My husband died in October of 2014. Three weeks after his death, my oldest daughter and I attended a workshop called “Grieving Through the Holidays” at a local church. We were grabbing for any help we could find to get us through this most difficult time of our lives.
The session was fine –though perhaps too soon for us to fully grasp everything. Our emotions were raw. Our tears pooled near the surface. Ever present.
At the end of the session, one of the volunteers came to pray with us. The three of us held hands and bowed our heads. This woman we didn’t know began whispering prayers of God’s tender mercy over us. She prayed for our healing. She prayed for our family. She prayed we would feel God’s presence and power wash over us as we went through the grieving process. She prayed. We listened holding tightly to each other’s hand.
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With the final “Amen” the kind woman hugged us and wished us well. “I have to tell you,” she said. “I don’t know where that palm tree image came from. Is there any significance?”
Allison and I looked at each other. “Well,” I began. “We’re from Florida and Tom loved the beach.” It was weak. We all knew it.
As we climbed in the car to head home we started to laugh. “A palm tree? What was that about?” I’ve never been big on “signs.”
Allison shared the story with her sisters so for Christmas that year my tree was decorated with palm tree ornaments. Though it turns out you can find palm tree ornaments in stores, most of mine were lovingly handmade by my children and grandchildren.
We’ve laughed about the incident from time to time. We’ve seen palm trees in the most unusual places in our travels. They prove to be a great conversation starter. But a comfort?
Then came May 15, 2016. A Sunday. I enjoy the preaching of Rob King at the Vineyard Church in Cincinnati. He is fun and informative and very much anchored in the Word.
The title of his sermon was “Roll With It.” He said it was about having a faith and trust in God that will roll with the punches of life. He talked about the way bridges are constructed to be flexible. To give a little. To not be so rigid as to break.
And then he used the example of a…you guessed it? A palm tree. “God designed a palm tree with the interlocking kind of cable work that goes all the way up and deep in the ground.” Rob talked about how the palm will withstand hurricane force winds and never break.
I know. I’ve see palm trees bend nearly to the ground in tropical storms without breaking or becoming uprooted.
The minister called for us to have a resilient “palm tree-like faith.”
Unwittingly, I think that woman who prayed with us that November evening was praying for the same thing. A deep-rooted faith…A trust in God that is flexible enough to bend and not break when the storms of life come at us with gale force winds.
So where do we find that kind of faith? A couple of days ago, my five-year-old granddaughter called me to sing a song she learned in school. The song says if we read our Bible every day and if we remember to always pray, we will grow strong. And it basically says without that daily connection, we will shrink…shrivel up.
“Neglect your Bible and forget to pray and you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink.
Read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow,” she sang.
So do you have any “palm-tree” moments? I would love to hear from you.