When I was a girl, we had an amazing Magnolia Tree in our backyard. I would climb it almost everyday, and because of its many branches, it became an adventuresome land of childhood imagination. With each branch, I would climb higher and higher. As I would pursue the top of the tree, I found myself overcome with a sense of achievement - a feeling of invincibility. I just knew I could do anything I set my heart to accomplish.
At the base of the tree, there was a set of two perfectly designed branches. They attached to the tree one on each side of me so that when I grabbed onto them with my hands, I could pull myself up as if I were a real Olympic gymnast on the Parallel Bars. I would lift myself up using all the strength of my arms and would swing my lower body back and forth, back and forth. Other times, I would wrap my legs around one of the branches and hang down from the thick limb as if I were a monkey. With the back of my knees giving me all the support I needed, I would oscillate as fast as my young body would let me. I imagine I was an interesting site to behold as my poor mother would look on through our living room window.
It was in this tree where my innocent mind would fantasize about the days ahead. It was there, atop this glorious Magnolia Tree, where I first imagined being a wife and a mother. As I sat on the branches, I would remember the sweet prayers of my parents - prayers that asked of God to provide me with a man who loves Him more than anything in the world. Because if He loved God more than anything, then he would love me. I would smile as I imagined becoming a mother for the first time. It's interesting because I always pictured myself as being a mother of sons. Perhaps it was a subconscious heart-felt desire of mine, but I knew boys would be a part of my offspring. I also knew I would have a daughter as evidenced by the attendance of all my female Cabbage Patch dolls at the base of my Magnolia Tree. They, along with my first baby doll Karen, were always with me, and nothing gave me greater pleasure than to discipline them if they ever got out of line.
I do have many fond memories of that ol' Magnolia Tree, but I remember some sad times, too. My grandparents would visit about twice a year, sometimes only once a year. Their arrival would bring so much excitement to my little girl world, that I would literally lose sleep over it. But just with the heightened excitement of their coming, there was a direct correlation to the amount of sadness I would experience at their going. I can remember being sad for days after their departure. It was such a sweet treat to have them there. And once they left, I would of course, venture outside to my special place of solitude. On those magical branches, I would cry and mourn over the time I wish I had with my grandparents. Again, I would find myself imagining the days ahead. I would console my heart by dreaming of future Christmases and birthdays surrounded by my very own children. And in the picture, by all means, would be my grandparents and my parents. We would ALL be there doting on one another and laughing as we celebrated life together. Being together. That, for me, was the most wonderful part.
As I grew up, just like so many other people, my childhood fantasies didn't quite turn out the way I had imagined them. There might have been a time in my life where I would have believed the philosophical idea of, "If you build it, they will come." But with each passing year of my life, I realize that no matter how much we pray or dream, things just don't go the way we hope. And as much as I would like to kick and scream about that, I've learned, also, that doesn't help things either. Divorce happens. People pass away. Illnesses change the direction of our lives. Loved ones come and go. Friends don't mean to forget about you, but they do. And it's all because of one thing - we are human. Merely mortal beings. Unfortunately, people will fail you. But...
God. Never. Fails.
I wish I knew why life brings rough patches. I wish I could explain why Godly people do ungodly things. I wish I understood why diseases take the lives of people who have done nothing but serve the Lord for their entire existence. But I don't. And honestly, I am not entitled to an explanation. One thing is certain. As life has brought its share of trials and tribulations this truth I can hold onto...
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
So on this spring-like day in February, I think I will venture out to that ol' Magnolia Tree one more time. As I climb those elderly but thick branches, I will remember. I will remember what my God has done for me. And as I wrap my knees around that limb just one more time, I will throw myself back. I will let the wind blow through my hair and I will laugh. I will be downright giddy as I imagine the days ahead. Because this I know - Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so. My time in this life will come to an end. When it does, the very thing I fantasized about as a child will finally come true. I will be in the presence of family. And as we celebrate eternity together, I will look in the actual face of my Savior. I will touch His cheek and before I kiss it, I will say, "I'm home, Father. I'm home."
And just like that - every hardship I've faced in this life won't matter. Any dream I had as a child and as an adult will pale in comparison to the reality of eternity with my Heavenly Family. Friends, hold onto the dream that matters. You can bet on this. Hope is on His way.