As a young girl, I loved climbing the enormous Weeping Willow tree in the corner of our backyard. My brother and I competed to see who could scale the highest—and get down the quickest. I came to know which branches provided better footing and allowed the straightest path to greater heights. One day, though, I veered off on another course and found myself stuck in the tree’s solitary peaks. Alarmed and unable to descend, I clutched limb until my dad rescued me.
For as long as I can remember, the desire to reach greater heights in life has dwelled within me. However, storms of life sometimes left me feeling cut down, exposed and scarred like a tree stump. Life circumstances and my personal choices positioned me in a place of waiting— for healing and growth—before I could continue the ascent.
Life is a series of lessons. On our way, plans get altered, promises fall shattered, people disappoint us. Dreams sometimes die. We have choices: to give up or grow.
In developing the direction for this blog and my writing, I looked back at my life experiences and came to realize people are not so very different from one other. Our stories may vary somewhat, but we all experience internal and external attacks that make us feel slashed, reduced—like a stump. For me, that stump has taken on new meaning of hope and freedom.
The roots for the Jesse Tree grew out of my personal story, ones I share here and others still to come. As I worked on the design of this website with Ted Barnett, of Contemplate Designs, we could see the contrast of life developing/flourishing from the pain/losses of my past. He kept returning to the notion of a budding sprout emerging from the heartwood of a once large tree stump.
I hadn’t told him of the Christmas tradition Andy and I share—a Jesse tree, inspired by Isaiah 11:1 (NIV).
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
Each Advent, Andy and I hang a sapling upside down, do evening devotions, and place ornaments on its boughs. Over the course of Advent, we watch the sapling’s hanging boughs gracefully lift and stretch their way toward the sun—delicate angel wings reaching to the Son.
The Jesse tree is symbolic of me, my life—and anyone hurt, cut down, or wondering where to find life, hope, and promise.
God set up creation so that it continually renews with regrowth and rebirth—from the earthy forest floor made rich by decaying leaves, wildflowers bloom; from the death on one fallen tree in a forest comes life through a sprouting in the heartwood of a stump. God used my pain for good, bringing new life and new growth.
He can do the same for anyone who believes and desires it.
I take the next steps now, and use the tree’s example. The new tree branches reach out, offering balance and nourishment. The same is true for me. As I extend my heart to others and God, I develop a stronger core and balance. As I stretch beyond the limitation of my past, I am nourished and free. My journey is transforming me with each step I take.
When I hear leaves rustling in the evening wind, I remember I have chosen to grow.