A Messy Tree

Our new home in the “Show Me State” of Missouri is a raised ranch situated on a small hill. My favorite part of the house is that the first floor is actually in the tree tops and the lower level is at ground level. My husband has nicknamed our living room a tree house because that is what it feels like with the L-shaped patio doors opening to a large deck extending into the branches of two pines and two sweet gum trees. Add in the two sky lights on a full moon night and I have the best of both worlds; enjoying the display of God’s creation with the option to be inside or outside.

We moved into this house in December so have had a close up view of these trees in spring action. The sweet gum is an interesting and beautiful tree, but messy. When we arrived in winter these trees sported hundreds of spinney, prickly, brown fruit. Each fruit hung from a 3-4 inch stalk looking like Christmas ornaments especially after a snow. It was fascinating to watch small birds feed from the nectar inside the fruit cluster.  After a few months however the fruit started to fall and fall and fall…everywhere. It was not safe to walk outside on the deck or the backyard without sturdy shoes or boots. Those things are painful when stepped on unprotected.

As the end of March approached and blew into April unique little green cone shaped clusters sprouted. Each cluster had 10 -12 little fuzzy balls attached to it. They reminded me of the the “Cat in the Hat” hat tilting on the cat’s head, but only green and fuzzy. Within a few weeks the little balls dropped off as the new leaves pushed their way to view. You may guess that the little balls dropped everywhere and although they didn’t hurt when stepped on they sure made a mess if dragged into the house on the bottom of a shoe.

As the glossy star-shaped leaves were growing and extending out new little fruit clusters began to form as well. They were green, but not sharp in this early stage. Before all the leaves formed out there was about a week when all four parts of the tree were evident at once. There were some mature brown fruit still left on the tree from last season, the cone shaped clusters, the new leaves and the new immature green fruit.

My understanding is that leaves of the sweet gum are spectacular in the fall with a range from yellows to reds to purples and orange. These trees are everywhere in our neighborhood and I can’t wait to see it explode with color! What I can wait for is the thousands of dried brown leaves that will drop to our deck and on the ground. Another mess!

The sweet gum has many uses. It is second to use as a hardwood only to oak and used for flooring, furniture, home decor and more. It is also used to make baskets and pulp. It’s a great shade tree, as we have discovered, and it is a great home and food supply for many delightful birds and entertaining squirrels, as we have also discovered.

I wish I would’ve taken a picture when all four parts of the tree were evident at once. It was so unique. Maybe next year. At any rate, it was quite educational to observe all this up close and personal in the tree tops of the sweet gum tree…educational in more ways than one.

This tree reminds me we are to bare fruit, but we must remember that is a process not a single event. It takes a whole season. And our fruit isn’t supposed to stay on the tree. It is too be available for use by those around us, even dropping as we go along life’s way as a testimony of our relationship with Jehovah and His Son, Jesus.

Our lives can have lots going on at one time. We can be mature in one area and in the infant stages in another, while at the same time be reaching out into new adventures. I was reminded that life is cyclical and messy even for Christians. In fact, I would say that if our lives are not messy we may want to take a good look to see if we are a producing tree. Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not yield fruit when it was the season for it to be doing so. (Matthew 11:13-21) And Galatians makes it very clear that we will bare fruit if we have His Spirit living in us. (Galatians 5:22) Just some food for thought. Pun intended:)

One final piece of trivia about our house in the trees. Sweet gum trees have a massive and deep root system. Though I have not seen this first hand, I believe it. Our 60 foot strong and sturdy trees are proof of that. The steady root system, foundation, allows these trees to not only survive in harsh and varied conditions, but thrive as well! And like these trees it is so important that we be rooted deeply into our foundation; Jesus the Christ.

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11

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