Seasons of the Heart

(Disclaimer: These pictures have nothing to do with this post, but this blog is also for the entertainment of grandparents who appreciate seeing the daily antics of these crazy kiddos.)

Discipling opportunities present themselves every day, everywhere, if you stay open to hearing and seeing from the Spirit's leading. You don't need a curriculum or a degree from an accredited theological seminary. I grow right alongside my kids as we see every day examples of God's work in our lives. But I never thought our hiking trail would become a tool to teach us so much.  
When we moved to our new house last summer we knew we wanted to create a way to enjoy the wooded acres on our property. We hatched a plan to clear a trail through the dense woods and in the early fall we began the tireless work, five to six days a week for months, to clear a trail through our woods. 
We moved limbs and rocks, cut through fallen trees, and hacked through the thickest thorn vines in existence, I'm sure of. 
We worked in sun, heat, rain, wind, and freezing cold. 
We used shovels, hand saws, garden rakes, and leather gloves to slowly make progress through the thick untamed dark woods. 
I worked with babies on my back, hard working kiddos at my side, and slowly the trail took shape winding a picturesque scene through the peaceful setting of wild nature. 
With blisters, sore backs, and tired bodies, we finally completed our trail months after we began and we were rewarded with the perfect retreat deep inside the forest. 
The boys loved strapping on their army satchels and "survival gear" and heading out to track deer, raccoons, possum, and coyotes. 
We loved taking walks in the snow and shadows of the woods. Our hard, endless work was totally worth it as we soaked up the peaceful hikes.  
But the time passed. Freezing temperatures, wind storms, ice storms, flu season, flash flooding, road trips, basketball season, lightening strikes, and bear sightings caused us to neglect our beloved trail. 
Finally, a day arrived where the sun was shining, every one was healthy, and we excitedly headed out to explore our woods. But we were not prepared for what we saw. 
The storms, wind, rain, and new spring growth had wreaked havoc. The kids could not have been more dismayed at the sight of our neglected path overgrown with weeds, littered with branches, and impassable with several fallen trees. 
In the silence of the woods with drooping shoulders and shock over the condition of the trail I gathered my guys close and asked them what they thought happened to our trail. 
Their consensus was that nothing should have happened to the trail. Once we had completed it, it should have stayed. After all, they worked hard at the beginning and now they should just be able enjoy it anytime they wanted. 
"But now you know," I answered back," something so wild and untamed needs constant maintenance. Much like our hearts when we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives."
They listened intently as we studied the outlines of our once cleared trail. 
"Our hearts are wild and untamed. But once we ask God to be over our hearts and lives He clears away all the weeds, broken rot, and thorns making a beautiful and clean heart. 
A new life in Christ is exciting and full of joy but time goes by and Satan knows that a few distractions can start a process of slowly growing the weeds, vines, and thorns back, choking out the truths, the peace, and the faith you had in Christ. 
The doubts, fears, and broken promises creep in to completely overtake your heart as the enemy steals, kills, and destroys." 
"But if we are constantly keeping it clear and clean and moving away any of the fallen trees and thorns Satan tries to send our hearts won't get so overgrown, right Mom?" 

"Right!" I answered, "Constant maintenance with reading God's Word, praying, spending time with Christian friends, and cherishing the work God did in our lives in the first place will help keep our hearts free of all the distractions and temptations that could easily entangle us."
Even though the work to re-clear the path wasn't looked forward to, it was easier and more rewarding to watch our path retake the peaceful, serene setting it once was while picturing the work God does in our hearts once we belong to Him. The path is back to being enjoyed and each time we're out hiking at least one the kids mentions they never want their hearts to become like the neglected trail and I pray they'll always be able to stand firm against the distractions of Satan and his desire to overgrow their walks with Christ. 


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