unexpected fruit

When we first moved to our place in the country, the landscaping consisted of a hillside full of weeds, a good-sized rock pile, and a bedraggled wild rose that still today ekes out a living on our ditch bank. We dreamed of trees, huge ones, shady and rustling in the wind.  So whenever we had a few extra dollars, we’d go buy another tree.

That particular day, we had colorful leaves in mind, and so we went to the nursery and picked an ornamental plum tree.  I was sure that we needed to go get the pickup truck to tote it home,  but John was equally sure that it would fit beautifully into the back of the minivan.   It was one of those moments that flamed to fierceness, both of us frustrated at the other’s bullheadedness.

Tired of doing battle in the nursery parking lot, John forced the tree into the back of the van. Tender toward the tree instead of my husband, I insisted on riding in back to support the tree.  Unable to dissuade me, he spun out of the parking lot with unnecessary force, with both me and the tree shifting uneasily around in the back of the minivan at every turn.

My hissed cautions from the back only gave him more of a leadfoot.  He was determined to get home where he could escape his shrewish wife.  By the time we finally made it there, we were both so upset that the last thing we wanted to do was plant a tree together.  We did somehow, but as I watched his strong angry shovel toss fresh dirt grave-like onto the root ball, I knew I’d never be able to look at this tree without remembering the feelings of this moment.  Including the shame already creeping in at the realization that my cussedness had played way too big a role in the tempest.

I wondered if the tree would die– almost hoped it would, actually.   But it was made of tough stock.  It grew and thrived and grew some more.  Soon the mailbox became hard to see past the plum.

Ornamental it is.  The leaves are a lovely purple, especially in the spring when growth is new.  But a handful of years after the planting, it surprised us by bearing fruit.  Tart, yes, just like the words spoken as we barreled home that afternoon.  But lovely for plum jam, and also much coveted by hungry children who spend July afternoons swimming.  Late in the day just before dinner, they can often be found standing around the tree, reaching high for the ripest, warmest, deepest-purple treasure.

I still wish I’d handled that day with more grace, more love, less stubbornness.  But instead of being a bitter memory, that tree to me is now living evidence of resilience, of forgiveness, of grace, and of unexpected blessing, more than we deserve.


  1. the light and shadows of that picture… amazing!

    So glad your marriage grows and gains strength, just like the tree 🙂

  2. Tears. And beautiful.


  3. Hmmm…Sorry ’bout that. I could have done better too. I forgot it was that tree. Glad we didn’t plant all of our trees like that. 😉

  4. I hear you, I was given a cherry tree and as I am no gardener left it in a far too small and totaly dried out pot. When I was clearing the garden onday I turned to my father and said.Shall we plant it and see what happens? we did and it grew it now stands over 20 feet high and bears frui. We see little of it as the birds seem to thet there before we do lol. Sadly I am to move through no choice of my mown and I fear that this tree will be up rooted never to be re planted, but I love the fact that it gre inspite of us,gave my cats shelter fed the birds and made we always want to walk the path that led to it.
    thank you for sharing this memore made me think of mine

  5. Perhaps the fact that the tree bears fruit and many enjoy (including my own children!) is a testament to the fact that truly, love conquers all and no relationship is perfect. It’s stood the test of time, just like your marriage. Forgiveness is a plum in your hand and jam on your biscuit! 🙂

  6. Good story nicely written.

  7. Beautiful, just a beautiful analogy Mary!

  8. Mary, everytime I come over, I am so touched by your posts. This one was rich…and good for me to read today.

    Thank you!!

  9. I love how God does that — he turns the expected on its head and pours out undeserved grace.

    This is a beautiful word picture, Mary.

  10. I like this post. So true, all of it. Those married moments, those regrets, and the way even the things you wish you could forget and bury can be be redeemed in ways unexpected and wonderful.

  11. Beautifully written and so true. But for the grace of God, where would any of us be? Thanks, Mary!

  12. Just listened to AP’s song, then read this post. What a great pair of posts! And what a sweet husband to comment here!

  13. what a beautiful, tangible example of His grace. love this so much.

  14. Such a wonderful story and a lovely reminder of the graciousness of our Father! Thanks so much for sharing, Mary.

  15. Nat Alea from OK says:

    Thank you. That was so beautiful. I hope all your kids know that story.

  16. I love your story because this is just so true for most couples. I guess the tree serves to remind all of us that despite the hardships of marriage, there are still plenty of surprises awaiting each of us at every turn. I am happy that the tree is now more like a symbol of simple happiness. I wish you the best.

  17. I totally love this story, and I am so glad that other people have these stories in their pasts, too!!! 🙂

  18. **Thank you** for posting this… so rich!


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