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The Road to Blessing

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Thanking You is easy,
Counting blessings one by one,
Straight on through infinity,
Can’t outdo Your generosity.

From life’s first breath,
In the Paradise called Eden,
To the Jesus’ death at Calvary,
Gratitude given with formality.

But beyond the Garden Tomb,
After the curtain torn into,
Humanity can express their thanks,
Without thought to file and rank.

In screams and yells and loud glee,
Shaky voices or ones confident,
However the gratitude expressed,
It is because we know we’re blessed.

Road behind us reveals Your touch,
Road beside us shows us now,
If we can thank You for was and be,
We’ll thank You for what we cannot see.

Road of gratitude lead me on,
I know You go to our eternal home,
May the road ring day and night
Count our blessings to be to make it right.
d. f. a. v. 1/3/15
-Donna

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Cottage by the Sea #14 5/13/15

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Abba Father :
The Sea and I awoke this morn,
When the dark began to wane.
The sea itself seemed to hold its breath,
How gallant marches it’s waves,
It surveyed the treasures on shore,
It knew nonetheless it’s spiritual gain.

When from my view upon the deck,
I drank in the first lighten wave,
As the sky burst forth a rosy glow,
Lifting shadows with its light,
True devastation met my sight,
Lost homes, lost lives, crumbled cliffs,
What of this place, Lord did You save?

I image turning to find our cottage roof gone,
Plywood from windows ripped and torn,
Perhaps the foundation washing away,
The driveway out front a sinking hole,
A total loss I somehow missed,
Within me a gentle voice says, you were not alone.

My eyes drank in our Cottage basically unscathed,
And I wonder how this could be?
Struck head-on by nature’s fury,
Devastation literally all around me now,
Our Cottage shines like a miracle bestowed,
A beacon of hope beneath my feet for me.

Like our lives struck head-on by disease,
Like families torn apart from lies and sins,
Like marriages crumbled with infidelity,
Like lives ripped off foundations, weaknesses exposed,
What looked so fine from the outside,
Foundations couldn’t hold when the storm roared in.

God, You sat here with me through the night,
Offering hope if I would but reach to You,
Though I felt weak and tired, half-alive,
You shone a thin sliver of light,
And held me as I yielded myself to Your love,
Exactly what You’ve taught me to do, I do.

Storms of life can wipe out our world,
Coughing tidbits of others lives into yours,
But the anchor will grip if God sets it,
The Cornerstone will remain unmoved,
Faith well established can stand the test,
Hope remains if Christ is your core.
      …d.f.a.v. 5/12/15
—Donna

I Am Okay, I Am Beautiful, I Am Me

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Grace has seen herself in a mirror with no mercy.  It was awkward.  It was painful. 

“I see what they see,” she admits to herself, “and it isn’t pretty”. That admission knocks her to her knees.

“Doing this isn’t mandatory,” her parents remind her, “no one will think any less of you if you don’t.”

Her mother longs to tell her daughter that none of it matters!  Not the numbers, the sizes, the thoughtlessness or the stares.  For none of it matters to those who know and adore her child for who she is inside.  But, she can’t say that because it matters to way to many in this world. 

Grace prays, “Holy Father what is your will?  I see the truth Lord, I am no beauty queen.”

“My grace is sufficient for you,” the scripture rises in her heart.  “Do not forget my glory is your strength.”

Drawing a deep breath Grace rises to her feet.  “Quitting would be so much easier,” she admits to herself, “and I am tempted.”

The seconds pass and Grace feels each tick of the clock in her blood.  She remembers the scriptures and the fear departs her heart.  “I am seeing this through Mom.  This time,  I won’t back out, I won’t look away.  I will hold my head up and say, yes, this is me.  This is all of me, beauty, warts and all and I am okay, I am beautiful, I am me!

Grace’s mother watches as her daughter’s spine straightens, her shoulders draw back and her chin rises.  “We’ll cover this with prayer,” her mother says embracing Grace tenderly.

The night of the pageant arrives and Grace is already tired.  “The interviews were nerve wracking,” she confides to her father, “I have no idea how I did.”

With a soft kiss on her forehead, careful to not smudge her makeup, he said, “Your mother and I are proud of you Grace, God is the most pleased though.  Most would have given up but not you.  You would have in the past but you are facing this head-on with courage.  Your conviction that you have just as much to offer as any one else is right. Regardless of the outcome, we love you and you are right.”

In the audience Grace had more than her allotted ten family members and friends cheering for her, way more.  Everyone made to feel less than acceptable because of their outward appearance was rooting for her.  Everyone who had felt their cheeks burn in embarrassment when the whispers were meant to be heard was whispering a prayer for Grace to win.  Every nerd, every geek, every socially isolated teenager still alive in adult bodies willed Grace a win. To a few dozen complete strangers Grace became their champion.

The judges marked their ballots, scores were added up, the moment of decision was upon them.  On stage Grace prayed silently, “God thank you for tonight, for being able to feel like a beauty queen regardless of whether I win or lose.”

Grace’s name was not called.  Leaving the backstage area she was stopped repeatedly by those who had felt her their champion. 

“Dad, I am amazed by all these strangers who were telling me how they’d hoped I’d win.”

“I think you touched quite a few people Honey.”

As the crowd began to disperse Jeffrey Keller, one of the three judges approached Grace and her family.  “Grace,” he said, “I want to tell you something. Your answer this afternoon I will never forget. It was honest, straight from your heart and impressive.”

To Grace’s parents he said, “You can be proud of your daughter, she has a great heart”. Then he turned and walked away.

“What did he ask Grace,” her mother asked?

“What this experience had shown me about me,” Grace told her.  “I told them, that I am okay, I am beautiful, and I am me, I had God to tell me that regardless of whether I placed or won.  And I said I was okay with that assurance.”

And she truly was.

–Donna

Merry Christmas!

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One baby, born to earthly parents of little financial worth grows and up as a carpenter’s son.  One man who willingly laid his life down for humanity to heal the broken relationships between God and His creation in a brutal death with great pain.   One baby, one God. One sacrifice.  Millions of redeemed souls and counting.  Never underestimate the power of One.

Merry Christmas,
–Faye

Image pinned from Pinterest, photo credit unknown!

Crushed

Screaming into her cell phone 24-year-old Alia* stared in disgust at the 18-month-old baby boy before her. So what if he was a cutie? He’d been the millstone around her neck her mother had warned her about for years.

Looking at Caleb’s big blue eyes and white blonde hair made her even madder. Before this kid came between them Alia had believed the baby could be the answer to her situation with Jason.

“This is your stupid fault Jason! You went and found Jesus and changed everything!”

On his end of the conversation he tried, again, to explain how once he accepted Christ as his Savior he couldn’t keep having sex with her. He was doing everything he could to be a good father and to provide for Caleb and her.

“But you won’t marry me will you Mr. Holy Roly? I hate your God!” Alia screamed.

Calmly Jason tried to explain to her that her hostility towards him and God didn’t make good foundations for a marriage. Alia didn’t hear.

Seething over how obvious it was that Jason adored their son and God more than her, she let a primitive scream wail into the phone. “I hate you! I hate your God! I hate your precious son too! I should have had an abortion!”

As Jason’s reasonable voice coaxed her to calm down she exploded. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I am not letting some snotty rich people adopt this brat after you forced me to have it! You ruined everything Jason!”

Snatching the baby up, she hurried to her car barely pausing to buckle the boy in a seat. The empty car seat was a looming presence in her rearview mirror as she raced out onto the highway.

Caleb’s crying, Jason’s pleading and rage built up inside Alia making a canopy of noise in her head. The phone was still in her hand and she screamed into it, “Tell me you love me more than Caleb! Tell me!”

Leaving no time for Jason to answer she neared the roads curve. “You’ll have to choose soon” she said.

Her foot left the gas pedal, but she didn’t apply the brakes. With the SUV pointing toward the ravine she gribbed her cell phone and closed her eyes. First the vehicle was a cocoon of plastic, leather and metal encasing them as it became airborne.

Trees stood in the path of the sailing vehicle, large branches snatching the undercarriage, ripping at the tires. The interference was enough to flip the SUV. As the vehicle flipped the windows shattered, deployed airbags cushioning Alia but Caleb shrieked in fear as he was thrown around the vehicle.

Over and over the vehicle turned. Alia clung to her cell phone and Jason was hysterical on the other end as he heard the noise. Four minutes after the SUV left the road it crumbled to a stop, upside down. Alia crawled through the window, her head bleeding from a slight scratch and her wrist aching.

Sitting down on a near-by boulder she stuck her cell phone in her hip pocket. Jason had insisted on On-Star service with the truck so help would arrive soon. “How long will it take them,” she asked out loud?

Within minutes she heard sirens and when she heard the first squeal of brakes she lay herself out near the boulder, waiting for the rescue people to reach her. As she saw the deputy coming down the rocky ravine she remembered her cell phone and managed to push it just out of easy arm’s reach before he reached her.

Soon firemen, police officers and paramedics swarmed the scene. Already the rescue personnel were exchanging looks and quietly pointing out what caught their experienced eyes as wrong. Alia watched through slotted eyes but her inexperienced eyes didn’t see the clues theirs did. Nor did she see the clues A’s they were marked and evidence was collected.

The first deputy on the scene found her cell phone and she heard him call Jason who was listed in her contacts as her I.C.E. number.

It wasn’t long before Alia knew Jason was at the scene. A brief silence fell when the deputy escorted him down the ravine. Alia heard his voice asking about her and Caleb.

Moaning, she made her voice weak as she asked for Jason. Then came a howl of grief so large it seemed to pass through her telling her all she needed to know. Now Jason would love her and only her.

The Lifesaver Helicopter’s approach could be heard as firemen and paramedics carried Alia up the steep ravine strapped to a backboard. Tugging on one of the paramedic’s sleeves she asked if Jason could ride with her.

“I’ll ask m’am.” But she returned with a negative reply.

Alia held her thoughts to herself. Jason would come to her soon enough, she assured herself.

As they loaded her into the helicopter she closed her eyes, “How simple a solution,” she thought.

The paramedics jumped out of Lifesaver and joined the other rescue workers a safe distance from the helicopter’s blades as they started up. Everyone looked at the disappearing chopper then gradually at one another.

Jason was being helped to the top of the ravine where his father waited. He was bent over in pain as he stumbled towards his dad.

Then all eyes followed his, as from the road, he pointed to where the Winnie-the-Pooh blanket covered the lifeless body of his son.

The son Alia had never once asked about.

Though based on the bare facts of a true story names and identifying details have been changed or altered to protect the privacy of the grieving.

Please, if you or your partner are hurting your child or considering harming them in any way seek help. Many states allow you to turn your child over to a hospital or other such facility with no questions or punishment involved. Help is available if you seek it out. Adoption may or may not be the right solution for you, but, harming your child IS NEVER THE RIGHT ANSWER.

–Faye

Another Woman’s Child – Part 3

(From AWC-Part 2) “However it came to be, they wouldn’t be seeking a solution in a doctor’s office this they both knew for sure.”

Briefly closing her eyes Sarah reminded herself of the promise God had given her, He would allow them to be parents, in HIS time. God could not be rushed.

Sarah clung to that promise and exploring adoption with Kevin had provided them with much more fun and anticipation than they had thought possible. Yet so far they had not been able to find “their” child. There were so many children out there needing parents but both of them knew they were meant for specific children and so far, God had not given them the green light. Now the Christmas holidays were fast approaching.

With this holiday approaching Sarah found it to be particularly difficult to sing the hymns and Christmas songs about a baby Jesus and His mother Mary. The longing for a child seemed to triple in her heart and she prayed constantly. Reminding herself God always kept His promises she forged ahead.

She prayed as she shopped, as she decorated, as she wrapped gifts, as she cooked meals, laid awake at night, woke each morning and even as she showered. “Please Lord; please help me keep the faith.”

Kevin too was praying. He knew, though Sarah tried hard to hide it, how hard the holiday was for her. It was hard for him too.

The phone ringing early two weeks before Christmas caught Sarah in the midst of baking cookies for the widows Christmas baskets at church. It was one of the not-for-profit adoption groups they had applied with and had been approved as foster parents with.

They’d taken in four children over the last six months for brief periods before the children had been moved to other homes before too much bonding could take place as they would not be children up for adoption later.

If surprised at the number of adoption agencies, for-profit and not-for-profit ones they were stunned at the number of children in the United States who were waiting to be adopted. Sarah and Kevin’s hearts wept for many of the children they read about on websites.

The caseworker asked Sarah to look at a particular group of siblings who had recently became listed with the state as adoptable children. The picture that came up was of a group of six siblings. The caseworker had told her their parents had died in a house fire. A fire caused from their manufacturing crack cocaine in their homes’ basement. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14 and as Sarah studied their photograph she saw the weariness in their eyes.

The oldest, a girl who was dressed much like a boy, had a defiant look on her face that chilled Sarah to the bone and made her wonder what that 14-year-old was feeling. As much as this sibling group called to her Sarah was sure taking on six children at one time with such an age range and in a house that didn’t have room was not God’s will.

There was no point in getting the children’s hopes up knowing the local Department of Children’s Services would not approve them for six children. Still she and Kevin went to meet the siblings and Sarah felt it hard to leave them in the agency’s visiting room. The six had been split into four different homes and clearly the hour they had together was precious to them.

Reality couldn’t be denied. Kevin and she lived in a modest three bedroom house with one bathroom, it would not work for eight people. No way. Sarah tried to forget the sibling group and a new fear began to nibble at her heart.

Christmas was a week away and Kevin asked Sarah to sit with him by their tree one night after dinner. He’d turned the tree lights on and lit the candles she’d placed around the room, turning off the overhead lights. They sat on their sofa enjoying the quiet of the moment. Kevin spoke first.

“I’ve really been praying a lot more about God leading us to the right child in the right way to adopt Sarah and I know you have too.”

She sighed, “Yes, but mostly I’ve been praying He’d help me keep my faith in Him and the promise He made me.” She paused then continued, “And I have to admit there is one issue I can’t get beyond Kevin.”

“What?” He was surprised.

“What if I can’t love another woman’s child Kevin? No matter which child God brings into our lives?” Sarah confessed her fear.

“Sarah honey, you have a mother’s heart already. Of course you can love another person’s child! Where did this come from all of a sudden?”

“I was looking at that website with that sibling group of six on it and remembering what their caseworker said about how their parents died. Kevin, their parents were dopers. They used drugs and they made drugs to sell. They endangered the lives of their children by starting that fire that killed them. Why do you think the oldest has that hard look on her face? What do you think those kids have seen? Experienced? It won’t be easy to love kids like that.” The look on Sarah’s face was one of panic. “Kids like those six are going to need a lot of emotional support, unconditional love, a firm set of ground rules and who knows what else?

Kevin nodded slowly and interjected, “We haven’t even discussed adopting that sibling group seriously Sarah. And they can’t help who their parents were or what their parents did, kids like them and others need forever families in more ways than we can begin to name.”

“Yes, I know,” Sarah said, tears rolling down her cheeks, “but Kevin there won’t be a bit of either of us in a child we adopt. Not a bit of our blood or a bit of our flesh. Biologically no child we adopt will ever be ours.”

“You’re right but we know a bunch of people who have been adopted and it makes no difference to their Father.” Kevin smiled.

“Yes, but I’m not God…I’m not sure I can do this Kevin but I don’t see any other way we can become parents.”

“Let’s pray now Sarah, together. God is going to open this door. I just know it.” Kevin said, reaching for her hand.

Across town another group of people were praying too. They were praying about how to help Kevin and Sarah in a practical way.

To be continued…

Another Woman’s Child – Part 2

(From AWC-Part 1) “…He knew she was praying. He just didn’t know how her prayers were about to change their lives.”

Sarai was unable to bare children for Abram. As Sarah read her story in Genesis she knew how Sarai must have felt. The intense longing to give birth to a child, a bit of their husband, a bit of themselves, a bit of their families; all blended together into a whole new human being. A little person who would grow and develop their own personality, their own unique self.

Sarah was glad she didn’t feel the pressure Sarai must have felt. No one thought she had to have a baby but she longed for one. Perhaps, like Sarai she should consider her and Kevin using a surrogate mother.

Reading the story of Sarai, Abram and Hager Sarah felt a deep awareness that this was not the avenue for them to become parents. “How then Lord? How? Is it not Your will for us to be parents?”

“Trust me my Daughter. You will be a mother. In my time. Trust me, it will be in my time.”

Not like Sarah and Abraham, Rebekah and Isaac, Rachel and Jacob, Hannah and Elkanah, or Elizabeth and Zechariah. Sarah knew in her heart God was telling her there was a way for her and Kevin to have a family but it would not be by opening her womb. She placed her hand on her flat stomach and it felt so empty, her heart felt hollow and she wasn’t sure she could bear the emptiness.

With a clarity that hurt so badly it felt as if actual knives were cutting up her insides Sarah remembered the miscarriages, three in all and she wept again for those precious babies she and Kevin would never know here on this side of eternity.

“Trust me my Daughter. You will be a mother. In my time. Trust me, it will be in my time.”

As she wept she felt God’s arms around her and she heard His voice assuring her He would make a way for her to be a mother, for Kevin to be a parent. He would do so, not by means of medical technology but by a way that would bring Him glory and honor. A way that would meet not just Sarah and Kevin’s needs but the needs of the children as well.

By the time Kevin had showered and dressed Sarah was downstairs cooking their breakfast. When Kevin reached for her hand to say grace Sarah held on just a little longer. Looking up she smiled as their eyes met.

It wasn’t just a smile she plastered on her face to help him feel better but a smile from her heart, lighting up her face, shining from her eyes. That and the words she said next actually caused his breath to catch.

“Kevin, God has promised me we will be parents. He didn’t tell me how or when just that He was going to make a way.” Sarah released his hand and her smile broke into giggles at the look on Kevin’s face, “Ah sweetheart, I’ve not gone around the bend, He is just asking us to have faith in Him.”

Kevin nodded and felt his own spirit relax within him. He’d have to make this as serious a cause for prayer as Sarah, Kevin knew that, but he also knew God had nudged his heart yesterday when they had left the doctor’s office with Dr. Moran’s news weighing on them like the world’s troubles. However it came to be, they wouldn’t be seeking a solution in a doctor’s office this they both knew for sure.

To be continued…

Another Woman’s Child-Part 1

There are lots of questions couples have about adoption. One of which is can they love someone else’s biological child as much as they would their own biological child. The desperate search for a way to have a baby can be heart breaking. Remember with me the journey Kevin and Sarah have in their quest for a child to call their own.

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The tears in his wife’s eyes, rolling down her face and falling unheeded onto her blazer made Kevin twisted him with guilt. He gripped her hand more tightly, fumbling with the key fob, silent in his fear. Internally he thought only how this was his fault.

“Kevin I just really feel God leading us to trust Him to provide and not to go through infertility treatments again of any kind.” Sarah had said.

“Honey trusting God to provide food, a job, or clothes is one thing, but last time I checked He didn’t walk around handing out babies.”

“Try telling Abraham and Sarah or Jacob and Rachel that Kevin.”

“That was Old Testament times. These are modern times,” he countered back picking up his mug-to-go and heading out the front door, “God uses modern science and medicine to work His miracles now.” He paused. “Just one more time? For me?…

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The Vine and the Branches

Artwork original to author/artist, all rights reserved.</
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As a college student I attended a conference at the Blue Ridge Conference Center where a media presentation was given on the passage in the Gospel of John chapter 15 verses 1-17.  Whoever put this presentation together used the most up-to-date technology and techniques available, which by today’s standard would seem amaterurish but then it was awesome.  It was powerful and the story has remained a memory I’ve held on to for over 20 years.  I’m honestly not sure of the legal issues behind my replay of it for you, but I want to share the message.

The presentation of this passage on the vine and the branches is given from the perspective of The Vine.  The Vine was content in the life it had in the vineyard with the Gardener and flourished under his attention.  It bore fruit especially appealing to repay the Gardener for the Gardener’s work and time spent with him.  The Gardener talked to the vine as he tended to it daily, making sure it could grow uninhibited and flourish with life. 

The Vine trembled in fear when the pruning time of the season arrived and the Gardener’s shears snipped away dying parts of the vine, vines that threatened to overtake the other parts of the main vine so it could not survive, the parts of The Vine, that if allowed to remain, would reduce the vines ability to produce a good harvest in the next growing season.  It was a painful process for The Vine but the care and love given to The Vine by the Gardener made the ordeal bearable and The Vine came to understand it in time even though initially it was hurt, wounded and scared it made the decision to trust the Gardener for the Gardener had always acted with love toward The Vine.

The Gardener had one rule for The Vine that The Vine itself had to adhere to and that was that it was never to allow birds to make a nest in its branches.  The Gardener told the Vine to allow the bird to make its nest in its self would mean death.   However when spring came and the birds would arrive tweeting and singing so cheerfully, so friendly The Vine found itself questioning why the Gardener would forbid it from allowing the bird to make its home within its branches.   All the branches talked amongst themselves and decided that though The Gardener was so attentive, so caring, so knowledgeable but that surely, in this one thing, the Gardener was wrong.  How could it hurt to have such an attractive, cheerful presence within it?  Surely it would not mean death!

Now the bird knew why the Gardener didn’t want her to make her home in the branches of the grape vine but she didn’t tell The Vine how she would cause it to die.  Vainly she didn’t care.  Making her home there would be to her advantage.  She would have easy access to the grapes, she would be well hidden from predators when her nest was built within The Vines protective branches so she seduced The Vine with all of her charm and sweetness.  The Vine relented and all the branches acted together to keep the Gardener from finding out that it had disobeyed him.

Before long though, as the nest held new life in it, The Vine’s secret became visible.  In its actions to keep the birds nest and the birds a secret it had not paid attention to how it was growing or not growing.  The Vine failed to notice the leaves on its branches dying, failed to feel death itself slowly seeping into its many vines to the branch.  But the Gardener noticed.

The Gardener waited a bit, hoping the Vine would notice itself dying and expel the bird but the Vine did not.  So weeping the Gardener came with pruning shears and a small saw in hand and after evicting the birds, removed the nest and began cutting away all The Vines.  It was far more painful than the pruning the Gardener had done before.  Far more evasive and the results were far from pretty.  When the Gardener was finished all that remained of The Vine was the original trunk.  The Vine was sure it was dead.

The Gardener explained as he cut away the diseased vines that the bird carried a disease deadly to grapevines and that was the reason he had told The Vine not to allow birds to take up residence in it.  This one simple task the Gardener had given to The Vine and The Vine could not follow it.  The Gardener went away and left alone now the sad looking remains of The Vine shivered in the night air.  The Vine was lonely.  And The Vine was still sick.  Even cutting away all of its other branches hadn’t cured The Vine of the disease given to it by the bird.  The Vine was still dying and The Vine missed the Gardener very much.

The Vine missed the tender care the Gardener had given it, missed the sound of the Gardener’s voice.  As the days passed The Vine would sometimes hear the sound of the Gardener tending other vines and would see the Gardener look at The Vine tearfully.  But the Gardener didn’t come to comfort The Vine.

Time passed and one morning The Vine was wondering how long before it just completely died, of what use was it now?  Then it heard the Gardener and the Gardener was talking to The Vine.  In stunned surprised and horror The Vine realized that the Gardener had a branch from the Gardener’s personal grapevine in his hand.  What was the Gardener doing?  The Vine could see there was no blemish in the vine held in the Gardener’s hand, no reason it would have been pruned away!  It was not pruning season for healthy grapevines! Why would the Gardener have cut off a perfectly healthy branch from his own personal grapevine?

Then the branch, all that remained of The Vine, felt the slice of a sharp knife in its trunk.  Feeling the pain of it The Vine was awed even in the midst of its pain for it had thought it was dead but pain meant it still had some life in it.  Then the Gardener fitted the branch vine from his personal grapevine into The Vine’s remaining trunk.  The Gardener bandaged the grafted branch to The Vines trunk and simply walked away.

The trunk of The Vine waited again.  Three sunsets and the third sunrise was approaching when the new vine on the old trunk of The Vine began to draw sap from the trunk to which it now belonged.  As the sap circulated The Vine felt new life seeping within it and as the sun broke The Vine knew it would live.  And The Vine knew the sacrifice the Gardener had made so it might live.  And The Vine wept with joy and gratitude that the Gardener had not only not given up on it but had given it new life from the vine so close to the Gardener’s heart it was as if it was the Gardener’s very heart.

Of course this story represents the story of the fall of mankind and God’s gift to us of Himself as Jesus Christ.  That gift was the Master Gardener’s own heart.  But this story has stayed with me for 20 years and I am most happy to share it now with you.  Forgive me if there are parts I’ve forgotten or remembered incorrectly, twenty plus years is a long time!

–Faye