When we built our home a bit over 50 years ago, we didn’t have a great deal of money and chose to do some of the work on the home ourselves. One of the things we did was to handle putting in the lawn and trees. At that time, all of the trees except a crabapple were ones we dug out of a friend’s woods or offered by a neighbor. The trees we (hubby and my dad) dug up and planted were several different maple trees, a dogwood, and a skinny pin oak tree.
The pin oak was given a lovely spot in the front lawn on the corner of our corner lot. As time went along it seemed to not be as lovely as we thought in that spot and we bought a sunburst locust tree and moved the small pin oak to the far back corner of our lot. We weren’t optimistic about what it would become so we chose a back part of our lawn.
The sunburst locust tree was beautiful from the start and we didn’t think much of the little pin oak tree.
We loved the beauty of the sunburst locust tree that we gave a premiere spot in our lawn. The variation of the color of the leaves from green to yellow delighted us every year and we were pleased with the choice we made when we chose to splurge and purchase the tree from a local nursery. But we soon discovered it wasn’t really very stunning in the autumn and as the tree aged, the beauty we loved at the beginning faded.
All the while, the little pin oak was quietly growing in that spot where we didn’t expect it to get much notice. And in time we were stunned to see how big and beautiful it was becoming. Each fall the leaves would give us a lovely splash of color and no matter how much the winds blew, or the storms raged, the little pin oak tree stood strong.
One day when we were visiting my husband’s mother, she presented us with a coffee can with another small oak tree growing in it that she thought we might like to add to our lawn. She wasn’t sure it would grow, and we weren’t sure as well, but we planted it in the backyard not far from our stalwart pin oak tree.
We weren’t sure what kind of oak tree it was and neither did she, but we put it in the ground and left it be. We had known what oak trees looked like since childhood, but we had much to learn about them over time and what purpose they were designed to fulfill by the Creator.
We didn’t know that any oak tree is a keystone species that has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment or that they keep forests healthy by maintaining a richer mix of plants, insects, birds, and other animals wherever they grow. They are one of the most loved species of trees in the world and often considered a symbol of strength, morale, resistance, and knowledge. Their strength, curvy branches, and incredible root systems keep them standing tall in the midst of storms (even if branches and leaves are torn away).
A few weeks ago, before the leaves began to shift to their autumn colors, I took this photo of the two oaks planted in our back yard. (My husband stands beneath one of them.) The original skinny pin oak stands on the right and the little tree that came to us in a coffee can is the one my husband stands beneath. How would we have guessed from such small beginnings these trees would now be masterpieces in our back lawn?
The photo at the top of this post is another taken just this week when the shift in colors started. For reasons we do not know, the older tree (the skinny tree we nearly discarded) always begins its showy colors first. That’s curious to me since we learned recently that the younger tree is also a pin oak. Daily we watch dozens of squirrels the oaks have attracted as they scurry up and down the trunks and throughout the trees gathering acorns.
We were on the hunt for acorns well. Our daughter and her husband are building a new home this spring and one of her requests was that we would give her a small starting oak tree planted in a can for their new yard as a reminder of the home she grew up in. She thought it would be special to have a tree from the tree of one of her grandmothers and her children’s great-grandmothers.
With the guidance of a friend who taught biology for many years, we learned all about choosing good acorns, testing them to see if they floated in a glass of water so we would know if they were healthy to plant or not. (Just a tip: those that float are likely infested with a larvae of some sort and should not be kept.) Then we placed them in some combination of dampened soil and peat moss in a sealed plastic bag to winter in the darkness of a cool part of our refrigerator before planting them in the spring. (We have 23 tucked away in the hope of having at least one produce a small tree to pass along.)
This will be another small beginning.
How often we miss the design the Lord has in mind for what to us seems small, maybe even not that attractive or likely to be worth much!
It was the Old Testament prophet Zechariah that spoke the words you may be recalling:
“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”Zechariah 4:10 (NIV)
If you are like me, you likely only recall the first eight words of that verse. Have you ever wondered what the context of those words were about?
It literally refers to the building of the second temple which was loathsome to the enemies of Judah and something many of the Jews saw little in as compared to the former temple. But the Lord saw something more, something else. (Ezra and Haggai write about this event as well and the enemies that hated what was being built included the likes of Sanballat and others we read about in Nehemiah.)
God specializes in small beginnings because He has the Master design and knows the purpose and plans of what it will become and how He will use it for his glory and our good.