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Faith, Kate, Story

Tree of Mystery

Just before Easter I was driving the kids over to see my parents (they live about 2 minutes from me) and we were talking about all the beautiful trees that had blossomed overnight. The whole neighborhood was transformed by bursts of lavender, pink, and pure white and it looked like something out of a movie. They even blew across the road as we drove and we all oohed and aahed at the Lord’s handiwork.

“Which one is your favorite, Kate?”

She pointed out at a tall white tree that looked like it was covered with snowballs, keeping her finger pressed to the window as it faded out of sight.

“That one is my favorite, mommy.” Abby chose what looked like hydrangeas. It might not have been. I know nothing of plants with the exception of the fact that the mere sight of my face makes them wither and die. I’m pretty sure a rosebush I planted a few years ago picked up its roots and replanted itself in our neighbor’s yard. She has a belt with gardening tools and a hat that’s roughly the size of New Mexico. She also has a little pad to kneel on. I don’t blame the roses.

“How about you, Ellie? Got a favorite?”

She watched as the houses passed us and then a few seconds later I heard her say quietly, “That one, mommy. That one is my favorite. It’s the prettiest one on the whoooole street. That’s what I think.”

“Oh, I see it! Those pink leaves are such a cool color, aren’t they? I would wear one of those behind my ear for a date with daddy!”

“No, momma. Not that one. The one next to it.”

I slowed down the car because I hadn’t really seen one next to it. I asked her where she was looking.

“There. Right there.”

I made a confused face and looked at her in the rearview mirror.

“I think it’s dead mommy. It doesn’t have anything on it. But it’s the prettiest one.”

I just sat and waited, fascinated by the fact that out of everything we were looking at, that was the one she chose.

“Tell me more, hon.”

“Well…it looks dead, but I love it because everyone picks the fancy ones and that one might be keeping a secret. Maybe it’s flowers haven’t come out yet, or maybe it’s just pretending to be dead. Nobody knows what that one is going to do. So I think it’s the most beautiful.”

I sat stunned with my hand on the gearshift, unable to even put it into drive because I so felt the presence of the Lord. He uses my girls so many times when He is speaking to me and I know from experience that it’s best to just be still and soak it in.  I smiled at her and after a few minutes we headed on to see my family. It wasn’t until later that night that I settled in for some quiet time and opened the Scripture to the story of Christ’s resurrection. If I absolutely had to pick, I think John is my favorite Gospel account. I do love to compare and contrast them all because the different perspectives are amazing, but I always seem to end up in John.

While I asked the Lord to prepare my heart for Easter and speak to me through His Word (try it sometime if you haven’t…He won’t fail to show you something you need to read. But don’t do the whole “I’m going to open to anywhere and that’s what you want to tell me” thing, because you will usually end up in some kind of confusing lineage chapter. Seriously. And if you have done this, back me up here, people).

I began with the crucifixion. Slowly, deliberately, ever mindful that the Lord was stirring in me a new understanding. I have read it at least 45 million times (give or take 44 million or so) and it is so easy for it to feel rote. I know what happens next, and then this, and then this…okay, done. But as I moved into the part about His resurrection, I started thinking about what Ellie had said and I felt like part of the story took on new meaning to me.

Jesus died on a cross.

He was prepared for His burial and placed in a tomb that was blocked by a stone.

Early the next day, some of His followers went to visit the tomb and He was gone. His linens were there, but He Himself was not.

Eventually, everyone realizes it’s a miracle, but at first they think He has been stolen and they are heartbroken over the fact that someone has taken the body of their Lord.

The women see the risen Christ and they believe. Shortly after, He appears to another group and after walking through a wall, asking for a little something to eat, and letting Thomas touch His wounds, there is a consensus that He had actually done what He said He would.

So that’s the (very brief and detail-lacking) synopsis of the miracle of the resurrection.

But here’s the thing I think is interesting.

We don’t know when He actually rose from the dead.

We don’t know what happened in that dark tomb between He and His Father. We have no visual for that exact moment, other than that He had arranged his linens neatly before He left, which, I think is very polite for a man who just woke up from death.

Sometime in the dark of night, in a sealed tomb, a miracle happened. And nobody knew it at that time.

It wasn’t until the next day that they were privy to the beautiful truth.

It struck me that in a sense, we are living in that moment. We are weeping in our homes, crying out by an empty tomb, begging to see that we haven’t been duped. That He isn’t going to let us down and leave us to face the fact that it might have all been a hoax.

We walk side by side on the dusty road to Emmaus, never knowing that He walks alongside us. We are already weeping with discouragement, unaware of the footsteps of the Holy being imprinted next to ours.

You see, friends, we don’t get to be in the tomb. There is a gap of time between the miracle itself and when we get to see the evidence of it.

We walk in that gap everyday.

I think that many of His loyal followers probably thought He was dead and gone, and that they had been deceived. As far as I can tell, there weren’t groups of people huddled around His tomb crying out and awaiting His exit. They were bundled up with their children, miles away, left with only their imaginations, and during those very moments, guess what?

He rose.

The beautiful, resilient flower that we call our Christ was dead. Or so it seemed.

I am shattered by the humble recognition that somewhere in the night, there is a divine plan that I am unaware of. While I tuck my children into bed and pray for Him to have His way and live within my every thought, I will remember the tomb. I will remember the long, winding roads that I must walk to see His face. I will anticipate the moment where the bread is broken and I fall face first before Him in worship.

I will continue to choose the tree that has secrets.

I will not be enticed by the blooms that fade quickly, but rather allow myself to live in the mind of a seven year old who realizes that the most amazing thing we can look to in this life is the part that is hidden, waiting for rebirth.

I believe with all my heart that one day I will be in the presence of the One Who watches my Audrey, and I will thank Him for the moments He gave me here on this earth in the presence of a crooked, weathered tree that I could have given up on long ago.

And in that place, I will know the secrets. I will understand the mystery. I will cling to it’s truth and bow my head in reverence.

Beautiful Savior, may all the world see you in the midst of the blooming and choose to believe that Your splendor is waiting, somewhere beyond the brittle branches, and may we live lives that glorify the Man Who made light in the darkness of a tomb…

Soli Deo Gloria.

Abby, Dad, growing up, Story

The Runaway

So we reached a parenting milestone that I was really hoping we never would.

Ellie comes running down the stairs holding a picture that Abby drew and she’s crying and shaking it at us. After a few muffled minutes, we calm her down and realize that Abby had told her she was running away.  And she had drawn a picture to prove it. It was the outside of our house, complete with our whole family on one side (except Abby) and her on the other side, walking away.

We were understandably very sad in the picture. She, however, did not look fazed. She got a straight-line mouth instead of a sad one. I think I was waving. It was a pretty rough stick-figure scene.

“Abigail Grace, I need you to come to the kitchen right now so we can talk about this.”

I could hear her footsteps in the upstairs hallway as my mind flashed back to one of my poorly-planned attempts to get attention run away from home.

We had just moved to Cincinnati from Japan and I was about to start sixth grade. Let’s just say my idea of fashion wasn’t necessarily in line with my new American school, but for some reason I had an image of what I wanted to wear and I begged my parents to take me to the mall so I could buy it.

In the event that you’re wondering, the dream outfit included a shirt, skirt, tights, headband, and shoes that were all various and inharmonious shades of magenta.

Magenta. I was always a step ahead on the trends.

So anyway, we went to Sears. Actually I think it was Sears-Roebuck. I don’t know. I just know it was 1988 and it was time to rock some McKids clothing.

In the event that you are puzzled by that last sentence because you were in Benetton or the Limited checking out Outback Red, let me tell you. The real party wasn’t at Camp Beverly Hills.

It was at Sears. Right by Ronald McDonald himself.

And yes, it was a clothing line launched by McDonalds, display complete with a 7 foot plastic cut-out of the red-headed-creepy-clown man. I don’t see how people resisted. I wasn’t that strong, I can tell you that.

I settle on this stunning ensemble (not one that they had put together, and kudos to me for shaking it up) and walk over to my dad to show it to him. Apparently Ronald had marked up his prices a bit more than my dad was willing to pay, and he shook his head and kept browsing.

I was devastated.

So much so that I decided to make a bold proclamation. One that should send fear to the hearts of every parent.

I took my clothes back and said, “OK, fine dad. You know what? You don’t even have to buy anything, so just FORGET IT.” Then, I did the dramatic walk-away. Nothing. He wasn’t budging. Time to step it up a notch.

(Insert “whip-around move complete with fake trembling lip” here).

“Because you know what, dad? I’m not even going home with you. I am going to live here.”

My dad looks around me while I nod my head like I’m confident about my decision.

“When you say, here, sweetie, can you tell me exactly where you mean? Cincinnati?”

Time for the big dogs, people.

“No, dad (fling hair, narrow eyes). I am going to live at Sears.”

Take that, Mr. Stingy.

I could see the breakdown in his eyes. He tried to mask his terror with a stifled laugh but I could see through it. He knew he was about to lose me to Ronald. Man, was he going to regret this for the rest of his life.

He nodded while I considered my brilliant plan. I started thinking it might not be believable so I decided to walk away. Let him think about what he had done and come find me to tell me I could indeed purchase the ticket to popularity.

He went back to browsing without saying another word, so I huffed off and found a spot on the other side of the department. I set my clothes under my head for a pillow and took off my coat to drape it over me like a blanket.

A few minutes later he peeked over the rack.

“Angela, what are you doing, honey?”

“I’m just settling in, dad. Just settling in to my new place.”

I adjusted my body around while pretending to get comfortable. There was a little T.V. playing ads for the clothing line so I continued.  Poor guy. This was going to send him right over the edge.

“I mean look, dad. They’ve got T.V., they’ve got clothes, there are all kinds of nice people, and if I get hungry, I’ll just go on down to the food court.”

“Sweetie you don’t have any money.”

“Someone will help me. Some stranger will care about me and take care of me. You just go on home and don’t worry about me.”

I flipped over, staring at the wall while trying to hear if his feet were walking away.

He kneeled next to me.

“I don’t think this is a good choice Angela. Your mother, myself, and Jennifer are going to be very sad without you at the house. But, you’re a very smart girl and if you think this is the best thing for you, I want to try and help you. Why don’t I leave a little money here with you and I will make sure the saleslady watches over you. Whenever we can, we’ll come back and visit, okay?”

Awesome. Not only was I not getting my outfit, I was going to be living next to a plastic clown.

He actually got out his wallet and as soon as I heard it shuffling around I decided maybe I needed to reconsider my offer. My heart started pounding and I sat up and looked at him.

“I don’t want Jennifer to be sad. She really needs me, you know?”

He nodded, wallet still open.

“Well, kid, I’m going to head out and I’d love it if you came with me.”

I lifted the clothes from under my head and held them out for him to take to the register.

He took them from me and smiled. So really, all my hard work had paid off, despite my little circus scare.

“Thank you dad.”

“Oh don’t thank me, honey. Thank the saleslady. She’s going to help you find the racks to hang these all back up.”

Aaaaaand cue scene.

Abby walks into the kitchen and I hold up the picture. She’s looking at it, looking at me, and seeing how this new revelation is going to shake me.

“Ellie brought this to me, honey. She said you were going to run away and find a new house to live at. I don’t want you to do that, and neither do your sisters or your daddy.”

I paused. After all, I learned from the best.

“But you are a smart girl, and if you think this is a good decision, I will help you. Why don’t you take some time to pray about it and if you still think it’s best, mommy has some very nice friends who would let you stay with them for awhile.”

Her eyes widened.

I got down on my knees and looked her dead in the eye.

“And if you decide that this is not what you want, I would like for you to rip up this picture and throw it in the trash. And I do not want to hear about it again. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She walked out of the room, and approximately 14 seconds later, returned with a shredded drawing and a new lease on life.

“I’m going to stay, momma.”

“Well I’m glad. Now go upstairs and clean your room like I asked you to an hour ago.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I looked in the trash a few minutes later and started laughing. I could hear her chronicling her failed plan to Ellie and I couldn’t believe I was already on the other end of the conversation.

Later that night, I found her getaway bag in my closet (where she knew I would NEVER find it. Clever girl…). It contained 2 princess dresses, some fake grapes, a stuffed dog and her song-writing notebook.

I have to at least give her credit for the clothing choices.

Ronald would be proud.