the barista, or getting our groceries. Building his kingdom is what everything’s about. And if I had to guess, I’d say that he would consider this morning a win.

Thanks to Elaine Garrison for this amazing photo!

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy Tuesday, y’all! Enjoy these little humor nuggets, and have a great rest of your week!

A story told to me by EK’s teacher…
Teacher: Can anyone tell me a good thing to do when you’re feeling sad?
EK: *raises hand excitedly*
Teacher: EK? Tell us.
EK: You go into your room, close the door, and tell Jesus about it.
Teacher: Well yes, that’s a very good thing to do!

There have been a couple of times recently where Hubby and I both managed to be in EK’s room at bedtime, just the three of us, for a song. Each time, she has said: Look! This is how we used to live! (Meaning just one kid, I suppose)

D, to the first chicken he ever saw in real life: Hey pretty!

Nana: Do you want to take another bite?
J: No thanks. No thanks for nothing.

A picture from J’s teacher… apparently it’s a caterpillar. 

My aunt and grandma stayed with us this past weekend. J came upstairs one morning to snuggle someone…
Nana: Good morning! Want to come snuggle for a few minutes?
J: Yeah (climbs up to her bed). Where’s Jan (my aunt)?
Nana: She’s in that room (points next door).
J, after a minute: Well, it’s been really nice snuggling you, but I’m gonna go see Jan.

EK, in the car with my aunt from out of town: Is that your GMC on?
Jan: My gps? Yes, it is.

EK, walking the block into school next to a bus: Mom, I saw its driver!
Me: Yes, buses usually have drivers.

There you go – what are your kids saying these days?

Here’s to shedding some tears.

This post also appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a mom of three. I’m a wife. I’m a friend, sister, daughter, writer, singer, colleague, and foodie. Which of those things says I should cry a lot?

Apparently all of them.

Recently, I’ve found that I cry at almost everything. Things my friends say. Books I read. Podcasts I’m listening to (I’m looking at you, Annie F. Downs!). Songs I sing, or hear on the radio. Literally every time I crack open my Bible. It’s a lot. Am I too emotional about some stuff? Maybe. Am I going through something difficult? I don’t know. Probably. Aren’t we all?

Recently, my boys (ages 3.5 and 2) got their first “official” haircuts. They went to see my dad’s barber, in my hometown, as my parents’ house was literally going under contract that afternoon. It was a lot – an emotional day. There were some tears involved, and rightly so. My 11-year-old self was looking around, appreciating the house I’d grown up in for the first time. My 15-year-old self was remembering sleepovers and cramming for exams and late night ice cream sundaes. My 20-year-old self was wondering why I came home from college for the summer, because it was a little boring comparatively, but actually loving the slowness. My 31-year-old self (at present) was wishing my kids would grow up vacationing to that pool and huge front yard forever, and wishing that we had been able to come “home” a little more often.

You see? Tears flowing, even now, weeks later.

Call it hormones. Call it motherhood. Call it “too soft”. But I’m a crier now, more than I ever was. But I know that it just means that Jesus is softening my heart to some things that I haven’t been softened to before… Relationships with incredible women in my life. Shoes that are quite big that it’s my job to fill. My headstrong daughter with ideas all her own, my sensitive middle child with a need for a schedule and some sugar, and my baby, who I equally want to rush into independence and coddle forever. I am torn, in limbo between the already and the not yet, unsure of how to proceed. And then I sit and cry.

I’m not ashamed. I’m really not. I joke about it a lot – and you can call that my coping mechanism. But I really don’t feel bad about the tears I shed. Because it means that I care, I feel deeply, and I love big. I’m okay with those things, because it means I got those traits from Jesus. He cared. He felt deeply. He loved big. And if, in me, it manifests as tears, I’ll take it.

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy rainy Tuesday! At least if you’re in North Carolina. I hope you’re safe and well, wherever you are, after this past few days of craziness. Here’s a little bit of humor to cheer you up!

J: Did you know when we keep scratching our booboos they hurt more?
Me: That sounds right.
J: Yeah, it’s right, ’cause EK told me.
Me: She isn’t always right.

D: I ‘uf you, Joe Joe! I ‘uf you, Joe Joe! I ‘UF YOU JOE JOE!
Me: J, do you hear him frantically telling you he loves you?
J: I love you, too, baby brother.

J, pointing at hexagonal floor tiles in a bathroom: Mom! Look at those pentagons!
Me: Those are actually hexagons, but I’m really impressed!
EK: Stop signs are red ones of those!
Me: Actually, stop signs are octagons. *cue 20 minute discussion about many-sided figures.*

D, every time we put him on the potty and he doesn’t pee: It’s broken!

EK, putting my birthday on her planner: I just upgraded ya, Mom.

D, all day: I wan’ delly jeans! (Jelly beans)

EK explaining fire, tornado and lock down drills: Well, it’s so we’re safe. Like, just so there’s a fire, or a tomato, or if bears or lions come.

EK to her cinnamon roll: I’m coming for ya, cinnamon!

J, after snuggling with Hubby: Um, I put a little too much spit on Daddy’s ear.

J, looking at Hubby’s phone: Who’s that girl-man?
Hubby: …Barry Manilow…?
Me: *dead*

Well, I hope you enjoyed the little conversations, and the series of one-liners! Have a great rest of your week!

Currently: September!

Y’all! Is that fall I smell in the air?! I am beside myself for a this magical weather. Even if it just lasts until 10:30am, I am so excited for a cool down. It’s a glimpse of what’s to come, surely! Now if the rain would just calm down… but I know that I cannot complain, since those towards the coast are in for much worse pretty soon. 

This month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence, and Lowanda of Sunshine and Elephants for our monthly Currently link party. Leave a comment, or link up and join us! Thanks for stopping by… and here’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods currently…

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Celebrating || the start of school! We’ve really amped up this year with our first true school experience (my oldest is off to kindergarten!) and the fact that the baby (age 2) began preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It’s blowing my mind that all three of my kids are in some sort of school! And that they’re even old enough for that to be happening at all… time flies when you’re having fun busy with small children!

Watching || Our TV shows that are starting back up soon! We are excited to continue New Girl and I’ll be glad to get going on This Is Us. We also flew through that new installment of the Netflix Wet Hot American Summer Series (Ronnie Reagan, yikes) while we were on vacation last month, and recently began our trusted favorite show for the hundredth time: Arrested Development (the original, though I’m sure we’ll watch the Netflix add-on of that as well). We’ve also recently watched all the Star Wars movies, and several of them with the kids. They looooooove them. #nerdalert

Welcoming || a little tease of cooler weather! All last week the high was in the mid-70s and I was not sad. I have a new pair of suede booties that are BEGGING to be worn (thanks, Target!) and my scarves have been forlorn in my closet for months. I know that it won’t truly be cold enough for scarves here in NC for at LEAST another six weeks but I am READY!

Preparing || lunches for my kinder-girl and breakfasts for all. I’ve been trying to get some semi-meal planning done, which for me isn’t necessarily preparing a week’s worth of a meal schedule, but more like baking (healthy) muffins for breakfasts (or lunch!) and making twice the amount of (again, healthy) waffles I need in one morning to cover another morning’s breakfast. I pack most of EK’s lunch the night before, since she mostly just snacks for lunch (raw carrot, pretzels, cheese, fruit, maybe a PBJ or a turkey wrap). If I’ve got leftovers I know for sure she’ll eat (here’s looking at you, mac and cheese) I’ll send those along as well.

Photographing || the first day of school, as well as getting a fall photo session booked. I want something updated for Christmas, even if it’s a hot mess like it sorta was last year. It’s still tough to get a nice photo with all five of us in it, and so I usually end up with a collage on our Christmas card. But I’d really like to have something approaching a nice family photo this year. SO – bribery it is! (Jelly beans and M&Ms work best for my brood.) Here are our first day of school photos:

So now, tell me: what’s going on in your world currently?