Cultivating Hearts: Planting What Lasts

I was disoriented.

The house in which I had birthed our second child was barely visible.

We had moved away fifteen years earlier and, on a whim while in the area, I decided to drive by to see what it looked like. I don’t know what I was expecting - probably the house frozen in my memory.

But as I turned the last corner I lost my bearings. 

My view of the house was completely obstructed by two giant trees. I stopped the car and stared. Those gigantic trees had not been there when we moved. But they were exactly where two little trees had been.

One spring, not long after we purchased our first house, my husband and I planted four little trees in the front yard, along with a tiny persimmon tree in the side yard. They were the first trees we had ever planted.

We didn't know what we were doing, so I purchased a book (at a bookstore - no one bought things online in 1995!) and from that book we learned how to plant and care for trees. 

The yard had been completely empty. Like most new builds in Texas, the builder had scraped the ground in the front, and the only green was some lumpy sod and a line of small bushes under the windows. So we added five tiny trees.

A year or so later, when our first baby was brand new, one of those little trees started leaning, as if it was so tired it wanted to lay its leafy head on the car in our driveway (I might have been projecting a little.) A green-thumbed friend came by to meet the baby, and as he was leaving, he gently touched the tree and told me I needed to stake it as soon as possible. A bit of wind might snap it in two.

Super-pixelated photo of my little guy and some scrawny trees
So I staked that sapling, and I kept watering it. It stayed supported for years (above you can see the "baby" riding a tricycle a few years later, and it is still getting help.) I was pretty sure I was terrible at raising trees. Really really terrible.

Years passed and the trees grew, but very slowly. Honestly, they embarrassed me. Right there in our front yard, a testimony to my lack of arboreal skills.

See that bendy tree back there? At this point it's 4 or 5 years old.

When our little guy was almost two years old I got pregnant again. At 13 weeks we lost our wee one in a dramatic miscarriage and hemorrhage that landed me in the emergency room. I was crushed.

It hurt so much that our baby was gone; I needed something tangible that would remind me of him, something to honor him. We went to the plant nursery and our two year old chose a tree for us to plant - a White Texas Redbud that would bloom at that time every year.

We planted the redbud in the back yard, and buried our baby at the foot of the tree. His tree grew strong, bloomed faithfully each year, and blessed my broken mama heart.

White TX Redbud image courtesy of Chalet Nursery

Our little side-yard persimmon tree also grew, and we even ate one or two persimmons from it as it slowly matured. Maybe I could do this tree thing after all?

But those front yard trees were still pathetic. Yes, they grew, but I was not happy with the rate. 

In 2003, now with two kids in tow, we sold our house with its scrawny trees. I hoped the next owners would be better at gardening.

Our house the day we left in 2003.

At our new homestead I planted a lot of trees. A LOT.

Not one survived. I am not exaggerating.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter where I planted them, and no matter how much I amended the soil, watered them, and carefully checked them, every single one died. They were eaten by goats or mowed over or blown down or just plain never leafed out.

It was confirmation - raising trees was not my gift.


As I crept along our old street in 2016, I stared in awe at the trees.

Our old house in 2016.
This is time passing.

This is love and care coming to maturity.

This is something lasting.

And as I think about my tending and my care for my children, I see how often I jump to the conclusion that I am failing. That I have already failed. That it is done - what is now is forever, and these trials won’t pass.

Just like the trees on our homestead, there are times I have failed. Really and truly. Something has changed that can’t be fixed.

But sometimes what seems weak and spindly and ready to be snapped in half is just laying down roots. Sometimes grace is at work deep down, sap is flowing through the veins, and life is pushing through. Living Water is giving nourishment, and branches are reaching for the sky.

My first baby is now twenty. He is a man. He is a strong tree, strong enough even to support his old mama sometimes.

Tending your saplings is long and sometimes tedious work. Growth can’t always be seen as it is happening. But mama, you are planting something lasting.

Cultivate the soil of your child’s heart patiently. Douse your child with prayer. Don’t give up; a beautiful tree will emerge and one day you will shake your head with wonder.

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