Monday, October 3, 2011

Secrets Whispered in the Trees

The Result of a Midnight blog idea...

trees don't photograph as well at night, but more importantly,
the neighbors are convinced I have lost my mind.

This is our tree. Our River Birch. We fell in love with it while we travelled through the icy Russian forest. I can still hear the sound of the frozen tires on that hard pavement as we were tossed through endless miles of highway surrounded by magnificent Russian Birch Trees.

They stood tall and beautiful in the landscape of winter blight and harsh Soviet block. They held life in the face of apparent desolation and gave sanctuary to the birds that still soared above us all. Somehow they came to represent for us the spirit of the incredible Russian people we encountered. This people who had withstood the armies of Hitler and stared starvation in the face to preserve their nation. This people who had persevered in the face of an oppressive government and had survived, to now begin rebuilding in the rubble. 

We reflected on the mother that we could never meet who made the choice for life... and the selfless choice of adoption. We saw our own future rising beautiful and strong out of the dust like these mighty trees.

I wanted to carefully unearth one, pack the rootball, and bring it home to rest in our soil. International customs laws prohibited the transfer of living plants without proper documentation and authorization. Although we were approved to bring home a person, we were not approved to transport a sapling tree.

And so... we did the next best thing. 

We made a trip to Lowe's and selected the closest thing we could find. It was a River Birch. The leaves looked similar and the white bark peeled back as it grew. It was perfect. It was our Sasha's tree and we planted it proudly in the front yard.

And a few short months later we sold the house and moved. I dug the tree back up carefully and transplanted it into the soil of our new home. At first the tree seemed a bit shocked by the relocation. The leaves curled under a bit and it just looked tired. I continued to water it and checked on it daily. After a few weeks it recovered and again began to thrive.

The neighbor purchased a new lawn mower. I noticed this as I was eating dinner. It was a beautiful zero turn rider mower. As our family at dinner, I watched him mow his own yard and then he suddenly began to mow ours. This was fine by me... in fact, it was wonderful. I was hoping that he would mow it from that point on.

And then I heard my fork crash against the plate as it slipped from my fingers. He lost control of the mower, and I watched as he slid out of control down the hill and into my daughter's tree.

The tires finally found purchase in the earth and the machine stopped. The tree was pressed down at a painful angle with the mower resting on top. He backed the mower off and the tree was damaged.

To this day it bears a large scar from the event. And I love this tree even more because of the pain that it endured. You see, I love that neighbor as well and I know that his own concern for that tree was as great as my own. Together we propped it up with string and stakes, we wrapped the injury, and we watched as the tree again began to thrive.

Eight years later... the tree is taller than me and wider than I can stretch my arms. Its beauty is surpassed only by the beauty of my daughter. Each morning when she wakes up and looks out her window, the first thing she sees is this healthy, tall white birch tree that shows her how beauty can triumph over hardship and unforeseen adversity.

Each day brings us its share of trouble. We all experience hits and bruises. We bleed. At times we curse. At times we are the cause of our own difficulty, and even the downfall of others. We are human. This does not excuse our shortcomings, but we understand that all this can still be part of our path that takes us to the place where we should end.

Kellie and I filled out mountains of paperwork to travel around the globe to take a child we had no knowledge of... in order to call her our own. And she is perfectly ours.

We made our way to a town in Guatemala (me reluctantly) and found that the people we encountered there had more to teach us about living than we could ever offer in return. Every direction we turn, no matter how far off the frequently travelled path... we find God staring us in the face.

Even now, as we await our call to travel to China to adopt our 3rd child, we know that God is working in our lives. In four short weeks I will be traveling with a few dear friends back to San Cristobal, Guatemala to work with two families as we come alongside them for a few short days. We know that our lives are again about to change.

I am so encouraged as I see how this plan continues to develop. I am amazed by the visible hand of God that is at work shaping the mortar that binds together the pieces of my life. We are more sure now than ever before...

...that God has a plan for where we are to be.

The Russian Birch trees bear witness as we hold Sasha tightly
on the day of the adoption. She is ours and we make our
way home in overwhelming thankfulness.

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