Oaks of Righteousness
Seasons……. whether beautiful and abounding in fragrance or frigid and empty, seasons demand change. They come and go so fast at times that before you can even grasp their arrival with a deep breath, a new season is forced upon us without any forewarning. Oftentimes these approaching seasons will come masqueraded as welcome mats offering us blessings; but without notice, the sudden force of the rug being pulled out from underneath our feet takes away our very breath!
I don’t know about you, but springtime has always been my favorite season. The excitement of eager anticipation of fresh new beginnings and lives filled with the guarantee of vitality as new growth suddenly appears everywhere through the vibrancy of colors, scents, sounds and astounding beauty is surreal! It’s a time where we feel most confident and less inhibited to love which swings the doors of our hearts and lives wide open to embrace this welcoming of change in our lives. This cheerful mindset stirs up the happy and excited attitude that gives us a new skip in our step and a strong desire to let go of the old and the ugly!
I’m actually becoming a believer that God is trying oh-so-ever-hard to get us to welcome the seasons of life similar to the excitement spring often brings along with an open heart and mind that the innocence of a child embraces each day: Through trust and great expectation! God loves to lavish on His children the blessings of beauty through a provision that is oftentimes meant for just that particular moment, kind of like the manna He provided to the Israelites on a day-by-day basis to satisfy their grumblings (Exodus 16), just to see if we will approach each day with great expectation and trust or whether we would stay stuck in the muck of needless complaints and pity parties!
As much as I care to admit, I have been in a consistent season for years filled with great pain and constant change (you know, the only thing consistent is the constant change), praying for the victory in claiming the promised restoration of health and family only to watch it unravel further. Each time my heart starts palpitating in eager joy and anticipation for a new season filled with love and beauty, like springtime, God reminds me to continue being obedient and not quit, whether I understand it or not. Sometimes when we’re exhausted from the pain caused from a dark and evil world and our faithful, unwavering pursuit to walk by faith and definitely not by sight during all of these unknowns, God loving reassures us of the meaning behind the beautiful words of Galatians 6:9 (NIV), “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Last night I was ready to throw in the towel and engage in a Tammy Tantrum; between exhaustion, seasons of relentless health issues and great sorrow, and no time for that much-needed vaycay to the beaches in Florida calling my name, I was sharing with God how being obedient to Him and His guidance was too much for this weary soul to continue, especially without expected results (I want MY timing, not God’s). So through my fit, I reasoned I needed me some Tammy Time equipped with that tall, dark and handsome drink of love to serve my every need and demand, where all the demands and responsibilities thrown at me no longer exist!!! (A girl can dream, you know!) ♥
We all have those moments in life when the seasons are filled with ashes of mourning than the wanted beauty that the blessings of the blossoms bring that are both fragrant and pleasing and excite all our senses; but one thing I do know for certain, God somehow or another in His omniscience and Love turns our pain into beauty that never could have developed had we not trusted Him and continued moving blindly forward while clinging to His promises that came as a result of trusting in how “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Today was a rather profound reminder of His great love for my needless complaints. I was rather perplexed when I locked the front door and started to leave for my hike to try and sweat away this fever when I felt the Spirit’s tugging and rather obvious wrestle to go back inside and get my Bible. My hikes, or rather walks, are usually a time for complete solitude as I connect with the Lord through nature. I like my hands being free whereas not to agitate my spinal injuries while having the freedom to twirl around like a little girl (yes, I’m very animated ♥). I surrendered, though!
This ravine that I live next to is full of magical blessings between the musical owls and birds, frogs (my favorites ♥), deer, racoons, geese, turkeys (so obnoxious and domineering! Talk about attitudes gone wild!) and even the rarity and beauty of the blue butterfly (what a sight ♥) that are God’s gentle reminders. The fragrant aromas that are lingering right now remind you of this cherished, yet brief, flavorful season. The ravine also houses and is surrounded with a landscape full of majestic oak trees. I especially love the changes that announce springtime is upon us when the grass becomes high in deep, dark hues of green amongst the colorful assortment of flowers.
I eagerly await and focus on the approaching of another season that is near oftentimes without enjoying the blessings of the one that is to be lived out right now in this moment which will shortly come to an end before I know it. Why is it we have a tendency to focus on what we know lies ahead, good or bad, instead of embracing the beauty of the moment and the precious time that is right here and now? Oh, how we miss out on so many blessings of today because we’re so fixated on our tomorrows!
In order to preserve these fluid and ongoing seasonal changes, this beauty requires the need of purging and removing for additional protection from the heat and the elements that contribute to igniting wildfires. This beauty becomes dry and brittle, you know, the dormant and stagnant parts, and demands refinement periodically through the removal of the old and the ugly that is prohibiting its growth to continue to blossom into its beauty (even nature is high maintenance ♥). There is so much to embrace each season, and even if it is filled with gloomy and painful times, it requires us to be still and allow the clearing to occur. Regarding my ravine, this anticipated purging for protection requires the most unusual form of blessings that consists of numerous herds of goats to maintain (are they called herds with goats?) I can’t wait for their arrival! In fact, it clouds my perception of the beauty right now! Hmmmmm…….
Let me share with you through a child’s heart (even though I’m Grammy Tammy ♥), when you set free a herd of 100 goats, these guys can devour six-foot tall dry grass in one chomping like it’s nothing which removes hundreds of acres of dormant and dead grass which once brought such beauty; and it’s the most amazing sight to watch in its transformation. Plus, the goats will even stand on their hind legs just to get every last drop of the old and unhealthy brush that is choking the oak tree’s growth without damaging even one new bloom on the tree. That resembles a loving and caring shepherd, kind of like Jesus, and the one in the photograph above that is carrying its young.
This clearing is a treat I relish and treasure every year with great anticipation and excitement of the changing seasons because it not only brings out the little girl in me with joy and happiness, but it’s a reminder to live in today and embrace today’s blessings, while being patient during the hard times because new beginnings and seasons bearing sweet aromas for the years to come are near. This pruning and refinement only removes the dry, the ugly and the hindering that once nourished its life and purpose in the seasons past; but by removing it, it will prepare and allow for more healthy growth and more beauty to emerge that otherwise would not have blossomed! Pain promotes beauty! What amazing grace!
This vast area houses acres upon acres of the most beautiful and magnificent oak trees anyone could seek refuge under or be blessed to live by. These oak trees somehow or another manage to survive during seasons of extreme drought (which in California has been wretched the past few years) and oftentimes thrive under these dismal conditions. They have experience in reaching up towards the light and trusting in that Source for their daily provision which intuitively urges their roots (foundation) to go even deeper for sustainability and nourishment (water) to survive. They know and trust their Source will provide! Plus, after hundreds of years of experience in trusting, they know that when the provision is lacking (no water), to be patient and still, because they know this drought will remove the old that is consuming. They stand tall and beautiful while digging deeper into the ground so their roots can tap into the source that will sustain them and also increase their strength from the water table below, no matter how much it hurts to plow through. Trust me, right now the ground is like cement!
This hike led me to stop fairly close after the time I left my house. I was doing my typical engagement with the owls (consistent pause every three seconds between each whoot-whoot) and my rather loud animated frogs feeling a bit neglected because of my interaction with the owls (told you I was a little girl and why I need my flailing arms free ♥); but somehow or another I just stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the expanse of the beauty of nature ahead of me and decided I was meant to park it underneath that beautiful oak tree calling me near and read my Bible.
It took me a moment to get comfortable because my bass lacks that extra padding to cushion the drought-filled ground that resembles concrete nowadays; but once I managed to get comfy and propped up against the oak tree did I open my Bible right to Isaiah 61:1-3 which has always intrigued me about the significance and meaning of this powerful passage. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV) reads:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”
I don’t know what happened (Holy Spirit cleansing, obviously), but the awareness of my own transformation and the reminder of the Lord’s promises of restoration reflected in this passage opened the floodgates of Hoover Dam rushing out. God was reiterating to me again about the blessings of restoration to my family and my health, “though it tarry, wait for it…” (Habakkuk 2:3), and how our faith is like these majestic oak trees; that we’re planted to proclaim His glory through our testimony, even though the evidence has yet to be delivered!
We need to share our stories with each other; not just for our benefit, but to bless those who are going through their own trials for the edification and encouragement of community! No matter what, we have to hold onto and press into what we believe, even though it’s brutally hard at times. Nobody likes to share their open and bleeding wounds, much less their battle scars and deep scar tissue that has developed; but you know what, since God has never let go of my hand or failed to fulfill any of His promises, I desperately cleave to Him for the strength to carry on through the unknown! I’m not used to sharing my grief myself, and I will wrestle with Him about it until I go home, but God wants those walls torn down. The blessings of being weak; when I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9)! The oak tree that I was sitting under will easily survive another couple of years of drought, at least, due to my watering! ♥
Why are we so afraid to claim and rest in the assurance of God’s promises of power for restoration and complete healing through the love and support of other believers walking alongside of us? Is it because we’re afraid to share our pain due to being perceived as weak (pride at its finest) or through a lack of trust brought on by believing the words of the enemy (self-worth insecurities), or our own refusal to share our broken hearts with one another to keep up a perceived image (deception knocking), or is it simply because we’re too embarrassed to expose our true beautiful selves and weaknesses by taking a stand where we’re planted, like the oak trees, boldly and confidently through admittance of hurt that our lives are nothing short of hot messes? Isn’t that what faith is anyways; “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)? This is why there is so much division in the church and we need to change it! We all hurt and we all need each other to help us walk boldly and courageously through life!
God works best in hot-hot messes because we know we’re powerless in all the chaos and pain, and we acknowledge our need for something better than drugs or alcohol, food, work, even gossip, or whatever vices we use to bring us through the grief and conflict! Life is filled with conflict, and we can’t run from it; it’s how we react and bring resolution to these problems is what will be remembered! This will bear the fruit of the spirit and the crown of beauty in the ashes. How else are we going to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit or even announce God’s glory when we don’t open ourselves up and share our struggles?
Personally, my acts of obedience this past year in revealing my pain through transparency opened the door to friendships and deep bonds for life all due to the sharing in being honest and real (broken). This was harder than giving birth to an almost 11-pound baby boy (I survived ♥)! What great Love led us together. I know it’s scary being vulnerable and being exposed and open for all to see, but God loves us just the way we are, and somebody else needs to hear our story! Let’s quit robbing others of the blessings they’re waiting to hear! ♥♥ Faith Builders at their Finest Hour!! ♥♥ If we can remember that, it will help us with our transparency in being open and honest!
I don’t know about you, but with the reminder and the meaning behind Easter, that Jesus is Risen, and all that He did for just me alone (it is all about me right now ♥), I want to remember to glorify my Lord through proclaiming everything He has done and continues to do in my life, not hide beneath it; and try to remember this as we embrace seasons of severe testing and famine that afflicts us with suffering. Jesus wants us to live for today, enjoy the blessings He gives us each and every day, and not to focus on the worries of tomorrow. He offers us this peace and strength through the reminders and love given from the community that God has placed before us.
Don’t fight another battle alone; open yourself up to receive His great love. Those walls of isolation and shackles and chains have held you captive long enough. The only way we can cling onto His promises of hope is we need to be in community with others, to be honest and vulnerable, while making a commitment to reach out and be present, so we can be reminded that He is the author and perfecter of our story ♥♥ and to let Him have all of the weight of these great burdens through fellowship. We just need to walk through it. Then we can be still underneath that majestic oak tree and look outward and see the beauty and claim the freedom that has been there the whole time. Being shackle-free is so easy, yet so hard to remember where the key lies! Pain is only a season and it’s our opportunity to walk through it boldly while we allow, through trust and community, our roots to dig deeper and deeper into the soil for the constant nourishment that will sustain us. No matter what happens, He is real and He is just waiting for us to sit at His feet and embrace the freedom a life of trust offers! This is the definition of unfailing love to carry on!!! ♥♥♥
Jesus is no longer hanging on the cross, He is Real and has Risen! Let us be reminded and never forget why Jesus bravely surrendered to His Father’s will on this beautiful Easter: Love; so we would be redeemed which was paid in full through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are so valued and so loved; God has planted us for His splendor for all to see! Wow, our worth and value is immeasurably greater than anything we could imagine; that is why He loves us just the way we are!