She leans back and drapes herself on the kitchen table, this college girl of mine. I sip loose-leaf tea from Tibet, I think. It’s a gift from tea connoisseurs, my daughter-in-law and her lanky husband, my firstborn son. It’s a gift from a piece of their own story.
Her feet dangle off one end of table, fuzzy pink-polka-dot socks tap the kitchen air all lark.
My tea steeps in a traditional Japanese teapot with the spout and handle side by side, unlike the English style. The teapot is a gift from my Japan-traveling German husband. I pour the Tibetan tea in a liquid stream of amber. My china cup fills—steady, slow, careful.
And this girl in pink hoodie over black shorts over brown stockings stretches across the table, and her long hair pours brunette waves over the side of the table. She is laughing, and her eyes dance brightly in one-two-three, one-two-three waltzing laughter, jigging chatter on the tabletop.
Amber liquid washes over the red peony painted inside my teacup with the bright-blue handle. A red china flower blooms in a blue curve just above the curl of my finger. This cup is also a gift, from the son who knows more about the weight set in the garage than about teacups. But he knows me.
And this college daughter. I raise an eyebrow, and my straight line of a mouth finds a curve. It curves up. And what flower blooms in the curve just below eyes that smile too? The laughter is warm, and it is mine. If laughter had a color, it would be amber. My heart is all red peony washed amber and drinking in laughter. We’re soaked in tears of laughter, a joyful rain like the one falling from the sky today.
Then this same daughter spilling amber all over my tabletop grabs my hand and pulls me to the rain-soaked patio. She twirls dizzily there, soaking up laughing rain and soaking herself in splash falling from God’s smiling eyes.
I wonder how many raindrops fall because God is giddy with joy. I wonder at thunder. Is it the roar of His laughter? Is lightning His eyes lighting up brightly as He jigs the Texas two-step over the earth table?
“Look around you, and see through it to Me,” God said something like that during autumn fire last week.
I haven’t forgotten. Faith, trust, and all hope. Seeing faith, believing truth, hoping through all. God-hope regarding God, regardless and because.
Because He is my hope.
Unseen but, oh, so real. Glory-hope, now-hope, forever-hope. Faith is wrapped up in it. My own faith endures because of it, and I am looking around me, looking to unwrap faith.
It’s happening slowly. I’m slowing my world to see fewer blurs. I’m watching leaves fall slowly in a morning wind that can’t make up its mind which way to blow. The wind is a blur, but the leaves aren’t. A swirl flocks on wings speckled yellow and brown, and what’s this? A leaf drifts and lights upon my finger as I hold my mug of morning coffee. It really does! It’s no special color, not red or bright orange, just brown and yellow speckle. But it is a gift.
I bend over it, looking, and I simply see through it to God. It sounds too simplistic, too easy. But last week was all autumn fire. I gladly hold one plain leaf today.
There are so many on the ground now. Tree limbs are being stripped leaf by leaf. And if rain is sometimes happy tears of God joy, couldn’t leaves falling be the same? It’s not a new thought. It’s redemption, really, the belief that what is stripped away gives way for joy. But it’s new right now because I’m seeing it right here, watching it happen. I watch a leaf’s tenacious grip break, and the leaf free-falls. I know what it feels like to break grip because I can’t hold on any longer, to free-fall without any idea where I’m going to land. And I know what it feels like to be stripped down like the branch—vulnerable, exposed. I know what it feels like to wonder how to keep trusting when everything is falling away.
Things are changing, falling away. I’m changing and impatient for a few things to just blow away. But pluck a leaf before it’s ready to fall, and it will bleed. Let it fall when it’s ready to let go, and it will dance. But it’s a hard dance too.
I carry the leaf inside and set it on the kitchen counter. Its veins are old, and its skin is paper-thin, fragile. But it’s free, whether it wants to be or not. It’s free, but sometimes faith is most challenged in a freedom that is kind of painfully gotten, just like trust is challenged in the fall.
Letting go is sometimes forced by a sudden blow, and hope is challenged too.
I place the leaf between sheets of paper and press it there. I rub a simple trace beneath a flat length of charcoal. I see it in its nakedness, and hope holds my own faith. “Press Your word against my heart, and leave the trace there,” I say to Him while looking at the leaf trace.
I have hope for emotional and mental healing, hope for chains to be broken and for beauty out of ashes, hope for all that God has said is but that I have not seen yet.
I tug on hope.
Jesus is my hope, and didn’t Jesus endure for the joy set before Him?
I tug harder on hope.
I tug on pisteuo till I connect with God’s heart to the end of joy. It’s all tied together somehow. Hope hangs naked while faith endures trial, and joy fills even now.
It’s beautiful, but I’m afraid of it too. Because it seems the deepest joy comes by way of troubles. The most profound joy was set before Christ in His moment of deepest trial.
It’s beautiful and hard at the same time. It’s faith and anxiety at the same time. This joy, this hope to experience and enjoy His glory, is not without trial. It’s not without painful birth to character.
But what sort of character is birthed by God’s love poured out, birthed through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us? Christ character.
I have desired and feared four times birthing pain, and I have given birth to four characters. I look at them all around me, and it’s a joy to see through them to God.
It was easy to see through to God when the youngest, head full of curly blonde hair, bent to hands and knees on the sidewalk to watch roly-polies bend into little gray balls and then unfold and move a few inches. I too slowed to watch patiently with her just in case they should do something rather spectacular like crawl extra fast, which they never did. And it’s easy still to see through to God when she strums her guitar and sings beautifully as she did last night. It’s easy to see through tears of laughter.
I fumble, urgent for faith when there is change, fumble when there is a season that strips things away till they fall like leaves. Yet, I connect with God’s heart most clearly when I am most urgent to believe and trust Him.
I connect with God’s heart most clearly when I am most urgent for hope.
I connect with God’s heart because He is my hope.
And that means a tree-load in the backyard of this little life.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(Adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)