Saturday, April 26, 2014

A tree story. Part One.

When I was a wee Jade, my dad nailed three small, wooden boards to our big tree in the front yard. He did this so that his short legged daughter could scramble up the side of the tree up, up, up to the waiting branches. Whenever I would reach that safe spot where I could sit with my legs dangling, I would look all about me as far as my sight would reach and imagine in earnest a new adventure for myself. Hidden notes and small figurines lived in the knots and divets of the branches. It was my magic place, and I was it's queen.

It's been twenty years since I climbed it, for we moved not long after I reached the age in which little girls quit climbing trees. As a teenager, I would simply spread a blanket underneath a tree and rest against it's warmth. As a grown woman (yes, I still find myself shocked that I have reached adulthood), when I pass a tree, every fiber within me screams "Climb it! You must climb it!" Gratefully I live in a place where good, sturdy climbing trees are in abundance and my little boys beckon me with their small hands and big smiles into the eaves of their own imaginary kingdoms. And I am still the queen.

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a picture of a tree. He texted the image to me, teasing me about the picture I had just bragged about of our own "Big Tree" here in the coastal bend. Our "Big Tree" is on Goose Island near Rockport and has been there for about a thousand years. During the Civil War, the town of Lamar (Goose Island) was bombarded and destroyed by the union navy. All that remained were the ruins of a few old shellcrete homes, a Catholic chapel, and the Big Tree. The Big Tree possesses a circumference of over 35 feet, is more than 45 feet tall and has a crown spread of 90 feet. And I love it. I picture it standing alone amidst the ruin of the war, sad, worn, but still alive. Devastation all around it, and yet it lives. I imagine the tree standing firm against hurricanes and droughts and the world growing around it. And yet it continues to breathe, tall and beautiful. (This is where I discovered my business name "Journey Tree Studio" and where the name of this blog comes from. Trees tell good stories.)

A picture I snapped one sunny day at Goose Island. The Big Tree

So my friend saw my picture of my tree and laughed, then sent me a picture of the tree he knew would make me swoon. The Angel Oak on John's Island in South Carolina. 

The Angel Oak Tree is variously estimated to be at least 400 and as much as 1400-1500 years old, stands 66.5 ft tall, measures 28 ft in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. From tip to tip, it's longest branch distance is 187 ft.

The picture my friend texted me of the Angel Oak
When I saw the text, I nearly fell out of my chair. Something inside me woke up and I knew that I needed to see it. I didn't know how, but I simply had to see this tree. (insert dramatic music here). The simple fact that you can walk around this tree, touch it, sit beneath it was absolutely surprising to me. The Big Tree on Goose Island is behind a protective fence, and I would never break the rules and jump it. Ha! And the fence is so ugly too. I wish it were a quaint picket fence with ivy growing on it, or something of the sort. But no, it's an ugly chain link fence. (picture eye roll here). The fun coincidence is that months before my friend texted me, I had found a picture of The Angel Oak online when I was reading up on The Live Oak Society. I had counted it as my favorite in the trees that I had read about, but it didn't compute that it was still a living tree that was up for visitors. I showed the text to Nate and gasped something unintelligible and squeaked that I needed to go there. He snorted and smiled his usual patient smile that he reserves for me and said "Sure, Jade. We will go see that tree." And of course it's 1500 miles from my house. Of course it is.

Fast forward to about a month ago when Nate and I were realizing that the busy season of Summer would be upon us and we needed to have a no-child adventure before our lives became overrun with Zephyr craziness. We talked about things we could do and I batted my eyelashes at him and asked with all the sweetness that I could muster, "How about a trip to see the Angel Oak?" After a bit of bantering and teasing, my sweet demeanor turned to wheedling and whining and the cute husband finally gave in. (Enter happy Jade jumping up and down.) He agreed and we settled on a date knowing we were dirt broke and had no idea where we would stay or what the drive would be like. I'm so glad I married a man who was perfectly fine with driving across the country for a tree. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

There's no crying in baseball.

"There's no crying in baseball!" --Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

I grew up around baseball. My dad lived and breathed baseball as a kid. He played on through the years on adult leagues, finally retiring from the game to teach and nurture my own brother in his love for the game. Though my brother eventually gave up the game for football, we always seemed to be at the ball fields cheering someone on.

I never got it. In fact, I never got sports. I thought the "costumes" were too weird and the game too dull. It never got in my blood. I spent more time trying to flirt with the cute friends of my brother (and failing miserably) and eating lots of snow cones with my best friends. We ran around behind the bleachers, laughing and having fun. I have one memorable experience of sitting next to a cute boy, batting my eyelashes, trying to be cute myself when a crazy sea gull dropped an icky bomb on my thigh. I was mortified and we all laughed and screamed in terror.

Through the years, my interest in going to the games to cheer on family or friends began to significantly wane. I had ball player friends in high school, sure, but I rarely went to the games. I just didn't care for the game. The only baseball film I really enjoyed was A League of Their Own with my darling Tom Hanks. I love that man. And I thought the movie was fantastic. It was the only time it sparked a little interest in my gut for the game. I remember seeing the movie, then walking to my room thinking "I could play baseball just once. Maybe I'm really good at it and don't know how good I am..." Ha! Of course I wasn't factoring in the whole need for balance, agility, coordination, and strength. All of which I desperately lack.

Now, a girl of 29 with three little boys under my wings, baseball is coming back to me. My parents and brother have done their job of ingraining it in the minds of my man-cubs. Playing catch with Wesley. Teaching him and Spencer how to hold the bat. Buying them gear. Gloves and bats and tees and balls. I was anxious about it at first. Frustrated even, that people were insisting my little guys should even play. We had to jump through so many hoops to even get Wesley on a team since we aren't a part of the local school district nor do we live in the neighborhood. I also wondered if any of the boys even liked the game, or if they were just doing what they were told.

Of course they like the game. Of course they LOVE the game. Of course Nathan became choked up and sparkly eyed the first time he and Wesley played catch one warm, winter evening. Of course this is a natural part of growing. Learning how to be a team player. An encourager. Running with the wind in your hair and the smell of grass crushed under your cleats. Of course the part where you make friends would be one of the best memories for Wesley. He is so socially inspired.

"There's no crying in baseball." Right. This mama is a weepy mess. Seeing my boy grab his bat and glove and run out to the car makes me melt into a puddle of tears. I'm so pleased for him. Finding something that makes you come alive is a treasured thing. I see how baseball was that for my dad. Still is. He loves ball games. And knowing his grandson is playing makes him so proud. For Nathan, it's always been people. He loves to serve and help any way he can. It sets him on fire to be able to serve someone and provide for those in need. For me, it's always been creating things. Painting and drawing and writing. It fills me up to the top of my head with warmth and light and joy and I hunger for more. I don't know if baseball will be that for my boys. I don't know if it will be the arts or academics or maybe parenting someday. The opportunity for the abundant life is endless. And that includes baseball.

For the moment, I will simply defy the shouts of Tom Hanks and cry in baseball. Good tears, of course.

Monday, April 21, 2014

a painted tree

I've been on an adventure, you see...

But I will leave you with one picture for the moment. Of me and a painted tree.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The wildflower season

“If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be in having any spring.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

This past weekend was a busy weekend for my camera. I was able to rub so many pregnant bellies and capture some special moments amongst friends. I was able to prance through some wildflowers and make some children laugh. I was able to pull over on the side of a lonely Texas country road and stare at the setting sky for a minute. The sun waved me farewell and I jumped back in my car and flew home to my babies. It had been a long day away from my family and their smiles were what I was missing most.

Spring is really and truly my most favorite season of all the seasons. Abby has me convinced. I used to think that winter was my favorite because of the twinkle lights and the cuddles and the sparkles and Christmas. All the festivities and cheerful smiles always fill me up with joy. Celebrating the birth of my Jesus makes it all the more special and wonderful.

Then I thought my favorite season was fall for all of it's leaves and pumpkins and delicious food. Nothing beats the feeling of the first cool front that blows through the hot, thick air of South Tejas. If you can be outside when the first cool front cuts through our land of heat and sunshine, you are a fortunate soul indeed. It's an exhilarating feeling that wakes up the heat-sleepy senses and the spike in cheer is an almost tangible thing. 

Summer is a fond time for my family, though bittersweet. Living on a summer camp, Nate's days become so very long and busy, but we are able to experience summer so differently than most. We get to have never-ending pool days and amazing views of fireworks for 8 weeks out of the summer (we just sit on our porch and marvel at the beauty). We get to walk down to the camp cafeteria and dine with friends and family. We get to experience a lot of blessings in summer that normal families don't. The heat is exhausting and the mosquitos and bugs are annoying, but summer is beautiful and sweltering and satisfying. It's wonderful.

But after all those marvelous seasons, I know that Spring is my most favorite. It's a time of renewal. Of rebirth. Of celebration. The skies change. The flowers begin to grow. The trees bloom. The cows and horses have their babies and wee little bunnies peek out from the woods. 

But the wildflowers. Ohhhh the wildflowers. The sunsets. The sky. The joy of standing in the middle of a field of flowers and staring up at the wild horizon is miraculous and freeing. The happiness that comes from the fellas in my life picking flowers for me. Yes. Spring is my favorite. The wildflower season.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A letter to Cristina

Girl on fire,
I miss you.
The easter festival is coming up for our beloved church and I feel a sadness mingled with the intense joy that comes with celebrating the resurrection of our Jesus.

I met you at an Easter Festival of old. I ducked into the ladies room to hide for a minute from the crowd. I was tired and cranky and it was a hot day. You had one leg propped up on the sink and you were fixing a tie on your weird MC Hammer pants. They were so weird. I decided to ask you about them instead of just stare at you. I'd seen you around, heard of  you, but never met you officially. You grinned the most brilliant smile at me and I was instantly a fan of you. You laughed that intoxicating laugh and told me about Zumba. I still secretly to this day think those pants are so goofy, but I love them so much because of you.

I didn't know that day in the bathroom that you would become a friend to me. A friend to cherish. A friend to share life with. To have community with. I didn't know that one day I would put a protective mask on and sit in MD Anderson with you, laughing about books and movies and nerdy things, but never fearing the end of our journeys. Because our hearts were set on Jesus. You never seemed afraid. Just so concerned with everyone around you. People became braver through their friendships with you.

I sat at the celebration of your life and marveled and wept and laughed and wept more.  I leaned against our friends and saw eyes sparkling with peace and pain. Seeing you sing. Seeing you dance. All those videos and amazing pictures and people. I saw your husband stand and hug one person after another, thanking them over and over, and smiling through his tears. I see him serve the community now with his strong love for Jesus and his strong love for people. I see the people closest to you working daily to fight the good fight. Loving people. Loving Jesus. Loving People. Loving Jesus. That's what you did, my friend. You loved people. You loved Jesus.

I never knew that the picture of you sitting on that curb would be passed around like it has. I had no idea that it would cause such tears while simultaneously spilling wonder across my heart at the fact that I got to be your friend. What a blessing our God bestowed upon me and so many. You were so good at making the person you were having a conversation with feel like they were the most important person in the room. I want to be like you. I want to be generous like you.

I took a hundred pictures that day that I met you. Snow cones dripping from sticky fingers. Hay rides, painted faces, and laughing children. But I didn't get a single picture of you. I wish I had. I wish I had a picture of you in those goofy pants, smiling that brilliant smile. I did get one random picture of your adorable husband. His kindness is always so evident. His wisdom far exceeds so many. I know you would have liked this one of him. He's a doll, right?

I miss you. I am thinking of you often. Especially as we celebrate Easter. As we celebrate the resurrection. As we teach our children about Jesus and his sacrifice for us. How even in death, we are made new. And we continue to hope and celebrate life and life abundantly.

I love you, my singing, little mermaid friend. The girl on fire. You don't even know the effect you had on people. The song Benaia wrote for you was pure perfection. You're singing. You're dancing. You're living.

It is we who are in the shadowlands. We are not home yet.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back to writing.

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if  there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

I've been thinking about coming back to writing. 
I consider myself a painter. 
A photographer. 
A mother and wife and daughter and friend, but certainly not a writer. 

I fumble over words constantly and forget what I was originally focusing on. See, right there. I sat for about 45 seconds too long, trying to remember what it was that I was going to say. 

No, I'm certainly not a writer. I do enjoy recording my thoughts and daydreams and brain doodles for me to look over in later years. I enjoy journaling. I enjoy sharing my heart. I don't know why that's so. Mostly, I want to write to remember. 

I want to look back on these hay days when I have three scrambly kids smooshing my cute husband and me out and away from each other in our big king-sized bed. I want to remember the milk spills and the laughter and, yes, even the tears. 

I want to remember Wesley's first baseball game and Spencer's first time to climb his favorite tree all by himself. I want to remember Eli's first day of school and all the kisses and grins and rays of sunlight in between. 

I want to remember Nate's special smile for only me. It's a great one. One that takes me to our happy place. I do love that scruffy man. 

And I want to remember Stormy girl, our faithful dog, who is getting on in years, but still runs for that frisbee and is hopeful for little hands to drop scraps of food from the dinner table.

Life moves fast. It is here and then it is gone. I know this for certain. The previous months have been difficult for my aching spirit. We've lost people we care about to beyond the veil. They are home while we remain here in the shadowlands. But through it all I see the sun rising gloriously with new hope for the day and true joy shining through the clouds. And I see how rich we are.

So I think I will get back to writing. Because I want to remember. And I want to give thanks.