Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Cactus

           There’s a tall maple outside my bedroom window, not as tall as it was a few years ago when the “professional” tree cutters hacked it. (We DIDN’T go to Angie’s List.) Thankfully, it recovered, as it’s one of the few mature trees still standing on my block. Several years ago, a summer storm knocked down a few trees, including one through my mother-in-law’s living room window. But that’s a story for another day.

            I love my tree, especially in summer when its green leaves provide a privacy curtain and make me feel as if I’m living in a tree house. And I love it in autumn with its golden and browning leaves. That’s how it looked Tuesday morning, November 5, when I left for school. That’s the day I broke my ankles. By the time I returned home Friday, November 15, after two surgeries and staying in two different hospital rooms and one rehab room, the tree was bare.
            My mourning for the tree was comforted by my Christmas cactus, which sits on the bedroom windowsill. While the maple undressed for winter, the cactus adorned itself with fuchsia blooms.
            Whenever my Christmas cactus blooms, I think of Sandy and her middle school science students. It was during my first year at Watsontown Christian Academy when one afternoon eighth-grader Amber brought me a Styrofoam cup of dirt with a small green stalk. The class had planted cuttings and now gave the extras to all the teachers.
            I kept the cup on my desk, occasionally remembering to water it, never noticing any growth. More than once, I considered dumping it in the trash, but I finally took it home and planted it in a real pot with more dirt. I was surprised and delighted when a new leaf formed.
            Fourteen years and several new, larger pots later, the plant crowds my bedroom windowsill. I become excited whenever the blossoms appear, never more so than this year. Remembering how small and ordinary it looked when I received it, I marvel at its mature majesty.
            In several parables, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a growing plant which begins puny and becomes powerful. (Mark 4:26 – 32) In fact, the theme of small beginnings runs throughout Scripture: A childless older couple, Abraham and Sarah, became a great nation. A shepherd, the overlooked youngest of eight sons, founded a royal and eternal dynasty. A baby born to a poor young Galilean woman became the redeemer of humankind.
            “Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?” Zechariah 4:10, The Message

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