I love trees. I have loved to retreat to the woods for as long as I can remember. Trees take a stoic stance that is a striking contrast to any season. I admire all trees but the birch tree is my favorite. There are unique black and white markings on the tall towering clustered trunks. I am captivated by the thin papery bark as it unfurls like parchment from a time long gone by. The lemon-lime melded color on it’s delicate leaves sway playfully with barely a breeze and camouflage our yellow finch visitors. When I was younger I loved to climb the arched trunks and swing on the bendable branches. Now, their silvery silhouette is one of my favorite winter views during our fierce Central New York winters.
Birch trees are a comforting view and part of my very first memories and moments of moving to New York. I call it the move that broke my heart. It wasn’t an expected or invited move but one necessary since it held the only job opportunity that had come after we made a bold move to walk away from a business we loved. While taking this opportunity felt like the biggest opposition to all I knew, loved, wanted, planned, expected …we felt God’s call in it. He gave us many confirmations along the months leading up to our move and continues to unfold more and more as we carry out life here submitted to his plans for us at this time. It turns out that sometimes our greatest oppositions are the very keys that unlock our greatest opportunities.
I’ll never forget the second our new home came into view. Let me just give you some inside information so you can experience the dramatic event of seeing my new home the way I did. You already know from reading above that I love trees, especially birch trees. In the 8 weeks that we had to find a home in my husband’s new sales territory (all of Central New York), I became deeply detached and numb from the grief and heartache I was experiencing about this move. So after just 3 failed attempts at finding a suitable house, I told my incredible mate “I don’t care where we live- you know what we need and like…I trust you to find it.” I never went to look at another property again. We would visit the house 3 weeks before moving day since no one had lived in it for a couple months and needed some prep before the freezing temps set in. It would be the first time I would see it.
Thanksgiving we went to open the house and get the heat turned on before moving day. We drove through the quaint little village we would soon call home and through a few country roads just outside of that village to reach the stop sign at the crossroad before our home. We passed through the stop sign, cars loaded up with belongings and longings for what used to be home. We passed our neighbors beautiful farm with a picture perfect pond and I tried really hard not to love the view. As we slowed down to turn into our driveway my eyes met our property. It was fenced in by nature, a line of tall pine trees of various kinds hemmed in the full left side of the property, and I couldn’t see it yet but my husband excitedly shared that a creek hemmed in the other. I fought to hold in grateful tears, and I lost the battle when we finally turned into the driveway. There I sat in our rusted maroon van that was held together by duct tape and angels. I sat there with a heavy load of boxes and an even heavier heart and could barely move at the sight of them. 2 beautiful white birch trees , one on either side of the driveway. I let the tears flow. God’s sweet reminder just for me, so no matter which direction I looked I would remember he loved me. He knew what thrilled me to awe and wonder so he put a decoration that would speak assurance through the devastation of change. This move, it wasn’t in our plan but he left his mark of assurance that it would be ok and no of it surprised him.
The sight of “my” birch trees spoke to me about the intentionality of God’s plans, design and timing. For the first time in months, I allowed myself to smile and feel a bit of joy creep into the thought that this opposition may just hold some adventurous opportunities. Looking at life through a lens that there is intention to every detail and that God has designed this life to happen FOR you is a learned skill. I began to realize how incredibly specific God was and how decades ago this tree was planted and I relished the thought of God’s spirit moving the planter to choose white birch and I imagined the smile of Jesus as it grew because he knew someday I would smile at the sight of it too.
I’ve been studying Luke 19:1-10 the last several weeks. This is the passage that gives us details about a man named Zacchaeus and his first encounter with Jesus. I haven’t read this passage since we’ve moved here and I don’t know that I’ve intentionally slowed to ask the Holy Spirit for new insight since it’s one of those passages we are taught as little children. With fresh eyes and heart I longed to study this interaction. My heart was grabbed by verse 4: “So he ran on ahead [of the crowd] and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him”. The correlation of meeting my Jesus in a tiny village in NY and Zacchaeus seeing Him for the first time slapped me in the face like a tree branch.
My earliest memory of knowing God and feeling his presence was the summer I was 5. I have had trials of loss, disappointment, health issues, pregnancy losses and yet always felt God so near during all of it. This move, “the move that broke my heart” was so different. I felt peace that we were supposed to move but I did not feel God’s presence like I was used to and after confirming we should move I entered a season of Him being “silent”. Then there were the trees and I could see him just as clear as Zacchaeus saw Jesus walking toward him that day! He wasn’t silent he was chosing to reach me through one of my deepest love languages. I read the passage with excitement and so much has come out of it that I am attempting to write this little devotional around it. Want to journey through it with me? Let’s see what the trees can show us about our incredible Jesus and loving God.
Read Luke 19:1-10
What does it feel like for you to think about Jesus adding that tree from the beginning of time? Planning that specific sycamore to hold Zacchaeus even before he was conceived?
Where have you seen Jesus intentionally show up with planned design in your life?
Look up facts about Sycamore trees….what connections can you draw about God’s love for you based on the intentional choice that God chose a Sycamore to be the specific tree that holds his dearly loved Zacchaeus? (well dig more into this in part 2!)
I’d love to hear your take-aways in the comments!