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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Can God Turn Your Leaves Yellow?

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for a while and today, with everything going on in the world, I thought it was a great time to do it.

Last fall, Derek and I went up to Sedona for our 21 year wedding anniversary. Because we have young children, especially a one-year old, it’s not that easy to get away, but Chandler and his darling wife Sadie offered to stay at our home and take care of our tribe!!

Fall in Phoenix is like any other time in Phoenix, hot and dry, but it was end of October and things had started to cool off. Trees in the desert don’t shed leaves, so I was super excited to see fall colors. Up north, in Sedona and Flagstaff the weather was perfect and I couldn’t wait to wear a sweater and pretend like I was living in a typical fall climate with colorful leaves, hot tea and a warm fire.

We left Mesa and on the way up to Flagstaff, drove through Sedona. We had lunch and decided to hike a trail called Devil's Bridge

Sedona is a glowing red rock desert and the beauty and crisp air put me in a trance. As a mother of seven, when I get away and I know my kids are in excellent care, I really do let everything go and live in this place of gratitude. And to be completely in love with this darling, incredible husband of mine, we were both giddy!

The hike up to Devil's Bridge was a challenge, but I liked how it pushed me, how it opened my lungs and mind. The landscape was primarily scrubby juniper trees which look more like overgrown bushes with alligator skin, (many trees in the desert don’t grow very tall because of lack of water, they produce shade and thorns to protect themselves) oak and desert pine.

Just before sunset, we reached the bridge. 

The top of the hike was a steep mountain landscape with yes, a freaky bridge (I could see why it was called Devil's bridge), large enough for several people to stand on, stretched dauntingly over a bed of giant green pine and juniper trees way below. If I looked too long, it almost made me motion sick. Wow, that would be a deadly drop. People were walking out on the red rock bridge for their photo and I wasn’t too sure I wanted to do that, but I watched as various people went out and did their thing. 

In the moment, with all the beauty and grandeur, with the setting sun turning the rock a glistening red, Derek and I took our turn out on the bridge and had someone take our picture. Now, I’m not sure what happened at this moment, because once we walked out to the bridge, Derek put his arms around me and I was involved in the kiss of a lifetime with my love, like a fairy tale “wake Sleeping Beauty from her trance” type of kiss. I mean, that’s how it felt to be intertwined with my love at that moment.

We walked off the bridge, watched a few more people take their photos, carefully edged our way around the steep, curved mountain ledge and hurried down the mountain before nightfall. 
A picture I took just before we started walking down the mountain. Notice, no yellow anywhere, like it was never there at all.

We were off the mountain just in time to walk under a sky full of stars, the flowing air wrapped around us, desert nighttime sounds, a closeness with Derek that made me feel like we were the only people in the world, and about 20 minutes later, we walked a flat trail back to where we had parked our car. The world had graced us with some of the most beautiful views of heaven and earth that day.

I scrolled through our photos, marveled at how beautiful everything was when I noticed something that at first was just a little nudge of a thought. I looked at the photos up to Devil's Bridge, shrub like trees, green pines, dirt, red rock, all lovely in their own way, but then there was the photo of Derek and I on the bridge kissing. It literally looked like we were standing over a valley of yellow trees, even  sunflowers. At that moment, everything in that landscape below us was touched with gold. I had the thought, “Wow, that’s crazy. I wonder how that happened.”

That night,we drove 30 minutes through Oak Creek Canyon, up to Flagstaff, checked into our hotel, and the next morning, were ready for a hike in the forest. It was windy and cold (perfect) and when we passed through the hotel lobby, we overheard one of the employees tell another couple the leaves were past there peak. Looking outside, around town this appeared to be true. No big deal, right, but to me, oh, I just craved the beauty of fall, so we would go find the colors somewhere.

The drive up Mt. Humphrey was pretty barren. Don’t get me wrong, I was still having a wonderful time, the mountain was still beautiful even if shadows of aspen with their bare branches were the main landscape.  Tall, green pine trees were everywhere. Finally, we saw one Aspen with a few yellow leaves, the wind blowing them frantically to the ground. Ironically, a line of cars parked on the side of the road with some families taking pictures in front of this one tree. I could understand why they were so excited.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the base of the Snowbowl ski area and parked at Aspen Loop Trail (I think that’s what it’s called) and started on our hike. Only a few minutes later, a hiker passed us by and said something like “Don’t expect to see any fall leaves.” Derek and I did find a little tree with its yellow leaves all around on the ground, so we took a few pictures in front of it and decided to head back to our car.

About 10 minutes down Mt. Humphrey, we passed a trail we’d hiked before. There’s no real parking lot, but a space where about 10 cars can pull in and park. No one was there, but I felt like this was a good place to hike. It was dry and a bit dusty (that’s Arizona for you), but as we started I suddenly felt a love, a joy, an energy that was like the world was ours. Hand in hand with Derek, I recognized this as a love from God, that He is so mighty, so all-knowing, yet this intimate relationship each one of us has the privilege of experiencing, to know that He loves us unconditionally, it’s beyond any feeling I can describe. He knows our needs, our desires, our thoughts and He’s created this beautiful earth that wraps its arms around us and says, “Look at my beauty, feel my breath, inhale my smells, touch my landscape, I’m testifying that God lives.”

The mountain trail was smooth, when the direction turned to a sharp incline. We turned the corner, and BOOM – giant, swaying Aspen trees, dancing, showing off their rich, full, colorful fall leaves. 

The wind blew, leaves fell like raindrops and I just marveled at this display of nature’s beauty. 
Only ten minutes off the road, yet we couldn’t see this Aspen grove until we started on the journey. We stayed in that area for a while, meditated, I did some yoga, and we danced, prayed, laughed, talked about our future and talked about our past. I couldn’t believe the gift we’d been given.

As we drove down the mountain, I looked through the pictures we’d taken and that’s when it hit me. Yellow leaves, fall trees - God had provided this for me, for us. I looked at the picture from earlier of Devil's Bridge and I asked the question, “Did God turn those leaves and trees yellow?” The setting sun, the reflection coming from the red rock, the timing, the climb to be on top of the Sedona valley to see such colors, it was all so perfectly aligned, how could it not be a gift from God. I had the thought, “God delights in His gifts to us.” Was my Father in Heaven delighting in this gift, that instead of thinking this was a coincidence I noticed His mighty hand, His intention to share beauty, that He wanted me to know He knows my heart, my thoughts, my desires, not matter how small or insignificant?  I will never forget how God turned the leaves yellow so I could feel His love and know of His grandeur. Has God turned your leaves yellow? I know He has and He will continue to do so. Do you want to believe in a world where God can turn your leaves yellow? I do.