The Glory of the Grove

by Laura on September 17, 2012

We live in the mountains of Colorado now, and our surroundings are worlds away, literally, from the jungles of SouthEast Asia.

The leaves are changing a bright yellow, and I must admit we walk around pointing and exhaling in the forest like we are some country bumpkins at the Taj Mahal. It’s our first fall for two years, so maybe we don’t assume the beauty of it like maybe we used to.

And we were geocaching with our family this morning {if you haven’t done this with your kids, you really must}, and it was these changing aspens that painted the trail glorious. And we took a rest, all sitting on roots and leaves in the shade with this giant aspen grove before us, like some display of Monet at a famous art museum I’ve never been to, but probably should visit before I die.

And my five-year-old, the one who thinks Jesus calls Pharisees buttheads, she says, “Let’s have church!” and so we do.

Looking at those yellow aspens quivering in the breeze with nothing but God’s handiwork all around us and the quiet of birds and forests and a country road a long-way-off.

And I started to tell the kids the small bits I know about what makes an aspen tree, and it’s community, the grove, so unique. I tell them that an aspen grove is one of the largest living organisms because their roots are all connected to each other in the shallow underground. I told them about how an aspen root system can actually shoot up new trees centuries after the grove began, in random places, long as a root from the original grove can get there. I told them about how the roots are intertwined and feed off each other, somehow bringing life and health to every member of the grove– the young saplings to the thick white-barked ones, as well.

And we talked about how an aspen, when alone and transplanted, has a hard time of it.

The tree will sometimes survive with a few sprouts, but it will seldom thrive. Like the one in our backyard, for example. How five years after we planted it, the poor thing still only has a few dull leaves and the cumulative growth of an inch, maybe.  

And then we talked, amid interruptions over which kid got to dig a hole with a stick first, about how God made humanity a bit like the aspen grove.

How we need community to thrive, need the roots of the larger system to really bud-yellow and grow-tall.

How God made us to depend on each other and that if we strike out alone, and choose to stay alone, we all have a tendency to end up withered and stunted.

And then we miss out on the glory of the grove.


How are you pursuing or tasting community right now? What are the challenges of true, authentic, life-giving relationships in your world right now?



  • Richelle Wright

    we’ve tasted community in amazing ways the past two years – first with the dissolution of our sending organization a year ago and this year with the flooding of our expat school’s campus and totally having to relocate the school. it is amazing how crisis shows you who is your community!

    • Laura Parker

      Yes– something about crisis that shows you who is really in your corner.
      Hugs from here,

  • Erin

    Maybe this is why I feel so tired and burned out, because I’m lacking community. Even with the Father (i know that’s my first problem, right there). I love it here and the people and what we’re doing. Truly. It’s just so hard to “leave work at the office” when there’s no office and always work. I’m not trying to complain; it’s truly an honor and gift to be able to be here. Just in a bit of a rut I guess :)

    • Laura Parker

      Erin, I found one of the HARDEST places to build community was overseas. The “work” overwhelmed everything else and there was a natural disconnection because everyone was busy and so transient. Hang in there. Give yourself margin for life giving friendships.

      I will pray for you right now, for hope and a really good coffee date with a friend.

      love to you from here,

      • Erin Cook

        Thank you.

  • @ngie

    Fascinating facts, Laura. I never knew how dependent Aspens are on each other. Your children are very blessed to have such caring parents. This gives clarity and deeper meaning to the verses about trees rejoicing and clapping their hands. Praise to God sprouts out naturally from a healthy community. Your pictures make me crave Autumn. Beautiful!

    • Laura Parker

      oh, i love this!!! the trees clapping their hands! aspens really do look like they do that!

  • Katrina

    Our church closed a month ago. And then my MOPS group closed. So suddenly it seems like so much effort and initiative to “commune.” I’ve always compared church shopping to dating, but it isn’t like that at all–because all the churches we’re visiting and places that we’re seeking community in AREN’T looking for us necessarily. Seeking community is a one-way relationship at this point. It’s exhausting. Truthfully, I think it is much harder to find community in America where everyone assumes that you are busy, have tons of friends, playdates, and Bible studies. (We found fast-friends when we were on the mission field because everyone is so desperate.) Finding true community is gut-wrenching and feels pathetic, like putting “I’m lonely” on FB or something.

    • Laura Parker

      Oh, wow, Katrina. I so resonate with you in this. The idea that sometimes its harder in America b/c everyone assumes you have got it already. The busyness that really goes against true community.

      And definitely the “loserish” ness feeling of always being the one pursuing.

      I think that’s what tough for me in the past, the feeling of being the one “asking” most of the time.

      Hang in there, praying you won’t give up, despite the dryness of this season for you guys.

  • Terissa Miller

    Ahhhh, lovely truth! Our house is smack in the middle of one of the oldest, most mature (HUGE) Aspen stands in the Woodland Park area. Every fall and spring, we are reminded anew of how vitally important it is, and how glorious, to live & grow & bloom & shine & even fall through the seasons, together.

    • Laura Parker

      hmm . . . i might have to visit just to be inspired!! :)

      And yes, Todd Z. reminded me today that the correct term is “stand” and not “grove.” Reckon I should have done more research. ha ha. I don’t know I guess “glory of the stand” just didn’t have the same ring to it. Well, i don’t know, actually, maybe it does.

      Hope you are doing well this week, Teri.

  • Tory Ruark

    Wow, and to think some people believe all this came about by accident! No doubt that busyness is one of the largest obstacles to authentic community. Probably closely followed by our compulsion to hide. It’s no coincidence that Adam and Eve’s response to sin was to hide from God. We all have that instinct to hide–be it from God or from others. What is it that we fear? I guess it is being truly known and being found lacking. That is the amazing thing about grace and mercy–we are completely known by God and found to be lacking. Yet, Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we don’t have to hide anymore! Amazing…

Previous post:

Next post: