It is a wondrous thing when an idea is planted in the human heart. Some ideas, like fast growing trees, get rooted quickly and spring up rapidly. They push and drive the idea to come to life: to either find the way or create one where none existed before. These ideas, embedded in the hearts of ambitious men and women have changed and improved our world, sometimes seemingly overnight.
Other ideas are like the slow growing Sequoia with their seeds inside serotinous cones lying dormant for several years waiting for a fire to release them. The intense flames come, and then once in the ground, these seeds find themselves in a place cleared of extraneous dead foliage. Because everything is burned away, they are bathed in an abundance of light and fertile ash nutrients. Perfect growing conditions for a redwood.
The idea for my blog was of the latter kind. Something that sat in my heart waiting…
For the first few years, this blog was called Living in Cherith. It began a few years after our only son died of cancer and I felt bereft and empty and aching in a scorched landscape missing a life that I loved more than my own. It was in this environment that the idea began to germinate as it sunk even deeper into this mother’s heart. I have always loved the lessons that we can glean from nature and coupling them with our family’s ‘watch word’ grew into a seedling that finally broke through and emerged into the sun. I hope you will find some measure of inspiration and encouragement as you visit.
I have often been asked how the name Cherith came to be and why it is so important to our family. The following story tells it best.
Children have a way of pushing parents into making things happen. So it is with Cherith. Our son Sean, grew up with ideas of nobility and knights, of family crests and colors, and yearned to make those a part of his life. Our girls grew up loving Anne of Green Gables and the stories of Jane Austen and our oldest daughter Sarah, had decided that their home needed a name. We tried to tell them that we do not live in a grand house worthy of its own identity, yet the subject was never dropped.
The almost 4 acre pond in our backyard is a summer home to a few wild geese. One day, while we were all involved in yard work, Sarah again began the pleading for a name for our home. As my husband Gary, was raking the shoreline he smiled and beamed at her and announced that he had finally come up with the perfect name.
“You can be Sarah of Goose Poop Pond.”
We all laughed and hooted and showing that she was going to be a good sport about it, so did Sarah. Yet, the desire lingered. Gary and I could see the virtue in a name, especially a name of honor. We knew that knights and kings rallied under flags of old. That a crest not only named you but gave you something to remember who you were and from whence you came: A history full of ideals and standards, all in a picture on a shield.
Couldn’t we do the same? Find a name, a single word that would represent all that our family hoped to be, a name that spoke volumes when uttered and determined behavior when remembered?
It took quite awhile to find, and like most things of this nature, came when we weren’t looking. Gary and I were talking about something he had read in 1 Kings 17. Ahab, the King of Israel, was an evil man and had angered God more than all the other kings before him. The Lord sent Elijah to tell the king that there would be neither dew nor rain in the land for years. This of course angered the King and he sought the life of Elijah so the Lord sent him to hide by a brook and commanded the ravens to feed him there. Elijah went and did as he was told. He drank of the brook and the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning and bread and flesh in the evening.
Ravens are carrion birds and the thought of eating bread and flesh brought in their beaks was very unappealing to say the least. As we were contemplating the implications of such food, and the obedience and trust that Elijah showed in the Lord, the proverbial light bulb lit up in my head.
Did the brook that Elijah hid by have a name? And if it did, would it be a name that our family could embrace? The symbolism was there in every way that was important to us. We went back to the scriptures and found that the brook was named Cherith and as we called our children together, we knew it was the name we had waited for. We even had our very own brook.
The little ‘brook’ that ran down our property line was actually an artesian well. When we purchased our home, the previous owner had piped the water underground to feed the pond. One of the first things we did after moving in was to uncover the pipe, dig a stream bed, line it with rocks and let the water flow freely above ground. We had all worked very hard on that little brook. Every rock and stone was placed there by hand. What made it even better is that we did it together as a family.
But Cherith isn’t just about a brook. Elijah had done everything the Lord had asked him to do. He was, like all the prophets before him, willingly obedient to the Lord. It is human nature to think that such a one would be deserving, and in receipt of all the blessings of heaven. Yet here he was hiding in the wilderness to save his life and eating meat that was most likely from something dead on the ground. Cherith is about obedience and a willingness to trust God, to know that when you do what He asks, he will indeed take care of you. Sometimes, like being fed by ravens, it may not be in the manner that you would expect or even like, but take care of you He most surely will. And always, it will be in a way that you need most in order to grow and progress along the gospel path. We usually don’t see what we truly need, but a wise and loving Father in Heaven knows exactly what experiences to allow us to have that will enlarge our capacity for good and expand our vision of truth.
The brook that Elijah hid by eventually dried up and the Lord sent him to a widow woman for sustenance. Trusting God, she fed him from what she thought was the last of her resources. Days later, her son fell sick and died and Elijah called upon the Lord to heal her son and he revived.
It’s interesting that the first signs of cancer showed itself because of our little brook. Sean had come home to help me fix the waterfall part of the stream. We had shut off the water and he was chipping away part of the concrete that we had decided to remove, while I was rearranging rocks and shoveling mud. We worked for the better part of that day and finally finished with both of us wet and dirty. Before Sean showered, he asked me to shave those wild hairs that grow on the back of his neck. Shirtless and kneeling on the bathroom rug, I saw a rather ugly, strange mole on his back. Nothing looked right about it and I told him he should get to the doctor and have it checked.
Those first surgeries and the year of chemo that followed were hard. The almost five years of remission were a blessing. Through it all, our little brook flowed on. Then when cancer returned to Sean, nothing was ever the same. As the cancer crept throughout his body, the artesian well that was our stream began to diminish. First it would only flow in the winter and during the summer months it was dry. Then, it dried up entirely. The water that once was ours was flowing somewhere else.
We have hanging above our door a plaque with the word ‘Cherith’ that Sean made for Gary and me one Christmas. He carved every letter by hand and told us that with every shaving and stroke of the blade, he thought about what Cherith meant to him and all the lessons he had learned and the truths he had come to embrace. For him, Cherith had become all that we ever hoped it would be. I didn’t know it then, but it would be the last thing he would ever make for us.
We too, called upon the Lord to heal our son, but such was not His will.
Like the widow woman who “went and did”, we will continue to do as the Lord has asked and willingly gratefully follow where He leads. It is in giving all our heart, our trust, and even our only son, to Him, knowing that if we do love and family is ours forever.
I changed the name of the blog in March of 2018 to what it is now. Those Living in Cherith years deeply cemented all the things we were learning as we were healing and getting stronger. The blog was more for us than for anyone else and a constant reminder to keep trusting. I’m not quite sure what shifted in that early spring weekend of 2018, but as I sat discussing future goals with my husband, I suddenly found myself bringing up the subject of changing the name to be more familiar and recognizable to the general population for what it was. I remembered a conversation with a dear friend many many years ago when I told her that someday I was going to write a book and call it ‘Lessons From Nature.’ The more we talked, the more I knew that this was something I should do and the timing was right and my blog was a good place to begin. The book(s) will be an accumulation of the stories posted here.
It is my hope that as we share the lessons of nature together, we will feel inspired and strengthened to better face whatever happens in our families and neighborhoods. Because life is busy and time seems to pass oh-so-quickly, you can sign up to be notified of new posts by email so you won’t have to remember to come check what’s new. I promise not to spam your inbox and I’ll never ever sell your info.
Did you know that a redwood tree’s root system will stretch up to 100 feet away from the trunk and will intertwine with as many neighboring trees as it can? This interwoven network of roots forms a web of strength to keep the trees upright and helps them withstand high winds and raging floods. It is in reaching for those trees closest to them where they get their real strength. They survive and thrive because they are connected.
In our everyday lives, I hope we can always remember when those storms come our way, to reach for those around us and find strength in unity. I hope as we connect, we can gain strength from each other and lend that strength to others who need it. May we always have the courage to reach outside ourselves and embrace those who are reaching for us.