This lace bark elm stands reaching to the heavens in my backyard, but it was once just a sapling that we planted, and this is the story of how it survived the odds and came back from the “almost-dead”.
This tree didn’t always have it easy as it began it’s life. We planted it in 2007, the year that my father-in-law passed, as a reminder of the beauty in celebrating a life well lived. In 2011 it was thriving as a young tree but had a bit of a crisis and almost didn’t make it beyond it’s 4th year. We had taken in a rescue dog that year who turned out to be pretty destructive. One day we came out to the backyard to discover that she had painstakingly peeled all the bark off the bottom half of our beautiful tree, most likely just because she found it something fun to do. She subjected our poor tree to great trauma, leaving it bare and exposed, without much hope of survival.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my husband so mad over something destructive that has happened to our yard or home. Not even the hurricane damage that we have faced several times. This was HIS tree that he had worked so hard to nurture and grow for 4 years to that point. It was a symbol of life that had almost been destroyed. And to top it off, he is a dog lover and was trying to give this dog a loving home, but she had not been “loving” to our family in return. It was frustrating that she was so destructive and didn’t even understand the harm she had caused.
That’s a lot like life isn’t it? We may work so hard on something like trying to get a promotion, or achieve a goal, or nurture a relationship for YEARS and then one day we don’t get the promotion, we miss the goal deadline, or a relationship ends. The “bark” gets stripped away and all our effort seems lost. It feels like all that time has been wasted and we are starting over. It hurts even more when someone we care about is involved in causing the pain associated with these losses.
So what do we do when we are faced with loss and need to figure out how to move on, trying to find hope in the next morning?
Some would say, “It’s just a tree. Plant a new one!” Yes, in some cases of loss you could. You can definitely make new goals, set new deadlines, invest in new positive relationships, and even take baby steps as you learn to live life without what you once had. But that is not always easy to let go of the pain from the loss and sometimes we need to give wounds time to heal. And sometimes they don’t, and we need to find a way to live with the wounds on a new path.
Well, I can tell you that my husband put protective wire around this little survivor tree of ours and continued to nurture it and feed it and care for it. He continued to have hope that it would thrive and grow and reach it’s full potential. He was not willing to give up on it so easily.
Since then our lace bark elm has grown and thrived and amazed us with its resilience. It came back from the “almost-dead” and has brought beauty and joy to our yard, and our hearts. Plus, its branches, strong roots, and sturdy trunk are an example every day of how we can not only overcome the hard things in our past, but use what we have lost to gain greater strength.
This Holy Week I looked out at that tree and was inspired by its beauty. I looked up and was reminded of where we can find our strength when we feel like we have been stripped of everything and might be starting over. Our strength comes from strong roots. Our strength comes from a trunk and branches that help carry the weight. Our hope and encouragement to face starting over comes from others that might nurture our hearts when we are wounded.
Dear friends, this is the resurrection story.
For me, the strong roots are my faith in a God that I know loves each of us unconditionally. He loves us so much that He sent his son Jesus. Jesus is the strength in my life and the friend that I need when I feel that I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and especially when I feel at times that all has been stripped away. Jesus overcame DEATH with me and YOU in mind. He has already carried that weight for us in the cross. He took our place so we don’t have to give up an abundant life with HIM. He believes in our ability to survive whatever we are facing because He has already faced it FOR us.
Yes, it’s hard, and painful, and you might even feel like you have no idea how you are going to make it one more hour of this day, but you ARE. You ARE right now because it’s a CHOICE. You are surviving and you are going to make it because you can CHOOSE to look to Him and what He has already done. Don’t look at what you’ve lost right now or how hard it’s going to be. Just look at Him. You will look at what you’ve lost and back again and it will slowly get easier to look at Jesus more often and less at the pain of the past.
You might be starting over. You might feel that you are buried in the ashes. People might even be telling you “just plant a new tree” and you have no idea how you could ever replace the one you lost. I promise if you are willing to TRUST Jesus that He is enough to help you RISE again, because He has already done it. He is the proof that He can do it again in YOUR life.
The survival of this tree isn’t the end of our story. It’s a symbol for what’s possible though. We have lost much in the relationship we once had with our adopted daughter who is now an adult and struggling with who she wants her family to be. Regardless of any role I might play in her life, my prayer has always been that she would see that even though it may feel at times like all the bark has been stripped away from her life, and she’s barely hanging on, Jesus is the one that restores and He is the one that has the power to bring her up from the ashes.
He has done this for me when I have had trouble reconciling how to move forward without her in our day to day life. This was a painful loss I have had trouble accepting as a “new normal”. But I have not given up on the hope, and the redemption that God promises. I KNOW without a doubt that He will redeem HER story and use it for good…someday. She already has a huge heart of compassion so I hold onto hope that the roots that we planted in her life will sprout and grow her into her own version by her choosing of a beautiful “resurrection tree”.
I believe it and I claim it.
I am praying for YOU to have your own redemption story to celebrate and share. Use your voice and inspire someone, be kind, embrace beauty, and be sure that others in your life know your story. Happy Easter friends!