When our 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of February 2008, I remember being thankful that we were facing this challenge in the springtime. Somehow, seeing the blooming of the flowers and the fresh new leaves on the trees made dealing with the roller coaster of cancer seem easier. It made me feel that, no matter what happened, we had hope.
But when the "no matter what" became reality as Hannah left for Heaven in February of 2009, it seemed that even nature went into mourning. We have a beautiful dogwood tree on our property, just off our deck, and every spring that tree unfailingly burst into glorious bloom.
But not that spring ... Not a single bloom appeared on that dogwood that year. It went directly from bud to leaf, without flowering. Our neighbors' dogwoods bloomed right on schedule, but ours did not. I will never forget how God allowed that tree to mourn with us that year. It sure didn't feel like spring to us.
Springtime is not all blooms and butterflies, either. Along with the new life of spring comes throat-clogging pollen, rampant weeds, and in Arkansas, tornadoes. That's the way it is with grief, too ... just when we think we're making progress in healing, along comes one of those tornadoes without any warning, and BAM, we're right back there where there are no blooms on our trees. Or maybe it's just that ever-present lump in our throat and watering eyes, or the ugly weeds of discouragement, guilt, anger, etc., that Satan plants in our minds.
Fast forward to the spring of 2010. The dogwood blooms were back, in all their glory ... reminding us that even though we were still mourning the loss of our precious girl ... God was in control, and He had a good plan for us. We still had to deal with the tornadoes, pollen, and weeds, but through these beautiful blooms, He reminded us of His faithfulness to us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
There is a legend that the cross was constructed from a dogwood tree. It is said that the tree was greatly distressed to be used for such a purpose, and that Jesus said to it, "Because of your pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross. Henceforth, it shall be slender, bent, and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal will be the print of nails. In the center of the flower, stained with blood, will be a crown of thorns so that all who see it will remember."
Yes, that's just a legend. But dogwoods always remind me of the cross and God's sacrifice of His own Son there. And because of that sacrifice, it can always be springtime ... even when it doesn't feel like it.
I stepped out on my deck this morning and took a picture of that tree ... God's love in full bloom.