One thing I miss the most about my mother is her telling me her childhood stories. Even after I was a grown woman, an old woman even, I would ask her to tell me about the time one more time. Some of my favorites were her tree climbing tales. Mother was a tomboy she told me often. There was not a tree in the hills and hollers in Pontotoc County that she didn’t climb as a child. She and her cousin, Lucille, were adventurers and never gave up on reaching the top of whatever tree they found themselves beneath.
As I child I too climbed. I would often wish my mother, who was older when I was born, could climb the trees with me. Since that didn’t happen, I would then wish I could have been a little girl when she was. Oh, the fun we would have had together - Mother, Lucille, and me.
My best friend Susan (who lived next door) and I often climbed the tree that grew beside my back porch. The tree, with branches hanging low, grew in the middle of our playhouse. The playhouse was not really more than a conglomeration of boxes for furniture, bottles, and cans for dishes in “shelves” made of old boards we found here and there. The leaves off of that tree and many more served as “food” in the orange crate made into a refrigerator. Oh, to be there one more time!
Some days Susan and I would climb the tree. We would reach the top. From there we would climb on the roof of the house and hide from mother. Oh, how we would whisper and giggle when my mom would come out the back door calling us late in the evening. Sometimes, I think she knew we were there, but would play along with us being so wonderfully hidden, in such a secret place.
Even now when it is twilight I often remember exactly what it felt like to be sitting on the roof - looking up at a sky with a sun that had faded with purples and grays ready to give way to darkness. I remember the smell of honeysuckle and the chirping of the crickets. I remember Susan and I climbing back down the tree and saying goodbye for the day, as we chased a lighting bug across the yard. I would go in the back door. My mother would pull me up against her apron, hug me, and say, “Where in the world have you been? I’ve been calling you forever!”
The peace I felt high atop that roof. I think that was the place I felt closest to God in those days, even though I didn’t really know who He was. I would sit there often and think and observe all of His creation and write my little stories and songs. Even in our childhood, I think He is readying us for things He has for our future, even if we don’t even know Him at the time. From the time we are born we are drawn back to Him. Jesus is calling to us from all of creation for us to see Him in all of His glory.
One Saturday I told my mother that I wanted to go to church the next morning. She got me dressed, shined my black patent leather shoes with a biscuit, and down the street I went. Thinking back to that time in my life, I often have thought Jesus called to me like He did Zacchaeus. “Get down out of that tree Judy and come see me.” I know it had to be Jesus calling because my family didn’t go to church.The people at the church asked, “Who brought you, little girl?” I just said, “me.” I really had no idea what they meant. I wasn’t up on church etiquette. I only knew I wanted to be there. And there I was every Sunday after that.
I know at the ripe old age of eight God called me to the little Free Will Baptist Church down the street from that house whose roof I had sat atop of so often. From the tree I climbed to the roof from, Jesus I believe called me to come to the church where I was saved, baptized, and received His calling to go and tell. You see, at that church is where I signed a pledge, “I am willing to be willing to go.” That pledge still stands today.
Recently I began to go to Sycamore Church, a new church, whose motto is “Helping people see Jesus.” Their logo is the picture of a Sycamore tree. I feel I am where I belong once again. Trees and me, who knew?
Today is Jesus calling you? Are you listening? Sometimes you have to climb above the crowd, above the noise, and you will hear Him plainly calling you. Just as Zacchaeus was bound and determined to see Jesus, so should we be. Sometimes we may try to hide from Him. But we should do whatever it takes to see Him. It is so worth it. If you listen you will hear Him say, “Where in the world have you been, I’ve been calling you forever!” You will never be the same. You will never forget the experience.