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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Norman's new growth - by Helen Murray

It's Christmas time, so my husband and I recently dragged the Yucca plant into the greenhouse to be wrapped up cosy for the winter. As a result the front corner of the house looked a little bare. And there's a grubby circular mark on the paving that needed to be scrubbed or covered up - so covered up it was. I pulled Norman the Nordmann Fir Christmas tree over to fill the gap.

Norman has a special place in my heart, because we rescued him a year ago. Typically late to the game, we went shopping for a smallish (cheapish) Christmas tree in December last year for the Yucca-spot near the front door because Bruce the Spruce, the previous incumbent, had gone brown and crispy by May. Alas, the locusts had visited the garden centre before us and the enormous space where the flock of Christmas trees had been was a wasteland of broken branches, discarded labels and lots of pine needles. Huddled in a corner, askew in his tiny pot and looking ashamed of himself was Norman.

Of course we had to bring him home. (Mostly because there weren't any more). 

So Norman joined the family. He held up his spindly arms to hold aloft the Christmas lights and only fell over a few times when someone tripped over the cable. He did his best. He gained in confidence as the festive season progressed and by early January he was reluctant to surrender the lights. When the Yucca reclaimed his spot in April when the frosts passed Norman retreated into a corner again but this time with his head held high. He had purpose in life. He was content to bide his time until the spotlight focused on him again. 

Norman's glory
And now Norman reigns once more. And do you know, this year he's impressive. He's a good looking tree. He stands a bit taller, reaches out a bit further. He is bushy and lush-looking. And the thing that struck me powerfully is that the season's new growth is a vivid bright green and contrasts beautifully with the old Norman. You can see clearly where he's grown.

New Growth. 

I really think that I'm a bit like Norman. When I think about the 'me' of twelve months ago in comparison with today's 'me', I definitely have fresh new growth that contrasts dramatically with the dark foliage that I'm used to. Norman's new bits are bushy and beautiful, but they're also softer and less prickly than his dark, last year's branches. As the new bright green bits were developing over the summer and autumn they were very fragile indeed and when I forgot to water him they'd droop, only to perk up quickly when I gave him a drink. Now they're firming up ready for the winter when it'll get icy cold and windy. He needs to keep those Christmas lights steady in the middle of whatever the next few weeks throw at him, and his delicate new fronds will soon toughen up. 

I, too have delicate bits. Little hopes and dreams that are battered and fragile, barely surviving the year I've had. They're vulnerable and I'm protective and a bit nervous about people seeing them in the state they're in, but they're part of me and they're still hanging onto life. 

I have spent the last year alternately huddling close to God and then wandering off, distracted, only to come running back when the gale started. I have learned an awful lot about faithfulness in prayer and  about finding time to sit quietly with Jesus and He has taken my pathetic little offerings and given me back riches that I couldn't have imagined. 

I've learned that I need to read more of the Word, even if it means reading fewer of other people's. I have a stack of books this high - yes, that high - to read; on a myriad of worthy subjects: prayer, prophecy, ministry to women, theology... but the small gold-edged book with the Cross on the front holds more wisdom than all of the others. 

My bright green bits are firmly attached to their older, darker, pricklier parts but the eye is drawn to the new bits. They show that I've grown; that I've been there through the sun and the rain and I've been soaked and blown, but the sun has shone on me as well. My branches reach out a bit more than they did. Norman has a little pot inside a bigger one and the bigger one is heavy and stable and keeps him upright when he rocks. That's exactly what Jesus does for me. As long as my little pot is hidden inside Him I have stability, safety, protection. I still have to stick my head above the parapet and I still sway in the wind and bend under the weight of heavy snow, but I can remain upright. 

Norman has his scars, too. At some point in the year he developed some infection or other and now his top spike sort of has a bite out of it.  I don't think he'll ever be quite straight; near enough still to be gorgeous, but he's not perfectly perpendicular, thanks to his midsummer problem. I quite like his imperfections - they give him character.  

I've learned that I don't have to be the sum of my experiences; I have been wounded but I don't have to nurse those open hurts and accept that I will always limp because of them. God can heal; He wants to heal, but I have to stop huddling over the injury and lift my head so that He can place His healing hand on it. I may always bear the scar but I am not crippled by the deep wounds from long ago.

I am far from perfect, but I stand as straight as I can. 

But I have done some growing. It shows - I'm sure it does, even if I know that there is an awful long way still to go. 

If Norman were back in the garden centre he wouldn't be cowering in a corner any more, the last rejected tree in the shop. No, someone organised and keen would snaffle him up in late November. We took him in when he was a bit bedraggled and sorry for himself and look at him now. He's a different tree entirely.

We bought new lights to celebrate his newfound growth. A transformed tree needs new lights, and more of them. 

They're going to be brighter this year than ever before.




Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

Having spent time as a Researcher, Pastoral Worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently working on her first novel. 

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims and has more Aloe Vera plants than you can shake a stick at. 

Helen has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress, or lack thereof. 

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01

18 comments:

  1. Norman and Helen, may you continue to flourish

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    1. Thank you, Aggie! And also you. x

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  2. I absolutely love the fact that you named your tree Norman. Great post. 'Bruce the Spruce' really made me laugh!

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    1. Ah, Bruce was all mouth and no trousers. Looked swanky but limp and disappointing by Easter.
      Glad it made you laugh, Fran. :-)

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  3. Well done, Helen. Have a lovely Christmas. Sue

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  4. have a fabulous Christmas and may Norman continue to do you proud

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    1. Thanks Wendy. You have yourself a merry little Christmas too. x

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  5. Your post made me giggle. I loved the comparison between Norman and yourself and the way the Lord used Norman to show His love for you.

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    1. Thanks Ruth. Yes, God can speak through a small lopsided tree. :-)

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  6. Oh wow Helen, this is one of the best posts you have ever written, full of depth. Thank you.
    And on a lighter note, I'm so glad there's someone like me out there who if there's a choice between scrubbing and covering will go for covering any day ;)
    Merry Christmas! xx

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    1. Thanks, Mandy! :-)
      Absolutely. Work smarter, not harder, as the IBM people used to say.
      Have a great Christmas. x

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  7. Wonderful post, Helen. I love what you say here and the way you express yourself. And I agree with Mandy above; this is definitely one of the best posts you've ever written. You weave a fine story here, laced with gentle humour and great spiritual insights. Norman is blessed to be associated with you, and so are we! May you continue to put down firm roots and grow ever brighter and stronger. Merry Christmas and a truly blessed Happy New Year! Xx

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    1. Thank you, Joy. You are just lovely; such an encouragement. Here's to 2016 and a better year for everyone! xx

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  8. Absolutely brilliant - you are such a good writer :) x

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    1. Oh, Tania, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you. x

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  9. Nice metaphor Helen! Works really well here. Happy Christmas!

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    1. Thank you! That means a lot. Have a lovely Christmas yourself. x

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