THE TREE.

Eliza, I need to tell you something. This tree is really important to me.

Instantly tears started welling up in my eyes and emotion overtook what I thought would be a simple moment. I couldn’t even get the rest of the words out as I spoke to my 7-month old daughter. 

I looked up and saw my two-year-old, Lydia, ahead, climbing on rocks with her dada. I held Eliza close and blinked through tears as I looked back at the tree and tried to get my words out. 

Do you remember our friend Jackie? Well, three years ago we came here just two weeks after her dada died. 

I paused again. Instantly my mind was filled with memories of those few weeks. The call from Jackie. The hospital. The funeral. Her decision to still come on our Work Week at Young Life’s Clearwater Cove—leading up to the clearest memory of all. A few nights in, during the scheduled “15 minutes of silence,” we sat down and wept together under the stars. I had no words, only prayers. 

This tree was planted in memory of Jackie’s dada.

I finally got the few words out, took a deep breath, wiped away a few more tears, and continued to tell Eliza the rest of the story. How Greg, who oversees landscaping at Clearwater Cove, came to me with the idea to let Jackie pick out the type of tree and the location to plant in memory of her father who had just died suddenly in a car accident. I remember seeing Jackie pick it out and plant it into the ground.

The tree.
a sign of life,
in the midst of
grief.

More than just showing Eliza this tree for the first time at this special place, this week at camp wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to get canceled, just like everything else. I was overcome by tears in many moments throughout the week just being there. At Young Life Camp. In the midst of a pandemic. Not taking a single day for granted.

The losses of this season haven’t been easy for any of us, and some of us have lost more than others. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. 

THE TREE IN THE GARDEN.

The Bible starts out telling us about a different tree. The tree of life that holds the knowledge of good and evil. God created humankind through Adam and Eve and gave them complete freedom in the garden with only one rule: do not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15). Yet they were convinced by the Enemy’s promise for God-like wisdom and chose to eat the fruit from the tree and disobey God (Genesis 3:6).

The Enemy was wrong. The Enemy had deceived them. Instead of becoming like God, Adam and Eve were overcome by guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear. 

Because humankind turned away from God, sin entered the world. And because we continue to turn away from God every day, choosing to listen to the voice of the Accuser and give in to the desires of our flesh, sin reigns.

I don’t think I need to convince you that we live in a world still today where guilt, shame, brokenness, and fear reign. From a competitive pressure to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest or have the most—and we fall short of unreachable expectations—we are covered in guilt (you haven’t done enough) and shame (you’ll never be enough). Within a country that is so polarized that we are making the simple fact of ending racism or wearing a mask during a pandemic something that’s political—and no systemic solutions in sight—we are broken. And in the midst of it all, we are consumed by fear

I was listening to a new PitBull song recently and his words struck me: The only thing that spreads faster than any virus is fear. I think I shouted an “Amen!” back at PitBull through my car stereo the first time I ever heard that song. There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve seen this more present than during COVID-19. Our world is controlled by fear.

where is our
hope?
Where is our sign of life
in the midst of our
grief? 

THE TREE ON THE HILL.

When sin entered the world, God had a plan for restoration that involved another tree. Jesus was killed on a Cross, a tree stripped of roots and branches. In this undeserving death God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hallelujah. 

Through faith in Christ, we are made right with God and our relationship with Him is restored! He frees us from guilt, shame, brokenness and fear through His blood shed on the Cross.  

This tree is now our
sign of life
in the midst of our
grief. 

And friends, this is good news. We have life and hope in the midst of the never-ending trials of this world because our hope is in a God who rose from the dead and is making things new. We believe that we were not merely created for a comfortable and happy life, a life that comes and goes like a breath in time, but we believe that God created us for a greater purpose. He has promised for those of us who believe in Him that as we put away our sin and love others, He will produce in us love, joy, and peace in place of our brokenness. 

He doesn’t just remove our sin. He redeems it. And as He rose from the dead, He calls us to rise.

Will you rise redeemed with me in the midst of your fear? Will you choose positivity and gratitude in the midst of a dark season of guilt, shame, or brokenness? Will you strive for peace with those around you, instead of division? Will you choose to believe that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)?

Will you hold on to our sign of life (Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) in the midst of our grief? 

He has called us higher than simply getting through. Just as He is the vine, and He has called us to be the branches and to bear fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:1-17). He has called us to pursue hospitality and love in the midst of physical distancing (Romans 12:13). He has called us to fight for racial justice in the midst of racism in our systems (Romans 2:11). He has called us to stand firm in our faith and use our voices to speak the truth in love, being a light to the world (Ephesians 6:13, Matthew 5:14).

I read this quote recently, written before COVID-19, but I believe it applies well: “Our goal in life is not simply to survive the current hard thing in hopes that it will be our last. Rather, we endure whatever God has for us to the very end, believing God’s promises even when we can’t see the outcome” (Risen Motherhood).

If you’re still reading, I pray there is something God has for you in all of this to encourage you. Take a deep breath. Go outside and sit in the shade under a tree. My friend, as He speaks, listenHe is our life

by name Part I: fulfilling eve.

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately.

Have you ever googled the meaning of your name? Surely most of us have. Margaret, my real name, means “pearl.” Eve, my middle name, means “mother of the living.” I never really thought much about the meaning behind my name. Pearl is kind of cool, a precious gem, but not sure about the whole mother-of-the-living thing. In fact, I found that latter one to be a little strange and simply ignored it–until recently.

From the months of September to December, specifically between finding out that I am pregnant with our first child, to discovering her gender on New Years Eve, my husband and I spent quite a bit of time talking about names. We found ourselves feeling certain convictions about the name of our child.

We want there to be significance and meaning.
We want to call him or her by name as soon as we can, before birth.
We want to start praying for him or her by name.

[For the rest of the story on us naming our daughter Lydia Evelyn, read Part II of this entry.]

 

D I S C O V E R I N G .

In the meantime, I picked out a book off the shelf of my favorite bookstore called Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman. My hope was that through reading this book, I could begin to prepare for the calling of motherhood spiritually, while simultaneously making preparations physically and practically.

In the early chapters of the book, Furman states that motherhood isn’t just a calling for some, for those who are married or those who are biologically able to bear children. In fact, she argues that all women are created to live in missional motherhood through making disciples. Making disciples, after all, is a calling of all believers (Matthew 28:18-20). As women, we make disciples by nurturing those around us, serving our communities, and showing compassion for our neighbors.

With this new perspective I realized that it’s not just now that I’m expecting a baby that I’m called into motherhood. This calling doesn’t just begin in May, when our daughter Lydia Evelyn will be born.

For as long as I’ve been a believer, the Lord burdened my heart for lost college students. I was only a sophomore in college when I responded to a calling to become a Young Life College leader and lead my first Bible study for freshmen women. This calling has never left, and the Lord has called me into a strategic “mothering” role of college students, which through the years has now transformed into a “mothering” of pretty much anyone He’s placed in my life, whether at church, work, in my ministry or in my neighborhood.

As I kept reading, the author continued to explain motherhood throughout the Bible. To start, she zoomed in on the creation story, examining a snapshot of the world’s first mom.

“The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20)

God revealed something new to me in that moment. The meaning behind my name was not weird or random. My name was in fact a calling.

In this life, I am fulfilling a calling by God to mother the living. I am fulfilling Eve.

 

L I V I N G .

In the present, I want to serve people in my home and disciple young women. I want to nurture those in my community. Many of the character traits that we typically think of moms having, I have the opportunity to do every waking minute. Even in my full-time job in college athletics, I am serving young student-athletes constantly in that mothering role. I have no excuse for a lack of application to follow this call!

And at the same time, I am learning that the Lord has called me into motherhood in the traditional sense as I watch my womb grow. I will raise our daughter in a lifelong pursuit to disciple her to know Jesus, to love God, and to serve others.

I have been called into missional motherhood. The Lord gave me a special gift by softly nudging me that, indeed, that’s what He named me to do. Yet this isn’t just my calling because of my name. He created women with unique traits that make us exceptional at nurturing and serving others. We all, as women, are called to use our God-given intelligence, compassion, and empathy for His glory in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our communities.

Thank you Lord for this reminder that my calling to motherhood is not dependent on waiting for a healthy baby to be born in May. I have the privilege of living out this calling today, in this hour. Where would you like me to begin?

“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1)