I remembered my childhood today.  No, it was not so far removed that I cannot recall my formative years out at the lake.

I was out watering plants this morning…I have quite a few little spots growing and with the heat and lack of breeze today, the air is positively stifling.  To rescue my poor tomatoes and peppers, I know I have to water in the morning, despite the fact it is Sunday morning and my body should be in church with my two sons.  More often than not, worship has taken on new meaning as we have worked in the garden together, planted vegetables, pulled weeds, and watered the growth.  This morning we are also watching our neighbor’s dog, so my sons understand that caring for others is more important than focusing on our own needs.  I rally this concept in my sons.  They are growing up to embrace community is more than the place that we live, it is a way of life.  If we have something and someone else can use it, my sons are more than happy to make it available.  When my neighbor asked if we could watch their beloved animal for a week–well we wag a tail in response….PUN INTENDED!

I thought of this as I carried buckets to the plants I have growing…The place where I grew up has more than 20 trees throughout the 2 acre property.  They are huge and strong oak trees now, but they were not when I was a young girl of seven.  It was my job about 4 times a week to bring water to those sapplings….to make sure they had water.  If one of my brothers or my father ran over them with the riding lawn mower–well, that I could not control.

At first I started with 1 gal. buckets and learned quickly that took too long.  So, I decided that 5 gal. buckets were a better option, then I got even smarter….I took the wagon, loaded my Red Flyer wagon with two 5 gal. buckets and used the smaller ones to water the trees.

It was hard, hard work.  We had no hose hooked up to the house, so I had to maneuver my wagon to the lake’s edge, fill my buckets (just enough so they didn’t slosh), load them in the wagon, and begin the long incline to the trees.  OF COURSE the trees line the driveway, the furthest distance from the lake, and my father ordered that each tree receive at least a gallon of water.

Back and forth, back and forth, I trudged–hating every minute of it.  It was hot and hard work.  Yet, something happened in those hours with the trees.  The trees grew–they stood up taller, grew branches, forged their roots deeper into the soil, and reinforced their place.  So did I.

I had no one to talk to during those trips to the lake front, no one praised the watering job, in fact, often my father would come home and demand to know if I had indeed watered that day.  Most of the time, I wanted to look at him and say, “Uh, Duh….go look at the ground around the trees.  If it’s wet, I watered..”  I knew better than that.  So, I would bop my head up and down and know that the next day I would water again.  Something happened in my spirit and mind that summer.  I grew.

Now, I have always been short.  Yet, my arms and legs lengthened with muscle, and I was able to lug the 5 gal. buckets one in each hand instead of using my wagon.  It was much quicker and I felt a certain sense of accomplishment at that.  I knew I was strong.  Being out in nature also spoke to my soul.  I talked to myself, sang songs, composed poetry that I have never written, and dreamed dreams.  I knew I was contributing to something bigger than me, yet I could not put it into words.

This past Memorial Day, I went out to visit my parents and stood amongst the trees.  Gone are the tiny buds of leaves…replaced by full-grown foliage that turn brilliant colors in the fall.  No longer are they the small toothpick trunks vulnerable to a mower blade…in its place are strong and wide bases that support years of weather.  Would that they could talk, the stories they could utter.  I look at those trees now with a sense of pride, knowing that I had a hand in their creation.  I could not mandate that they grow…did not provide the elements of nature for their survival….but I helped the cycle of life.

Water, in its clear and refreshing manner combined with soil, temperature, light, and the CREATOR to instigate beautiful strength.  Wow, who knew a tree could give so much?  I did, and those that have read the GIVING TREE understand exactly of that which I speak.

Cover to The Giving Tree, depicting the tree giving away an apple




It stands on my computer desk, with one red ball and a swatch of blue felt at its base. 7 paltry twigs adorn its trunk, with barely a sprig of green.  It is hardly a wonder of creation.  It is one of the most beautiful examples of care and Christmas compassion I can think of.

Charlie Brown felt the same way when he stumbled upon this tree in the story, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Everyone expected him to return with a stalwart and stately tree that spoke of strength and vigor, he returned with this pathetic representation of a tree.  “You’re pathetic Charlie Brown, you couldn’t even pick out a decent tree.  We can’t trust you to do anything right.”  Wow.  Anyone else feel gutted at that statement…THANK YOU LUCY!

We all have a Lucy, more often than not, its our own heads.  I have no clue how it gets there, sometimes its inborn.  I am not sure why anymore than I know why my boys turn everything they touch into weapons when they have not been taught to do so. I listen to my oldest talk about himself.  He does the same talk.  I don’t know why.  He has not been told he is pathetic, worthless, or stupid.  Yet, there it is.  As a parent, it kills me to hear him talk like that.  As a teacher, I heard my students voice the same sentiments….it ripped me raw.  What they saw as the pathetic tree branch, I saw growth and chance.    Alone in that snow bank stood that tiny tree and Charlie Brown saw something unique and special about it.  How cool is that?

2 things jump out at me.  Ok 3.  1 is that I stooped to the level of using the word “things”–shudder!  2 I want to be a Charlie Brown that sees something special and uncommon.  I don’t want to rescue something or someone, but to cultivate an attitude of vulnerability that helps others realize their own potential.  3 I yearn to know that others are Charlie Browns for me.  I listened far too long to my own Lucy voice, and still do.  As I seek to be encouraging for others, I know that there are too many times that I find myself feeling like the tree–alone, undesired, plain, overlooked.  The shining ornament lovingly placed on the tree lends a certain ownership to it and the Linus Blanket at the trunk gives me hope.  I will talk another time about my own Linus moments, but for today it makes me smile.

I received a rendition of the Christmas tree from that story today and it speaks something to my soul tonight.  What story grips you in this moment?  Why?  How can we apply it to the everyday chances we encounter?  That is my challenge…how do I lean into what it means and use it to be an asset?  Join me?

Shalom and Christmas tidings.


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