Saturday, 17 November 2012

Norman's new growth

Morning, God.

Last week my husband and I dragged the Yucca plant into the greenhouse to be wrapped up cosy for the winter. As a result the front corner of the house looked a little bare. And there's a grubby circular mark on the paving that needed to be scrubbed or covered up - so covered up it was. I pulled Norman the Nordmann Fir Christmas tree over to fill the gap even though it was only early November. 

Norman has a special place in my heart, because we rescued him a year ago. Typically late to the game, we went shopping for a smallish (cheapish) Christmas tree in December last year for the Yucca-spot near the front door because Bruce the Spruce, the previous incumbent, had gone brown and crispy by May. Alas, the locusts had visited the garden centre before us and the enormous space where the flock of Christmas trees had been was a wasteland of broken branches, discarded labels and lots of pine needles. Huddled in a corner, askew in his tiny pot and looking ashamed of himself was Norman. Of course we had to bring him home. (Mostly because there weren't any more). 

So Norman joined the family. He held up his spindly arms to hold aloft the Christmas lights and only fell over a few times when someone tripped over the cable. He did his best. He gained in confidence as the festive season progressed and by early January he was reluctant to surrender the lights. When the Yucca reclaimed his spot in April when the frosts passed Norman retreated into a corner again but this time with his head held high. He had purpose in life. He was biding his time. 

Norman's glory
And now Norman reigns once again. And do you know, this year he's impressive. He's a good looking tree. He stands a bit taller, reaches out a bit further. He is bushy and lush-looking. And the thing that struck me powerfully is that the season's new growth is a vivid bright green and contrasts beautifully with the old Norman. You can see clearly where he's grown.

New Growth. 

I know that it's not the end of the year yet when we all get a bit maudlin and start reflecting on the past year and making resolutions for the new one. It's only November and not the traditional time for taking stock, but I'll be busy and flapping about Christmas in a few weeks and then I'll be moaning about how depressing January is after that so now seems a good a time as any, doesn't it?

Father God, I really think that I'm a bit like Norman. When I think about the 'me' of twelve months ago in comparison with today's 'me', I definitely have fresh new growth that contrasts dramatically with the dark foliage that I'm used to. Norman's new bits are bushy and vibrant and beautiful, but they're also softer and less prickly than his dark, last year's branches. As the new bright green bits were developing over the summer and autumn they were very fragile indeed and when I forgot to water him they'd droop, only to perk up quickly when I gave him a drink. Now they're firming up ready for the winter when it'll get icy cold and windy. He needs to hold those Christmas lights safely in the middle of whatever December throws at him, and his delicate new fronds will soon toughen up. 

I too have delicate bits. Little hopes and dreams that a year ago hadn't been born. They're vulnerable and I'm protective and a bit nervous about people seeing them, but they're part of me and they only grew because you caused them to grow. They emerged and drooped in dry weather and then lifted their heads again when they were nourished. They're meant to be there. They are alive and they're growing. Thankyou, Father. 

I have spent the last year alternately huddling close to you and then wandering off, distracted, only to come running back when the gale started. I have learned an awful lot about faithfulness in prayer and  about finding time to sit quietly with you and you have taken my pathetic little offerings and you have given me back riches that I couldn't have imagined. Why do I ever wander away, when being here with you is so wonderful? 

I've learned that I need to read more of your Word, even if it means reading less of other people's. I have a stack of books this high - yes, that high - to read; on a myriad of worthy subjects: prayer, prophecy, ministry to women, theology... but the small red book with the Cross on the front holds more wisdom than all of the others. 

My bright green bits are firmly attached to their older, darker, pricklier parts but the eye is drawn to the new bits. They're beautiful and they make me stand a little taller. They show that I've grown; that I've been there through the sun and the rain and I've soaked you up and let you feed me and shine on me. My branches reach out further for you. Norman has a little pot inside a bigger one and the bigger one is heavy and stable and keeps him upright when he rocks. That's exactly what you do for me. As long as my little pot is hidden inside you offer me your stability, your safety, your protection. I still have to stick my head above the parapet and I still sway in the wind and bend under the weight of heavy snow, but I can remain upright. 

I am in you. 

You make me grow. I can see that I am different. I am stronger.

Norman has his scars, too. At some point in the year he developed some infection or other and now his top spike sort of has a bite out of it. As if someone gnawed at it for a while until I sprayed him with something and it got better.  I don't think he'll ever be quite straight; near enough still to be gorgeous, but he's not perfectly perpendicular, thanks to his midsummer problem. I quite like his imperfections - they make him unique. 

Bushy and beautiful
The same holds true for me. I am scarred by knocks that have wounded me. I've been injured, but you have healed me. I am changed by these incidents, but not destroyed. I stand as straight as I can, but I am far from perfect. Only a broken jar lets the perfume run out. 

I've learned that I don't have to be the sum of my experiences; I have been wounded but I don't have to nurse those open hurts and accept that I will always limp because of them. You can heal. You want to heal, but I have to stop huddling over the injury and lift my head so that you can place your healing hand on it. I may always bear the scar but it no longer need hurt. I am not crippled by the deep wounds from long ago. I have learned this recently and I'm still processing what it means, but every day I am more and more sure that you are in the business of restoration. 

You want me to hold my head high, not to curl up in pain. 

I've learned about the value of friendship and I've realised how far short we fall in our relationships with each other. How often we ask, 'How are you?' and accept a bright, 'Fine!' when we know that it isn't true. How we offer each other 'I'm great, thanks!' when our lives are in tatters. I've seen the beauty of real love and companionship and accountability in a friendship. 

I'm taking baby steps in controlling my temper, especially at bedtime when the children are full of energy and mischief and I have run out of energy, of patience and tolerance. I'm learning how to flex the self-control muscle when I want to scream and shout and throw things in a tantrum of my own. Father, whatever else you have in store for me in the next twelve months, help me get on top of this one, will you?

Lord I have so far to go. When I learn a little I get an inkling of what there still is out there to learn. One day I find this discouraging, but there are times when I am skipping happily alongside my Shepherd and I just can't wait to see what he'll show me next. Will next year's new growth see me getting beyond my need to have everything perfect?  My problems with anxiety? My critical nature? You know how long the list is.

But I have done some growing. It shows - I'm sure it does. 

If Norman were back in the garden centre he wouldn't be cowering in a corner any more, the last rejected tree in the shop. No, someone organised and keen would snaffle him up in late November. We took him in when he was a bit bedraggled and sorry for himself and look at him now!

You must be proud.  

I've bought new lights to celebrate his newfound growth. A transformed tree needs new lights, and more of them. 

They're going to be brighter this year than ever before. 


  1. Love, love, loved this! Every bit of it reminded of my own walk, except you described it perfectly and made me feel better, because in my head, my words were full of self-criticism. Yesterday I went to a Christian physical therapist. He asked me to think back to when I fell down the stairs and picture that Jesus was there with me, caring for me all the while. I felt funny doing reminded me a little of a long ago theology called "inner healing," which I had denounced as bunk. But I decided to "play" along. As I pictured Jesus there, I realized that I had been feeling as if he had abandoned me in this pain lately. That it was too dang bad that I had fallen down the stairs...this is a fallen world, after all. So, buck up, soldier...carry on with what you're left with. But suddenly, my thoughts changed within me. It was if he spoke to me and said, "I have not abandoned you. I keep trying to get your attention, but you are so busy with other things (Martha). I told my physical therapist what I had been feeling and he said, "Jesus knows what abandonment feels like, doesn't he? Abandoned by his friends, his God on the cross? And yet, he will never leave you, never forsake you." Wow. And guess what? Today the pain is much better! In the meantime, I'm going to start noticing the new, light green needles appearing in my life...and string them with pretty, new lights. They deserve it.

    1. Thanks so much for this, Linda. Wonderful testimony; he's with us in the big things and the little things and he's there when we feel he's far away. Especially close, then, maybe; there's no-one who better understands loneliness.
      Thankyou. I think your Christmas lights are going to look pretty sparkly this year.

  2. What a lovely insightful post. First time I've visited here and I'm so glad I did. I can relate strongly to your thoughts and the wonderful prayer touched me deeply as so much of it could be my own story too. In discovering social media (and having a similar stack of books to read some time - so many books so little time!) it is good to be reminded of the One who desires and deserves my time and attention more than anything or anybody else.
    Intriguingly,I can also relate to Linda's story above as I had a fall downstairs this Summer and it has been a long, slow recovery process on top of other long-term health problems. Yet I can trace the hand of God in making me more aware of His presence and enabling me to take time out to discover that. God bless you :)

    1. Thankyou for coming, Joy! It makes my day when someone says hello.
      You're right; so many books, so many blogs, websites, devotionals, distractions... I struggle with it every day, and the days I get the balance right I'm strangely amazed at how much better I feel. You'd think I'd learn!
      Thankyou again. God bless you too.

  3. I loved your metaphor of the conifer named "Norman". It's funny how we give certain things we possess with NAMES (cars, furniture and of course "trees"). Helps better relate to, don't you think. I'm a gardener by heart (not always by practice), and have learned over the years not to discard a living thing because of its 'lacking': flowers, fruit, etc. What really matters is the thing we don't always see. The "roots" of the living plant. It's where the nourishment is taken in and fed, where the tree is anchored securely. JESUS said in John 15:1-6 gives me a picture that goes right along with this post of yours. "He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit"; "You are cleansed and pruned already because of the word" (John 15:2, 3).

    1. Mel! Of course! Roots... I forgot to mention roots... ha. I can feel a sequel post coming on! Thankyou.
      And thanks for the scripture and kind words.

  4. I love, love, love this! New growth; I want some, too, please. Broken jars let the perfume out. Amen, friend-across-the-sea.

  5. Thanks Ginger. The fragrance of your perfume carries a long, long way. :-)


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