The Journey of a Maple Leaf

mapleleafA crisp fall wind pushed its way through the branches, fluttering the last three pointed leaf wildly until it broke loose from its lifelong home. Up, up it soared and then back down again, diving into the picture window of the house it had stared at every day. Inside, a small girl huddled in the corner peering over the tattered ear of her teddy bear at her fighting parents.

Just as the leaf began to slide down the pane, the fall wind yanked it away to the windshield of the red car driving down the street. In the backseat, a little boy sobbed uncontrollably. “Shut up!” the woman behind the steering wheeled yelled as she impatiently flicked on the wipers.

The leaf flew to the side of the road and into a ditch, but before it could catch its breath, it was pinging between grave stones, crashing into one right after the other. Each stone bore the etched name of someone dead… someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, child. So much death. So much dreary coldness. Relieved to finally reach the other side of the graveyard, the leaf fluttered to the curb and lay silent for a moment, trying to forget the names it had slapped against.

Suddenly, it began to vibrate. What was that rumbling sound? It was getting louder and closer. Before it could find the answer, the leaf was forced into the air and pressed against the window of a passing city bus. It studied the face of the woman only inches away. Her eyes were distant and sad, and her hair hung in greasy lumps against her tear streaked cheeks. She gingerly pressed her fingertips against the glass separating her from the leaf, and as she did, it was pulled away once again by the invisible force of the autumn wind.

It pushed and pulled and tugged the leaf right into the revolving door of a tall business building. The clumping and clacking of sophisticated footsteps over and around it overwhelmed the fragile leaf. A rather large rubber sole trampled carelessly onto it and the leaf found itself stuck. Up it went, then down again, pressed firmly between the sole and the floor.

The breeze created by the man opening a heavy wooden door loosened the leaf and it fell freely to a cold marble tiled floor. The man plopped his brief case on the floor and leaned against the sink, glaring at his own reflection before him. “You really messed it up today, Max. When will you even learn?” He slammed his fist against the counter, picked up his briefcase and stomped back out the door, sending the leaf back into the swarm of feet.

“Everything is so sad and ugly,” thought the leaf to itself, as it lay face down on the shiney, hard floor. “What a useless, miserable existence!” It no longer cared if it the feet squashed or torn into its veins.

Suddnely it felt itself being curled and lifted by a chubby, little hand. “Weef, Mommy!” a high pitched voice exclaimed. “Yeah. You found a pretty one,” a woman’s voice answered. “I keep it?” the little voice asked. “For a little while,” the woman answered again. The leaf swung in short swoops up and down as the chubby little hand transported it through the revolving door and down the sidewalk.

The wind gusted, yanking the leaf from the clutch of the sweaty palm. Up and up it soared. It looked down and watched as the little hand waved. “Good bye, Happy Weef!” the squeaky voice called. “Good bye, one and only happy child,” the leaf called back.

The leaf found itself flying higher than it had ever been. Up higher than the towering buildings of the city. It looked down, saw the scurrying people, small as ants, the glint of the sun on the skyscrapers, and the orange and red powder puff tree tops lining the streets. What a breathtaking view!

It wanted to stay up there forever where there are no tears, no yelling, no death, no ugliness, but the wind force had other ideas. It plummeted the leaf straight down toward the river snaking through the city. The leaf was sure this was the end, but just as it was about to hit the water, the invisible wind caught it and cradled it.

Faster and faster it sailed, hovering just above the surface of the sun sparkled water, between the rows of orange and yellow and red. Other leaves joined it and together they soared over and through the mystical tunnel of beauty until the wind puffed, scattering them into their own journeys.

The maple leaf floated into a park and onto the back of a running dog. It found itself being jostled up and down as the furry beast playfully chased three giggling kids. This was fun! The leaf hung on as tight at it could and felt a giggle burst out from deep inside itself.

But the three pointed leaf could not hold on tight enough and it was soon zipping through the air, doing loop the loops and nose dives. “It feels good and happy to dance,” the leaf thought as it soared right between a man and woman holding hands and straight into the hair of a mother. The leaf inhaled deeply, letting the fragrance of her shampoo and perfume engulf it. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

“Higher, Mommy!” The swing pushed the wind and again the leaf fluttered and swirled, this time landing inside a stroller right on top of a sleeping baby. The leaf lay as still as it could, feeling the gentle rise and fall of this tiny chest. It leaned in close and listened to the rapid heartbeat of this precious life.

Up it soared one more time, high into the vast blueness. The leaf looked down at the happy humans, young and old, loving and living in harmony together. It looked down at the sunlight glitter playing in the river and the colorful tree branches dancing in the autumn wind. It listened to the children’s voices and giggles. It smelled the scent of earth and leaves and coffee and life. Each sensation mixing with the other until it all melded into something so overwhelmingly beautiful that the leaf thought it just might burst.

The leaf’s journey had come to an end, and the invisible autumn wind gently floated it to a pile of other leaves at the base of a tall tree. “What did you see up there?” a small oak leaf asked.

“I saw that life is full of sadness and anger and dark death. It feels empty and cold,” the maple leaf answered, “But if you soar up high enough and see the bigger picture, the scene will engulf you with such beauty that when you have fluttered back down into reality, that’s all you’ll see.”

The three pointed leaf smiled and whispered, “I saw beauty.”

 

Photo Credit

It Just Hurts

17435_269460072804_1280095_nJust to warn you, this post is very much human, down to the core. You won’t find anything divinely profound here. Just raw rawness.

If you follow me on Facebook, there’s a pretty big chance you know the main idea of what my life is like right now. It’s not very pretty. In fact, it’s pretty darn messed up. A big ol’ M-E-S-S.

I’d like to say I saw it coming, but I did not. My husband has always treated me in the most loving way. A couple months ago, he began to act depressed and said a lot of confusing things about questioning our marriage, wanting to love me but doesn’t, and messing up so bad it can’t be fixed. I was scared and confused. Within a couple weeks, he told me that he has been spending the last seven years trying to escape our marriage through multiple affairs. He chose to leave me and be with someone else.

So reality is pretty much non-existent right now. I thought we were a happy couple and that, whatever came our way – even infidelity – we’d be ok, because we truly loved each other. Well, apparently, that was not reality. And when your whole life and a very large portion of your identity is wrapped up in that belief, you’re completely floored and thrown off kilter when that reality rug is pulled out from under you.

Some days are very, very bad. Some days are very, very good. Most days are somewhere in between. There’s such a myriad of emotions and desires. I can’t even make sense of it all. I’m disgusted and heartbroken and angry. Yet, I would give anything right now to be held in his arms and hear him whisper, “I like us”. I want him to listen to me cry and then help me fix the mess.

But instead I’m here… alone… trying to figure out a new life. Trying to figure out why the van is making weird noises, why the microwave isn’t working right, how to finish all the house projects, how much is owed on each bill and when it’s due… plus just how to continue the everyday things I’ve always done. Even just the basic things like eat and sleep.

And I’m left with four kids who are confused and angry. (He does spend time with them each week, so he’s not completely out of their lives.) How does one help their kids digest this when all they’ve known is mom and dad being happily in love with each other?

A couple years ago, we had a conversation about divorce with the kids. One of them asked, “Will you ever get unmarried?” Aaron and I both assured them that we made a promise to each other, and we will be together forever. What the heck???? How do you help your kids adjust to a new reality when you promised them something else?

I know it’s not possible, but I really just want to go back in time when I believed he loved me and always would. I want to go back to being his proud wife. I want to go back to him leaving notes for me most mornings. I want to go back to curling up behind him in bed. I want to go back to him whispering, “I like us”. I just want to go back to him. I miss him. A lot. Death hurts, even when he’s still physicaly alive.

God Became Vulnerable by Love

godcries1

Two days had passed, two long days, since Lazarus’s servant stumbled to Jesus’ feet and panted, “Laz…a…rus… is very… sick… Rabi. P…please come… so that you might… heal him…. We fear… he won’t make… it much longer.”

I searched Jesus’ face, wondering what he would do. Lazarus and his sisters were like family to him. He loved them differently than he loved us disciples. It was more than a comradery. He loved them with a tenderness, much like an older brother toward his baby sister, only with much more intensity. I studied his face, but it remained calm and confident.

“Go home,” he instructed the servant. “His sickness does not lead to death, but to the glory of God.”

And that was it. The servant ran back home believing Lazarus was going to be just fine, and we went back to… well, what we always do… walk around talking to people, camping out under the stars, controlling the crowds as Jesus told stories.

But the last two days have been different. Every word he’s spoken has been tinted with a hint of sadness. When the crowds are gone, he’s quiet. I asked Peter this morning if he had noticed something was off.

“Ah, John,” he quipped, “It’s Jesus. He’s always a bit… well, different.”

When Peter brushed me off, I asked my brother James. I only got a shrug out of him and a quick, “hadn’t noticed.”

Maybe it’s because Jesus and I have a closeness that the others don’t share, or maybe it’s because I’m simply more emotionally sensitive. I don’t know, but apparently I’m the only one who had noticed anything different. That is, until Jesus suddenly announced, “Let’s go to Judea again.”

You would have thought Jesus was suggesting suicide. Everyone immediately began to protest. You could hardly hear one above the other. Finally. Peter boomed above the others. “Are you crazy?! The Jews are wanting to stone you to death, and you want to just waltz into the middle of them?”

Jesus held up his hand and calmly asked, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

None of us were sure what in the world Jesus was talking about. Peter looked at me and raised one eyebrow as if to say, “I told you he was different.” I sighed and stayed close to Jesus. Something wasn’t right, and I wanted to figure it out.

When Jesus saw that we were confused, he said, “Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go to wake him up.” He said “asleep”, but his face said so much more.

I put my hand on his arm and probed him further. “Lord, if he’s sleeping, that’s a good thing. He will recover quickly.”

He sighed, and simply stated, “Lazarus has died.” Several gasps circulated through the lot of us as he continued, “I’m glad, for your sake, that I wasn’t there, so that you may believe. But, come on. Let’s go.”

Thomas began to gather up his few belongings then. “Let’s go, boys! We shall die with him.”

And so here we are… nearing Bethany. And apparently we’re not the only ones. “Hey!” I called to a Jewish man passing me. “What’s going on? Why are so many Jews coming into Bethany?”

“Haven’t you heard? Lazarus died. They buried him four days ago. We’re going to comfort his sisters.”

Is it my imagination or did Jesus just wince at those words?

“Jesus! Jesus!” Martha ran toward us. She stopped a couple feet in front of Jesus, breathing heavily from her jog. “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” she accused. Jesus took her hand and looked compassionately into her eyes, and her tone softened. “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, He will give you.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus answered.

Martha sighed in frustration. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus took her other hand into his and explained, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

Martha nodded slowly. “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus gave her a soft, sad smile. “Now, go get Mary. I wish to speak to her.”

We sat down beside the road and waited, and within a few minutes, we could see Mary walking toward the large boulder where Jesus sat. She practically stumbled to his feet, sobbing, “Jesus! Oh, Jesus! If you had been here…. If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Her tears fell like rain as her body shook with sobs.

ifyouhadbeenhere

Jesus placed his hand on her head and swallowed hard. The mourners who had been with the sisters were beginning to gather around as well, weeping for their lost friend and for the loss of Mary and Martha. Jesus cleared his throat and blinked hard. “Where have you laid him?” he managed to ask before he too began to weep.

He pulled Mary’s head into his lap and leaned his forehead onto her head. His body shook forcefully. I have never seen a grown man cry so hard. I couldn’t keep it in any longer. I stood beside him, wrapped my arm around his shoulder, and cried.

The other disciples shifted awkwardly as the crowd began to whisper amongst themselves. “Look how much he loved Lazarus!” But some in the crowd accused him. “He opened the eyes of the blind! Couldn’t he have kept this man from dying?!”

Jesus lifted his head when he heard these words. With tears still streaming down his face, he gently lifted Mary to her feet, and stood himself up. Taking her hand, he led the crowd to Lazarus’s tomb.

“Take away the stone.”

Martha turned her head quickly toward Jesus in disbelief. “Lord, he’s been in there for four days. By this time, he’s really going to stink.”

“Oh Martha,” he answered. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Several of the other disciples lined up next to the stone, but I stayed by Jesus’ side. He was hurting, and I wasn’t about to leave him when he needed me most. They pushed against the stone and it slowly began to roll from the opening of the cave.

Jesus looked up toward heaven and confidently said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Then turning his face toward the tomb, he boomed, “Lazarus, come out!”

I nearly fell over backwards. Emerging from the tomb was Lazarus himself, still bound in burial cloths. Jesus nudged me. “Unbind him, and let him go.”

I hesitated, still trying to wrap my mind around what just happened. Jesus nudged me again, and I stepped forward. A huge grin spread across my face, and I ran to Lazarus. One by one, I unwound the cloths as his sisters and friends began to crowd around him.

After removing the last strip of cloth, I squeezed my way out of the crowd and found my way to Jesus’ side. “God feels. God cries. God understands. God is love.” I whisper these words, half to Jesus, half to myself. He smiles.

“God is love.” These words will stick with me for life. There is nothing so strong on earth as love. Nothing so exuberating… so edifying… so beautiful… and yet so painful as love. God came down from His throne to this humble earth. He allowed Himself to love… to feel it’s beauty and it’s pain. Why? So that we can believe. I will never forget this day… the day that God Himself sobbed uncontrollably because He loved.

 

What Hurts the Most

PeterJenAs we entered the sanctuary of the church for Peter’s funeral, I scanned the faces of the crowd. I saw a few familiar friends, but a lot of them I did not know, and it struck me just how many people’s lives my brother touched.

We will all miss him. We will all have to comes to terms with the fact that he is not here. And that will mean different things for all of us. For some, it’s just a passing thought every now and then. For others, it’s a daily remembrance that will fade as time goes on. But for those closest to him, it’s a complete change in life.

Today, on my good friend Ginger’s blog, I share about what hurts the most for me…

“Alexa is fine, but… Peter didn’t make it.” My heart stopped, but my brain searched for a way to make sense of it. Silence wasn’t an option. Words spewed from my mouth, too fast to catch them. “How’s Alexa?” Immediately, I gave myself a mental smack on the head. Duh. He already said she was fine. Maybe, just maybe, I was hoping he’d say they were both ok. I don’t know.

He repeated that she was still in the hospital, but she was fine. All I could say was “ok”. And then it was over. The hardest phone call ever….

The words still echo through my head everyday like the taunting rhythm of an oncoming train… “Peter didn’t make it.”

I’m not sure when that train will overtake me and flatten me to the ground. One of these days, it’s going to be real. I’m going to realize that his funeral was not just a family gathering that he wasn’t able to make it to. One of these days I will notice that he never shows up for family events.

But for now, this is what I see…. [Read more]

If I had known…

Imissyou1It’s been two weeks and two days since I lost my brother, but the words still echo through my head everyday like the taunting rhythm of an oncoming train… “Peter didn’t make it. He’s dead.”

He’s gone. Forever. He’s not coming back. He won’t be at Dad’s next summer to set off fireworks. He won’t hop on FB to post crazy political pictures and sarcastic comments. He’s gone.

Oh Peter, if I had known…

I would have called you.

I would have texted you.

I would have told you that I love you.

I would have walked the 1/4 mile down the drive to your camper last summer and sat beside you, drinking a Mike’s, laughing, treasuring each minute, instead of waiting for you to come up to the house.

I would have told you how much I respected the way you were your own person, never letting anyone else control you.

I would have told you how happy I was that you chose such a wonderful woman for your wife.

I would have told you just what a great daddy you were to your little girl.

I would have listened to you ramble on about politics and electronics.

If I had known….

I’d give anything to have one more day with you. To have that chance to tell you how much I love you and how proud I am of you… a chance to say, “good-bye”.