The Healing Trees (chapter 5)
Ms. Bennett pushed the thought out of her mind as she continued down the stairs into the kitchen. After a few minutes of tidying up, she turned the light off and headed back upstairs. Passing the picture again on the way to her room, she choked back tears while feeling an intense need to return to Glad Tidings that Sunday. 

“I can’t do that. They’ll judge me.” she thought as she entered her room. “It’s been 6 years since we left there. They’ll either remember me and look down on me for walking away from church, or they will have forgotten me and I’ll feel alone again.” She ignored the feeling and changed into her pajamas. 

Another thought popped into her mind. She remembered how heartbroken she was at her husband’s sudden change, not knowing what had happened to her sensitive, loving husband. He grew cold and distant from her as time went on. “You haven’t gotten over this, Eliza. You need to find closure. Go to your church family.”

She knew at that moment God was speaking to her, which brought more tears to her eyes. Is he really still here with me, after all these years? Getting into bed and pulling the covers up over her chest, she immediately felt a calming peace and a whisper, “Go. Trust me.”

Down the hall, Maya snuggled up under her blanket, flipped the switch on her bedside lamp, and closed her eyes. Instead of falling asleep, her brain instantly took her back to her 5th birthday. 

She was sitting on the large green rug on the hardwood floor of the living room, surrounded by several of her friends, and they were all singing Happy Birthday to her. The room was covered in banners and balloons, and she was wearing a beautiful pink fluffy dress and birthday tiara that made her feel like a princess.

Her mom and dad were both sitting on the couch, singing and smiling. Maya, her parents, and her friends had just finished eating a delicious Mexican dinner (Maya’s favorite), and Maya had a big piece of her traditional birthday cookie (a tradition she and her mom started on Maya’s 3rd birthday). After dinner, Maya had opened all of her presents and was really excited to play her new game, Hungry Hungry Hippo, with her friends. Maya’s parents bought her the game after she had shown such excitement over it a couple weeks earlier while out shopping. 

After 6 rounds, it was time for her friends to go home. After saying goodbye and giving them all hugs, Maya climbed up on the couch, snuggled between her parents and thanked them for such a great birthday. She hugged their necks tightly, and with tears in her eyes said “I love you both SO MUCH!”.

Tears fell on Maya’s pillow as she recalled the memory, one of her favorites of her whole childhood. Back then, her parents really loved each other, and they both loved Maya. The three of them were a big happy family. Maya thought she was the luckiest girl in the whole world for having the parents she had. 

Then a year later, things began to change. Her dad started staying out later after work. He’d come home just in time to tell Maya goodnight. Eventually, Maya wouldn’t even see her dad most evenings because he would come home after she was already in bed. She’d see him for a few minutes in the mornings before he raced off to work, and on the weekends when he didn’t have other things to do. 

Maya heard her mom ask her dad one day if they could all start going to church together. Her dad didn’t want to, but he reluctantly agreed to check it out. From the very first visit, he felt uncomfortable. Maya could see it. After service, as her family met the pastor, her dad grew even more uncomfortable. 

Week after week, she watched her dad go through the motions of going to church and saying hi as people greeted them, and then rushing to get out the door as soon as service was over. Why was he so uncomfortable at church? Maya knew the answer now, but back then, she had no idea. 

After a few weeks, her dad decided church wasn’t for him, and he stopped going. Maya overheard a conversation between them where her dad told her mom he wasn’t going back to church because he didn’t see how it would help. Maya watched tears fall from her mom’s face that night, but she didn’t really understand what was happening at the time. 

She and her mom continued going to church together, but when they got home, an argument would often break out between her parents. They no longer seemed to love each other. They seemed cold and distant from one another. Maya felt sad that her family wasn’t a loving family anymore. Why is this happening? What’s wrong? Maya would soon learn the reason, and it would change everything.

Snapping herself back into reality, Maya realized it was well after midnight and she had a big math test the next morning. She wiped her tears and tried to push the sadness away. What’s with me? Why are all these thoughts coming back NOW? “She set her alarm for 6am and turned off the light. Shortly after closing her eyes, she drifted off to sleep.


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