Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pine Trees

It was sometime last November, before Thanksgiving, that we planted the seeds. You know, the ones that come packaged with the cute little individual pot and dirt pellet at Target? For just one dollar you, too, can grow your own Christmas tree. “Really,” you justify, “if it fails I get to keep the little pot.”

So, I bought four, one for each kiddo. “What fun!” I thought. “They can water them. Take care of them. Watch them grow. It will be educational! Then we can plant them in the back yard!”

(Target knows that’s what every parent will say.)

The kids thought it was great. They loved seeing the dirt pellet expand when we added water. They were excited about burying their very own four to six seeds in the soil. And then we waited.

Those four little pots sat in the middle of our kitchen table, which was the only suitable perch where they would receive adequate sunlight. We even had a friend come water them while we were away over Thanksgiving. Nurture. Care.

Little green buds began to sprout up. We were so excited! Up they came. It was a race. (Because everything is to those under 14.) Whose pot would sprout all their seeds first?

Then the middles of each began to unfurl. Little sprays of pine needles! One umbrella per fragile little stem. They unfurled…

…and then just sat there.

We watered. The kids asked when they would grow more. “They are,” I replied with hesitating confidence, “you just can’t see the growth yet.”

The kids lost interest. I kept watering. I kept watching. I kept them in the middle of the table.

Nothing changed.

Christmas came and went. They had pink and red little pots now at Target with wildflowers and lavender for Valentine’s Day. “Maybe those will grow faster. A quicker result.” I hoped. So, once again, I bought four. The kids’ excitement was renewed! Adding the water to the dirt pellet. Burying the seeds. Sure enough, the green little stems popped up from the soil faster than ever. We watered them, along with the little pine trees, and watched as they took over their pots. What joy! But soon they got all tangled and started withering and turning brown. (When you say withering, don’t you want to say wuthering instead? Just to sound Bronte-esque? I do.)

“I know!” Right at that moment I SO had the answer, “they just need a bigger pot! That’s probably why the little fir trees aren’t growing anymore and the other ones are dying!” So, we went back to Target and got a larger pot they could all fit in comfortably, with plenty of room for roots to grow. They transferred, but the wildflower and lavender continued to turn brown and shrink up, ultimately passing from this world. When I pulled them out, their roots were so little and wispy. I wondered if that’s why they didn’t make it.

The pine trees just sat there, looking so very small in that very big pot, still in the middle of our kitchen table.

Then their little stems started to turn brown. “Oh! They’re getting all wooden! Finally, something is happening.” I would call the kids every now and then… they weren’t that impressed. Nothing was growing UP. Nothing was growing BIG.

“Mom, maybe this is all they’re going to grow.” They would say.

“No! There’s got to be more!” I did NOT want to give up. I would NOT admit defeat.

In July we made our move to Colorado… via Las Vegas… via the Grand Canyon… two week’s worth of hotels and stopovers. And the trees came with us. They sat at my feet in the Suburban. They sat in the hotel windows for sunlight. They were watered. Nothing changed.

We’ve been here now over a month. Our new house has a little ledge on the kitchen’s bay window where my (the kids long since gave up) pine trees sit and bask in the sunlight. More than a few times they’ve almost met their doom at the hands of rough children playing tag. I’ve almost thrown them out in frustration of “where do I PUT all this STUFF?”

I noticed the other day most of their little stems and needles had turned an even more death-looking brown. The little umbrella sprays were curling under and starting to shrink up. “I guess it wasn’t wood. I guess it was death.” In my moment of sadness it was just too much to throw them out. A clear illustration of too many things that die before ever realizing their potential, like much of our world in this present time. It was all too philosophical for the trash can.

This morning I reached for the pot full of brown pine trees. “Might as well…

“WAIT! What is THAT?” And there, amidst the sea of brown, in the middle of nearly every little pine stem, was a new sprout of green growth. Fresh. Bright. Beautiful.

And it was a moment.

Because before you can have apparent growth on the outside, you need to have it on the inside. Before you can grow up, your roots have to grow down. The other flowers that had shown so much outside growth so quickly didn’t last because their roots were too small. They couldn’t withstand the transplant that was supposed to help them, supposed be good for them.

But these little trees, my trees, took the time to grow their roots deep. They lasted the transplant, and just when I was about to toss them for lack of visible growth, there it finally came.

How often we are so impatient! How many of us would have tossed the trees and extinguished the miracle that was forming beneath the soil? (The only reason I didn’t was because I’m so ridiculously sentimental.)

How often do we discard relationships, give up on those around us, move on to something we think will be bigger, better, because we can’t actually see the growth? We can’t see what WE think is anything positive happening. So we move ourselves on to whatever is next, never fully reaching our potential where we’re at.

I think God works below the surface. I think He takes His time in establishing our roots, in growing them deep so we can withstand the transplants that are meant for our own good. I think the appearance of brown doesn’t always mean life is gone, and what we often see as failure is actually an integral part of the process of growing a new life… a stronger life.
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MooBee Mama said...

What an inspiring post! New life springs forth from the pine trees at the same time you start your own new life! God is so amazing!
Psalm 96:12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise!

Shannon said...

It is insane how on the same page you and I are! My step dad and my siblings and I are going through some growth spirts in relationship right now. Well, more specifically my step dad and siblings, but I've been copied on all of the emails and have started giving my input after much contemplation. I find it very stressful, that transplanting stage...being pulled up by the roots, but I know how valuable my relationships are and I will wait, patiently wait to see those little green sprouts! I posted my status update before I saw this and was amazed....I'm so glad God has given me a friend who I connect with on lots of levels, even though our friendship is in the baby stage :). I'll wait for our roots to grow deep, my friend!