Wednesday, July 20, 2016
A different landscape we could not see
Twenty-three years ago, we moved to Kansas City into a newly built subdivision, the houses lined up like so many cookies cut from the same mold, one after another, the same neutral colors, the same sod struggling to take root, the same spindly trees that barely met the builder's shaky promise of "fully landscaped:" a single sapling in the same position out front and a few fledgling boxwood bushes. All the same, house after house.
The most outstanding feature of our backyard was a large hill of dirt and rocks leftover from the foundations of the houses around us. Behind that mountain was an empty unsold stretch of land, so dry and barren that even native prairie grass and weeds struggled to survive, as desperate and bleak as the lone Kansas frontier.
I was reluctant to sign the paperwork. I didn't want to be here. And at the closing, I felt like God was saying, "Trust Me in this."
From the front elevation and the back, our view was unobstructed from one end of the block to the other, largely devoid of vegetation. The small trees we planted were visible only by the stakes holding them up, casting nary a shadow and bearing but a few leaves at all, sad, forlorn and out of place as a new kid in a junior high school cafeteria. I could see from our backyard all the way up to the school, a dozen houses away. In the eyes of the neighborhood children, this was a paradise with no visible boundaries. They roamed and played in what they saw as one huge yard.
We lived there for just three years and worked with what we had, planting a perennial garden by the garage, nurturing a thick row of hostas to outline the front bed, and coaxing the sod to take root in that arid soil.
We made friends, volunteered at the elementary school, became involved in a church plant that rented space in a local school, and we proactively planted more trees to replace those that looked like they were already on life-support.
Then, like a nomadic tribe, we moved again to another state.
Now, suddenly as in a time warp, twenty years and five more locations have passed.
A few weeks ago, my husband Bill and I drove to Kansas City to attend the wedding of a sweet friend. One evening while we were there, we intentionally headed to our old neighborhood. We turned onto our old street, counting down the houses. When we arrived at our old address, it was like seeing something vaguely familiar in a dream, the outlines the same, the colors unaltered, a season of our lives long past.
We slowly passed by the house, turned around, and inched past it again. But then, we stopped the car suddenly in the middle of the street. We caught a glimpse between the houses into the backyard. The view took my breath away. A virtual canopy of green shaded the yard, not quite a forest yet, but a far different landscape that we could not have even imagined in our wildest dreams, a rich oasis in full color.
God redeems the hard places. God gives the growth.
...and He will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD.
Isaiah 51. 3
Fruitfulness takes time. Trust is what I cannot yet see.
You too may be wondering "What kind of wasteland is this? What am I doing here?" What we plant may not not be for us at all, but bearing fruit for people we may never even know.
I see a barren place. God sees a forest.
Blessed is the man
who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out is roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17. 7-8
God has placed you
strategically for His Kingdom.
You may not be able to see it yet,
but you can know,
God is altering the landscape
even in this.