A On a warm, breezy sunny day, I watched out the window at our then 10 year-old daughter and her friend play out in the back yard under the huge maple tree. I could hear their laughs and squeals as they played with there dolls, on the cool flagstone, surrounded by soft green grass and a trickling waterfall into a pond nearby, pretending to be in an enchanted forest when our daughter's friend made the comment about our yard. "Your backyard is so beautiful and peaceful, I wish that our yard looked like this." she said happily. They continued their playing but I was taken back to my own experience under our huge mulberry tree in our backyard some 40 years earlier.
I grew up in southern California where trees were abundant in our neighborhood and there were a variety of orchards that surrounded our city. A small town with agriculture as its prime income there were acres and acres of farms with lots of fruit and nut trees. In my parent's backyard they had their own fruit trees and two large shade trees that my siblings and I used as forts in our many adventures. My mom was the main gardener of the household and I'm sure that's where I inherited my love for gardening, and my two green thumbs. I was fascinated by the huge trees in our yard with their long expansive limbs just waiting to be explored. I was the only girl in the family for a long time with two older brothers and one younger brother, that I would follow around to try and be a part of their adventures, in which I turned into competitions. They would often tell me to go play with my dolls or that "girls weren't allowed, but I didn't let that stop me from climbing up into the large mulberry tree. My mother would come outside to water her garden and see me high up in the large mulberry tree, sometimes higher up than my brothers and yell at me to get down. She too grew up in the woods and played like a boy, but she also knew how bad a little girl could get hurt climbing up some 20 feet in the air. When she was about seven she had climbed a tall tree in their woods back in Louisiana just to answer a dare from the neighborhood kids. The wind began to blow and make the tree sway back and forth scratching her up pretty badly. She was so afraid that the wind would knock her out of the tree that she screamed until her angry father had to come get her down which followed by a switch taken from that same tree to her hind end. She never climbed another tree and didn't think that I should then either. I would climb down in fear of a good spanking and sit below as my brothers continued laughing and making fun of me for being grounded. I would find ways to climb those trees when my mom was too busy to catch me, but when I wasn't allowed to climb up in our trees I was scurrying up our ladder to the roof of our house just to take in the view of her beautiful garden. My dad always left the ladder up against the roof for whatever reason, so I took full advantage of it being there. A good year or two passed by before my mom figured out what I was doing when I had mentioned that I saw the neighbors mowing their lawn from the roof. Grounded again!
Now as an avid gardener I think trees play a huge part in our health and well-being. From the shade that they provide on a hot sweltering day to the sweet, juicy, run down your face kind fruit that they provide, trees can be a blessing. They give us lumber for houses, furniture, paper goods and a place to hang a hammock. The leaves give us color in the fall and mulch for our gardens. They clean the air that we breathe and hold the soil together on a hillside. They give us romantic places to dance under and allow a child's imagination to run wild with delight with a simple tree tire swing, or to climb up as high as one could get to see the world around them. So how does this parallel with our relationship to the One who created these trees and us? Allow me the time to walk you down a path that will show you that there is a message to hear from the trees in our midst. They are living, growing creations that have something to say to you and me. Not speaking with words, but with their very being they want to show us the wonderment of God's love for us.
The trees around my property in Oregon were varied in kind and a wonder to behold in both spring and fall. Their towering limbs bring afternoon shade to the yard and the expanse of shade provided a cool place to sit and admire the garden. When the winter storms came to Oregon, and the wind would blow violently, the trees would sway together like couples dancing the waltz. The trees that were old and sickly looking would lose limbs to those violent winds, breaking and snapping them to the ground. The trees that were strong and well pruned withstood the years of winter storms and produced and abundance of leaves for shade, or fruit for yummy pies. Spring would finally arrive and the new buds on the dogwoods were the first to appear and announce that summer was arriving soon. Many times I would walk my five acres and just stare at the vast expanse of limbs, spotting a nest or two, wondering what birds called those branches home. When it was time for the butterflies to emerge they would fill the trees and wave their wings in unison and they would glow for a sight to behold. All together they would release from the trees and continue on their migration north. I would stand in the middle of their path with my arms outstretched as if to point the direction that they already knew to go. It would take a full 15 minutes for them to fly through my property and what an amazing sight it was. As I created spaces in my garden for others to sit and enjoy its beauty, I would plant trees and flowers that would add delight to the eyes. Pockets of color would dot the garden and scents of lavender and roses would float through the air luring guests to linger and take it all in.
When a dear friend in distress or sadness comes to you for a shoulder to lean on, are you like a tree that provides shade and comfort? Do others around you admire your character and talents like the sweet fruit of a tree and see growth in your attitudes or life skills, or do they see a hardened heart with dead limbs hanging like an old snag unable to bear good fruit. Have you been beaten up by the troubles in your life or do others find rest in your being around, or rest when you leave? Do you glow with the joy of who you are, or are you one who people avoid because you're always taking bad about others? No matter what season we are in God desires that we are under His care so we become the breath-taking examples of a Godly person and not that of the world. Your heart is like a garden. It's either full of life, growing and blooming producing good things, or it's like a barren unkempt yard with thorns and weeds and trash strung out all over. God will become the Master Gardener of your heart, but He will not force his way in uninvited. You don't need to get your act together first, that's what He does best. He is the Master Gardener and will transform your life into something beautiful and peaceful!