As Christmas wound down and New Year’s Day quickly approached, I started thinking about writing a New Year’s post as I have done in year’s past. There is just something about standing on the ledge of a new year—and, in this case, a new decade—that begs for a time of reflection.
This year, however, I just wasn’t mentally there at the time. I really can’t explain why. It is simply the way it was.
However, as the month has marched on, a post that has been percolating for several months has now bubbled to the top and I think is quite fitting to kick off this fresh, budding new year and decade.
It is a true tale about a tree.
Not just any tree, mind you, but a mini bonsai tree that God has used to teach me more about Him as well as myself, especially during the last half of 2019.
The story actually started about four years ago when I paid my first of two visits to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. After discovering this spiritual haven nestled in the woods on the outskirts of Atlanta, I scheduled a personal retreat weekend in anticipation of snuggling up to God and reconnecting with Him and the purpose that He has laid before me. I was hoping for a little more direction and a whole lot of inspiration.
Needless to say, He did not disappoint. He never does. Seriously, when He said, “Seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened,” He really meant it. After all, He is literally a God of His Word.
So, as I planted myself in the silence of that holy and beautiful place, He met me and filled me with more love, wisdom and inspiration than I ever imagined possible. I left revived, rejuvenated and ready to continue on my path, pen in hand, just as I had hoped and expected.
But, I also left with something else that I had not anticipated—a beautiful little bonsai tree straight from the monk’s green house and garden center. I had read about the garden center in one of the monastery brochures, but nothing prepared me for the impressive display of mini trees I actually saw there. It was like walking into a magical indoor forest. Apparently, the monks have been crafting these little beauties for decades, and I felt compelled to buy one as a memento of my trip. I picked out a small one that was reasonably priced and carefully transported it back home.
Once home, I found just the place for it on the sill of the garden window in my kitchen. There, I thought, it would get plenty of sun and, since the water faucet is right there, it might also have a better chance of me actually remembering to water it.
That last part was super important as I don’t have the best track record with plants. Not only is my thumb not green, my plants often aren’t either. Therefore, the closeness to the water source is more crucial than you might think.
Unfortunately, even its proximity to the water source didn’t work so well. Turns out you still have to DO something, and as my job got super crazy and I was working 80-plus hour weeks, that something happened less and less. I could barely remember to water and feed the dog, much less my little tree, which was now down to just a few cluster of leaves. Somehow, though, it survived.
Even after I left that job some two and a half years ago and I did better about watering my little tree, it still didn’t seem to really grow and eventually faded into the background of my kitchen window and my thoughts.
Until this past September, that is, as I readied myself to head back to the monastery for a little of what I like to call “me and Thee time.” As I hung up the phone after making my reservations, I stood in the kitchen staring at my pitiful little barren tree and began making plans to shop for a new tree and start over. But, as I planned away, God interrupted me.
In that still small voice that I will forever be thankful for, these words came booming through deep in my spirit:
“No, no, no. Dear Child, don’t you see? You are like that tree. When you don’t feed and nourish yourself spiritually, your fruitfulness and growth may stop, but I NEVER give up on you just as you should not give up on your tree. You are both special, one-of-kind creations that I love with all My heart and cannot be replaced. Come, let me replenish you and revive your mind, body and soil.”
That’s right, where you would normally expect to hear the word soul, I heard God say soil, and, in that very instant, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. And, it was NOT to buy a brand new plant, but to repot the one I had in renewed soil, just as God was about to do with me on my weekend retreat—a beautiful Spirit-infused weekend which I really need to write about soon.
For now, however, I hope you’ll continue to indulge me in the story of my tree.
As the weekend came to a close, I popped over to the monastery garden center and spoke with one of the monks. I told him about my struggling tree and he suggested a small bag of new potting soil and some bonsai food. He explained why bonsais need repotting in fresh, nutrient-rich soil and how often to feed it after it has been repotted. He also reminded me to water it every single day as bonsai soil is designed to not only allow water to quickly drain from the soil, but to also allow fresh air to continually enter.
I couldn’t wait to get home! I was so excited to repot and literally breathe new life into my tree. I even thought about posting about it so that everyone could share in the miracle that God was about to perform.
“But, then again, perhaps I should wait just to be sure,” I thought to myself and closed my laptop as quickly as I had opened it.
I repotted the tree just as instructed and watched excitedly and expectantly. My tree, however, did not flourish overnight. In fact, it was quite the opposite, and, over the coming days and weeks, the few leaves it did have fell away until I was left with what looked like a twig sticking up out of the soil. A twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.
I was not just disappointed, I was devastated and oh so glad that I had chosen not to post about the miracle that God was sure to perform. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of it either. After all, it was twig, y’all. No leaves, no nothing.
Still something inside of me wouldn’t let me give up. I continued to water and feed that little twig until finally, a couple of weeks later, I noticed a tiny little green bud bursting through a bleak nub on my tiny dried up little tree. Then another. And another. And another. And another. Until my little tree, in just a few short weeks, was starting to look like the tree I had purchased some four years earlier.
As a matter of fact, it is still growing and flourishing, and, this morning as I gazed on in utter amazement, I heard that still small voice again deep in my spirit.
“Don’t you see, dear Child, sometimes the old things must fall away to make room for new growth and for new revival to take place. I’m proud that, even when it looked like all hope was lost, you tended the twig and trusted in Me. Remember, dear one, your human perspective is very limited. You cannot see as I see. You cannot see what is happening behind the scenes and, even if you could, your human mind could not understand. Your job is to trust Me and to continue abiding in Me as I abide in you.”
“For I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; but apart Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelation 21:5
Happy sigh. Thank you, Father, for continuing to love me, to seek me and to tend my spirit and soil/soul, despite my stubbornness and propensity for drifting away and forgetting to fully trust in You. Thank you, Father, for planting eternity and a desire to know You in my heart. Help me to keep the soil of my heart refreshed so that Your roots in me grow stronger and stronger, allowing me to flourish like my little bonsai and to continue to become the fruitful one that You created me to be. I love you, Father. Forever.
Amen and Ehmen.