together, in the branches.


Nothing beats late nights with amazing friends meandering through conversation of all that was, is and hopefully will be.  Of equal irreplaceable delight is waking up late into morning with family and those friends to another day of snowy mountain adventure.

And this is vacation; a definite break from busy, from striving and reaching and worry about not being formidable enough for the dreams swirling inside.

When we leave the Colorado mountains, nights return to earlier endings and my alarm sounds annoyingly before dawn waking me to another day, I will be rested and ready after more than 2 weeks of vacation and time away to reset and heal.  But for now, I write into a quiet morning beside a steaming mug of chai tea awaking me even more, all while lost in the view of snow capped mountains whispering adventure both now and into life ahead.


As we continue together into Lent, discussions of the heart deeper unfold.  Words of challenge and grace fill our conversations together throughout our days away in the mountains.  I anticipated a break.  In the weeks leading up to vacation, we followed a pattern of reading and praying together for grace to help us engage in giving up of conveniences to grasp a greater understanding now of God in our day to day.  Instead of our pattern completely vanishing in the snow and easy days, each of the girls asked how and what we would fast and more importantly, when.

In their asking and reflecting of our togetherness in this Lent journey, a conversation from before the mountains, snow and rest, returned to me; a conversation of heart and words with Elizabeth, my eldest daughter.

There we sat.  The two of us words hanging in grace sheltering our weakness and covering our mistakes.  The greatest erasing of wrong leaving no sign except what we redraw in our effort earning unbelief that God could possibly be that good and undeservingly accepting of our human hearts.

She sat in sadness judged by her own heart, tangled in thought.

“Dad, ...sometimes I get so angry and frustrated at life.  I feel confused and lost.  Sometimes I say bad words in my head, really, really bad words, Dad.”

I allowed for the pause between us to encapsulate the moment, her helpless sinking knowing that scripture reading, prayer and conversation all shared together had been raking over her heart ...and finding her.

“What words do you think when you’re angry?”

“Uhh ... really, really bad words.”

“I see.  They must be really bad if you don’t want to say them.”

I sped up our conversation out of her lingering words suspended in guilt with a hopefully lasting image lifting her sinking.  Often I describe our life together in terms of journey, a landscape of rising mountains, descending valleys and sometimes treacherous impasses.  This image lifting her out of guilt and mistakes was one of a towering tree stretching substantially over us.

Grace like a tree shelters us from guilt striking down from darker skies and together we are safe in its impenetrable branches.

“Um, what?”

All three of my daughters deal with my words dragging romantic and descriptive.  They are used to just staring at me until I’m done and I’m used to their blank looks lost in words loaded with meaning.  I like our conversations that way.  Questions are sure to ensue giving way for their ownership pulling understanding into little hearts.

I pulled back the curtain a bit and assured Elizabeth that emotions exist very real in our hearts and our responses, even the bad unrepeatable words, don’t separate us from God’s fierce love.  To her surprise, I told her that often those words, even the worst offenders launch from my heart, too.

“...and that’s okay, Elizabeth.”

Grace’s strong branches will always hold us up and cover us wholly.  As a parent, no greater gift can be given than the assurance that all will be well and all, despite emotion and weakness of heart.

Grace given. Grace received.

...all in the branches together.


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