Life Lessons from a Palm Tree


Sunday morning. Quiet. Peaceful. Doves and roosters, and some chirping birds fill the air with songs. Mercy, my faithful lab-border collie rescue gal, tucked onto the couch, scooted up next to me as close as she can get, breathing softly. Sammy the old kitty scratching around noisily somewhere in the house. This is the start of most of my mornings. Coffee in hand, journal in lap, preparing for the day. I never expected life lessons to show up as the lanky palm tree teasing the corner of my eye.

Today, I'm captured by that silhouette of the palm tree I brought home from my Mom's home after her death, just three days past her 89th birthday. That was 2016... the in-between years.

Repotting is Scary

When I brought it home, the palm tree nestled into a pot with two other tropical plants. They had been a birthday gift to Mom. All the plants were healthy, yet I knew it cramped them to be in the pot. So, I repotted them.

Now understand, my mom was a houseplant genius. She could make most anything grow. But, well, let's just say I'm not known for a green thumb. Can you relate?

Reluctantly, nervously... I turned the pot upside down, released the roots, and began the prayerful journey of giving them their own new home to grow. So many emotions wrapped around the action; mainly, I didn't want to kill something that had been my mother's joy. I can recall talking to them and encouraging them to live and grow and be happy. I'm glad to say all survived.

But that palm tree...wow.

Room for Roots

It grew exponentially! That palm had just been waiting for the opportunity to prove what it could do.

I placed it on a table near our patio door and it quickly took over sun rights from the other plants. Within weeks, that palm demanded its own table! Mama would have been so proud. I had NOT killed it! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Curiously, the palm tree was giving me life lessons, when I thought I was keeping it alive.

Unfortunately, when we moved to our new home, the lighting situation was less than ideal. And Mr. Sammy Cat turned into a plant-muncher extraordinaire. So, out of prime lighting and location to a less-than-ideal environment. And that was the beginning of the trouble.

Life Lessons in the Dark

Obviously, as Richard's health declined, my attention to the palm (and other plants) declined, too. Without question, all my plants showed signs of neglect; drooping and dying leaves, stunted growth, and chomped on leaves courtesy of Mr. Plant-Muncher. But the palm tree seemed to suffer the most. Before my understandably neglectful eyes, the leaves turned brown, crackly, and droopy.

Somehow I came out of the grief stupor long enough to understand dying leaves steal nutrients, so out came the scissors. Of course, as I hacked away the victims of neglect, the palm tree looked sadder. It was the perfect image of my own feelings; lonely, in a dark place, searching for light and losing my old identity. I didn't want these life lessons. I wanted the sunshine, growth, and expansion life I'd had before; not this shrinking, somber, silhouette life.

Sit Somewhere New

A few weeks ago, I rearranged some furniture and created a spot in my office for the palm tree. It lives in a prime spot next to a window with glorious morning light and safety from Mr. Sammy. Mr. Palm lives tucked up next to the ivy. Also, my mother's. 

Almost immediately it perked up, and I noticed some new fronds peeking out from the stalks.

Last week, I took courage and the pruning shears, and chopped off the rest of the brown, crackly fronds.

My once vibrant palm tree is naked and vulnerable, yet somehow hopeful. And, just this morning, I noticed a tiny little plant growing from the soil! Is it possible ANOTHER palm tree is growing? Only time will tell.

Isaiah 43:19: "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." NLT

And now I'm proud and happy for other reasons.

Proud that I didn't give up on it, when it would have been simpler to toss it in the garbage. Happy it has survived the move, the less than ideal environment, the chewing tendencies of the cat, the neglect, and the pruning. The palm kept living despite all the odds against it.

And this is where the Holy Spirit spoke to me...

Patience, Pruning and Personal Growth

Though God hasn't neglected me, I've often felt isolated and alone on this journey. I suppose most people do and would.

God has pruned me to the bone. And it feels like most everything I have been, especially for the past eight years, has evaporated. I'm left standing naked, vulnerable and bearing only a few fronds of what I used to be. Life has chewed on me. Loss and grief have created an environment that feels sterile, and sometimes hopeless. 

But I haven't given up. My roots have the will to grow.

"For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail." Job 14:7 NKJV

Personal growth isn't easy. If we would take a minute to notice how nature grows, we'd understand the same laws apply to our own growth. There are seasons of obvious increase, along with seasons of deep darkness. What we forget is when leafy resources disappear. nourishment floods our roots, preparing us for the next spring.

And out of the deep pruning, life shows up. From the wounded places, life springs up. New things grow from the soil of sorrow. I don't know what new things will show up, but I'm encouraged that life is still in me, reaching for the sky. It may not look like it, but I'm flourishing. My only job is to stay in the Son. And of all life lessons, this one is the most important.

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