How The Leaves Sing

The calendar promises a few more weeks before Winter descends, but the last day of November dawns and I feel Autumn slipping quietly away.

There's a tree in my garden whose name--Koto No Ito--it means "strings of a harp."  And I might've thought this name was only a description of the leaves in all their finely cut glory, draping like strings from delicate branches.

But then Autumn comes and the leaves begin to sing with a beauty that haunts and I see what this name is really about.  Because this tree might not make a sound, except when the wind dances through it's branches or the rain drops softly against leaves.  But I hear it now, the way these strings of a harp are whispering the lilting song of hope.

I might feel a bit of sorrow watching all these leaves drift down to an earth that will swallow them in darkness, return them to the dust from which they were born.  But I listen to the singing first, all this beauty emerging and descending, and I hear it clear as the notes of a harp.

God, He's here in the changing the of the seasons, carefully laying to rest what will give birth to new life when the light of Spring returns.  And it's okay to grieve what's been buried, but we don't grieve as if there is no hope.

Because there is Hope.

And we'll see Him most clearly when we let Him plant all our pieces in the dark of life's soil and wait for the emerging He'll bring.

So as Autumn gently takes her leave and Winter creeps in to cover and darken and silence, I listen to the leaves singing His song and I choose to lay it all down.  Because what's buried in Him is never lost and what's withheld from Him is never the life we're meant to live.

And that life He's made for me?  It's the only one I want to live.


  1. i want to cover my walls with your photographs. they are stunning and full of more than just the subject.

    oh courtney, they are *so full of Him*.

    i'm sitting curled up on my couch while the 2 younger ones watch belle and i can't stop the tears from pouring down as your words touch so tenderly on the hurt that seems to be gaping wide.

    thank you, for writing such strength and beauty into your words. for drawing our eyes up to Him and His grace.

    you are beautiful, sweet friend.

    and now, i've left an equally long comment on your post...


    and you and your friendship? one of the many stones on my ebeneezer.

    i thank Him daily for you.

  2. @my name is kimberley: Oh, Friend. What joy to share life with you, even if it must be from a distance. My heart soars when you say that you see Him in my photographs--because that is the very reason I take them. To capture Him hidden in all the tiny places we so often overlook and to let others see His beauty, too.

    May our Jesus hold you close in these grieving days and may His joy push past all the ache and leave you breathless with wonder.

    I love you. And I long to hug your neck. Someday.

  3. This is my favorite bit:
    "..we'll see Him most clearly when we let Him plant all our pieces in the dark of life's soil and wait for the emerging He'll bring."

    That reminds me of a post from A Holy Experience in which bulbs are planted. Do you recall that one? Ann made the same point about hope buried in the soil.

    Your closing sentences remind me of something else, a quote from the martyred missionary Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." That doesn't make the giving up and grieving any easier, but perhaps it does make possible what wasn't before.

    Grace and peace to you in Jesus, dear one. You remain in my prayers.

  4. yes, breath-taking beauty of Him in your photos...i can hear the harp, too, looking at that tree - amazing.

    Those words of grief mixed with hope have often surfaced when I'm faced with any of the many facets of brokenness...but today, I hear them anew thinking of the things I am burying in order to follow along His chosen path...and it is grief. But it is also Hope. Thank you for reminding me that it is all worth it - again.

  5. love the photos! thank you too for the thoughts on grief and hope...i think that in a broken world, sometimes the best, the most spiritually mature, and the most loving thing we can do is to grieve-in-hope and hope-in-grief: God gives us hope, not so that our grief might be annihilated, but so that it might be transfigured.

    praying your Advent--the season of hope!--will abound in grace...

  6. @tinuviel: Yes, I do recall that post of Ann's. This idea of finding hope in the burying--it's been threading through my days these last months and I keep reciting these truths to myself to remind me to lay it all down, no matter how dark the path seems.

    And what you've said here, that it doesn't make the grieving easier but makes it possible? Yes. *Yes.* I'm holding onto this.

    Thank you, always, for your prayers. I am humbled by your faithful friendship to me, a woman you've never met. May He bless you a hundred times over for the grace you've given to me.

  7. @Rachel Schober: Yes, dearest one. It *is* all worth it. And what He's going to bring forth from the laying down of your desires? It's going to be beautiful and glorious and oh so full of God. And I count it the sweetest gift to be walking beside you when it happens. I love you more than I can say.

  8. @chris: "...not so that our grief may be annihilated, but so that it might be transfigured." Yes. *Yes.* This is a hard thing to figure out, how to hope and look to Him in the grief without invalidating the pain or refusing to really truly acknowledge the losses. Thankfully, I've never struggled to grieve (I can't believe I just expressed gratitude for my grief!) and it's been the most beautiful, life-giving thing this year to find God teaching me how to hope *in the midst of* grief. Because as you've said here, this really does seem the thing that we are most called to in a world so rife with suffering.

    Thank you for prayers of grace and hope. May you, too, find Him near and full and life-giving as we celebrate God With Us.


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