*I worked on this multiple times last year, and it never felt completely finished.  Somehow today, it does.  I hope the New Year finds you happy, healthy, & content.

The bark is falling off the tree. As I sit in carline just waiting, I can’t help but relate to it. The bark on the outside is old, worn out, and ragged. It seems the last storm might have torn it beyond repair. I think of struggles in my own life, of times I have sincerely believed I could no longer go on. Still, there is a need to look deeper. Because you see, underneath that worn and tattered outer bark, there are more layers. They were not even visible until the storm tore into it.

Imagine the old tree, stalwart and proud against the winds for so long. Steady. Reliable. Content. Suddenly, through no fault of its own, in the storm its façade is torn. Alone. Wounded. Vulnerable. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. The ache for someone who understands can be overwhelming. Alone. Afraid. Weary.

Yet, as one would look more closely at the tree, one can see the next layer. Under the worn out bark, behind the torn scar, deeper below the surface, there is fresh new bark. A strong trunk. A deeper connection. So it is in our lives. Unfortunately, our lives have a certain amount of pain. Every person will, at one time or another, face conflict, lose someone, face financial hardship, or any number of other undesirable scenarios. Sadly, it is a certain part of life.

Still, we have a choice. We can choose to be like the tree- to continue standing tall while we change and grow into something stronger and better. We can weather our troubles with a calm, a peace that reaches beyond our logic or understanding. We can be still while the rough, hardened layers of bark are removed, piece by piece, to reveal the new, stronger, brighter layers. To attain that new level of maturity and wisdom. To be able to reflect on the bad events and still have a positive take-away. To find the good that has come through the storm so that, while we cannot deny we did lose something in the storm, we can also acknowledge how much we really did gain by the experience.

Today, I found this piece of writing I had begun months ago. Last spring, actually. A terrible storm had come through our area, and that weary tree had suffered quite a beating during the storm. Remembering how I identified with it then could still bring me to tears if I allowed myself. So much about me has changed in the throes of that time. But as I sit in carline again on this sunny fall day with a completely different view, both of mindset and vision, I am so thankful that God sends storms that alter our course sometimes! I’ve heard so many times this week, “There’s no gain without pain.” Or, “Sacrifice breeds success.” I would add my own twist:

Just because change is different does not mean change is bad.

May we never be so afraid of the storm that we resist the renewal that we could experience when the peace comes quietly afterward.

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