Citrus season is one of my favorite times to live in central Florida. If people spend big bucks to ship packages of fruit, you know it’s gotta be good. Here in Highlands County, you can still find rolling hills full of citrus groves amidst the neighborhoods and shopping centers.
This time of year, you can smell the sweet perfume of the cutie blossoms from our yard (and throughout the whole town). Yes, I said “cutie” instead of “orange.” In our Oklahoma-loving house, we taught our daughters that “orange” was a bad word because it is the University of Texas’s color. BOOMER SOONER. Anyways, so yes, in our home, that fruit is referred to as a “cutie” and the color is “boo Texas.” Sorry not sorry, although I suppose I will yield for this post as to not confuse you.
There is a beautiful stretch of road not far from our home that I drive every day to and from my four-year-old’s preschool. The other day as I was enjoying the view, I noticed that nearly every tree had a mix of white blossoms and ripe fruit. Row after row went past of trees around the same shape and size.
And then, in the very front of one row, there was a small tree with several pieces of ripe fruit.
This tree was about 1/4 of the size of the other trees in the area, and yet, it had produced several large oranges. As I drove by, I found myself thinking “even small trees can bear fruit.”
I looked in my rearview and admired my two “small trees” in their car seats, giggling playfully.
Even small trees can bear fruit. Biblical Fruit.
In the Bible, “bearing fruit” is often associated with showing faith in action through good deeds and a life lived for God (Colossians 1:10).
Probably the most well-known passage about fruit is found in Galatians 5 – the fruit of the Spirit.
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)
What do you think of when you read those qualities? In some ways, it intimidates me to think that I need to possess all of them. But thankfully, God doesn’t expect me to do it all at once, or even to do them all perfectly.
In his second letter, Peter encourages Christians to grow into and add to these qualities:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
As Christians, we’re expected to grow and to bear fruit. But the wonderful thing is that we don’t have to be perfectly mature before that happens. Besides, there will always be room for growth and improvement in our lives.
Like I said earlier, even small trees can bear fruit.
The Magic of “Small Trees”
My kids are some of the sweetest, most genuine, loving, and forgiving people I know – and I’m sure you could say the same about yours!
Kids deserve so much more credit than we typically give them. They are quick to forgive, can become “best friends” with strangers, are kind-hearted, eager to please, and blissfully innocent.
Jesus himself said:
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
There are some wonderful lessons to be learned just by watching children and how they respond to others or in various situations.
As a mother, it’s my job to take care of my small trees. I care for them, nurture them, teach them, and support them as they grow. I want them to grow roots that are deep, strong, and unshakable. While they are young, I’m helping them develop a life-long foundation – something that will hopefully see them through all the good times in their lives and provide comfort and security in life’s storms.
Fruit for Small Trees
While all that is true, there are still ways for them to “bear fruit” right now. These little first-fruits will help set a tone and habit for the rest of their lives.
To help our kids bear fruit, here are 5 ideas to get started.
1. Make and send cards or pictures.
Who doesn’t love getting mail or a homemade card or piece of art? Especially from a child! My girls color nearly every day and though I love seeing what they create, I certainly don’t need all of their masterpieces.
My four-year-old has really gotten into this one. Any time she hears that someone is sick, sad, having a hard time (or even just because!) she asks if she can make and send them a card. The answer is always YES!
If your kiddos are artistic, or not but like to try, this is a simple way for them to learn to think of others and how to brighten someone else’s day.
2. Help with simple chores.
Learning to help with chores is crucial. Kids need to know that play isn’t always a priority and that work needs to be done. To us, helping with chores is a part of being a family. How can we expect them to live productive adult lives if we don’t give them the skills to do so?!
In service to others, you could reach out to someone who is recovering from an illness or maybe isn’t as spry as they once were and offer to help them out! Pulling weeds, doing some housework, or helping with a project is a great way to teach humility and foster the joy of helping others.
3. Learn to engage in conversation.
It amazes me sometimes how disconnected and unengaged kids can be. With access to the internet being more readily available than ever before, many kids are handed a phone or tablet as a babysitter and are never taught to engage in conversation. It makes me so sad when we go out to eat and see whole families sitting at a dinner table, on their individual devices, not interacting with each other in the slightest.
Have your kids practice with you, of course, but also encourage them to speak with other adults – to respond audibly, make eye contact, and ask questions!
In the future, they’ll be able to communicate with people of varying ages and backgrounds without hesitation or anxiety. To serve others, you have to be able to understand their needs.
Conversation is a skill. It must be taught!
Some days, I feel like a full-time referee. And even though it can be taxing, I want my girls to learn to share with each other and with their friends. Sharing is probably one of the harder lessons for small children to learn, but once it sinks in, it yields beautiful fruit. I love to hear my oldest volunteer to give up a toy for the youngest and to see them take turns with their treasures.
5. Use manners.
In a lot of ways, it seems like manners are a way of the past. How sad! Manners and general “rules of politeness” may vary slightly based on culture and geographical location, but you can never go wrong with a “please” or a “thank you.” Teach your kids to use these little magic words and watch others (especially of older generations) light up when they do!
Small Trees Aren’t Small Forever
While children are small, it’s vital that they receive the nurturing and instruction necessary to grow to their full potential. As our kids grow, they stop being small trees and hopefully become beautiful, fully-grown, and productive trees. I’ll save the pollination and procreation analogy for some other time, haha.
Help your kids bear fruit now by teaching (and more importantly, showing) them how to put others first, to stay humble and kind, and to communicate with people from all walks of life.
This post originally appeared at OkieSunshine.com, published with permission.