Pruning is Painful, but Glory Remains

So when we bought our house back in 2003, one of my favorite things about the yard was this gorgeous Japanese maple tree perched lovingly in the front of the Bay window.  I have no idea of its age, but if I had to speculate, I would say it’s about 20 years old or so.   Each spring I marvel at its transformation, from stark barrenness and limbs of almost charcoal with wiry cherry tips, to forked buds of deep forest green, yearning for permission to lunge forward and grasp the crisp pale yellow sun.

By this time of the summer, the leaves have begun their fall ensemble, and incredible hues of greens and reds line the tree from trunk to treetop.  The visual unveiling is an emotional undertaking, and I feel blessed to have a front row seat each season to all of God’s bounty.

For several reasons, that tree has become the focal point of the yard.  There are no other trees in our yard, and the children knew from an early age this tree was very special.  ‘We don’t play on this tree,’ you’d hear the children tell their friends.  Just about every single ‘First Day of School’ photo and every other special occasion photo centers around that tree.  It’s like a member of the family, plain and simple.

In October of 2011 we had an early and extremely severe ice storm that wreaked havoc and devastation across much of New England.  Power lines were dropped to the ground like threads; large long-standing oaks were snapped in half like twigs; roofs collapsed from the tremendous weight of this ice – the damage figures soared into the millions.

As you can imagine, my precious sole standing maple took a hit – one of its two main branches cracked under the weight of the ice it was forced to bear.  The crack did not sever the limb, however, but left it crippled and limping…in need of swift attention.  In my absence, the decision was made to sacrifice the limb in order to attempt to save the remaining tree.  When I saw what had happened, and the choice that was made, I was initially destroyed.  A flood of emotions filled me: anger at the destruction, mourning at the loss of such beauty, disappointment at the decision made.

It was a very difficult winter, and I could no longer bear to gaze out my window at my beloved tree that once held so much joy.  Cloaked in my anguish, as spring approached, I missed all the little signs that were sent for my benefit – signs of new life, rebirth.  That tree wasn’t just surviving, it was thriving.  Even with the loss of half of itself, it was shining in the face of disappointment.  It was staring its critics down, and being all that it could be, despite the odds against it.

And today, even though it remains one of the smallest trees on the block – it is missing its entire left side and it is completely devoid of leaves on its backside – it is still the most beautiful.  Other bigger, taller, seemingly stronger trees have fallen despite their best attempts to the contrary.  This tiny Japanese maple – it stands victorious – all because no one ever told it it could not.

I was looking at my dear tree this morning, and thinking just how parallel this tree is to my life lately.  I experienced an ‘amputation’ of sorts a few years back, and though it might not have been my choice at the time, looking at my standing compared to the rest of the block, I am thriving and standing the tallest I have ever stood.  I haven’t physically grown an inch, but my soul and spirit have surpassed Shaq for sure.

Pruning, though often not our first choice, many times saves the life of what is being trimmed.  The process is painful, as dead or dying parts are cut away, without the benefit of anesthesia.   We can be left bewildered, wondering why we have to experience trimming at all.  But once completed, as new growth begins, we can see why the process was necessary, even critical.

John 15:2 states “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  God’s goal is to make us as fruitful as possible; to bring forth our best so that we thrive; most of all, to bring Him glory.

This is a picture of my tree these days:

And this is me:

We’re both a shadow of our former selves; lean, mean fighting machines; little engines that could.  Just try and get in our way.


That Still, Small Voice

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

I love my showers.  In the winter, the scalding water warms my chilled body down to the bone, where the snowy cold has robbed me not just of my body temperature but many times of my spirit.  In the summer, the cool water seeps deep into my pores, chilling me beyond what air conditioning can do in the most refreshing of ways.  What I love most about the shower is the silence, the peace, the solace – time for reflection, a collecting of my thoughts, my only true haven.

My showers lately have been different – noisy, distracting, befuddled.  I haven’t been able to connect with that place of peace I need so desperately as of late.  Miscellaneous noise and others’ junk whirl overhead like a swarm of bees, robbing me of my soul connection.  I have allowed it to continue – I make no qualms about this – but I haven’t known how to stop the distractions…until today.

Today, as I watch the water spin down the drain, that still, small voice I’ve been missing for months whispers my name and demands my attention.  The voice only I can hear speaks into my being, and suddenly all the confusion and lack of clarity I’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks becomes transparent – gossamer even – and I know what I must do, and how to get to where I need to be.

For the first time in weeks, I feel light again.  Upon deeper inflection I realize though I’ve made great strides in the recent past, I’ve chosen the wrong road of two presented before me.  And while I thought I’d chosen well, I chose the easier of the two paths, which typically would cause great disappointment in myself.  But today I resolve to make a better choice, with the new information, and leave my weapons on the ground – I’ve been beaten down enough.  Even this revelation is a huge one for me, and I find myself a little giddy at my progress.

I intend to reach out to that voice again tomorrow.  I really hope she’s not a stranger…I’ve got plans for us!

Hearts of Gold

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe when somethings suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.”

I love this quote.  If I were to look into my own chest right now, I can image my heart, intertwined with ribbons of gold, holding all the tattered pieces of brokenness together, creating a beautiful masterpiece.

As these last few days have passed, I’ve had some time to reflect on the events of last Tuesday – court – and all that transpired in that actuality of such a short timespan but what at the time seemed like an endless tailspin of voices, emotions and impossible decisions.  I can say with the most candor that from the outset, I was in complete anguish over what occurred.  In my wildest imagination, never once had I envisioned leaving that courtroom convicted of a crime, assigned a suspended sentence and probation.  I fully believed that with the truth on my side, the mistakes would be revealed, wrongs would be righted, and this extended nightmare would finally be over.  This obviously did not happen.

I have decided for the privacy of my children to not write about the specifics of what my case was about.  Too many lies have already been printed by the press, and those are bells I cannot unring.  My children have finally begun to heal from the miscarriage of justice that the various media outlets let loose on our street, neighbors and town 2 years ago.  I am fully aware of the issue surrounding freedom of press, but what these monsters did was nothing less than a witch hunt, manufacturing lies when people refused to speak with them, running erroneous stories again and again to fill time prior to each court appearance and costing my family more than anyone will ever truly understand.

What I have learned in the days since my sentence is that I am deeply and richly blessed.  I have an incredible circle of friends that have been held to the fire time and again, refined in ways I don’t deserve, and still they support me when I am so low I don’t even know where to begin to raise up once again.  As I returned home Tuesday and words failed me, I merely texted those close remaining few.  I was instantly flooded with an outpouring of love and support – it touched me to my core – and though doubt remained that I had made the right decision, their love helped to wipe that away…each one more and more still.

I have also been affirmed that my character, which has been under attack from all directions by the enemy – who takes on many forms as of late – is worthy of admiration and example.  I try to live as Jesus would, and I fail miserably each and every day – but to hear the words from my child, my friends – that I am respected for who I am, especially at a time like this…it speaks volumes to me.  I am humbled, and so thankful that I have a Savior who forgives me for my shortcomings and allows me to return to Him every time I fail Him.  I won’t change who I know I am – not for this world, not for anyone.

Lastly, I have shared that I have been working with an incredible therapist for these past 2 years, without whom I would never have made it through this crisis or been able to recognize the me who was trapped inside this body ready to break free and take charge.  I am so thrilled with the work I’ve done – reclaiming my voice, embracing who I am, learning new strategies for old issues, growing relationships with my children, finding happiness – it’s been a lot of work, but I would not have given any of it a second thought.  In meeting this week and sharing Tuesday’s events, she listened intently and I awaited her response to all I’d shared.

She asked first why I’d taken the deal, and it caught me off-guard.  I shared that there was a list of people prepared by the Prosecution to call to testify…my children were at the top, neighbors, friends, my Pastor, police officers, DCF workers, teachers, on and on and on.  Too many people stood to get hurt – and when I weighed my children on the stand and that deal, the risk wasn’t worth it anymore.  And then she said two of the most powerful things I’d heard all week:  two years ago I was so stuck on why this happened and what were we going to do about it and how were we going to fix it, that I could barely see straight.  Now I had just sacrificed myself so that my children did not get hurt – look at the progress I’d made.  Secondly, I had maintained that the Justice System never really cared about the truth, they just wanted their pound of flesh.  But she said that my truth, my version of what happened, is still true – whether they heard me or not.  It doesn’t negate what I know is true.  There are interpretations of the truth, and I will always know what happened – this plea doesn’t change that.

I’m finding that helpful in being able to stop calling myself a ‘convict,’ which I’ve been doing all week, and to stop comparing myself to others who were in court that day.  They don’t walk my walk, nor do I walk theirs.  I’m giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to right now – and that’s something entirely new for me.  I’m not going to linger too long, and then I’m going to process what God has next for me, because there’s always a plan.  It’s been a long 2 years to get to this point, and there’s a lot of hurt and healing to process.  But I am absolutely in the best place of my life to deal with those feelings, which lets me know I’m right where I’m supposed to be, with exactly who I need beside me.

He Heals the Brokenhearted

Psalm 147:3  (MSG)

2-6 He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
and pushes the wicked into the ditch.

I am about as broken as a person can be today.  All my ideals have been smashed to the ground and stomped on in a public spectacle.  I don’t know which emotion to feel more fully – embarrassment, heartbreak, disappointment, disdain, anguish, disillusionment, disgust – they all seem relevant and yet so far away from me at the moment.  I am numb and overflowing with sadness.  Sadness for myself, for my children, for the plight of the justice system, for the path of this country…

While I am now legally able to reveal the details, I don’t think I can in this post…everything is still too raw and new.  I just need to write down this experience – to express how this step – these 24 hours have been in the path of seeking righteousness.  And how truly empty and dirty I feel at the end of the process – not what I had anticipated at all.

See, though I have strived to live a life of truth, to be that example of truth for my children and those around me, ultimately NO ONE within the walls of the Justice System cared about truth when all was said and done.   The irony of it all – the part that snaps my brain like a twig – is that I told a lie yesterday in front of a Superior Court Judge.  I plead to a charge I was not guilty of, accepted responsibility for something I most certainly had not done, and along with that plea, gave up 3 more years of my career potential.  Faced with 2 impossible choices, I had no other option but to choose the least damning to my children and my friends, all of whom would be swept into the wake of evil and hurt this system was intent on inflicting upon me.

God has molded me into an incredibly strong woman, and for this I am eternally thankful.  But there are days, like now, when I fall to my knees, broken and bruised – after giving my best effort for the last 26 months – and my heart and my brain are having a difficult time rectifying what the point of all of this was.  I know all of the clichés…God has a plan, you’ll get through this, you’re better off…and while I might actually hold stock in a few of these, today, and perhaps tomorrow – I don’t care about those rote answers.

I want to know when our world stopped being about truth and doing the right thing.  I want to know when people like me, with good morals and high values, became obsolete.  I want to know when innocent people had to prove their innocence instead of the other way around.  I have never been someone who simply takes something at face value, and I don’t plan on changing that about myself now.  I’m not talking about fair or easy.  I’m talking about right and wrong.

What happened to me – the whole situation – was nothing but wrong.  I will get over it.  I will move past it.  I have forever been changed by it, as have my children.  But I will never accept that this is the way it is.  There is something very wrong with this world…very wrong.  And until more good people stand up and take notice, these wrongs will continue to happen – to all people.