Last week I watched a man roam my neighborhood marking trees with fluorescent pink tape. Soon two other guys showed up, wearing helmets and wielding chainsaws. They selected and removed the lowest-hanging branches, and cut down one entire tree that bowed over a storm drain. Then the men ran all the scraps through a screaming chipper machine and swept the street free of leaves and sawdust.

Overgrown trees can be dangerous in violent winter storms. Brittle limbs tear down power lines, break windows, and damage property. Fallen leaves and twigs block drains and flood the frozen streets.

Overburdened trees cause damage and injury to themselves. The high winds of winter snap dry branches and split aged trunks. Trimming away heavy dead wood encourages the tree to expand and blossom in the spring.

Sometimes we have to remove the dead and heavy branches from our own lives. Over-cluttered spaces and schedules prevent us from reaching our full potential. Sometimes we need to reduce the burdens that hold us back and inhibit new growth.

This week I spent time clearing away the clutter that had accumulated in my office. I gave away books I will never read again. I sorted through overstuffed notebooks, tossed pages I no longer needed, and organized the rest into easily managed and findable files. I ran old receipts and documents through a screaming shredder machine. The space in my office is clearer, more open and organized, more conducive to thought, planning, and looking forward to the future.

Cutting back what we no longer need allows room for new expansion and life. When we periodically assess and eliminate the possessions or roles that that no longer encourage us, we make room for flourishing growth. When we are unencumbered by unneeded excess, we feel more ready to experience, explore, and learn something new.

What branches of your life could use pruning today? What could be eliminated to give you room to grow?

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Happy Friday!

I am very grateful to be included in a community of amazing moms and writers on this Mom's Blog Network.

Please read my article "5 Things I Learned From Being A Single Mom" appearing today.

What have you learned from your single parenting experience? What have you appreciated about your time as a single mom?

 

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The crowd pressed around the little table, everyone nudging, leaning, and reaching. The organizers of this event had wrapped dozens of donated books in plain brown paper and labeled them with short descriptions of the stories concealed inside: “Shirtless men with swords,” “Rich people problems $,” “Rare eye disease vs. power of love.” I selected “For when you have to flee the city due to the zombie apocalypse,” and escaped the mob.

We chose our books based on the scantily-worded descriptions, not knowing what we had gotten until we slipped away and peeled off the paper to reveal the history, mystery, or fantasy concealed inside. With only a few clues, we made a decision and trusted we would enjoy the story that ended up in our hands.

So many times in our lives we make choices based on a few scarcely-revealed details: “Romantic marriage proposal,” “Exciting career opportunity,” “A stranger needs our help.” We have to choose a path and trust that our decisions will lead us to a happy ending.

We cannot know how our story ends until we open the package and uncover the story beneath. Faith means facing the unknown with trust and excitement instead of fear and uncertainty about the future. It is receiving what we’re given with the belief that God always knows the outcome, and he will place the right volume into our hands.

In the car I opened my “zombie apocalypse” package and found Scott and Helen Nearing’s The Good Life, the true story of a couple who left New York during the Great Depression and moved to a farm in Vermont. The Nearings dug their gardens and built their stone house by hand. They didn’t know what to expect when they left the city, but their books tells the story of the great future they found.

And it reminds me that sometimes we come to the table expecting an apocalypse and discover the good life instead.

What surprise are you unwrapping today? How do you feel about the story that awaits you?

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Today I pray that you greet each changing season of your life with grace and hope for the future.

May you know that God is with you through warm and sunny days or dark and chilly nights.

May you always reveal your best and brightest colors.

May you feel the comfort and warmth of God’s presence and the support of people you love.

This autumn season, I pray that you move forward into a rich and rewarding time of fulfillment and joy.

What are your prayers for this fall? How do you display your colors to the world?

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Growing up in a small town, I made a weekly walk up a steep hill, through broiling summer sun or chilling autumn air, to a place that was, for me, an escape and solace from the world outside – the public library. In the peace and quiet of the old library building I could hide behind the shelves of science fiction paperbacks and read all the Ray Bradbury books I wanted. I have learned a bit about life through years of regular library visits.

Be quiet and listen. Before cell phones, libraries were peaceful oases of furtive whispers, shuffling feet, and rustling pages. I learned to recognize other regulars by their murmuring voices and stifled coughs. We discover more about other people when we are receptive and observant. When we stop talking and simply listen, we hear more of what others have to communicate.

Learning is active. Before the Internet and cable TV, I had to pull a book off a shelf, crack open the cover, and spend hours reading words from a page. I learned to critically consider what I read, draw my own conclusions, and apply new information to my own situation. True knowledge requires effort. We should not passively accept whatever we are told; but we are capable of forming our own thoughts, considering the alternatives, and making our own decisions.

Everyone is welcome. Before Facebook and social media, the library was a public living room where I could meet up with friends and help each other with our homework assignments. I learned to ask questions and explore new ideas. True community should be available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic standing, background, or belief system. To grow in understanding and compassion, we have to connect with others, build friendships, and share our resources.

Today I live in a larger city, and I drive to the library a few miles from my home. The automatic doors swing open to greet me, computer kiosks wait to check out my books, but the library remains largely unchanged. In the quiet and comfortable atmosphere, I am always ready to learn something new.

What have you learned from listening to others in your community? How do your share your resources to encourage each other?

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