Friday, March 13, 2009

Parable of the Lemon Tree: A True Story




When my husband and I bought our home in Northern California, almost two decades ago, a number of trees in the area had succumbed to an unusually cold winter. A few were still struggling to survive, and the lemon tree pictured here was one of them.

The fact that it was a fairly young and not particularly well established tree did not improve its prognosis. The ice and freezing temperatures had dealt it a pretty severe blow, and the small bearer of fruit was clearly struggling. When spring came, few lemons adorned its branches, and those that could be seen were undersized and discolored. Even in the warm sun and gentle showers of April, the tree was not thriving; and I was convinced that it would fail to survive.

As you can see, the tree still bears the marks of that difficult winter. Its shape is a bit asymmetrical, and one side is considerably less impressive than the other. It's weakened trunk is propped up with pieces of wood, and the branches on the stunted side shed their leaves prematurely. But just look at the fruit. It is large and luscious and lovely.

The gifts this tree has given us are many: sunny globes of yellow to brighten a kitchen table; tart, juicy slices of zesty flavor for our succulent salmon dishes; tall, cool glasses of lemonade to quench a thirsty garden worker, and more. Not only does our valiant tree serve up these delights, but it provides them (incredibly) all year long...even in the cold of winter. Perhaps, in the very act of survival, it learned how to store up water and light and energy in sufficient supply to weather the storms of life, no matter how cold or fierce they might be.

Today, I feel a kinship with this tree. I, too, was struggling to survive 20 years ago...the limitations of a newly diagnosed chronic illness, the effects of an unfortunate car crash, the aftermath of a surgery gone wrong. I, too, gathered my resources and withstood the storm. And just like my lemon-laden friend, I carry the marks of that difficult season.

But my branches still bear fruit. And winter doesn't stop me.

Philippians 4

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

(As you can see, Friday the 13th frequently finds me feeling far more fortunate and philosophical than fearful. And yes, all annoying attempts at alliteration are avidly and artfully arranged by the author.)


Natalie said...

I love true stories, thank you for sharing yours. :)

Kristin said...

what a great scripture.. and story!

em said...

and now i am curious about your illness? thank you for uplifting me!

jen said...

Great post today.
Unless you've lived with a lemon tree, you cannot understand how badly it must have frozen to struggle that much. Nothing hurts a lemon tree. Nothing.

Sue said...

I love this passage of scripture, too, Kristin. In fact, I wrote "my life's lesson" right next to it, in pen. These verses came to me like a gift when I was having a really hard day with my surgical menopause. It was one of those things where the scriptures opened up right to that page. The thing is, I had been aware of verse 12 many times before, but I had never even noticed verses 10 and 11, and those are the ones that told me that part I needed to know about why I was not being healed. I knew I had the faith to be healed, but it wasn't happening. At last, I understood why. I was learning something I came here to learn...about being content with whatsoever state I was in, about being full and being hungry, abounding and suffering need. And Christ did strengthen me. Of course, the healing took the Lord's time. But the strength came immediately, each and every time I prayed for it.

Whew. Sorry for the long comment on my own blog. =) Sheesh!

I guess I should answer Emily too, while I'm at it. I have mixed connective tissue disease, most likely lupus. It presented (in 1986) a lot worse than it is now. At first I didn't "slow down" and ended up hospitalized for what they thought was appendicitis but turned out to be auto-immune peritonitis. Nowadays, I manage it much better and mostly have systemic, flu-type symptoms and arthritis. These "flares" come on when I overdo, get too stressed, or expose myself to more than about 5 minutes of sun. TMI, I know. That's why I left it out of the post, LOL.

Heather Anderson said...

I wonder if winter ever lets up???

Nikki Nichols said...

Wow that is so great! You are always so good and bringing life into perspective and lifting me up! Thanks for your amazing thought spirit!!

Amy Boyack said...

Beautiful story. Nice that you can recognize that you still can give beautiful delicious fruit. Nice post.

Fiauna said...

What a great post. Thank you for sharing. And I loved the scripture at the end!

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