(Mary and Evie, playing in the leaves)
Several years ago, I read a book by Susan Hunt called "Your Home: A Place of Grace". As I read through that book, page by page, my heart began to break. It was speaking directly to me, had been written for me, I was sure. And as I turned each page, tears clouded my sight, until I could only lay it down in my lap and cry out to my Father. "O Father, please, please make our home a place of grace. Do whatever it takes to change this family and this home to become a lovely place that glorifies You."
Little did I know that not only would my loving Father hear this heart's cry, but He would answer that plea. And it wasn't going to be fun.
Backtrack a few years before that. I was participating in a women's Bible study at my church. We were watching dvd's and following along in a book. To my best recollection, the speaker was Beth Moore. I am not even really sure about that. But, one day, during that study time, she spoke to me. Right at me. And I have never forgotten what she was talking about.
She was using the illustration that Jesus used about the grape vine and the reason for pruning. I remember she talked about the process of pruning the vines, cutting the plants back till there was almost nothing left, burning the cut off branches, and then waiting. Waiting for the growth. Waiting for the bloom. Waiting for the fruit.
(Cari and Evie)
Now, fast forward to a year ago, this month. Peak into the windows of my home. What do you see? You will see me weeping. You will see my husband weeping. You will see us clinging to each other for support and encouragment as never before. See my children. See the anger and resentment on their faces. See their disappointed looks at the hard choices my husband and I had to make.
Fast forward again. What do you see now? You see a mother with her heart broken. You see a father with a firm determination to do what he believes is right. You see the same couple, clinging, crying, praying. You see some of the children have changed their minds and are a bit more settled. You see some that have not.
Fast forward again and you will find more sorrow. You will find a woman so broken, so bowed under the weight of all that is happening she doesn't believe she will ever stand upright again. You will see that she chooses to trust her Father and she chooses to thank Him for these circumstances, knowing He is Sovereign, but the agony and pain of it seems more than she can bear. You will find a very sick husband, unable to do anything for himself. You will find a rebellious child here and there. You will find very little harmony, grace or peace in this home.
You see, the end of this month marks the end of a year that has been the hardest one yet. This year, we have faced scandal, we have faced vicious rumors, we have dealt with rebellion, we have dealt with lies, we have dealt with people who sought to tear our family apart, limb by limb. For a while, we thought those people had won, through their deceit, through their arrogance, through their outright sin.
But, fast forward to the present. You know what you will find? You will discover, upon close scrutiny, that we have been pruned by the Gardener. Oh, it hurt. He took shears with unmeasurable strength and cut here, trimmed there, until there was hardly any of the old plant left. Then, He waited. And do you know what happened? We grew. We bloomed. And now, we are starting to see the fruit.
Wanna guess what the fruit is? Do you? Do you?
Our home, a place of grace. Truly. I didn't think it was possible. I had given up hope. We have daughters who love each other, help each other, work together, laugh together, pray together. We have a momma and a papa who have fallen in love all over again, with a deeper, more intimate, more meaningful love. We have parents and children who laugh together more often than not. We have a family that is working together, playing together, laughing together and loving each other.
Is the pruning done? I seriously doubt it. Will there be no more pain? I can pretty much guarantee it. And, like my dearest friend in the world says, (and you know who you are, menu! ~wink~) had I known it would take all that to get to where we are, I most likely would have begged God to not take us through that. But, we have come through it and we are more blessed for it.
Dear ladies, I write this to you because I know so many of you are struggling, you are hurting, you aren't sure how much more you can take. Be encouraged. This may be a pruning time in your life but know that in the end, you will be more beautiful for it.
I encourage you to get out your Bibles and read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. Particularly, verse 11 starts with this: "He has made everything beautiful in its time."
I am praying for you, dear friends. I hope that you will be encouraged, that you will know that there is a purpose and plan, that you will trust that God always gives fish and bread not serpents and stones, and that you will see that you are becoming more beautiful.