Tag Archives: Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2010

The Little (Stolen) Tree of Hope

When I take my kids to school I have the option of driving them about 1/4 of a mile down to the school or walking.  The quickest way is a path through a little wooded area near the school. 

Last spring I was walking along and noticed a small dogwood tree buried back in the woods.  No one really goes back in there.  The school used to use it and there is actually an amphitheatre buried under thick garlic mustard and vines.  Call me naive.  Or stupid.  Or Both.  Jeremy can’t believe I did this, but I waded through the garlic mustard and foliage to dig up that little dogwood tree to transplant it in my backyard (I love dogwoods and I’m too poor or cheap to buy one).  I know, I’m a total thief.  I’m not sure who I stole from, maybe the city, maybe the school, but quite frankly I don’t think either of them cared about that little dogwood tree buried under the garlic mustard.

He was certainly annoyed, or maybe humored, or angry.  Sometimes I can’t tell.  He took one look at the roots and said “there’s no way that thing is going to grow, you barely got any roots!”

I figured he was probably right because I really am not that strong and I couldn’t get very deep, nor could I talk him in to going down and digging up stealing a dogwood tree in the woods.and at that point I felt pretty bad because not only had I stolen a little dogwood tree, but I had probably killed it as well.

But I asked him to dig me a hole in the backyard, and he did.  Humored, angry, annoyed.

So I planted my little tree and I watered it, and watered it, and watered it again hoping it would survive. 

And then I sort of gave up on it.  I looked at the stick I had planted and I figured he was right.  I had killed it.  I had stolen it and I had killed it.  I decided to ignore it.

And then I forgot about it.

Till a few weeks ago I was sitting on the back porch and I looked at that little stick in my backyard at the edge of my little patch of woods, and there it was, clear as day.  So little I could barely see it.  So I had to get closer.

I ran up the path into the woods.  It was up on a little hill so I had to climb around, through a bunch of bushes to get to the little stick tree to examine it.

But there it was, clear as day.


A brand new baby leaf, and several more were popping out in other places.

I hate to gloat to Jeremy, but, well I did.  I said, “Jeremy, look, my baby stick tree is growing leaves!”

And I ran to get the hose to give it a long overdue drink.  Because for heaven’s sake I had been neglecting it!

Then a few days ago I was crying in the backyard to Jeremy and he was hugging me and I was crying and carrying on to him about how my life isn’t turning out how I imagined it. 

When I was 20, I would never have imagined I would have faced death, battled cancer, let alone my career.  That I would struggle to find security in a church community.  That I would go five years straight without a request to interview for a job in my chosen career field and my beloved denomination.  I had just finished attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit and although phenomenal in so many ways, and with so much that I needed to hear, about trusting God in the desert times, I still felt so emotionally drained, and tired, and useless after seeing so many people who seemed to have it all together and who were having so much success in their chosen field.

And so when I was crying, and he was holding me there in that backyard, I saw that little tree there with just a few leaves.

Just waiting to give me a piece of hope.

The whole book of Habakkuk is basically God’s prophet going from doubt to trust and the process it took to get there. In chapter 3, the very end of the book, the last words we hear from him are these:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
       and there are no grapes on the vines,
       though the olive crop fails
       and the fields produce no food,
       though there are no sheep in the pen
       and no cattle in the stalls,

 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
       he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
       he enables me to go on the heights.”

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of inadequacy and doubt.  To wonder if God really knows what he’s doing. To question his intentions for good in my life.  Even though he delivered me from cancer, and he has provided for me over and over again, I still feel scared and helpless.

Over the past year I have talked with countless friends who have felt this way too.  I sat with a woman just the other day as she said, “Jen, I never would have guessed 20 years ago I would be a divorced, single mother of 3, wondering if I would have enough money to make it to the next paycheck.  Divorce, affairs, bankruptcy, scary health issues.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of sadness right now.

Sometimes it all feels like way too much.

And it is.

But then there’s Habakkuk, who reminds us to trust despite hopelessness..

That even though we feel stolen,

trampled on,


dug up,



dug up again,

forgotten about,


and lost,

we are not alone, nor are we ever without hope.

I’ll cling to that.

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