There is a tree in our backyard that reminds me of myself, and I don’t take a picture of it to show you for the same reason I haven’t posted a real, true selfie on social media in months. Last year we decided to move that tree, a beautiful little hydrangea that had faithfully produced gorgeous white blossoms each summer. It had been planted well, but crooked, and the gusty winds that wind their way through our backyard unstopped by layers of open field had only served to bend the trunk more. It had also been planted in a season before things were settled and mapped out in our backyard, a place chosen out of convenience and hope rather than permanency. Now that we had added a fence and landscaping the faithful little tree was, quite simply, in the way.
With care and thought, we relocated the tree to a back corner of the yard where we knew it would shine as the focal point of our garden. But, like many things that grow deep roots, it didn’t take kindly to being moved from the comfort and security of what it had always known. Although it didn’t die, it certainly didn’t thrive. Those fragrant white blooms were withheld from our presence last year as the little tree tried desperately to figure out it’s new home. We wondered if it would make it.
It looked barren for awhile, bare branches still reaching to the sky and making a landing place for the many birds that frequent our backyard. We decided to give it some time before we discarded it into the trash heap behind the fence, not willing to call time of death on something that had once been so full of life and beauty. I planted perennials around the base of the tree and in the surrounding mulch. Maybe if I put living things near it the tree would remember how to grow. Or at least we would be distracted by the color and newness of the small plants and forget to worry about the tree that might not survive the change.
I looked at that tree this morning from our bathroom window, my reflection in the mirror above the sink in my periphery and I noticed something new. Something different. There were leaves. Tiny and bright green, but they were there. Only on one small side of the tree, the rest still brown and dry, but there they were. I know what that feels like. Like the smile that finds it’s way to my face but not yet back up to my eyes. Like the gratitude that overwhelms my heart for the prayers God has answered and mingles still with the grief and hurt of another change and loss. It’s a season that somehow looks like wilderness and abundance at the same time, old things dying and new things coming to life and I haven’t yet discovered my roots in this new place.
The only thing I can do is stay here, giving myself time to figure out what new version of these beautiful gifts God would have me offer the world. In small acts of obedience, I do the work set before me and make one sentence notes of gratitude in a 5-year journal that will hopefully bring me far more joy than the hurtful collection of Facebook memories I encounter each morning. I bury the dreams of fancy titles and public accolades and commit to doing more serving because I think something lovely might come out of those places.
Maybe, one day, when the tree is in full bloom and has said a loving goodbye to the barren place it once knew, I’ll take a picture for you. And maybe, one day, when that smile again meets up with my eyes, when I recognize that woman looking back at me, and I know you won’t worry if you see sadness mixed with the joy, you’ll discover another selfie on Instagram. But even if not, I know that God has something planned with this new space He’s given me, where maybe I’m no longer in the way but taking some time to grow deeper, stronger roots. One day I’ll fully bloom again. I can’t wait.