I saw them 65 miles south of Atlanta.
We’d shared the road with palm trees and pine trees and mack trucks since south Florida. Florida surroundings were lush and green and manicured and walled.
North of Florida now, we drove the same road I followed with my father a year ago.
Last year, we sang “King of the Road” and “On the Road Again” and other country favorites. I called them “cheatin ‘n drinkin songs.” My dad laughed at that. I loved to make him laugh.
My car was quiet this year. Brad nodded off in the passenger seat. Georgia trees were sprouting light feathery green, cut here and there by bare brown branches. Spring was just beginning here.
Sixty-five miles south of Atlanta I saw them. The dogwood trees were blooming. Their white promise cascaded down the hillsides. The flowers brought memories and, yes, joy to my journey.
Dusky gray clouds dimmed the light of the afternoon sky. The white blossoms created a soft glow, however. This was a comforting light.
I learned long ago about the dogwood tree. It’s one of the first to bloom in spring, often coming on the heels of Easter.
Long before green leaves emerge, velvet white of four distinct petals push through. The petals form a cross.
At the tip of each petal, a touch of reddish brown pierces the white. The petal curls back at the pierce as if recoiling from pain.
The center of the flower is distinct. A circle of thorny yellow and brown creates a crown. The crown is at the center of the cross.
In the cloudy afternoon, the white crosses shimmered. In the shower of white, songs I had lost came back to me. I reconnected with joy.
Joy is an inside job. Unlike happiness, which is rooted in what “happens” to us, joy is hinged to a Savior, a cross and love which washes light over a dull life. That joy gives us a hope and a future no matter what “happens” to us.
Even death is not an ending for believers in the cross. Even pain takes on meaning when we understand the gift. Jesus gave us that gift.
Sixty-five miles south of of Atlanta I was reminded of joy. As my car skimmed brown hills patched with vibrant white, I smiled.
I discovered joy on my journey home and, in the silence of my car, I sang.