I seriously considered having the magnolia tree cut down. I planted it over 16 years ago. While it has grown from from a small stick in the ground to a tall, full tree, it has never bloomed.
Each year, when the magnolias in the neighborhood began to blossom, I eagerly anticipate seeing the stately white flowers on my tree. Each year, the only thing my tree does is inconveniently drop its dead brown leaves on my freshly mowed lawn. Frustrated, I decided if it was not going to reward me with showy flowers, there was no reason for me to let it continue to grow. It is a messy tree and its shade is keeping my grass from growing. I mentally put its removal on my to-do list.
The other morning, while enjoying coffee on the backporch, my friend asked, “Is that a bud on your magnolia tree?”
I laughed. “It’s probably a new leaf opening up. That tree has never bloomed. Leave it to me to plant a barren tree.”
“I think its a bud.”
I put down my coffee cup and leaned forward to get a better look at where my friend was pointing. My jaw dropped and I jumped up. “You’re right! It is a bud!”
I quickly slipped on my shoes, flung open the screened door and bolted down the steps for a closer look. A lone white cone-shapped bud, perched on top of a cluster of deep green waxy leaves, pointed skyward. I walked around the tree, but I didn’t see any other buds; I retreated to the porch. Well, I thought, one blossom is better than none! At least it is finally producing something, which is more than I can say for myself.
The next morning, there was a new bud. The next day, another. Then another. And then the buds began to unfold into beautiful, fragrant blossoms.
Excited to document the occasion, I grabbed my camera. As I focused on capturing the velvety flower through my lens, I had an ah-ha moment. For years, I had been impatiently waiting for the magnolia to bear fruit. Discouraged in my wait, I had given up hope that it would ever fulfill its purpose. I was ready to chop it down.
I’ve been retired for almost a year and have really struggled with the transition. While retirement has allowed me to chauffer my family to appointments, handle the paperwork when my father passed away, and enjoy long lunches with friends, I felt I was failing to fulfill my purpose. I had intended, on day one of retirement, to hit the ground running and accomplish my God-given calling to write. While I have blogged, I haven’t gained traction on what I sensed was my primary mission: to finish writing my novel. I had planned to establish a daily routine, sit down at my computer early each morning and diligently achieve my defined word count. Instead, I’ve lollygagged and pretty much done everything I can to avoid working on my manuscript. I had lost hope. I was discouraged. I was ready to quit.
In March, at the urging of one of my mentors, I attended my first writer’s conference. While the conference focused on writing non-fiction, I figured I had nothing to lose. And wow…was that an understatement! I had started writing my book decades ago because I thought the safest way to tell my story was through fictional characters; yet I discovered I have real-life stories I need to tell. The course assignments challenged me to dig deep and explore my story. Being in the company of other writers birthed excitement in the depths of my soul…I knew I had found my tribe. These writers truly get it: the passion for bringing words to life. They understand how grueling it is to craft a story and how risky it is to share your heart. They know writing is a isolated art and how easy it is to get discouraged when you don’t get feedback. Like me, at times, they question if their words are making a difference or if it is even worth the effort. They realize writing is a longterm commitment; it may be years before you see the evidence of bearing fruit — if you even see evidence. They write because they can’t not write. They write because they are called.
With the flower in focus, as I clicked the camera’s shutter, I saw the parallel between the beautiful flower and hand of God at work in my life. The magnolia is symbolic of strength, resilience, and perserverance; writing requires blood, sweat and tears, the willingness to adapt, and persisting in the desert seasons.
For years, I have been waiting for the magnolia to bear fruit — to blossom; for years, I have been in a fallow season, longing for my writing to bear fruit — to flourish. Unexpectedly, a magnolia bud appeared on a branch and is now unfolding majestically; unexpectedly, my writing journey took a different direction and, now, a writing opportunity has appeared and is unfolding in ways that only the Lord could have orchestrated.
In God’s perfect timing, His creation will bloom and produce breathtaking, fragrant blossoms, for His purpose and for His glory. And it is so worth the wait!
Planted in the house of the Lord, they thrive in the courts of our God.
~ Psalm 92:13