I love a good, full, strong, colorful tree.
Whether it be a light early summer green, or an August deep forest emerald, a fall-kissed yellow, orange or red.
I love watching the change of each and every tree and its leaves outside my kitchen window, year round.
You know the ones that have an intertwining bunch of branches, or those with the super large trunks you only see out in the forest preserves? The way they shoot strong, fearlessly into the sky. I love the trees out by my friend’s lake house in Wisconsin. Just watching them on a summertime visit, so deep and green and prominent in the summer sun as they silently dance, glide in the summer breeze…. It brings me peace and serenity like nothing else.
And as the season’s change those leaves morph into a multi-dimensional display of changing colors. I love that each leaf of any and all trees is completely different. And I marvel at how any leaf you focus in on becomes a completely different leaf, depending on what time of year it is.
Like people, there are no cookie-cutter trees, leaves, branches, twigs or trunks. Like people, each product of nature is unique, special and intentional.
And I stand in awe of the older trees, like the Red Woods on the West Coast that I have only seen in pictures. They are gigantic, heavily defined and have twisted bark, their wide trunks, and long, multiple branches are intentional, committed, everlasting. Some families are like those trees.
As seasons change the branches, either turn in new directions seeking the warmth of the fading sun, or those that are not strong, mature or sturdy enough to survive the seasonal elements, simply fall to the ground. They break away from the efforts to survive because it just become too difficult. They seek their own, singular path. They break away from the original, shared path that at one time was committed to. Instead, they do their own thing. They quit.
When my daughters come home from school and ask about our “family tree” because they are doing a school project, I cringe.
After I cringe, and swig a sip of my cocktail, I turn the girls right over to my husband. He knows his family lineage with such certainty. His family tree has long, strong, sturdy branches, that stay together, and leaves of the same proud, bold colors. I admire his family and their family tree. He knows exactly who is connected to who and what nationality everyone is. He can tell you what boat his father’s Italian family came over from Italy on. He knows his grandparents’ and his great-grandparents’ names. They stayed together through the whole life cycle, as they promised to God that they would. That then led him to me. That then gave me my beautiful daughters. That then gave me my life. A new tree to grow.
My family, which I have long referred to as not a family tree, but broken branches and fallen leaves, presents a cluster of uncertainty, questions that will never be answered, sadness, disappointment, disfunction, shame, guilt and regret. My weak branches are like those that have drifted to the ground on a windy day.
My leaves, however, are bright, multi-colored. They are, at times feared, avoided, yet desired. Some of my family branches are like fragile twigs, too afraid to be who God meant for them to be, while others are strong. But those left this earth far too soon.
For me, I am only trying to grow into a new, strong, proud branch with a multitude of colorful leaves to share with my daughters, who will one day add on to my small tree. Though small, my tree will be complete for them. As I promise to grow from what comes from love, truth, honesty and goodness.
I think that my girls will have an amazing and colorful family tree that will withstand the winds of change, embrace the sun in the summertime, dance with the blowing wind, while embracing each and every unique leaf, and stand strong in the winter months as the ice and snow weigh heavy upon each and every branch.
I have learned in my life that nature is more beautiful the more unique it is, the more different it appears.
So in my life, my tree with its broken branches and fallen leaves, is beautiful, strong, ever changing and everlasting.
I do hope my daughters see the perfect blend of their father and I and our very different families’ trees, strong branches, broken twigs and fallen leaves as gifts – gifts that I believe God intended for them all along.
Tell me about your family tree.
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