On Growing Hope

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Last summer, a tree that's been under my care for almost two years now-- the only plant I've ever kept alive for more than a month-- was quite literally cut in half by a child who was playing a very intense game of "The Floor is Lava".

This child shall remain nameless in this story, but you should know that my tree's name is Alton. 

Determined to save this tree that I had poured so much work into for so long, I dried my tears, got online and started researching if anything could be done. The next day I sought help at Pike's Nursery and begged my friend Jenni to coach me through the world of rooting leaves and notching branches to promote growth. I wanted to save him and all the severed pieces, too. 

I bought rooting powder. I bought fertilizer. I faithfully rotated Alton to face the sun in equal parts every day. But then the most curious thing happened: 

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A tiny little offshoot branch started growing like crazy. Alton seemed stunted at his point of injury. No new growth came from the notches I had made. The severed branch soaked in rooting powder, never rooted. But that little offshoot branch? It was sprouting a new leaf nearly every week. I was astounded. 

It's now nearly the same size as Alton himself, and I've gently paper tied this young branch to the old branch so that it can grow up tall and straight and strong alongside the main trunk. Alton is growing slower than I had hoped, his shape is different than I expected, but he is still growing. 

The analogy of all this is not lost on me.

In life, I've often thrown all my time and energy and talent into something and then... it just got wrecked. If you think I'm talking about acting or writing or blogging, I am maybe, but honestly? It goes deeper than that. Truth be told, sometimes I feel this way about some aspects of marriage and parenting and friendships. I throw all my time and energy and hopes and dreams into them, and then... it just gets wrecked. 

Sometimes the perpetrator is nameless, sometimes it's me.  Regardless, when things get broken, I do what I can do try to save all the pieces. I want all the advice from all the everyone. I'll buy whatever it takes. I will become an expert in doctoring my own healing. 

But that's the funny thing about growth, right? Rarely can we dictate it. We can encourage it. We can set the conditions right for it, but growth is a wild, unconstrained thing... even when it's slow. 

So, yes, maybe I expected Alton's main trunk to flourish after I notched him just so and doused him with rooting powder and watered him with care. Little did I know that he would grow elsewhere in ways I could not have expected. 

I look at the smaller, newer branch, tied gently to the older branch, and I have to wonder if this is how God wants it to be. He uses our past to grow our future: tall, strong, and steady. A lot of that growth is quiet, unseen, and subtle. Roots below the surface. 

But sometimes, even though you just checked yesterday and you were certain nothing was there, you wake up and there's a new leaf.

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On today's episode of Coffee + Crumbs, Ruth Chou Simons talks about how moms can cultivate hope in the midst of the mundane, uncertainty, and creative setbacks.