Bread Crumbs

Al Andrews

Not long after our first child was born, some friends arrived at our door with a gift and a loaf of freshly baked bread.  Soon, the bread’s aroma began to fill the room and within minutes I was transported to another time and another place where I had smelled this bread before.

I found myself in the home of my grandparents on Signal Mountain, Tennessee.  My grandmother had just taken her bread out of the oven. I remembered her slicing a piece for me, and still warm, spreading butter on it, I watching it melt before I spooned some homemade raspberry preserves on top.

I remembered her soft face, untouched by the sun. I can still feel my hand moving across it.  I smelled her perfume with a hint of powder, and saw her round glasses and wide smile. I saw her piano where she taught me to play, and the mahogany metronome that now rests on the shelf above my desk.

I could have lingered in my state of remembrance for a long time, bringing back more of my childhood at my grandparents home. The sensations, the smells, and the feelings of warmth and care – they were suddenly all available to me, brought back by the aroma of a loaf of bread.

*Photo by Brett Neilson, Creative Commons

For a moment, I was Adam dreaming of Eden.  Adam, on the outside of the garden, suddenly getting a whiff of something in the old garden that he’d left long ago.  And that whiff brought it all back, remembering what once was.  And for a minute I enjoyed it, and then a sadness moved in.

We all have those memories tucked deep inside of us, moments of beauty and of innocence. It was Eden, and we were there!  But we rarely visit these memories, because frankly it hurts to go there. For those moments, like Eden, are gone.  I’m reminded of Robert Frost’s haunting poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf’s a flower:
But only so an hour.  
Then leaf subsides to leaf.  
So Eden sank in grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

For all of us, Eden’s loss hits hard.  A snake comes into every garden, interrupting innocence with a divorce, a death, a shaming moment, or a terrible violation.  It may have been dramatic or it may have been subtle, but whatever it was, it signaled Eden’s demise, the loss of innocence.

I wonder – if Adam’s sin courses through my veins, perhaps so does his memory of Eden.  Could that be what it means to have “eternity written in our hearts?” – that we’ve  been there before and its goodness has been imprinted on our souls?

Maybe it’s time that we begin to remember those days – those moments or relationships we experienced when all seemed right with the world.  What if we looked at those memories as bread crumbs left behind by a God who loves us.  Perhaps if we pick them up, we’ll make our way back home, finding there a taste of a future that will be ours.

What do you remember about your Eden?

Spend time with that memory. Write about it. Be thankful for it.

-Al Andrews

Al Andrews

Al Andrews

Al Andrews is a storyteller. Whether through counseling, speaking, or writing, his passion is to engage in the stories of people, inviting them to hope. He is the author of The Boy, The Kite, and the Wind and A Walk One Winter Night, which are available on Amazon. For regular updates, make sure to follow along on Twitter (@itsalandrews). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Grant

    I made a massive mistake and left my wife and two children for another woman. My Eden is memories of happy times as a family and I am reguarly confronted by what I’ve lost.

    I ended the relationship with the other women just over a month ago and I am try ing to repair the damage I caused, hoping that God will reconcile me to my wife and reknew my marriage.

    I’ve never known a time when I’ve had to rely on God as much as I do know. Ultimately that might actually change me and my character for the better and allow me to live a more Godly life.

    • Chantal

      i am praying for you sir-that god would continue to work in your heart-he can restore your marriage-he will restore your marriage-but even if he doesn’t restore your marriage-he is an amazing god and i will pray you come to know that in a mighty way-i am praying for your wife-that she will know a peace and that she would also lean on god during this difficult time-know that someone somewhere is praying to our creator for both of you and your children <3

    • Brandi

      God Bless you sweet, Grant. We all make mistakes. It’s admirable to own up to them and apologize.

      “Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.” — 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

      Prayers for you!! – Brandi

    • Tanya

      I read the question, considered my answer and scrolled down to read what you had written Grant. Tears fill my eyes and the pain that is always there sharpened.

      My Eden is also the marriage that isn’t any more. I remember the happy times, the days spent together as a family. My husband left for another woman. Our eldest son refuses to speak to him and our youngest son seldom answers his calls. I struggle to forgive him.

      I pray that your wife will open her heart to you again and your family will be restored. I will pray that you find the strength to forgive yourself and God will rain down blessings on you and your family.

    • Praying for you, Grant. I can’t imagine the feelings when that aroma takes you back. But remember God is in the business of forgiveness, and he uses the Holy Spirit to do the same in others.

      God bless you.

  • I remember 2 little girls who thought I was king and looked up to me as their hero, I could do no wrong……
    Now, one is so busy I hardly hear from her,
    The other is a mother herself of 2 little girls…….
    she doesn’t call anymore

    • Dena

      Doug,as a grown busy daughter/mother, I gently say…call them, text them, let them know you think about them. Ask them how you can pray for them, and then do it. Do it without expecting anything in return. You won’t regret it!

      • Chantal

        i agree with dena-i find myself weeping and i am only on response number two-just always let your girls know you are there-it will come-either by a peace in your heart or a joy in hearing from them or both…also praying for you…today i will make my purpose to pray for each person i read about here

      • Jaci

        Doug, I also agree with Dena. As a 22-year-old graduate student living 6 hours from home, I miss my family, especially my mom. But we’re not close, and I never know how to tell her that. I would LOVE it if she called or texted me more often (and not just about practical things like mail I get at her house or when I’m going home for Christmas). She gives me space on purpose to avoid smothering me, but what she (and I suspect other parents) doesn’t realize is that I actually do want her in my life more.

      • Thank you, I will.

    • chrisdeitz

      Hi Doug.

      I am now in your shoes with my family. Once, we had 4 little people running around our house and then it was the teenage years (where you start to become less important to them). I remember a song that I used to play often during that time. It was Harry Chapin’s “Tangled up Puppet”. Hearing someone else say they have the same feelings is helpful.

      Now all are out of the house. Two have families, two are finding their way. I too miss the days of curled up daughters in my lap. But I have found it fun to be friends with them. One calls twice a week, one never calls and the other two are incredibly busy “living the dream”. They send us facebook posts,

      Good luck to you. Most don’t realize men have feelings as deep as women, we just don’t show them as well.

      Listen to that song and it all comes back.

  • I remember, as a child, serving as caddy (gratuitously) for my grandfather. He would wake me up early on a Saturday morning and drag me off to breakfast. There I would listen to him brag about his grandson to the other Saturday regulars, and I sat there all puffed up with pride as they all acknowledged how right he was. From there we would head for the course. Twice during the day, he would line me up and let me hit a tee shot. As bad as it was, he was always proud and boastful of my “talents.” I miss him dearly, but I don’t have to travel far to smell the fresh baked bread. Thanks for sharing this post, Don! Well said, Al!

  • Justin

    This is a really great short work of writing. Thank you.

  • Chantal

    as i read i found myself feeling as though i have so many edens-im not sure even which ones are real and which ones are only the dreams of edens i have had throughout my life…

    right now in this moment-i go back to a time as the second poster said-when my children seemed ok-when both my sons seemed to love the lord and i felt that no matter what-they would be ok-now one son is on drugs and hates the universe and has just had his own son-i had hoped maybe looking into the face of that weeun would be a catalyst for instant change-maybe it is-i don’t know-but its a slow change if it is…and my other son joined the army and is now a raging drunkard with a warped sense of humor that unfortunately i as a mama do not share-its the hardest thing ever to watch that happen-to be terrified of where your children will end up-i continuously beat myself up believing that all this from them-is because in divorcing my own husband-due to infedelity on his part and my own hardness of heart-perhaps i robbed THEM of their eden…and the pain of that has lead them to this…

    i can only keep praying for them-they are adults now-but its not easy-god can save my children-he will save my children-and even if he doesn’t save them-he is still a good god…

    i am blessed by this little community-thank you

    • Kathy Brown

      Your post is both heart rending & beautiful. It is wonderful to see how strong your faith is that, in a situation that would make many bitter & resentful against God, you are still trusting that He is good even when it doesn’t look like it. It reminds me of a post I saw recently about Corrie Ten Boom who held onto the belief that God is always good even as she watched her sister Betsie starve to death. I hope that you have lots of faithful encouraging friends to pray for & support you through this time.

    • Yes, Chantal, He is. Bless you. I’ too, remember a bright-eyed, brilliant oldest child destined for greatness with God who shared everything with me. Until depression, suicidal thoughts, drugs, and every other self-desctuctive thing you can think of happened to that beautiful child. But–God worked. She is back. It will never be the same. We’ve both lost too much. But she is back following him and trusting him. It’s different, but that doesn’t make it not good. It’s very good. She’s helping kids now someone else could never reach. God is good.

      My Eden is usually memories of family vacations together, our first whale watching, getting lost on foggy roads, just sitting on a rocky beach together. That’s beauty for me.

    • Milos

      Chantal, thank you for sharing. I want to encourage you to keep on trusting Jesus, as i saw in my own life how my brother came back from rebellion and bitterness and put his trust back in God, and how God then mended his relationship with our mother. Jesus promises us that He will turn the hearts of the sons/daughters back to their mothers/fathers. there is nothing that is too big for our God to do. Commit your children to Him and He will bring them back, just trust Him

  • Kathy Brown

    While it is true that all but the most broken & abused of us have these warm & pleasant memories from our past, I’d like to comment on a potential ambiguity in this post. If we are blood washed by the Saviour, we no longer have ‘Adam’s sins coursing through [our] veins’. When the Bible describes us as a new creation and says that all things are made new, this is no exaggeration. Redemption through Jesus Christ rewrites our spiritual DNA. We are no longer children of the world but 100% children of God. These memories no longer point to something we have lost, but something that is, once again, legally our birthright. But just as a child, while they are a child, does not have access to everything of their father’s because they are not yet ready to handle it all, so these memories point now towards the full inheritance that lies in wait for us. We need no longer view these memories with pain & regret but can gladly enjoy them with eager anticipation.

  • Brian

    My Eden….my mother passed away when I was 9 years old. Every memory I have of her is Eden to me. As I am now married and have three children, I try to look at this life from my children’s experiences and think: This will be their eden. As they grow, and by God’s grace I continue to live in this world, I want each memory that we make to be part of their eden. And not only for my children, but for my wife as well. As a teacher, I hope this to be true for my students. They’ll look back at their time in middle school and miss those days.

  • Brandi

    My Eden is my Grandparents, as well. I have a twin sister and my Nanny and Papa treated us like their own children. Their love was never questioned for us. They gave us their time — which is what matters most. I fondly remember painting my nails with my Grandma as we dunked Nutter Butters in our lukewarm coffee. What I wouldn’t give to spend more day with them. It saddens my heart that they are gone — but their love lives deep within me. I hope to pass their love to my own son! Time>Money. Do good, be good, Love God!!!

  • Going out on a boat and fishing with my dad.

    We went out on the half day fishing boats off the California coast. I was just a little guy, around ten years old. My father would tie all of my knots, and I would bait my own hooks. Generally, I don’t remember my dad as being a particularly gentle or sensitive guy, but when we went fishing together, he was always patient with me. I still remember sitting near the bow with my dad, with the spray of the waves in our face, watching seagulls. In those moments, it was enough that we were present to one another. In those moments, relationship seemed simple.

    We’re all much older now, my father’s body is broken, we live in different parts of the country and simple conversation often seems difficult. I long for those days, when we simply go on a boat and simply be present to one another.

  • Debbie

    Memories of being care free, but that only lasted until I was 5 yrs old.(My Dad remarried a woman who hated kids and she abused emotionally, physically and her father, my step-grandfather was a pedophile who abused us until we were teenagers) My sister and I were abandoned by our mother when I was 18 months and she was 6 months old, my Dad was 20 and unprepared for 2 babies, so GOD put us in my grandmother’s care and there was no safer place than with her. She loved Jesus, she taught us that He loved us, she took us to church, she lavished love on us, she was poor monetarily but she was rich in love. Just the smell of coffee in the percolator, fresh homemade biscuits, watching her wash clothes on an old wringer washer and hang them out on the line, watching her canning pickles or green beans–I so want to do that again with her but she passed away in 1996 but I will see her again. I thank GOD for those memories, Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

  • This so describes how I feel sometimes. My mother has numerous chronic health illnesses. She is also the next to the youngest of many siblings so I have already lost some dear aunts and uncles. Sometimes a moment will send me back to a time when she was healthier or with her sisters and they got to enjoy more things together. But then I feel choked with sadness because those days are gone. I like the idea of using these moments as breadcrumbs showing the way to our true home where we will make the best memories of all and all the ugly ones will be wiped away.

  • Al, as usual, your gifts carve out space for God to get my attention.

    I am so thankful for the smelling salts of remembered loss. It startles me awake. I am not awakened to mend, fix, repair, rejuvenate; no, that would lead me into more leaving, more loss. I am awakened to the eyes of Christ piercing my shame and guilt and flooding my intentions with a grace that releases reconciliation! I know that my children have missed so much because of my failings, but that is where the impartation of Christ invades my remembering and builds something new, unexpected, vibrant. As I read I am aware that I am called to see, hear and respond to what Jesus is doing – right now!

    Thanks Al [thanks Don]

  • Amazing stories of paradise lost. So many heartbreaking. This life is rife with conflict, and I’m grateful we will be reunited again with Christ when we are done. For now, these comments read like a morning prayer list. Thanks for being so vulnerable and open, all, and thank you, Al, for opening up such a beautiful conversation.

  • Tina D

    I guess my Eden would be safe in my mothers arms, during a period of normalcy, in between episodes of mania and depression. I’ve always longed for a consistent motherly influence where I feel safe from harm.

    But, with that being said, I feel like with the Lord, I have found Eden again. Sure, I could be doing better. I could have a better job, my own place (with a kitchen!), a more fulfilling social life. But I know that it is not what I have materially, but spiritually that matters. The beauty of Eden is that even though we were put out of the garden, forced to work and endure pain, Christ came and wants to restore us back to Eden. It’s not mourning a loss, but it’s hope for a new beginning.

  • Last week I was cleaning out a cabinet in our home office. I came across a bag that I remembered as coming from my grandmother’s house. I thought it contained some quilt scraps from one of her last sewing projects. I opened the bag and the smell of her house filled the room. She had a sewing room off her den when I was growing up. There were cabinets with sliding doors that held all her fabrics. I remember sliding those doors open and wondering what each color would become: a suit for her, a dress for me… When I reached into the bag that I’d found, I pulled out the square of silk on top. It was attached to another and another. I had found a complete quilt top pieced together by my grandmother’s hand. I plan to follow in her footsteps and complete this last project of hers. I hope it always carries her scent.

    • Brandi

      So sweet. I have a feeling she left it for you. 🙂

  • Zach U.

    I lost my Eden when I started caring what other people think of me. When I tried hard to be cool. When I wanted people to like me. When I thought someone else’s opinion of me mattered.

    But I am fighting for my Garden. I’m fighting to realize that only God defines my value.

    Imaging Eden is more than nostalgia. It implants an image in our heads of something that we must chase. It’s a desire that we all have. To be connected to God. To be in the Garden with Him. In perfect unity.

    It’s a vision that’s worth fighting for.

    • Brandi

      Well said. I like that.

  • The real tragedy in the loss of Eden comes with the accompanying loss of our hope and idealism. True hope is found when we can embrace that ideal of Eden from the other side after walking through the valley of disillusionment and returning with a new understanding of the world around us. I’m still in the valley but I hope one day soon to return to Eden. Or at least maintain a clear vision of it from afar.

  • Truth — I don’t think I’ve ever been to Eden. I can’t remember a time when everything seemed right. My hope (not “wish” — HOPE) is that it exists and I’m on the way there, or maybe it’s on its way to me. I feel pieces of it arriving and putting themselves in place every day. My fear is that I will lose my way or grow weary before I get there.

    • I hope too…I’m longing for one to come…to be one for others.

      Love ou Lori. Praying you persevere and never give up.

    • Kathy Brown

      I have known what it is like to be in a place of despair, loneliness, confusion & fear & I know what it is like to come out of that. Often the way ahead remains hidden, but rest assured it is still there. Take each day a step at a time. You may not always know God’s presence, but the fact that you say you ‘feel pieces of it arriving’ shows that He is at work in your life already. What He starts He finishes. Philippians 1:6 is my favourite verse in the Bible: it gives me reassurance when the way seems dark & I seem to be slipping back instead of making progress. Your post also reminded me of Naomi in the Bible who came back from Moab bitter about all her losses, thinking God had abandoned her, when in actual fact, the best was yet to come. And whether or not you make it is not just down to you & your efforts. If God cares enough for you to let Jesus die for you, He also cares enough to stick with you thru the dark, confusing times & see you thru to the end.

      • I hope I didn’t sound too pathetic in my post. Another angle would be to say that I never really felt like I lost anything perfect…it’s all been a process. “Brighter and brighter to the new day”?

  • I don’t remember too much of my Eden, but it was the earliest years of my childhood, before my mother passed away when I was 7. I don’t recall too many negative memories before she passed of cancer… A loving mother, a working father who loved sports, and siblings whom I played with.

    Then, our collective world ‘shattered’ and I (along with the rest of my family, no doubt) was changed forever – or you could say, per the author’s metaphor, we were sent out of Eden.

    I don’t reflect on this time much, mostly because it hurts.. but I’m appreciative of the encouragement to revisit this period of my life. It encourages me to make a difference in the lives of my kids once I have a family, and helps me look toward the hope of heaven, when my family will reunite with my mother.. and with Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks Al.

    • Al Andrews

      As I’ve read your response to my blog (and the other responses as well) I find myself needing to take off my shoes, for I am on holy ground – the holy ground of another’s innocence before it was taken away.

      The beauty of it and the hurt of it are so fused together that it is difficult to separate the memories. Still, they are distinct. I hope that the memories before age 7 will return to you even more fully, and through the tears, hope will show its face.

      I’m glad that you’re encouraged to make a difference in the lives of your kids. It will be their innocence one day, and they’ll remember you and His goodness. Grace and peace to you my friend.

  • Grant

    It’s so good to be able to read other peoples stories and know we’re not alone.

    Thank you everyone for the words of encouragement and offers of prayer. It’s cool that we can all pray for each other.

  • Thank you for sharing this. So refreshing, so honest and so true. That hint of hope that dwells in all of us is that remnant dream of Eden as much as it is the hope of what is to come, in many ways they are the same. It’s definitely healthy to go back to those moments, to remember them – this helps us in the dark moments where hope seems distant.

    Great post.

  • My own Eden? Probably involves a time I barely remember – my parents still happily together, my Mum still alive and without a lost short-term memory, having fun together as a family. My family has always been close and remains so, and in that I am fortunate. But if you’re talking Eden, it would be then.

    Of course, its easy to idealise the past and my parents weren’t perfect even then. But what I remember of it was like a kind of Eden – untouched by all the pain that followed.

    Amazing reading all the comments – people being so honest and vulnerable, it’s amazing. Thanks for sharing everyone, it’s really inspired me.

  • Whenever I visit a traditional church or pass one on the street I’m transported back to being in Sunday School. I was a great student of the Bible and I loved God with in my heart.

    But in middle school, I drifted from the church, and ultimately God. It would be about 8 years before I came to know God again. But this time it was in my head. I work every day to get back to loving Him in my heart the way I did when I was a little boy answering questions about Daniel in the lion’s den.

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  • My grandfather passed away about a month before I moved halfway across the country from my childhood home in North Carolina to my new home in the suburbs of Chicago. My grandmother was not able to take care of the house on her own any more. Over the summer I was back in North Carolina and stepped inside my grandparents house for the first time in six years. For the first time since my grandfather died. Since I had lost my Eden. The hardest moments of my life was walking through the empty rooms, seeing the house that was my grandfathers pride fall into disrepair, his gardens overgrown with weeds. The rooms I had played in so many times as a child empty and echoing. Painfully felt that loss. But I know that same feeling of home and safety is waiting for me. On the other side of the paper sky.

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