Sunday, August 19, 2018


Yesterday, I ran out to the garbage can in my slippers and pj's (sorry neighbours...) and as I came back around the front of the house, a dragonfly in the leaves of the tree by our door caught my eye. I looked up into the branches of the tree that I had brought home and planted about ten years ago and I was surprised to see it towering above the roof line of the house.

That's the thing about growth. It sneaks up on you at times. When you're watching for it, inch by inch, it creeps slowly forward, almost imperceptibly. And yet, when you just go about living your daily life, walking back and forth past it every day...suddenly you're aware that it's there. The tree reminded me this week to stop watching every thought and every emotion with an analytical mind of whether I'm moving forward or standing stagnant or sliding backwards.

A friend of mine came a few weeks ago and bought some new trees for his yard. For the first few weeks, he was intent on ensuring that they thrive in their new surroundings and he would text me the funniest things including photos of the leaves and the topography of his yard and wind directions and speeds (ok, I'm stretching a little here, JB...but not by much....) He compared his new trees to bringing babies home from the hospital and then watching their every move for signs of stress or success. I had to stop him when he called me his trees' "grandmother". I gently corrected it to "Godmother" but he keeps updating me on the grandkids.

The thing is...when you're looking so intently, anything can be a sign of the demise or rise of an enterprise - slanted by your bias or fears or hopes.  This month has been a hard one. I've wanted to much to be moving forward and growing  that I forgot to step back and get some perspective.  I forgot that when trees are first transplanted, they throw all their energy into their roots. In many ways, that's been the story of this past year for me as well. Once through the shock of the uprooting, it was time to go back to the deep, unseen and unheralded work below the surface. There have been bouts of rain and heat and storms that have threatened over the past year but the truth is, the roots have begun to take hold again and I feel stronger in that. So, even if there's not a lot of growth above the roofline, I will say that I feel that I'm finding my footing again. The things that threaten that don't last as long, don't blow as hard and don't burn unchecked like they did in the first few months. 

I feel like in these next few weeks as I prepare and head to Zimbabwe and Zambia, it's important to remember one of my favourite story lines from Donald Miller. "I'm just a tree in a story about a forest" .... I hope that this is a corner I can get around as September is a tough month to stomach in so many ways. I'm committing to remembering that it's not just about me. My story isn't independent of the forest around me, nor is my growth or lack thereof.

I hope that for those of you treading through those terrible months in the aftermath of loss, you read this as hopeful. That there comes a time where you don't need to evaluate every emotion, memory and sense through the lens of loss. It's a temporary condition and when you've put the work in, you'll find your roots have taken hold and you're able to welcome the wind without fearing it's fury.

For those who walked this ahead of me and reached back to literally hold me upright until I could find that footing again, I can only say that most of the tears I cry these days are ones of a grateful and indebted heart that's been held together by your encouragements and your commiserations.