The Family Tree

Funny things  happen when you have a family tree painted on your living room wall.

This “family tree” idea came to me originally by way of Pinterest (you DO know about Pinterest, don’t you??)  You can check it out on my “boards” 🙂

Anyway … the basic process is to paint a large sprawling tree on  a prominent  section of  a wall in your home and hang family pictures along the trunk and branches of the tree.   I “pinned” this ( language you have to know to be on Pinterest, you know !!)  while my husband was traveling back and forth from our home in Connecticut to our desperately-in-need-of-remodeling  home in Alabama. It had been on my “board” for quite some time and I had visions of how  awesome this would look on the restored walls of our little cottage (my affectionate name for our 800 square foot, $8,900  home).

Since I have very creative, artistic, talented kids  and one of those very creative, artistic, talented kids was coming down  with us to help us move into our new home  — I enlisted this  daughter of mine to draw and paint the long-awaited …  Family Tree.

Choosing this particular corner of the living room wasn’t in my initial “vision” —

Does anything of  life-changing impact ever  look exactly like we envisioned it in the beginning!

This corner has a story — as does every corner and wall and ceiling and floor of our home.   You see, this particular corner had “bone rot”, I’ll call it … a leak in the roof above this  spot   allowed water to enter the house causing rotting to the “bones” in that corner.

Left corner is the point of reference
Roger opening up the wall for the needed “bone surgery”

As I look at these pictures I can’t even believe I’m sitting in this same spot, enjoying the beauty of it all …after all the mess !  Who could have even had the vision to see what could become of this little corner of our world.

Our daughter would start the tree — but not without doing some research … looking at other pictures and dreaming up the design in her head before her hands brushed paint on the walls.  After all, don’t  family trees need to be a certain kind of tree?  Wouldn’t you want a tree that represented strength and beauty  …dignity ? Wouldn’t the strong, sturdy variety like the iconic southern live oaks  whose branches are said to withstand strong storms of ice and wind  be a family tree I’d be proud of ?

There were penciled in lines, discussion of  expectations ,  times when I thought the tree was looking a little scary instead of warm and inviting , times where the vision was still a little blurry.  This daughter of mine knows me well –knows my heart well — and saw the process through beautifully — creating quite a work of art.

Painting by our daughter, Rachel Martin

The paint goes on …the hand steadily adding branches, almost as if they were reaching toward the light.  It looks awesome !  …ready to hold all our family pictures … pictures that make everyone in your family look perfect , of course !

The process begins of sorting now — sorting through favorite pictures that would give fair representation to both the family I was born into (the Waters / Brownlee  family) , the family my husband was born into (the Martin / Rice family) and the family God had produced in us …a  mix of so many before us.

I thought much about the placement of pictures and the people to include and the project became very exciting until I begin thinking more and more about the individuals IN the pictures.  There was a picture of my Mom, praying over all of us …a picture of other grandparents who prayed for years for “those yet to be born” , praying that they would all love God with all their hearts and tell others the story of His grace …pictures of our sisters and brothers who’ve made such an impact in our lives … pictures of our grandchildren — a grace beyond our wildest imagination …and that’s when I came unglued …I sat down on the couch thinking of all those faces I loved so much — some of whom I couldn’t be with anymore on this earth and some of whom I wasn’t able to live close enough to see every day — and I sat there and sobbed for a very long time !  I began calling it my “weeping willow” tree and my husband  teasingly said that maybe I shouldn’t sit with the tree in view.

It’s been a couple of days now and my weeping stopped but I can’t help but think about how God created and designed each of our “family trees”.  I think of the knot holes , the broken branches, the branches that never seem to bear much fruit, or the tree that turned out to be a weaker dogwood tree instead of that strong, sturdy oak … family trees that suffered divorce and who even knows where the roots are anymore …family trees   with  branches that look very different from the seed that was planted or the beginning sprouts …family trees not yet shaped or pruned whose branches have grown weaker as sustaining life is spread thin.

We all really have family trees with signs of disease and insects and rot don’t we?  We all have family trees that have been a little weathered and broken in the storms right?

But these words from Isaiah, spoken to him through the Holy Spirit,  spoke into my heart  reminding me  of the good news of God’s   planting  and  restoration   process.

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor!

Did you see that !!! … oaks of righteousness (the live oak variety !) …a planting done personally by God Himself !! …not to shame us in front of the rest of the orchard  but to display  HIS SPLENDOR !  My family ??  …a display of His splendor !!??  The vision of this may be a little blurry and maybe even a bit scary at times but the truth is that God’s plan and purposes is to use all our knot holes and broken branches and weak limbs to display His splendor — His plan all along !

He even promises as we “spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed” —

…then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame .  You will be like a well-watered garden , like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations —

and you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings!

That’s one amazing caption under our family tree if you ask me !!  I love how God always gives life  — gives hope — gives vision even when we can’t see it right now.  I know how some of our family tree’s branches have meandered off a bit or don’t exactly look like the encyclopedia pictured it but I know this … God can take any family tree and turn it into a display of His splendor  and that, my friend, is worth pinning !

The results … for now — in an ongoing process …

Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

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  1. Nina

    Nice entry, Joy. I think you need to squeeze some official writing into your busy life! Love you, Nina

    1. Joy Waters Martin

      Thanks Nina …And what would “official” look like ??? 🙂

  2. Nina

    I don’t have the answer for that. Maybe you should revive a “certain” magazine. 😉

  3. Robin

    Beautiful tree and I so enjoyed reading your entry

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