The Sacrificial Leaf


 by Lori Wildenberg

It would be easy to miss the small number of yellow leaves scattered among all the green leaves in the mangrove. But our captain made certain to point them out.

My daughter, Courtney, and I were on an Eco-Cruise while on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. Our boat launched from the north side of Islamorada. This Key is situated between the Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait. The Atlantic was to our south, while the gulf waters lapped the north shore.

The saline or brackish water near the shoreline is home to the mangrove forests, a type of tropical or subtropical vegetation. Mangroves, along with sea grass beds and coral reefs, create a system that keeps the coastal zones healthy while providing habitat for a variety of species.

The green mangrove forests look like shrubs on stilts. They randomly and plentifully pop out of the water. By design, they support each other.  Their tangled dense roots allow the trees to hold firm to the muddy soil during the daily rise and fall of the tides.  

A variety of birds like brown pelicans, blue herons, and great egrets nest in among the mangrove forest. Many other species of birds depend on the mangroves for their seasonal migration. The mangrove system provides shelter to a wide range of living creatures from deer to honey bees.

The forests stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, protect the land, filter nutrients and pollutants from storm water, and reduce the chances of flooding. Our boat hugged the shoreline and slid through the narrow channels created by the mangroves.  We moved effortlessly through the backcountry shallow waters and pockets of mini-islands created by mangrove trees and shrubs.

While cruising the bay, we saw lots of tropical birds, plants, and a few crabs. The intricate and strong root system was the first thing I noticed about the mangroves. However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the smallest thing we saw, the thing our Captain pointed out. “Notice the yellow leaves. They have a specific and special purpose. There is one yellow leaf on each tree. These leaves are an integral part of each mangrove tree’s salt filtration system.”

According to our guide, this leaf soaks up the salt water the plant’s roots take in. This absorption allows the tree to survive, even thrive. That one leaf makes the difference between life and death of the mangrove tree. Its sole purpose is to take on the salt and die so the rest of the tree can live.

It is appropriately called the sacrificial leaf.

God often uses nature to reflect His glory and to draw us to Himself. The Lord wants to be known and wants us to know His son. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

I have shared the story of the sacrificial leaf many times since Courtney and I took that Eco Cruise. I thank God for the sacrifice His Son made for me while he hung on a tree. Jesus sucked up all my salty sin so I could live.

Jesus, like the sacrificial leaf, sacrificed his life for me, my family, and for you. He died for me; I will live for Him.

Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: What does the sacrifice of Jesus mean to you?

Have a Mary Christmas

by Lori Wildenberg

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

The day after Thanksgiving, many of the homes in our neighborhood are already clothed in Christmas décor and lights. Our mailbox even presents us with our first Christmas card along with a bazillion catalogs.

Holiday anxiety seeps into my mind, as I notice the lack of red and green at the Wildenberg home while the browns and oranges comfortably reside in their seasonal spot. My stomach tightens and my heart skips a beat as one of my Facebook friends declares, “I’m done with my Christmas shopping!”

Me? I haven’t even made a list, let alone checked it twice.

When the calendar flips to December, this is when my home transitions to Christmas. I take some comfort in the fact I’m only one week behind my neighbors. The tree is up. The lights are on, the stockings hung. Even a little gift shopping has occurred.

Every year I give myself a holiday pep talk, “I’m going to do Christmas differently. I will look up. Stop. Inhale. Exhale. I will enjoy time with family and friends. I will remember the reason for the season. I will be more like Mary. I want to sit at Jesus’ feet rather than be consumed with worry over preparations.”

My memory is short. Martha and I are tight. Like her, I’m more of a do-er than a be-er.

I have found if I want to be more like Mary, I need to refocus my thoughts and attention daily. To reject the rush, I intentionally recall my desired priorities. When I push earthly frenzy and frantic aside and replace them with a heavenly perspective, I experience more supernatural peace and joy.

I know, living Mary’s way is easier said than done. I must commit to being OK with what I accomplish and with what I don’t. My Martha struggles with this. As Jesus says, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

Are you like me? Do you want to keep the holidays in proper perspective? These three values help me focus. Perhaps they will help you too.

 People are more important than stuff.

 People are more important than chores, cooking, and cleaning.

People are more important than my iPhone or screen time.

Here are 7 ways I can live out those values:

  • Plan times to hang out with family and friends. Commit them to the calendar. Then do it.
  • Divide up the household chores and errands. Distribute the responsibilities.
  • Create a no phone and no screen zone space and time.
  • Avoid the joy stealing competition of comparison that plays in my mind.
  • Whittle down the yeses to God’s best for me, my time, and my family.
  • Be OK with good enough. Avoid catching the perfection infection.
  • Keep some white space on the calendar so I have some margin to serve or engage.
  • Daily, I choose to be present with family and friends…and whomever else the Lord would show me.

And for this holiday season, I confidently say to Martha who camps out in my head, “Don’t leave. Just move over a bit because I really want to have a Mary Christmas.” 

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: Are you planning to do Christmas a bit differently this year?

I Confess, I am a Hoarder

 by Lori Wildenberg @LoriWildenberg

I showed no mercy. This year, as I was preparing to decorate for Christmas, I got brave enough to finally ditch the ornaments I no longer display. My collection was significantly reduced. It feels good to scale back. As my purged pile of give-aways grew, God impressed upon me that I hang onto lots of things– and not just material ones.

It’s true: I am a spiritual hoarder.  I cling to poor habits and negative characteristics. YIKES.

During this Christmas season, with God’s prompting, I have challenged myself to ditch the qualities that look more like me and less like the babe in the manger.

I have 10 goals that I know will help my spiritual hoarding tendencies.

  1. I need to freely forgive. When I’ve hurt someone, I want to be forgiven. Why would I not be willing to give it when another has wronged me? Lord, replace my unforgiving heart with a forgiving heart. I want to be quick to forgive. (Matthew 18:21)
  2. I need humility. Pride divides. It gets in the way of any relationship and family closeness. Lord, one of the six things You hate is haughty eyes. Please replace my stubbornness with humility. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
  3. My love for people needs to be unconditional. Love is a gift. It isn’t meant to be parceled out, divided, or earned. Lord, give me the supernatural capacity to love when it is hard. (Matthew 5:43-48)
  4. Generosity needs to be my first response. The All About Me syndrome –my time, my resources, my feelings, my perspective has been ruling me too long! To cure this malady, I will be a servant and try to see things from God’s point of view. Lord, remove my selfishness, give me eyes to see what you see and create a servant attitude in my heart. (Mark 9:35)
  5. Contentment should define my attitude. I need to remember all that God has given me in His goodness and generosity. Lord, take away my dissatisfaction and replace it with contentment in the abundant blessings You have given me, so a thankful and grateful heart can blossom. (Philippians 4:11)
  6. I must make people my priority. The present of presence is the most meaningful gift of all. Lord, I am easily distracted by my list of to-dos. Remind me daily that people are more important than what I think I should be accomplishing. (Mark 10:13-16)
  7. Kindness must mark my interactions. Compassion and understanding is the glue that holds families together. Lord, replace my critical spirit with kindness. Nudge me to speak life by being positive and encouraging. (Ephesians 4:29)
  8. I need to think before I react. Rather than allowing strong emotions to rule me, I want to manage difficult situations with wisdom, love, and peace. Lord, help me to respond to difficult moments in a way that honors You. Teach me to address disagreements agreeably. (Proverbs 12:16)
  9. I want my home to be one that emphasizes participation and pitching in. A place where people care so much about each other that they want to do life together. I want us to function like a family instead of roommates and boarders, fostering relationships that will last a lifetime. Lord, wipe away my spirit of independence and exchange it for a dependence on You and interdependence with my family members. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  10. Most of all, I want to become more like Jesus. I want to put myself aside and keep my eyes focused on Him. Lord, I want to reflect you in all I do. (Matthew 11:29)

Of course there’s no hope of accomplishing any of this on my own. A true change will require supernatural intervention by the One who shows us a better way. Praying for His help is the most effective weapon to fight my negative tendencies. And of course, learning more about Jesus is the way to become more like him…and less like me.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.                                                                                               Galatians 5:22-26

TWEETABLE
I Confess, I am a Hoarder – insight from @LoriWildenberg on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori WildenbergAbout the author: Lori Wildenberg is passionate about helping families build connections that last a lifetime. She’s a national speaker, parent coach, and author of 5 books, including The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections. 

How do we create an atmosphere for connection while living in the messy moments of parenting? The Messy Life of Parenting shows you small changes you can make now to build lasting family relationships, even when the going gets tough.

You can subscribe to Lori’s blog or invite her to speak at your event by heading to her website: www.loriwildenberg.com. You can also find her hanging out on IG and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What qualities do you want to ditch so you can look more like the King in the cradle?