Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dogwood Awakening

In the summer of 2009, we revamped the landscaping in our front yard, eliminating two annoying weeping mulberry trees and a lot of lava rock. In place of these horrors of creation, we created a grassy sward (sounds nice, though it's still a work in progress) and planted a dogwood tree. The tree is in memory of Keren, though I know that if we ever move, we aren't exactly going to dig up the tree and take it with us! But for now, it's our memorial tree.

I love dogwoods, but I've had a slight disdain for dogwoods in Michigan after spending my college years in the warmer climes of southeast Pennsylvania. In that part of the world, dogwoods are great, gracious ladies who in spring shake out their pink and white skirts with elegant flamboyance. They're a little like this picture, but even bigger.

In Michigan, dogwoods are delicate ornamentals, resilient in our cold winters, but fairy creatures that hide their beauty behind the flashier pears and crabapples.

The longer I deliberated on what tree to place out front, however, the more I returned to the dogwood. Maybe it was the romance of the legend of the dogwood, or maybe it was just that I love its beauty more than any flowering tree.

Our little dogwood weathered the winter of 2009, and in the spring of 2010 I started to scrutinize its branches to see what it would put forth. As a result, I discovered that the dogwood is more amazing than I ever dreamed.

The first thing I noticed were tiny woody nobs growing on the tips of some branches, while on others sharp points seemed to break right through the wood. It looked a painful process.
 Slowly the nobs grew, till eventually they opened to reveal the starts of the blossoms. Even then, though, they didn't burst out fully-formed like crabapple blossoms. Each flower unfolded its warped, but colorful petals with careful deliberation.

Meanwhile, the sharp-tipped branches forced out pairs of leaves, raised upward like hands in praise....

When the flowers finally unfurled, they displayed their colors with dignity and grace, their very blemishes a part of their beauty.

This literally took place over the course of a month last year. This year it went a little more quickly, but happened later in the season.

I have never seen anything like it. It amazed me how God had given us such a perfect tree to remind us of our beautiful, "imperfect" Keren. How He had created her to be one that blossomed slowly, letting us drink in every step of her development. She was warped and flawed in so many ways, and her successes came through excruciatingly hard work, like the dogwood blossoms breaking forth from tough wood. And yet like the dogwood leaves and blossoms, Keren lifted her eyes heavenward, seeing things we could only imagine.

I don't mean to portray her as a saint; she was just as human as any of us. Actually, I think her life and the awakening of the dogwood are quite a bit like me. I am a hard little tree with nobs and points at the end of my branches. But God is slowly, slowly helping me grow. He's prying open those nobs and unfolding beautiful, stunted blossoms that will someday be fully formed. He's opening those tiny, sharp points and making them soft, open hands lifted up to Him in prayer and praise. He's giving me the strength to weather the winter storms so that each spring I can put forth a little more show. And one day I might even be one of those elegant dogwoods of Pennsylvania.


  1. I clicked over from your comment on my site, because I love dogwoods.

    What a beautiful post, Loren. It made me cry.

  2. Thanks Sally! That means a lot.... :)