Written by Melissa Helser
Photographs by Jonathan and Melissa Helser
The name Helser means “people of the woods” and it’s no accident that Jonathan and Melissa have encountered the Father’s nature countless times in the woods of Sophia. Our property sits on 52 acres of stunning Carolina woods, and all of our buildings are tucked in the trees. This land has served as a place of inspiration for all of us for many years now, and we’ve received some of our most significant revelations while walking its trails.
This week, we wanted to share an excerpt from Cultivate Volume II: The Clarity Winter Brings. "Bark", written by Melissa Helser, is a reflection inspired by the woods we live in and an exploration of covering, protection and growth. As you read her words, may you be inspired to let the armor of truth grow strong in your heart and give in to the rooting and growing of the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the power of stillness. The beauty of the quiet, rejuvenating our souls and reminding us of the reality of our smallness and the Master’s bigness.
I am a lover of the woods, and I have tipped my hat to the mighty giants of the forest. The tall ones that tower over our fear and insecurity. The ones that root deep and reach high and wait. Wait for fullness. I have run my hands along their outer shell, their covering. The bark that protects their life. I have walked for hours and admired how each one has given into the growing. The growing that requires dying. If it refused to die, it would refuse to live. Their sheath that appears rigid and broken comes from their layer of life flowing up and down. And as it grows and expands, it gives in to the process and dies and transforms into an armor of beauty.
The giants wear their armor not to hide in fear but to protect what is really there.
They cover and clothe themselves in a hard shell of their story. “I was this big…but I rooted deep and drank Heaven, and I grew. My clothes cracked and tore but became stronger in the expansion of my confidence. My layers of life keep living as I keep digging. They grow and are full of newness and then they die and become my shield and my strength. They keep out the cold and wind and all those things that seek to eat away at my life’s works…growth. I am not afraid of my seasons. My seasons bring about my heart; my seasons keep telling my story over and over again. And if you could see my heart, you would see all the moments surrounding it that I gave in.”
Seasons sometimes clothe us with frayed, torn opinions. Ones birthed out of cynicism and stale judgments. Aren’t you tired of feeling dressed in words and thoughts that have been birthed out of death and not life, out of sorrow and not hope? When we wake up and put on a covering of truth and beauty, when we open our eyes and choose life, we choose to tell all the dead things birthing dead things to keep their rags. We will be clothed in something that is real, something that comes from life and therefore protects life and creates life. We don’t have to be a product of hopelessness. Can we find the courage to tell it that its death is not part of our story, not part of our norm? Our death to fear, insecurity, pride brings us closer to life. Closer to truth. When we give in to life, it creates am armor of truth around our souls. It protects us from the wind and the rain of doubt and the pests that seek to eat away our belonging. We will learn to give in and love our cracked, torn stories. Don’t despise your bark, the layers that have been made out of joy or hardship; even our suffering bears life, and not all armor is bad, if it is armor to protect that which matters the most—our beautiful heart.
When He showed them the scars in His hands and His side, He invited us into His cracked, scarred covering. He invited us into His pain and His victory. And He inspired us to be unashamed of the seasons that feel like they have left scars on our hearts. Those scars are the things that give us strength, give us hope. Wear your covering with confidence. Know it is unique and beautiful and shows every moment you gave in to the process of growth. Oh that we would grow deep and tall. That we would allow the armor of a life to protect our hearts and become the giants that the broken and tired world can walk up to and run their hands over our stories and feel and see our brokenness and our victory. I tip my hat to the giants of the forest—once again they have taught me a great truth. I am thankful I had the eyes to see it and the heart to hear it. May we never stop seeing the Kingdom hidden in the world around us. Those who are alive will always hear the whisper in the most unlikely places.