November 2015 Final Issue
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The Zoe Tree

The Village of Too Much To Do was a village like all the rest. There were things to do and people to see. Everyone was very busy and had more to do than time in the day. Each morning when the villagers began their day, they hurried over to wait in line for the Adam Tree. It was a long line. Waiting in this line was a young girl named Sutton. She waited anxiously, as she did each morning, to get to the front, to get her piece of fruit from the Adam Tree, and to speak to the Teacher about her list of things to do that day. "You can be whatever you want to be," she remembered hearing all her life, and what she wanted to be was a Circus Performer. She was well on her way to reaching that goal. The Teacher gave her a checklist, and Sutton began her day. She was off on her own and thought, Okay, I can do this today! If I put my mind to it, I know I can do it! I just have to try harder. Come on, Sutton. Today is the day! When Sutton returned to the Teacher that evening for her grade, she was so sad to find another “F” stamped on her paper. "You're just not good enough. You're going to have to try a lot harder than this if you want to accomplish your goals," said the Teacher. Walking home she thought to herself, Is this it? Is this my life? There has to be something I'm missing here? I can’t take another “F.” I used to get “A's.” Sometimes I would get “B's” or even a “C+,” but lately I'm failing every day, no matter how hard I try. I don't know how to fix this. How do I keep messing up? What’s wrong with me? At that moment a young girl who had a glow of peace walked by. She didn't seem to have a care in the world. Sutton was drawn to this girl, and before she realized it, Sutton was following her from a distance. Her curiosity was drawing her like a magnet. She gathered, from overhearing friendly conversations, that Raegan was her name. She was beautiful. Something was different about her. She had confidence. She was so loving and kind. She seemed gentle and compassionate. She walked with a purpose, and joy poured out of her. After a short while, Sutton found herself following Raegan down a small winding path into a garden, lush with blooming trees, beautifully bright green grass, and perfectly manicured beds of flowers. A variety of colors and a peaceful presence surrounded her. It was a familiar place but almost like a dream she had long forgotten. As Sutton continued to follow Raegan down the winding path through the garden, it became clear that she had been here once before. She had been consumed in all the things she had to do every day that she completely forgot this place existed. The Zoe Tree was in the middle of the garden. This tree was different from the Adam Tree. There was no Teacher standing at the base of it with a checklist and grade to pass out. Instead, Sutton saw a young man with kind eyes sitting and talking with those seated around him. She watched as Raegan walked up to the Zoe Tree, took a piece of fruit from its branches, and then leaned down, and gave the man with kind eyes a kiss on the cheek before peacefully walking away. As she stood there watching, she noticed many villagers passing through the garden. There was no pattern among them. Some were short. Some were tall. There were villagers of every ethnicity she could think of. Some were rich, while others were poor. The only thing they had in common was the peace and confidence that covered them and the love expressed between them and this man with kind eyes. The longer Sutton stood watching the man with kind eyes, the stronger her desire to go sit with him grew. It had been so long since she had sat with him. What if he didn't want her anymore? Her eyes met with his, and she suddenly felt a confidence she hadn't felt in a long time. She walked over and sat down at his feet. He was telling a story. What a great story-teller! As she listened, she felt the warmth of his acceptance, love, and kindness. Time passed by without her being aware of how late it was getting. She felt hungry and realized she needed to eat something. The man with kind eyes reached up to the branches of the Zoe Tree, picked a piece of fruit, and handed it to her without even interrupting his story and without her saying a word. This was different. She had eaten the fruit from the Adam Tree. It was sticky sweet and artificial. Even though it looked amazingly tempting and delicious, the fruit from the Adam Tree always made her feel sick. There was another big difference in this fruit. From Adam's Tree, the fruit came with a checklist of things to accomplish and a list of behaviors expected. There was a grade based on performance each day. But the fruit from the Zoe Tree was satisfying. It met her need for nourishment. Not only did it taste good, it felt good in her body, too. She felt a sense of purpose and belonging. Instead of a checklist there was a question: "What do You want me to know, Trinity?" Sutton remembered following Trinity on her first visit here so long ago. Trinity wasn't like any other person she'd known. She was more like a presence. Sometimes Trinity would appear as a column of fire, other times a rushing wind. You couldn't look directly at Trinity, but you could see and feel her all around you. Sutton felt peace and acceptance as she crawled into bed that night, not at all defeated and worthless the way she felt earlier. When she awoke the next morning, she was thankful for the best night's sleep she had ever had. She got dressed and headed out for the day. Instinctively, she headed toward the Adam Tree on the other side of town just like every morning. She felt anxious thinking about all she needed to do that day, wondering if today would be the day she got an “A,” placing her one step closer to reaching her dream. On her way, she noticed a small, winding path out of the corner of her eye. She almost missed it, but when she turned her eyes to look closer, she sensed it would lead her back to the Zoe Tree and the man with kind eyes. What should I do? She wondered. If I go to the Adam Tree, I know what to expect. I'll get my checklist and take care of all of my responsibilities for the day. I can make this dream a reality; I just know it. The checklist is all I need. I can take care of myself. She stood there for a moment considering her choices. The only problem is that my checklist hasn't been working out for me too well lately. Even when I've gotten an “A” at the end of the day, that feeling was nothing like the feeling of peace and acceptance I felt yesterday. As she looked in the direction of the small winding path, she had a fearful thought. But, I'm not sure what to expect if I go that way. What if I mess that up, too? I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to accomplish. What about my dream? This time when she looked toward the small winding path, she could see Trinity standing there as a column of fire, waiting for her to come. She reached her hand in her pocket and felt some of the Zoe Tree fruit left over from the night before. As she ate it she asked, "What do you want me to know, Trinity?" Immediately she heard a voice saying, "This choice before you is yours every day. You can either live your life by a checklist from the Adam Tree, chasing down your own dreams, independent and insecure, doing things your own way, waiting each day for a grade to tell you if you are acceptable. Or you can choose a life of dependence on me. My fruit that fills your tummy with good things: love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, ends your day with the reminder that you are fully accepted and loved whether you accomplish much or little, and whether you behave beautifully or poorly. My love for you is not based on your performance. I have set you FREE to be who I've created you to be." When she heard this, she immediately knew it was Truth. She turned away from the direction of the Adam Tree and walked toward Trinity. Learning to walk this way would take some time. She had lived so much of her life for a grade, but with each step she took, the freedom from performance, expectations, and check lists became more and more real. Even though she felt sure following Trinity to the Zoe Tree every day would lead to some unexpected adventures, something inside her knew it would all be worth it.
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About Emily Long

Emily Long
Emily Long is married to her college sweetheart and is a mother to four beautiful girls. She and her husband are passionate about fostering Kingdom living within their family and in the community at large. Southern born and raised, she now resides in Leesburg, VA.

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