My shoe is off. My foot is cold. I have a bird I like to hold.
My mind was a forest. It was an exciting forest, one that kept on giving and never stopped surprising me with clovers under rocks and little mushrooms shoving through cracks, with an enthusiasm to tell me their story. I wanted to pause my life right there in the middle of a grove of a thousand trees, all grimy in my dirty cowgirl boots, and become a tree. I wish I could’ve dug myself a hole and let my roots soak up slippery mountain water at 11,000 feet. I could be a tree just to stay in that forest forever and let the songbirds overwhelm my heart. My heart would ooze with yellow-y sap and smell like vanilla. People would walk up and smell my heart, take a deep breath, and feel okay about life. That’s the kind of tree I would be. The kind that exists to make people feel okay.
When I camped out at 11,000 feet last summer, I felt like the most insignificant creature on that mountain, and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had. We strapped all of our stuff (when I say stuff, I mean STUFF. We literally had to stuff everything vital to our existence into a foot-long bag and packed it on our horse, and up the mountain we went. Whenever I’m mad that I didn’t pack an extra shirt after spilling a teeny drip of food on mine, I remind my ketchup stain that I survived off of almost nothing for a week. I was super dirty and it was so much fun. I was the star of my own survival show in my head. Don’t be surprised to find me sleeping under a tree or rolling in mud one of these days. It’s my natural survival instinct 🙂
As I contemplated life on my sassy horse, Blizzard, (whom I love to death and I wish I could’ve galloped on her back all the way to California and never come back) I imagined all the people I know as one of the many trees I was watching. Dead and alive. The funky one with the spastic trunk was my little cousin Calissa, and if you met her you’d know why. The beautiful aspens with the whimsical leaves were Peyton and Angela and Nikki and Tanner and all my lovely, incredible sister-friends. The wise old one that I wanted so badly climb was my grandpa. There were hundreds of other trees that had a name, and the forest of unique people that have impacted me was breathtaking. They wave at me in the winds of my unpredictable life and give me shade when I burn up inside. But the beautiful thing about my forest of people was that each one stood it’s ground. It knew it was rooted and safe in the mountain soil. It knew it was the product of God’s imagination, and it wasn’t afraid to thrive because of that.
With nature and the beauty of trees on the mind, I’m going to share something beautiful with you. I read this poem recently and it makes me want to melt the words in my hand and mix them into coffee and drink them up so I can feel the warmth of their wonder. And here’s what so powerful about these words to me: they were scratched onto the walls of a mental asylum by a patient in 1917 and were found after he had been carried to his grave. I’m not sure what made him crazy, but he was headed somewhere greater than his wildest dreams.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Stretched from sky to sky.
After reading a little bit more on the good ol internet I found out that it’s been written and composed into a hymn. If this patient wrote these lovely words (that have been transformed into music) in moments of sanity, why aren’t we all completely insane? Why can’t we realize that God’s love is so big that there’s no way we could ever come close to knowing it? If the ocean were ink, and all 7 billion of us humans wrote with every wheat stalk or corn stalk or any stalk that grows in Nebraska, and wrote all over the endless sky, getting it all soaked with ocean ink, for our entire lives, we could never proclaim the love of God, ever. Never ever and ever is never ever never.
So the question is, if the love of God can drain an ocean dry, and this love is available to us every millisecond of our day, this love that can make us breathe again and feel again and hope again, why do we still seek the poison of this world? Why do we shut God out when he wants to drain the toxins in our hearts? Why do we yearn for attention from this polluted society? When you think of God’s indescribable love soothing your bruised heart, who cares if someone looks at us a certain way or wants to include us in their aspen grove of conformity? Can’t we grow where we’re planted, despite our circumstances? Can’t we bloom? Thrive?
I want to write something for my friend who is in a rough spot. He wants me to write about how you can come back and have hope after losing so much, but I want him to hear this, and I think God does too. Don’t be a tree that grows in a plastic, Made in China by machines pot. Don’t be bought by a random person at a Walmart nursery and not allow your roots to be one with the earth. Don’t allow your leaves to rot and scream for life. Be a tree that knows it’s identity. It’s roots, it’s worth. Know this. Engrave it in your tree soul. Be a flourishing tree that lets it’s seeds be blown by the Holy Spirit, wherever he decides to plant you. Whether it be in the middle of a dense Rocky Mountain forest or the middle of Kansas, in an overwhelming environment or a lonely countryside, just grow. Bloom. Thrive. Drink so deeply from your roots of the delighting water of compassion, forgiveness, and grace that you sprout a million feet into space and your roots grow to Africa.
Be that tree in our deprived forest. Be that tree in the center of plastic office plants collecting dust and spiderwebs. Be a living tree that gushes sweet sap for everyone around you. Bloom in the most ordinary, un-beautiful moments imaginable and offer your candy sap to those plastic trees that judge and compare themselves. Invite them to start fresh with a living seed. Because even if they take your sap and put it on their pancakes, at least you’ve given them something sweet to remember. You’ve given them joy for the moment, and they’ll be coming back for more. So, my dear friend(s), stop seeking attention from plastic people in this plastic society. There is one who is willing to give you more real attention than you can handle. He will plant your tree on top of the Hollywood sign, so big that it will cover the beaten letters and be a blinding rainbow of beauty for all who drive by on the car packed 101. We have to train our hearts to stop worrying about what they will think or do and how I will look or be treated by them. Because when this happens, we can’t provide them with our sweet, purpose-for-life sap. We produce artificial sap, and no one wants that.
Let yourself bleed sugar. Bleed real sap. Whatever poison has tried to kill you, bleed it out and let it be eroded by the elements. Jesus longs for you to thrive, and he believes that you can and will. He yearns to bless you with a heart that can’t stop gushing with joy-filled sap. Allow him to. Allow him to make you the most living tree out there, seeking only his attention, and you will be so overwhelmed with love that you will be bursting with sap from every single crack in your tree trunk soul. And then God will shine his light on you, and you will glisten brighter than a billion stars.
The Beautiful Forest of People
Blizzy Blizzard 🙂 and a super dirty me
oh hey derr