I drove into my hometown with low expectations.

The news had painted a bad picture and rightly so. For a few days everything on television, Facebook and the newspaper was focused on the devastation of the Gulf Coast of Florida. As I crossed the bridge into my hometown of Panama City, I was prepared for a shocking display of the power of Hurricane Michael which had ravaged the town just a few days earlier.

I saw first hand the damage that had occurred. Houses demolished. Cars turned upside-down. No water or electricity or cell phone service was available anywhere within 100 miles. It was terrible. However, the most shocking thing I noticed was the trees.

Growing up in Northwest Florida means getting used to pine trees. This tall and thin tree spits off pine needles and pine cones and produces a sap that sticks to your skin and stays a few days. It’s not the most beautiful tree or the ugliest. “Non-offensive” would be a good word for it.

Sometimes as a child, when riding in the backseat, I would stare out the window and try to count the pine trees as they would pass by. I would lose count after a dozen or two and become disinterested.

For their lack of glory, the pine tree sure made a statement for me as I drove around the city last week. I lived my entire childhood not noticing this centerpiece of the south. However, when it was missing, I couldn’t get my mind off of it.

Pine trees do their job. They stand strong for a time and together they provide just enough shade and green to make their town beautiful.

I have a lot of pine trees in my life. There are so many people and things that just stand there being constant and beautiful. Their consistency makes them dependable and trustworthy. And I don’t stop enough to notice their presence until something happens and they are gone for a moment or forever.

I think God wants us to notice the pine trees – the people and things that He places in our path to help us live in a healthy and whole way. Everything and everyone that God gives us, He places there so that we can grow to look more like Jesus.

Take a moment to stop and thank God for those people and things. Try to count your pine trees. I bet it’s a big number and I bet you lose count. And that’s ok.