Almost 20 years ago, something happened that rocked my parents’ world. Last week Isaac, my son, told us an interesting story about one of the trees on my parents’ farm in Wichita.
On May 3rd, 1999 a tornado went through South Wichita and into Haysville, KS. Six people were killed and over 150 homes and 27 businesses were damaged.
Tony and I lived in Arizona at the time and didn’t realize how bad it had been at first. It’s really my parents’ story to tell, but just to give you some context I will tell it briefly:
My mom and dad were both at home and realized a bad storm was coming. They recognized the telltale signs of a possible tornado—hail, the greenish weird lighting, the gusting winds, and eerie feeling in the air. My mom said she instantly began to pray, “Please God, save our house.”
They didn’t have a basement or tornado shelter so they went to the middle of the house into the bathtub and my mom kept praying, “Please, God, save our house.”
They could hear something coming at them from the north, like a train. It was headed exactly toward the house. Right before it would have hit the house it curved to the west and then curved again to maintain the same line it had been on before, going directly around the house.
When it was gone and my parents felt it was safe to go outside again, they could see the path the tornado took. God had spared them and the house. The only damage was a bit to the roof where some shingles needed replaced. As they came outside the damage to everything else was so evident.
I remember my mom, many different times, being thankful God saved the house but lamenting at the damage it did to their trees. As you know, trees don’t grow overnight! It takes years and years for them to grow tall and strong again.
It took them months to clear the land of all the debris and remove the tree limbs from their property. After things quieted down they replanted many trees again. (And put in a tornado shelter!)
It has just been in the last few years that these trees have really grown full and beautiful. This year they have been especially nice because of all of the rain we’ve had recently.
Isaac took us all over to show us a special oak tree, as my parents had told him about it. This oak tree was planted at the same time as all the other trees after the tornado, but for different reasons has struggled to take hold and grow.
My mom told us that once, early in this young tree’s life, my dad accidentally mowed it over, as it was small and looked more like a weed at the time. My mom nursed it back to health. Then it was overwatered. Apparently if you over water a tree it will not send down its roots deep enough to find its own water in order to really take hold and grow.
Twice they thought it was dead and gone, but each season it has returned somehow.
This year, my mom believes it has finally gained a foothold and sent roots deep enough into the ground and is now drinking water for itself. She believes the roots are two or three times the size of the tree now going down into the earth.
When you compare it to the other trees, it seems so tiny, so small. Yet, when you look at its past, its specific and unique history, you might think it is pretty impressive that it is still green and growing. For whatever reasons, it had a tough start at life. Yet, now, with a little extra help, it seems to be doing well and beginning to thrive.
I think it will be fun to watch this oak tree grow over the years. Who knows? Maybe some day it will be the tallest tree on the farm, taller, even, than the other trees planted at the same time.
I guess there is an analogy here to people, right? We might judge people based on how they look compared to those around them, but who is to know what God is doing in their hearts?
Maybe someone who seems immature or unable to get on the right track is the one who is ready to have someone help them know where to plant their roots, or needs a wooden stake to help them stand strong and secure through a difficult season.
Isn’t this why we are not to judge people by how they look but continue to give love and let God be the judge of what fruit is being sown in peoples’ hearts?
I’m thankful God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m thankful he can look into my heart and know my thoughts and desires. He never gives up on me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He sends me help when I am mown over by life. He lifts me up and makes an everlasting covenant of love, peace, and kindness with me (Isaiah 44 and 45). And I’m asking God to help me to love all people, regardless how they might look because I tend to judge people when I shouldn’t.
God is good.
In the pictures you can see all the large trees around this small one that were planted at the same time. This little oak tree has inspired me! Don’t ever, ever give up. You never know when your roots will reach the water!