Last night, Sam announced that she wants to plant a tree. “Can I do that? Plant a tree in a public place?”
Her question did not come as a surprise. In fact, it was so expected, as if I’d been waiting for her to ask.
How does that work when you’re a Mum? How do we know the baby is about to wake up, that your toddler has climbed too high in the tree, that a friend was unkind at school? How do we know before it’s happened, or spoken or seen? This is the miracle or the curse of motherhood. The invisible umbilical connecting our souls.
I’ve always loved trees.
And as I write that statement my mind is flooded with memories. The willow tree in our yard when I was five where Kim and I tied the long strand like branches to make swings. The grand willow, under which my baby brother James would lie in his pram wearing my mums cat eyed sunnies and a terry toweling hat. The jacaranda tree in the Strathfield house, that I would sit and write in for hours overlooking the Greek family behind us with their massive family gatherings and their pet ferret that ran along their fence. I think of the pink oleanders in the first house Reid and I bought that we cut down in case Sam put the seeds in her mouth. Then all the fruit trees we had in Wimbledon Ave. We even had a mango tree. Angus Stone would be jealous!
This year I’ve been watching the trees that I drive past on the way to RNSH. I’ve watched the maples trees turn from luscious green to Autumn shades. I’ve watched them drop their leaves and now they are almost bare. The last remnants of Autumn. The stubborn leaves that hold on to the branches, willing winter not to come.
The trees have been to me like a visual calendar, marking the days, marking the seasons! Breaking the monotony of this tedious, repetitive, difficult journey. So often I find myself caught up in dreamlike thoughts about the seasons; the seasons of life, the passing of time, the purpose of it all. I recall the scriptures, the many references that are made to the seasons.
I recite Psalm 1, time and again, is if on autopilot. It is rich in revelation. This is the psalm I memorized as a young bride living in San Diego when Reid went to Asia for a month of crusades and left me behind to work at ‘Honey Country Hams’ in Rancho Bernado. I was 19! I thought we could change the world. Now I am 43 and I secretly think I still can. Well, maybe it’s not a secret now.
And I am not exactly sure how I would change it. Or maybe on the other hand I already am.
Judy Chapman popped into 12A with her Sam after their appointment with Dr Matthew Greenwood. Yvonne saw us chatting and came to join the party. Yvonne was sharing her ideas that she had put forward for the new hospital and Judy and I chorused that we could petition together for a ward for young adults. Maybe I will become an advocate for better conditions for cancer patients or campaign for stem cell or blood donors. Who knows what the future holds? I barely make plans for tomorrow right now. My focus, like always, is to hear the voice of God, to love my family and to impact the lives around me. To celebrate life completely despite the season I am in. To be a tree that bears fruit.
“Blessed (Happy, fortunate, prosperous and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to rest or relax] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates by day and night.
And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]
For the Lord knows and is fully acquainted with the way of the righteous.”
I want to be bearing fruit every season, whatever the season. In season and out of season! I am grateful for the years I spent tilling the soil, so to speak, making it ready for the season I now find myself in. My life has not been a bed of roses, (ha ha, so many metaphors) but the roots of God’s word has been hidden in my life and now it does bring forth, even if it is just enough for each day. Like manna in the wilderness, it seems I cannot collect extra or foresee what tomorrow will bring. This I know however, I have enough for every day and that is sufficient. If I look to the future or try to make plans for Spring, my soul is anxious within me. No wonder God said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, consider the lilies” (Luke 12) And yet are we not more to God than the lilies.
Sam did not want to come to hospital today. Yesterday was such a great day. It wasn’t extraordinary, nothing marvelous happened. Just a stroll through the shops, lunch by the sea and a meal out with friends! Everyday that is not spent in this vile room is a celebration.
Today all the snorers are in 12A. The guy opposite me has nearly choked a hundred times when he snores too deeply, waking himself up and looking around. I laugh out loud with Sam and then we make that ‘whoops’ face at each other like we have been caught passing a note in class.
The difficult nurse is on duty. Difficult because she swears like a trooper and is very awkward socially. If ever another nurse does something differently to she would like it done she questions the patient, “Which nurse did this?” Today she has asked this question to at least four patients and I am wondering why she cares. Poor ‘difficult’ nurse! I find her so difficult to warm to. When Sam first got diagnosed and became an ‘outpatient’ in 12A she knelt at Sam’s chair and cried and rubbed her legs saying it was a crappy, crappy thing. Only she was swearing. Sam and I kept telling her, “No, its fine! We’ll get through this. We will be fine.” But in spite of our insisting she collected pamphlets and contact details for Clinical Psychologists and Counselors. “You will see,” she kept saying “it’s a crappy, crappy thing.”
It is a crappy, crappy thing! We are surrounded by the sick and the dying almost everyday. Old men and women mainly, with blankets on their laps, heads back in their Jason recliners snoring. Tubes of blood or chemotherapy drugs are connected to their bodies, their hands, their ‘pic’ lines, and their canulas. Today a man had a tube coming out of his nose. Every now and then a young person arrives but in the months we have been here, Sam Chapman is the only other young Leukaemia patient we know. Yet in this season, God calls us to rejoice, to trust in Him.
There is always temptation to go to fear, to agree with ‘difficult nurse,’ to look at the statistics but we chose to take delight in the law of our God and not take the advice of scoffers or mockers.
The next day they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat from you again.”
“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
So, just like the fig tree, Jesus requires us to produce fruit when it is not the season for figs; to put our faith in Him for the seemingly impossible, to look at this mountain of cancer and cast it into the sea, to forgive ‘difficult nurse’ for giving advice that we do not wish to receive, to accept that where we are right now is a season that will continue to build us into great trees of righteousness.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.