Alongside the barn, the Tree is one of my favorite landmarks on the farm. The Tree’s history is mostly unknown to me, I’m not sure how old it was when it came down, but I do know that it has held a special place in my heart since I have known my husband’s family.
Here is a funny story to embarrass myself. Once upon a time, a certain rather brazen high school senior boy called up a rather doe-eyed sophomore girl who had been harboring a crush on him in secret (she was friends with his sister and didn’t want things to get weird (ha!)). The boy declared his affections over the phone, but they agreed to be friends until they could discern their vocations. During the three years that passed until they began dating, things did indeed get “weird”. The poor girl was very attached to this boy, and so wanted to be near the boy and where he was, that, on one or two occasions she drove the 45 minutes from the city out to the farm so she could see the barn, the tree and the farm the boy lived on. The tree was a symbol of love that was waiting. Her older self considers this incident “soft stalking” and will roll her eyes and turn red if you mention this.
After we were married, we would come out to visit and the old Cottonwood tree was there, a reminder of that young love. As our family grew we discussed more and more our hopes for raising that family. Joel’s childhood of tree forts made with siblings and cousins, gardening, and reading in trees, while not perfect, was pretty near idyllic in my mind. A place in the country where we could detach ourselves from some of the world’s craziness, where our family could gather, where we could dig in the dirt and watch God’s creation unfold, where we could pray together, work hard and play. And oh! I wanted that for our kids. And so, as we continued those conversations and made our visits to the farm the tree became for me a symbol of those hopes for our own family.
And now here we are, five years later, living out that hope through the generosity of Joel’s parents, who held those same ideals as precious to the growth of their own children. It is all gift. And we are but a small part in this story.
And the Tree’s story has continued too. The year Zelie was born the hollow Cottonwood was partially knocked down in a windstorm and the remaining tree was dangerously unstable. So it came down. And even though it no longer stands, it is still a noticeable landmark. And now my littles climb and build and play on it with cousins and friends like the natural jungle gym that it is. It’s wood has warmed our home, its sticks have been uncountable swords. Little boys take the bark and wood and construct forts and dream little boy daydreams about how they will fortify their creations.
This isn’t my own rendition of “The Giving Tree,” (a book I’ve come to dislike as an adult). However, I do feel like the tree is an image of the mystery of God’s grace. A promise of love carried out in unexpected, and often difficult ways, yet bringing joy and happiness according to God’s plan.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever.” -Romans 11: 34-36