Changing the ground

This is the plant that ‘would never grow’.

Years ago, when my parents moved house, they brought with them a  large rhododendron in a wooden pot that was a favourite of my Mum’s. The pot was old and failed to  survive the move, so my stepfather stripped what was left of the wood away and planted the Rhododendron straight into the soil of the garden.

And my Mum, who is the only one of us who has any clue at all about gardening said,

“it will never grow”

Because, she knew what the rest of us didn’t: that some plants need a particular type of soil to flourish.  Rhodedendrons need to have their roots in acidic soil, not in the chalky clay of an Essex garden.  So it really didn’t stand a chance…

However, 25 years later, here it is – not just surviving but thriving.  A great big green and purple horticultural-impossibility!

You see, it turns out that even though most of the garden behind our house does indeed have very alkaline soil, the corner where this shrub was planted is in the shadow of a centuries old oak tree.  Year after year that oak has been releasing hundreds of leaves, which fall in a thick layer over this part of the garden.  And year on year many of those leaves have been absorbed into the soil and have changed it.

The oak tree has changed the soil around it from a place where the rhododendron had no hope of surviving into a place where it has been able to become glorious.

When my Mum emailed me a snapshot of it a couple of weeks ago,  I heard God whisper two things into my ear.


“don’t give up on people – you don’t know as much as you think you do”.

I do have a tendency to fall into a trap of thinking I know things.  Accepting that God knows better than I do is a good place to be.  Conventional wisdom says: ‘that plant can’t survive in that place’ but God says – ‘There’s a bigger picture’

and second,  a challenge:

“Be an oak”

Because this plant is under the edge of an oak tree, it’s alive and blooming, even though the soil is naturally hostile to it.   Some people are living their lives, day in, day out, in environments that are hostile to their faith.  Conventional wisdom might say that their walk with Jesus has no hope of surviving, let alone thriving…

But you and I can choose to be oaks.  We can choose to be continually releasing grace, hope, compassion, truth, faith and love.  And even when it feels as though those ‘leaves’ are just falling to the ground, unnoticed by anyone, they are making a difference…  soaking into the soil and changing it…

It lifts my heart to think that I could be an oak tree in someone else’s life,  quietly releasing what it takes to support life, changing the environment, making a difference.  I’m not even entirely sure how, but I’m up for finding out.  you?

all is not always as it seems
you and I

can change it

Mum's Rhododendron


reflect greens


For your journal

What do you think it takes to be an oak tree?  Ask God to speak to you about how you’re already doing this, and how you could do more.   If you have any ideas, please comment them below!

Maybe you feel more like the Rhododendron, struggling to survive in a hostile world.  Perhaps you need to find a place where you can be in community with some oak trees and to choose to receive whatever it’s going to take for you to grow.





4 thoughts on “Changing the ground”

  1. What a beautiful picture. I love the fact that God calls us “oaks of righteousness a planting of the LORD in Is 61. I love that He knows where to plant us. And I love the idea that someone who seems without fruit might just need someone to provide the grace and kindness they need to bloom. Lovely


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