Thanksgiving Tree // The Secret of Living Song

Thank God for a morning filled with sunshine! With the kids waking up earlier (or just the same) because of un-daylight saving time it is nice to have the sun rise up with me.

After several consecutive wet and dreary Mid-Western autumn days we were itching to get outside when we saw the sun shining. After breakfast, I gave the kids a task to collect some sticks and leaves for our annual Thanksgiving project. It was a crisp morning and having a focused mission we were out and in before you could say Jack Robinson. Back in the cozy house we threw the jackets in a pile and got started sorting through the craft bin of ribbons, paper, and all things that sparkle!

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Yes, our Thanksgiving tree may appear to be just a bunch of sticks in a jar with construction paper and leaf rubbings BUT on the back side of the leaves is a collection of our thankfulness. Anytime during the day we write our thanks on a leaf and hang them on the tree. Little prayers sent up to our Gifter.

I asked our daughter first, "Fiona, what are some things you are thankful for?" I'll never NEVER forget how she answered me last year.

Especially because she was only three years old then. I'll tell you the rest of story...

Fiona's answer humbled me.

I heard her little voice squeak out "forgiveness" sweetly.

I'm going to let that answer settle a bit as it still takes my breath away.

Not family... or toys... or cake... but forgiveness!

We talk about forgiveness a lot at our house. However, the reality is that our daughter fully understands her bad thoughts, mommy's bad words, and daddy's mistakes deserve a punishment in hell... BUT that we have been saved from ALL that. All our sin is erased by our eternal hero, Jesus. 

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

How can she understand that on the bad days and good days, in everything, we can be content? Only God can work that. She knows we have already won through Christ!

How had I forgotten Jesus' words from Luke 18:16?

...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

It is one of the biggest privileges of my life to watch my children's faith grow. Often it is their faith I admire. Whenever I think a certain subject is too difficult for their minds to understand the Holy Spirit steps right in and shows me the wisdom that a child can have despite me. Thankful.

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At night when the kids drift off to sleep I compose music. Today, I get to share one of my folkish Thanksgiving hymns with you. I hope someday to hear a church sing this in worship accompanied by acoustic guitar, washboard, the fiddle and the tenor line sung loud!

So for your listening pleasure (or pain - ha!) I thought that it would be fun to sing it for you and add a voice part at each verse. I did not even attempt the bass line... thankfully there are only three verses. :)

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You can print a pdf document of the hymn by clicking it's title here The Secret of Living.**

For more thoughts on gratitude watch for Amber's posts through the month of November on Fridays.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:1-2

AmandaSignature ** All my hymns are under copyright. You should not alter the music in any way and give me, the composer, full recognition for the piece. If you would like to use the hymn publicly please ask permission by contacting me at amanda@holyhenhouse.com. Unauthorized copying, duplication or alteration of this composition is a violation of law. Thank you for understanding. 

Spring Pruning

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When spring arrives, the earth breathes, birds whistle in the trees, windows fly open, fresh air and bright light cut patterns through murky indoor air to reveal...a hot mess of clutter, dirt, and potential mildew in my house.

Where did that dirt come from? Whose socks are these? Ugh, what is that SMELL? There’s nowhere to put anything. How did we end up with so much STUFF?

Between the “giving” season which fills my home to capacity, endless days spent indoors tracking possessions, dirt, and odors from room to room, and inclement weather preventing any form of escape, winter destroys my house every single year. I’m guessing I’m not alone seeing as “Spring cleaning” is a thing.

Living in a small home, I often feel as though I am in an eternal battle against my stuff. I attack my things and downsize, and my things retreat to the point where they inhabit a reasonable amount of space in my life. But before long, they regroup and counterattack, overtaking my home once more.

This year as I clean my home, and consequently de-clutter it, I am trying to view the entire process as “pruning.”

If you’ve ever tended a garden, you may know something about pruning. If not, here’s an overly simplified explanation: Branches are competitive. In order to grow into a healthy, fruit-bearing plant, many of these branches must be cut. Weak branches that fail to bear fruit are removed so that the plant does not waste energy tending to them. Overly strong branches are also cut in order to give other branches a fighting chance. Without weak branches to care for, the plant is able to give more water, sunlight, and attention to its other branches. Without the greedy strong branches stealing the spotlight, the other branches are able to better compete for power and position. The entire plant grows healthier and stronger.

As I work on cleaning my home this spring, I don’t just see kids’ toys and clothing and kitchen items. I see branches. In my mind I have an image of what a healthy home should look like. If an item doesn’t contribute to this healthy home ideal, it is a “weak branch,” and it can leave my home. I no longer waste any time or energy caring for it, and have more time and energy for the things in my life that matter. Consequently, my home grows into a more beautiful and purposeful space in which to live.

Sometimes when pruning, a branch has to be cut not because it’s weak, but because it’s TOO strong. When a singular branch grows to block the sunlight from other branches or to demand too much of the water, or to signal to the stem that it is the only branch worth being a branch, a tree begins to grow lopsided. This imbalance can contribute to a plant’s ultimate downfall as imbalanced plants are more likely to fall over in a fierce wind or storm.

Likewise, in my home, some things are fantastic but they still need to go. Even if they fit with my home ideal, they can diminish the overall beauty and purpose of my space if I neglect to exercise moderation. The phrase “too much of a good thing” comes to mind.

As I think about pruning my home of clutter this spring to reveal a beautiful and purposeful space, I reflect on doing the same for my spiritual life. God is the gardener who helps us as Christians grow by “pruning” us. As difficult things occur in our lives, we turn to God and he helps us through them. We grow stronger and closer to him through this process, full of beauty and purpose in Him.

Jesus says in John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

My spiritual life needs constant upkeep as well. Sometimes I resist this upkeep and struggle to remain an imbalanced branch, allowing good things to become too important (nothing is good if it distracts me from God) while evil, weak things (my sins) suck unnecessary life out of me. I pray for God as the gardener to continue to “prune” me despite my stubborn lack of growth and resistance. It’s not always fun to learn a difficult lesson through a painful experience (even if that painful experience is simply cutting distractions from my life- or spring cleaning- ha!), but overcoming these experiences with the help of God allows me to grow stronger and closer to Him.

Are you “pruning” your home this spring? Have you noticed God doing any “pruning” in your spiritual life recently?

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