Trimming Back the Branches

For a long time now, I've been embarrassed to tell people what I studied in my post-high school days.

It's not because it's shameful or inappropriate. It's not even because it's an Associate's Degree and I always thought I'd end up with at least a Bachelor's (funny how life does not go as you plan).

My degree is in Horticulture (a fancy word for the study of all things plants) and specifically, Landscape Design.

Why does this embarrass me, you ask?

Because we have anything but what you would think a Landscape Designer's yard would look like. Between a lack of funds, a plethora of small children and various other factors, our home's "curb appeal" has not exactly been on the top of our family's priority list.

I've even had people remark (after telling them what I studied after high school and in what field I worked in for the first 10 years of my "career"), "Oh wow, I bet your yard is beautiful!" And don't get me wrong: in it's own way, it is. We have a fence, which manages to keep the kids and dog in and unwanted kids and dogs out. We live in a nice little neighborhood with mature trees and sidewalks lining the roads. There are gardens, some with beautiful peonies and an incredible bed of Lily of the Valley, one of my all-time favorite flowers.

But our grass is patchy (to say the least), the severely overgrown yew shrubs in the front of our house threaten to overtake the first floor windows each spring (I have nightmares about those beasts) and the only "patio" we have is a 10' diameter concrete circle which has no rhyme or reason when it comes to placement or purpose.

So I am embarrassed. I've often looked at those overgrown plants and suffering lawn and thought, "Sheesh. I bet a stranger wouldn't even believe me when I said I had a background in Landscape Design and once had my own gardening blog."

But as I was tackling the arduous task of trimming those yews back the other day, I began to think about it: Why do I care so much if someone could tell I was skilled in landscape layout and had a decent knowledge of shrubs and perennials just by looking at our property? Sure, there is something to be said for maintaining your yard and taking care of the space God has blessed us with. But does my core identity really depend that much on what degree I've earned or knowledge I posses or life milestones I've reached?

And if I care so much whether or not people can tell I am a Horticulturalist just from looking at our yard, shouldn't I care even more if they can tell whether or not I am a Christian just by looking at my actions?

While we know and understand that our salvation does not depend on anything we do or do not do ("For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9), the Bible is quite clear about faith without works. In His word, God tells us that "faith without works is dead." (Take a moment to read James chapter 2 for the full context.) Just as an unkempt property is evidence that a homeowner may not have yard work on the top of his or her priority list (for one reason or another), so an "unkempt life" can also be a window into a person's heart and faith life.

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?...In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." ~James 2:14, 17

If I spend my days at work complaining about my co-workers or my days at home grumbling about the kids, my husband and the never-ending housework, am I really living a life in which my faith is evident? When I go to the grocery store, do I patiently wait for the person who just happens to be lingering in front of the exact same item I need or do I make it clear that I'm frustrated as I push past them? When I'm checking out in the lane at Target and the cashier is less-than-pleasant, do I still share a smile and wish her a good day despite her attitude or do I give it right back to her as a "taste of her own medicine"? When a friend disappoints me by showing up late, cancelling plans or failing to return a phone call in what I have considered a reasonable time frame, do I offer her grace and understanding or do I hold it against her and carry it with me into our next conversation?

Am I continually working on "trimming" back those branches which want to overshadow my faith? Am I daily asking God for His help in this? Am I doing all I can to put the Word of God in the front of my mind throughout the day so that my actions reflect what I believe?

It is true that we are all sinful human beings, incapable of saving ourselves or living free from sin's clutches ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23). We fail and will continue to fail on a daily basis in living a life in which our faith is completely evident. Therefore, our heavenly Father is the only one who can truly see a person's heart and faith -- this is not our place to judge. But aren't we supposed to be a light to the world? Shouldn't we be more concerned about the world knowing that we are a Christian rather than knowing what we've accomplished or earned here on earth?

I'm going to continue to tend to our yard as time and pennies permit -- for it is something that brings me happiness and satisfaction. And one day, I do still hope that a passer-by would actually believe that I now a thing or two about plants. But, through the help of God, my bigger concern and much more important focus will be on shining the light of Christ into a dark world and proclaiming to that world that I follow Him, and Him only.

"We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light." Colossians 1:9b-12

 

 

 

Transient

I am a lot of things.

I’m a proud single woman. I’m a 24-year old wheelchair user. I’m a daughter, sister, and cousin. I’m a Christian. I’m a coffee and sheep fanatic. I’m an aspiring doctor. I’m a piano player.

Naturally, I could go on and I’m sure you could too. I mean, just stop for a minute and think about all the things you are.  It doesn’t take long to come up with a list of 10 different "hats” you wear and I’d venture to guess that coming up with a slightly longer list of 50 “hats” would be much easier than the organic chemistry final exam I somehow survived in college.

We all are a lot of things; each individual person blessed with unique hobbies and passions, aspirations and fears, responsibilities and identities.

You know, those identities are remarkable things; so diverse and yet connected by their application in a single person. Some you’re simply born into (daughter, sister), others you have to work really hard for (valedictorian, store manager).  Some identities last for a few months while others seem to be such a big part of who you are that the thought of them being taken away is down right frightening. 

Imagine no longer being a sister or a mother. Imagine no longer having your comfortable job or being a happy home/apartment owner/renter.  Imagine those big identities you always thought were permanent fixtures in your life … becoming transient. Disappearing. Vanishing. No seriously, imagine it.

I guess it’s a hard thing to imagine. It’s hard until it happens to you, then you don’t ever forget it. Naturally we should expect to experience some amount of transition and change in the identities of our lives. We all grow older, maybe enter into relationships whether they’re in the form of friendships or significant others, get new jobs or hobbies, and on and on; of course it makes sense that some “transient identities” are to be expected.  But it becomes a challenge when so many of those seemingly “permanent” identities seem to evaporate into thin air.

I was a runner in college. Now, I wasn’t a competitive (or even good) runner, I just did it for fun as a healthy form of stress relief. Yet, it was a big (and growing) part of who I was. I’d always make time to squeeze runs into my busy schedule of work, classes, and extra-curricular activities; exhaling in contentment as I tightened the laces of my running shoes, anxious for the solitude and rhythm of my feet pounding that cold Minnesotan cement. Having run a half marathon and training to run a full marathon in summer 2013, it’s no surprise to say paralysis put a bit of a damper on things.

Looking back, it’s funny how hard I thought training for those 26.2 miles I’d never run with my own two legs was, when in reality it was no comparison to the training God was about to give me in the marathon of life and those identities I once held so close.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  Romans 5:3

It’s so easy to think of the blessings of this world as permanent. These little gifts (that are really big gifts) as things we will always have. The ability to hug our parents or children, the ability to stand up and run, the ability to bring home a paycheck and provide for ourselves and/or family. In reality, each of those abilities and beautiful aspects of our identities are gifts from our loving and merciful Father in heaven. Trials and problems will happen, but thanks to our unchanging identity in Christ, we know and can trust in His perfect plan for our often seemingly chaotic lives.

There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “when God closes a door, he’ll open up a window.” Obviously, I no longer run like I used to, but thanks to one of God’s windows, I certainly can and do still race. I now use a racing chair and actually just finished my second marathon on Saturday, June 18 where I raced in Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN.

This picture was taken around mile 26. I'm laughing because of the photographer who also happens to be one of my biggest supporters, my Mom :D Naturally, we celebrated my new PR (personal record) with some Caribou Coffee:D

This picture was taken around mile 26. I'm laughing because of the photographer who also happens to be one of my biggest supporters, my Mom :D Naturally, we celebrated my new PR (personal record) with some Caribou Coffee:D

I can't help but chuckle when I think about my athletic abilities pre and post injury, because I'm exponentially more athletic disabled than I ever was "abled." Finishing in a new personal best of 2:14:38, I can now say I've qualified for Boston two years in a row and have loved the people I've been able to meet through these adaptive racing endeavors. My running identity looks different than it did when I was in college, but God has allowed something remarkable to take shape in a place I thought would forever remain empty.

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

I'm thankful that God allows me to still have this identity of "racer" but I've come to learn that my never transient, always there, stable and permanent identity in Christ will carry me much farther than 26.2 miles.

Look at your identities.
Find your blessings in this race of life.
Run with joy and endurance each and every day.

Sam_Headshot.png

Sam Schroth is a perpetual learner, loving to live life to its absolute fullest each and everyday the Lord blesses her with. Currently in the midst of applying to medical school while adjusting to life as a paraplegic, Sam is “Never Sitting Still” as she learns and grows in God’s grace and never ending love.

www. samschroth.wordpress.com

his girl. HIS girl.


These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~Deuteronomy 6:6-9

I've always been a daddy's girl.

My earliest of memories include him rocking me to sleep at night as he hummed softly or resting my head on his shoulder sleeve during church on Sunday.   

If you know my dad, you know that he has a quiet strength - this incredibly calm and peaceful quality to him. He rarely gets frazzled or angry. He is funny and smart and silly. He is the most selfless person I've ever known. Just by being himself, my dad has forever made me feel safe and loved and special. To disappoint him would be heartbreaking to me - not just as a child, but even now - and yet I know his forgiveness would come quickly. That's just how he is. 

Jesus shines so brightly through him. 

When he walked me down the aisle and gave me away at my wedding, there wasn't a dry eye in the church, his included. As much as he loves my husband as a son, I'm sure it was a difficult leap for him to let me go and entrust me, his precious little girl, to someone else.

But the beautiful truth is that I was a gift to my dad on loan from another father - our heavenly Father. 

As a babe, I had been entrusted to him by the Lord of all. From eternity, God in his wisdom chose my dad to be the man to lead our family well and raise me in a loving, Christian home. He was the one to bring me to the baptism font. He was given the privilege and responsibility to teach me the truths of the Bible. It was my dad who enrolled me for daily instruction in a Christian elementary school and high school and then dropped me off at Martin Luther College to study to become a teacher of little lambs. 

I'm not a little girl on his lap anymore, but I will always be my dad's best girl. Age and distance don't put limits on that. Even more true and important, I will forever be a child of God. As much as my dad loves and cares for me, I know without hesitation that my Heavenly Father adores me even more.

My dad is the one who taught me that. 

his girl. His girl.

I am oh so blessed to be both. 
 

Acknowledge Him

A handful of my fifth graders from back in the day are graduating from high school this month.  Crazy!  Time flies!  As you head out to find your place in the world, remember that the Lord goes with you!  So many people (parents, grandparents, teachers- yup me too!, and friends) are holding you in their hearts, lifting you up in prayer and ready to catch you if you stumble along the way.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  "As surely as the sun rises, He will appear."  Ask, seek, knock, guys.  God bless you!  Congratulations class of 2016!