March 25, 2015


One January our family set out to take down Christmas lights from the front yard cedar tree. We had hoped one simple tug would send the rest of the upper lights down. But it was not that easy, so we were left with two choices: either risk looking like the nutty neighbors that leave Christmas lights up until the Fourth of July, or climb that tree and take them down.

My 11-year-old daughter volunteered to climb first. With all the excitement she possessed, she placed one foot in Daddy’s cupped hands, and he lifted her up to the first branch. “Keep your feet close to the base of the tree and use the part of the branch that is connected closest to the trunk,” her father instructed her as she climbed. We watched in awe at her bravery, but were also concerned for her safety.

Midway up, the footholds grew smaller. The tree swayed with every movement of her body, and her excitement gave way to fear. “Daddy, I’m gonna come down now,” she said, unease in her voice.

“OK, honey. Use your feet the same way you did going up. I’ll catch you when you get down close enough,” my husband replied. When he caught her, I felt relief for her safety, but also a sense of pride that my little girl had just gained a lesson in courage. However, we still had the problem of the Christmas lights.

There we were, the three of us looking up at this spindly cedar tree, reviewing our peculiar circumstance. Finally I removed my bulky winter clothing and decided I would give it a try.

My husband gave me a boost to the first branch, followed by the same direction he had given our daughter. Higher and higher I climbed, until I began to feel the swaying of the tree underneath my weight. My husband and daughter shouted encouragement to me from the ground: “You’re halfway there, Mama!” and “It looks like you’re about there, honey.” Despite the swaying and nerves, I reached my destination. My grip tightened on one branch so I could untangle the web of lights. After a few minutes I finally released the light strand and sent it flying to the lawn below. Although the first part of my mission was a success, I was still up the tree!

“OK, honey, just come down the same way, keeping your feet close to the base,” my husband directed. I began my descent, exhaustion already setting in. I paused, gripping a branch to take a few deep breaths to regain my strength, and then I continued. Nearing the base of the tree, I felt my husband’s arms circle my waist. Finally I could let go. 

Some of us have climbed a tree or two as kids and reveled in the opportunity of adventure, only to see our kids do the same thing decades later. Whether or not we climb literal trees as adults, we daily encounter “trees” in our lives that we must scale. The adventure is different, and some of the branches are steadier than others. There’s foliage that gets stuck in our hair and bark that breaks away in the climb. Sometimes we’re ascending, other times we’re descending, but we keep striving through moments of triumph and moments of exhaustion.

At times it may feel that we don’t have anyone guiding us through the twists and turns life throws our way. We forget the concept of rest—of letting go and giving it all to Him. We feel the worst thing would be to fall, forgetting He can use every broken branch as a lesson in trusting Him. I think my daughter said it best: “Isn’t it the best feeling when Daddy catches you in his arms?” One day I look forward to seeing her climb heaven’s tree of life all the way to the top.