Tree signs: You matter

Today marks week two in the tree sign series. If you missed last week’s sign (kindness is free), be sure to check it out. Feel free to read the series in any order. Now for this week’s tree sign:

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Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. —Matthew 10:29-31

Do you ever feel a little lost? Uncherished? Set adrift? Ever wonder if God has stopped hearing your prayers? Or forgotten about you? This week’s tree sign and the verses Jesus spoke in Matthew 10 remind us that we are important to God, enough so that God even knows the number of hairs on our head.

Our culture tells us something different, though. It feeds on labels of success that make us worry about our worth. The number in our bank accounts, the retweets of our latest 140-character gem on Twitter, how many blog visitors we got yesterday, our number of friends on Facebook: all of these are ways the world tells us we matter … or don’t.

I have several friends who are facing an empty nest for the first time this week. For the mothers especially, this hard transition can cause not only tears but also fears about what purpose they have now. To you empty-nest moms (and dads) out there I say, “You matter.” You are important enough for God to know every detail about you, including what wonderful things you will accomplish now that your children have wandered out into the world.

To you fabulous young people who have left home for the first time or moved to a new school or a new city, sometimes you may feel as though the world is ignoring you or considers you too insignificant to notice. You may struggle to find where you fit in your new place, but don’t let a lack of a pledge bid or a tough class schedule or a feeling of homesickness make you feel unimportant. To you I say, “You matter.” God has exciting plans for your year ahead.

Sometimes it’s not even social media, an empty nest or a quiet dorm room that can make us doubt our value. Too often, those in our workplaces and even in our own homes can make us feel invisible, useless, worthless.

Maybe you have a micromanager at work or a superstar coworker who gets all the glory. Maybe you’re a teacher heading back into a school with an unsupportive administration, parents who expect As for their children whether learning happens or not, and children who don’t want to learn. When you spend day in and day out with these challenges, you may start to believe you don’t matter. To you I say, “You matter.” I pray God’s protection over you as you live out your calling.

Or perhaps it’s your home where you struggle. An emotionally distant spouse or a surly teenager who has perfected the eye roll can break your heart and make you feel like fleeing from your own home. To you I say, “You matter.” You mean so much more to God that many sparrows, and even one sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without God noticing. You matter.

The thing I love about this tree sign is not only that it lifts me up, but it also reminds me that the person driving the car in front of me matters, too. If you matter (and you do), so do those around you.


How can you remind yourself of this? Wherever your place of greatest challenge may be, post a “You matter” sign there (print out the photograph above, or make your own). Tape it to your computer screen, or put it on your bathroom mirror or the dashboard of your car or on your desk at work. Wherever you need reminding most, put the sign: You matter. You matter to those around you, but even more, you matter to God.

Do you have a friend or family member who could use this reminder, too? Forward this post, tag them in a tweet that says #YouMatter, write a card, pick up the phone or meet for a coffee date. Do something to help this person know that, at least to you and to God, they matter.

I’d love to hear the results of your reminders, whether they’re for you or for others. In the days ahead, what are some of the ways you are remembering that you matter?

Tree signs: Kindness is free

There’s a road near me I especially like, not necessarily for its narrow lanes and twisty, windy curves but because trees surround and shade it so well. A well-shaded street seems like a rarity here, and so on especially hot days, this road offers respite from relentless sun beating down on me as I drive.

There’s also a magic quality in tree-lined roads, too, and I’ve discovered what makes this one even magical in a unique way. Someone (I picture an aging hippie) has nailed signs to a few of the trees encouraging us and reminding us all to be better people. These signs cheer me, make me think long after I’ve driven past, and—whether intentional or not—promote some great theology.

So over the next seven Wednesdays (all we have left of summer), I’ll share these signs and related Bible verses with you. First up:

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law—Galatians 5:22–23

I’m a woman who likes lists. I like to write out to-do lists, often because I’ll forget something if I don’t but also because I like the sense of accomplishment from checking items off a list.

This fruits-of-the-Holy-Spirit list, though, more often than not leaves me with a definite feeling of inadequacy. Quite the opposite from any smug sense of completion, my mind and my heart feel pierced. The list convicts and reminds me that I still have a lot of work to do in my walk with God and my shared journey with those around me.

When I look at this list, I see attributes I could freely offer:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • self-control

I can also see a cost in each fruit’s opposites: emotional, relational, physical and even monetary costs.

For example, why, oh why, do there have to be so many delicious varieties of vegan donuts at Whole Foods out here? There’s a list I could give you. The vegan donuts aren’t free, nor do they encourage healthy eating, a healthy body or the self-control to stop at just one. (Don’t even get me started about the stores that sell containers of vegan donut holes.)

I may be light-hearted about the donuts, but I’m lacking in other fruits of the Spirit that are less laughable. On particularly rough days, I may lack every free fruit on that list. I am not proud of such days. Do you have days like this?

Verse 23 ends with another reassurance of how free these fruits are. Not only do they cost us nothing, no law exists to stop us from practicing any of them. The tree sign is right: Kindness is free. Truly, really, completely free. And freeing, too.


I’m going to challenge myself to find ways to practice each of these more, to develop them as first-response habits. I’ll need God’s help—and some accountability from loved ones—to achieve this.

How about you? Will you work on cultivating these fruits? Which ones are more of a challenge to you? What steps—big or small— can you take to be freer with kindness and the other fruits?

I hope you’ll share your challenges and successes in the comments below. And I look forward to sharing another sign with you next week.