Joy Grew in my Backyard

Often, between the stress and busy nature of our lives, we forget about joy. I am not talking about fun, happy moments, but true joy that comes from knowing and loving Christ. I see joy as a relationship that needs to be tended. It is always there, but if we do not safeguard it, it will become buried, hard to reach, and we will not feel the presence of joy as clearly. We will forget how wonderful it was when joy was a priority in our lives.

I am reminded of a time when my son was young. Every day, he would look out from our kitchen table into our yard and say, “When will our tree grow apples? I want to grow some apples.”

I would answer, “It is a maple tree; it isn’t going to grow any apples.”

I thought it was funny that he kept hoping that the tree would grow apples. It wasn’t until I watched, Away We Go, that my attitude suddenly changed. The main character recounts how she and her mom tied fruit to her dad’s lemon tree after he had fertilized, watered, and tried every gardening trick he could find to get the tree to grow lemons—without success. He walked out to the tree the next morning, and they peeked, to watch him get excited! Instead, they saw him pause, looking very thoughtful and confused. Finally, he burst into laughter as he realized that there were not only lemons but bananas, apples, and bunches of grapes, as his daughter and wife had tied the entire bowl of fake fruit from their house onto the tree, just to see him realize his dream of finding fruit there.

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (Jn. 16:24 NIV). It seems that my six-year-old knew to ask, but I had forgotten. At that moment, I realized that I was stifling joy and demonstrating to my son the limits I had placed on miracles.

Soon after, my son looked out the window and was overjoyed to see that our maple tree had indeed grown apples! Overnight, it had grown about a dozen, red, juicy, fully grown, and deliciously ripe apples! Well, his sister was also thrilled with the fruit on the tree and she hadn’t even been the one wishing for apples! He and his little sister picked the apples and we enjoyed the most delicious apples ever, since they were grown on our own tree, in our own yard.

In the years since, that tree has grown shiny, chartreuse green Granny Smith apples, mouthwatering pears, brightly colored Easter eggs, Lego kits, a watch for my husband and so much more. I am so happy to find that I was wrong all along. It was never a maple tree that grew in my backyard; it was a “joy tree.” All I needed to do was to tend my relationship with Jesus.

When I chose joy, I found it. It was always there, I just forgot to celebrate it every day, in every way, with my children, and my husband. Romans 15:32 states, “So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed” (NIV). The Holy Spirit will renew your joy for you and your family. I have realized recently, as we have gotten buried under the stresses of life—financial stress, unexpected health issues, and exhaustion—that it is time to choose joy again.

Let me assure you that if you seek God, you will always find what you seek. I think if I look out of my window this week, I am going to see something new and exciting growing on my tree and reemerging in my heart. I encourage you to seek Jesus, choose to celebrate the life He has given you through His sacrifice, and see what starts to grow on your tree!

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