NOTE: This is a guest column by my mother, renowned Dr Pepper connoisseur Lisa Larsen. The pictures are, as usual, actual photographs of the events described.
When we first moved into our current home, we had a large yard. However, with just three sickly exceptions, there were no trees on the lot. Having grown up in a yard with many trees, and missing the shade they provided, my husband and I immediately began to rectify this situation. Over the next few years we planted trees of all kinds: Slow growing, fast growing, fruit trees, and all the shade trees I could get my hands on.
I knew that I wouldn’t have shade right away, but looked forward to the trees growing more and more each year.
Though my current home wasn’t very far from where I grew up, the soil and climate were quite a bit different, and year after year, one after the other, most of the trees died. After getting better educated on what would grow in our yard, we planted trees better suited for the soil and began to have some success.
However, it was a long time before any of the much sought-after shade could be enjoyed, and there would have been many hot, shade-less summers except for our lone apricot tree.
It was one of 3 fruit trees already growing when we bought the house, and I didn’t have much hope for any of them surviving. The apricot tree scarcely reached to my head, it had no apricots growing on it and was scraggly and half-dead looking.
The other two trees did finally die, but there was one thing different about the apricot tree: We put in a large sandpile for our children, and because the apricot tree was the only tree still living in the middle of the yard, we put the sandpile right under the tree.
We didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of our better decisions. All of the children that came into our family had a favorite activity, which was to create miniature cities in the sandpile, and then flood them with water from the hose. They would do this for hours, all summer long. This meant that the apricot tree got more water than any other plant in the yard– combined. It thanked us by not only living, but growing tall and wide, easily over 40 feet each direction. For many years, it provided the only shade in the yard. Many, many happy hours were spent by all 6 of my children in the sandpile under the apricot tree.
The sand was shaded all day long, due to the size and spread of the tree. Whenever we had extended family get-togethers or summer barbecues, everyone naturally gathered around the apricot tree. It was big enough so everyone could fit in the shade, the little ones were close by in the sandpile or on the trampoline that also fit into the shade, and we only had to move our chairs a little as the sun shifted during the afternoon.
I enjoyed the apricot tree in the spring and fall as well. A few years after we moved in, all that summer watering began to take effect, and one spring, the tree bloomed in bright pink blossoms all over. It was exquisite! It continued to do this every year, delighting me every spring. In the fall, the leaves of the tree turned a beautiful brilliant yellow. They were especially stunning when the early-morning or late evening sun would shine through them. I had an interest in photography, and it was common to have the tree as a main subject as well as a backdrop for children’s yearly pictures. I actually enjoyed going out when the leaves finally fell, to rake them up, as they were the only leaves I COULD rake up in the yard.
I loved that tree. For 19 years it provided beauty, shade and joy to our family.
Then sadly, one spring a fierce thunderstorm brought down most of our precious tree. Only a small part was left and had to be cut down, as it was unsafe.
As I mourned the passing of our beloved apricot tree, it occurred to me–if that tree could talk, it might tell me it was a failure, or worse, worthless. Once it started blooming, it had faithfully brought forth blossoms every year. No matter how beautiful the blossoms, or how much we watered and fertilized the tree, however, the apricots never grew very big, nor were they very sweet. In fact, they were usually quite bitter. Any attempt to eat them resulted in a very nasty experience.
This was an apricot tree. I’m sure in its mind, it was supposed to bear apricots. It was failing by all standards set for an apricot tree.
But I and my family didn’t love the tree for its apricots. It didn’t matter to us whether it grew fruit or not. We loved it for a myriad of different reasons, and probably ones that a tree, being a tree, wouldn’t even think about. The shade, the size, the beauty in spring and fall, all these things were much more important to us than the tree’s assumed primary purpose of bearing apricots. The tree had fulfilled the measure of its creation, just not in the usual manner of an apricot tree.
This reasoning led me to ponder somewhat on people in general. How often do we let arbitrary or worldly standards define our purpose or worth? How many of us feel like failures because we don’t measure up to a standard that has been set that designates success? Getting a particular job, or earning a certain salary means we’re successful, and if we aren’t at that level then we have somehow failed. Not attending a particular school, or having a certain amount or type of friend, not looking a certain way or performing a certain way, not weighing in at a specific weight, or continuing to struggle with the same weaknesses over and over means we have somehow failed ourselves.
Heavenly Father is the Lord of the vineyard. He knows what he wants us to be, and what will make us the most happy. Just like the apricot tree, which, while faithfully putting forth the blossoms every spring, never did bring forth delicious fruit, but in the process of TRYING, and STRUGGLING became a beautiful, loved, beneficial and productive tree, albeit in a completely different way than the accepted standard.
Even after its untimely destruction, the tree is still useful. Apricot is a hard wood, and my tree was very big. The firewood it has provided will bring many happy hours around summer campfires and create a cozy winter hearth for several more years.
We need to look at ourselves more in the way the Lord sees us, and be willing to let ourselves grow in the process, in the time frame, and the direction that He would have us do, trusting that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and knows the outcome that we don’t right now.
If we do that, putting our trust in the Lord, and working and trying with all our might, mind and strength, the result will be something truly beautiful and worthwhile, and far above and beyond any standard or measure from an earthly standpoint.
May we learn a lesson from my treasured apricot tree, to see the worth in ourselves and others the way the Lord does, and realize the success we can reach by working with the Lord in our lives should be measured by His standards, not the world’s, or even ours.
The apricot tree about a year before it was blown down, in early spring. As you can see the sandpile underneath is already full of toys.