the lesson of the trees

Credit: David Bartus

It is April in Georgia, but it feels suspiciously like autumn in the Midwest. The grey, wet clouds have given way to droplets sliding down the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround our dining room. With breakfast spread on the table, our newborn son sleeping at the other end of the house, I note the weather: high of 66. Yes, this feels just like autumn in Louisville.

All that’s missing is the brilliant show of color, courtesy of the abundant flora.

Being from Texas, where there are basically two seasons—hot and less hot—and only a smattering of tree types in the city, the trees in the Ohio Valley made my heart soar. A summer arrival to the region, I first relished in the many varieties and waited impatiently for each to turn its own autumn jewel tone. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve heard it said that a frog won’t realise it’s being boiled if you place it in cold water and slowly turn up the heat. That aptly describes our life in Louisville. We were the frogs. By the summer of 2018, we had too many irons in too many fires, along with a planned move to another state. We lived in a trendy, historic part of Louisville, which meant it was always full of activity. My husband worked part-time and pastored a small church part-time. (Hint: There is no such thing as part-time in church revitalization.) I taught middle school math full-time, and served where I could. We were on a track, riding at breakneck speed . . . until we weren’t.

A hysterectomy and cancer diagnosis stopped us dead in our tracks. Stunned, I stood wide-eyed in this sudden time of reckoning. The question loomed: Do I really trust God with my life?

The short answer is yes; if I can’t trust Him with it, whom can I trust? His steadfast love for His children necessitates that He only give good gifts to them. I knew, from the start, that somehow—even if I couldn’t see it—cancer would be a gift. Chemotherapy would be a gift. Needing to rely on others for necessities, such as food and errands, would be a gift. The difficulty of life in Louisville would be a gift.

Being forced to stop relying on my own strength would be gift.

As I sat nervously in an infusion chair for the first time, my port accessed, pre-meds flowing, I thought of the trees. I watched their tops sway in the wind, through the steel and glass window, the quiet growl of the infusion machines the soundtrack of the day. Life had become so frantic that I had hardly noticed our tall, leafy friends the autumn before. Trees are resilient. They withstand high winds and snow, and they are better for it. Trees don’t become anxious when circumstances aren’t as they want them to be. Trees are completely reliant on the One who created them, just like man is. Except we humans tend to forget this, and we commence striving for a goal that we have set. We forget to be still. We forget to wait. We forget to listen.

God reminded me of my utter dependence, my need to stand before Him in awe, and He used cancer and the trees to do it.

As my treatments progressed, we settled in a new state, in a quaint home on a comfortable piece of land, surrounded by—what else?—trees. I watched them turn from green to brilliant jewel tones, to food for the roots sprawling beneath the ground. I felt this mirrored my personal experience in that season. Much like the trees, I was hibernating. For me, it was to heal. The trees, they waited. At the end of winter, we both began to come alive again, they with new sprouts of green, and I with new sprouts of Spirit-fruit. (Not that I have fully resolved these things. I’m still growing!)

My complaining heart had been replaced with gratitude and joy.

My impatient flesh had been mortified (at least in part), and in its place stood an eager willingness to wait on the Lord.

A self-sufficient spirit had been replaced by a wanting to know God’s way and to follow it.

Then, in February, our son came swiftly into our lives, with only ten days of notice. As I have fed him in the wee hours of the morning and snuggled him close, I am aware that the lessons I learned from the trees are exactly what I needed to become a mother.

If all of the trials and tribulations were necessary for me to be the mother Ethan needs, then they were indeed a gift, both for me and for Ethan. Someday, I hope to take him back to that chrysalis of a Midwest town and share with him the true beauty of autumn and the deep wonder of God’s work in our lives.


One thought on “the lesson of the trees

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing these words! I desperately needed to hear the message they brought to me. May you continue to grow and be blessed under God’s care! You have helped to shift my focus on the things I’ve been ping through that turned my life upside down and inside out at a time when I thought life was finally falling into place comfortably.


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