Our Camellia tree

When we moved into our home at the beginning of the summer 6 years ago the builder had planted a pretty flower bed in our front yard. At the very front of our flower bed, in a huge planter pot, was a small tree. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the tree. It had lots of small green leaves, skinny branches, and only stood a few feet tall.

So imagine my surprise when after a very cold night, the first really cold night we had that first winter in our home, I walked outside to see that the prettiest pink flower had bloomed on our little tree. It was fully opened up and an absolutely stunning contrast to the plants and grass that were slowly dying in our yard.

I couldn’t believe that something so beautiful would wait to bloom until the cold air settled in the night before. Then, over the next several days, dozens of buds popped up all over the tree and several more delicate pink flowers bloomed. The flowers hadn’t gone into survival mode, waiting for the cold air to pass. No, they were thriving in the cold air. That’s when they came alive and flourished.

Each year now in December, I get excited as the first real cold front blows in. I walk out of my home after a cold night and hope to see the first bloom open up. Then, in just a matter of days, I love seeing the stunning pink flowers cover the tree and expectantly wait as more buds open up.

Our camellia tree (thanks to my husband’s grandma who identified it for me that first year!) provides a picture of what I believe our Christian life can and should look like. I think all too often it’s easy to buckle down during the hard times and just hope that they end soon so we can get back to having an easier, less complicated, less difficult life. We wait until better times come and just survive until we get there.

But what if there’s another way to live during those hard times? What if God is calling us to not just survive but thrive when the going gets tough? It’s not easy to thrive when the walls of your world are crashing down because the tides of change are beating against them. Or when grief and loss have taken your heart and thrown it into a fiery furnace and you’re left wondering how to keep on living. It’s not easy. And I definitely am not advocating for “faking it til you make it” or “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.” No. What if the way to thrive in the hard places is by pressing into God and pressing on in faith in Him? Press into how you feel and the turmoil raging in your soul. Take it all to God and then press into a loving Father who wants to hear all about your struggles. And then press on in faith. Press on with full faith and trust in the One who is King over all things, including the raging sea crashing around you. Press on with full knowledge that God always keeps His promises. Press on knowing that even if He doesn’t deliver you from your trials, He will give you what you need to endure them. Press on. Trust. Turn to the Lord continually. Hope and Pray. That is how we, like my camellia tree, thrive in the cold winter air of hardship. And just as the camellia tree blooms and reveals its true beauty after a cold night, how glorifying to God it would be if His children did the same as we endure our own bleak times. Not because of who we are but because of the One carrying us through.

Pressing on in faith, Jennifer