The strength of a simple sapling
In the middle of the prairie floating in a sea of grass stands a humble shade tree. Deep green leaves adorn her branches and dance in the breeze on a hot summer day.  Her limbs are perfectly plumed by itchy bovines and buffalo.  A slight crook in her trunk tells the story of years of troubled growth.  It couldn’t have been easy — emerging from unforgiving soil in unpredictable and inconsistent weather. While the jagged rocks scattered beneath her are likely the cause of her imperfect trunk, they also provided protection from grazing cattle and wildlife.
 
Admired by my family for years a feeling of peace and wonder often passes over as I ride by it.  But Sunday afternoon brought a different perspective of this simple living statue.  As storm clouds darkened and rumbled, releasing much needed raindrops from the sky, our crippled side by side we dared to check cows in took it’s last trip…unfortunately for the four of us it chose the east end of a section to retire its driving days.  The pickup and trailer we shuttled it to pasture with was on the West end.  The inconvenient breakdown created unplanned exercise across the blank prairie with our little boys.  A silver lining for this mom, I guess.
 
At first the path was winding, up and down gulches and through buck brush.  Avoiding judgmental glares from the momma cows, sizing us up as predators to their young calves.
 
“Keep close to your dad!” I ordered our oldest, Lawson, as his pace slowed.  Tyler, waiting with Cecil on his shoulders, encouraged him to keep on.  I, however, had brought my camera in the hopes of taking pictures of our pairs enjoying their summer pasture.  Still determined, I snapped a few here and there, disappointed with how our afternoon had unraveled, I knew we’d make it back home safe and sound, it would just take longer than planned.
 
As we navigated through barbwire borders and badger holes an ol’ familiar landmark showed proof we were half way to the pickup.  The land suddenly leveled.  Steep hills and brush behind us the last quarter seemed to pass quickly.  As I caught up with my boys, right at the gate, I turned to see how far we’d come.  Storms clouds framed the tree on the horizon and suddenly it felt as if I’d seen it for the first time.
 
Alone but strong.  Flawed but stunning.  It may seem distant but much like God’s shadow it’s always near enough to offer a shady spot when weary. It’s up to us to make the journey and enjoy it along the way.  It’s relief from the burden of blistering heat on our shoulders is comparable to our faith. I knew we’d get there, I just didn’t know when. The rocks that lone tree fought to push through conditioned it to thrive once that trial was overcome. Those rolling hills we started with and stumbled over made the longest stretch of flat land seem smooth.
 
Our faith may begin as a simple sapling, but if we seek His refuge when weary, it will only continue to grow along our journey.