Our small community, like many others, was devastated by the effects of the ice storm of December, 2013. For weeks afterwards, ankle-deep piles of broken branches littered the streets. I've never been in the aftermath of a hurricane, but the effect on nature must be similar. My heart hurt to see the mess and the fractures limbs and devastated trunks. We will never be the same.
The snow came in January, covering it in a merciful blanket of white. No one was fooled, though, as the lumpy hills were waiting until spring to display their graveyards, and the trees bowed low, weeping.
When spring began to waken and new life burst forth, I watched those trees and worried. A stunted leaf appeared here or there, but many looked gaunt. Our entire neighbourhood was lined with decrepit reminders of what used to be.
Worse by far, though, was the day I came home to find an orange "X" on most of the trees. Really? Only one in ten to twelve trees was going to be allowed to remain. Huge gaping spaces would be everywhere. I wanted to cry.
Over the next weeks, the nightmare continued. Tree after tree was taken down, leaving a bare stump. We looked bigger--more open, but in a naked, shivering sort of way.
Last week, I had to walk to the train station. Walking to the train station means I have been stranded without a car, and is usually accompanied by mutterings under my breath. It either means leaving half an hour before my normal crazy-early start of the day, or walking home on aching feet. Either way, I am not good company. That's why it took 15 minutes for God to get my attention.
Each stump had a new tree growing.
Some of the more recent cuts had few small branches peeking from the side of the stump. One of the first trees cut had at least 20 limbs about five feet high. The new trees were going to be stronger and fuller than the originals.
Isn't that just like God?
I can think of times in my life when I have been shattered by circumstances. Some were of my own making, but often, life happened and left me broken and terrified. I was cut down, shredded, and unsure how to go on, or even if I wanted to. Of necessity, I continued to function on the outside, but inside I was hollow and spent, cut down, discarded.
I cried out to God.
The God of second (and third and many more) chances, watered me and sent the warm sun, and I began to grow new branches. Despair turned to tiny branches of hope, and purpose and meaning was restored.
If you are living through an ice storm, and are feeling destroyed, listen to the words of your loving Creator.
"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plants to give you a hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11 NIV)