I had lunch today with a good friend who shared her disappointment about losing a house she and her husband tried to buy. The home–priced right, in a good neighborhood–ended up in a bidding war, with multiple buyers offering crazy money to buy it. My friend and her husband lost out. Been there. It breaks your heart.
As she shared all the reasons the house would have been perfect, my mind ticked through the things that I have looked for in a home whenever we’ve moved. Of course, location, location, location. Lots of light, a floor plan that would fit our lifestyle, updated appliances, great kitchen, well-maintained yard.
However, there has always been one thing at the top of my list that doesn’t show up on most people’s list of “must haves.” A tree.
Not just any tree. A healthy, thriving tree, outside a good-sized window in whatever room will be my work space.
Some people need an ergonomic chair, a Keurig coffeemaker, or the perfect lamp to illuminate their work. I need a tree.
Trees have always been symbolic in my life. They tell me life will go on. That it’ll be alright. That whatever I’m facing will pass, but some things will always remain. Those things were here before my problems showed up and they’ll be here after the problems disappear or are replaced by others. They’re here because God put them here as part of his master plan. And I’m here for the same reason. So we’ll both be here until God says otherwise. It’s his story. He gets to decide.
When I turned 50, I took a 40-day trip alone on America’s back roads. Burned out from a corporate job, I took a sabbatical to re-evaluate at midlife.
When traveling through Tennessee, I decided to try to find the house where my family lived outside of Nashville. Unpleasant things happened in that house. I was only five, but I remembered. I guess I wanted to see the place and stare down the memories one last time, to be done with them.
One happy memory of the place was a small tree my dad planted in the front yard. Somewhere in a box of family photos, there’s a picture of me, with my Buster Brown haircut and Mary Jane shoes, watering the small new tree with a sprinkling can. I looked so earnest and the tree looked so small. I wondered if the tree had survived.
I rounded the corner onto Marengo Lane and there it was–a majestic, towering magnolia tree about 30 feet tall, exploding with fragrant blossoms. It was spectacular! I pulled over to the side of the road and just stared. Remarkable. We both had survived.
I thought of all that had happened in my life in the intervening decades and wondered what the tree must have witnessed and lived through in it’s long life.
No doubt there were years of drought, neglect, and rough pruning…but also years when the sun was plentiful and the earth rich, and someone tended to the tree’s needs, so it would thrive and offer its fragrance and beauty to new generations.
Sort of like our own lives. Whether our beginnings were treasured or traumatic, the odds are that in the intervening years, there have been both sunny days and dark ones, dry seasons and times of exhilarating growth, neglect and nurture. And yet we survive.
We survive because we’re all part of God’s story and his story isn’t over yet.