Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's not over; look for signs of new hope

When my friends Gary and Linda relocated to Florida last summer, they gave me a lot of perennials and trees from their yard to transplant in my own. Among them were four ornamental trees with beautiful deep purple/dark red oval shape leaves. I don’t even know the name of the tree, but they were my favorite new addition to the yard. I spent a great deal of time and effort last summer caring for those trees; watering them daily to do what I can to help them take root.

 I just loved them, but it appears that they have succumbed to the incredibly harsh winter we had because thus far there has been absolutely no signs of any life remaining in them. In fact, I’ve already pulled out one of them; it just came right up roots and all with a slight tug, so I’m sure that one has died. I was about to give up hope on the other three…..that is, until yesterday when I discovered several very small new leaves growing at the base of the tallest of the three remaining trees. 

There is absolutely no buds/blooms or any sign of leaves on any of the branches, but when I was weeding, I noticed the new growth….way at the bottom…and I was overjoyed.  Does this mean that the tree is going to make it? I’m not sure….but at least I know there is hope, even if it is ever-so-slight.  It means that at least part of the roots have taken and there is a bit of life remaining, even though the top of the tree appears to be completely dead.  Whether or not it is enough to sustain the tree throughout the hot summer months is yet to be determined, but for now, I have hope. I may have to trim the entire top of the tree down to the base and start all over, but I’m willing to do what it takes to save the tree; at least I’m going to do what I can.

Gosh, that tree is so much like our journey, isn’t it?  We work so hard to change our lives. We try our best to do the right thing. We are committed to success and are sure that THIS TIME we are going to do it.  But then….in spite of our best efforts, life gets hard, (we face a hard cold winter, if you will), and it appears that we have failed…or are failing….because there is no evidence that any of our hard work has made a difference. Perhaps we’ve hit a plateau. Perhaps we’ve given in to temptation….for the umpteenth time.  Perhaps our situation has not improved or changed in any way, even though we’ve done ‘everything right’ and gave it our best shot.  It simply appears that we are in a battle that we cannot possibly win; it’s simply TOO HARD, and we are just about to give up.  Maybe we’ve already given up.  BUT then…..something happens to give us hope and we discover new growth on an otherwise ‘dead appearing tree!” 

 Maybe someone we haven’t seen in a while gives us a compliment and says, “Hey, have you lost weight?”  Perhaps we’ve pulled our summer clothes out of storage and last year’s shorts zip up easier or are too big.  Maybe all of a sudden you get on the scale after a couple of weeks and discover that FINALLY you record a loss.  Maybe you even read some post or see some quote on Facebook or in your e-mail and you know that God is speaking to you and telling you…. “Don’t give up….don’t pull that tree out of the ground just yet….give it a bit more time…..trust ME that there is hope; there is life; there is a possibility; your miracle is about to happen!

If you look around and ask God to help you become aware of the ways in which He offers support and encouragement to you on your journey, you will begin to discover signs like this all around you.  My friends, you are not ALONE in your struggles. Even if you don’t share a faith in a higher power, God is still working in your life, but is likely using nature, people in your life….even strangers….to encourage and support you along the way.  Please don’t give up!  Look for a sign….any little sign….to encourage you to keep trying.  Because, very likely, when you discover that tiny little set of leaves, you will begin to do whatever you can to make those leaves grow. Your spirit will be revived and your willpower will increase.

 You can be assured that I will be doing extra watering and fertilizing and putting all my effort into trying to nurture that tree. I won’t give up until I know for sure it is completely dead…..but my guess is that with a lot of extra care….those little leaves will continue to grow, and perhaps, just perhaps, that tree will leaf out completely. But it may take A VERY LONG TIME to do so, especially if it has to start all over from the bottom, but I won’t give up on that tree. I won’t give up on my journey. And I won’t give up on you, either!

Look for those little leaves in your life……and make it a good day!