A few summers ago I was able to plant my favorite tree, a willow, in the backyard. A willow tree of my own had been a dream of mine, reminding me of my childhood when I could see a row of them out my front picture window every day and of walking hand in hand with my dad alongside them on our way to church on Sundays. But at the time my own willow tree was to be planted, the main function was to eventually use it for privacy reasons. The landscaper and I talked at great length on where is should be placed. So we decided on a spot where sunshine and water would nurture it every day. There was only one drawback to the area - the whirlwinds that would come around the corner of the house and play havoc with it's pliable trunk and branches.
I quickly came to realize that just because the tree was much taller and bigger than I was, it was still so young in many ways. 'Willow' wouldn't give in to the elements that could have destroyed him. He learned to bend and not break; to sway and not crack; to hold on with his roots and not topple over. Our neighbors were worried he wouldn’t make it as they would see him bend over almost in half at times. It wasn't until the summer of ’05 that Willow became strong, thick with dark brown bark replacing the greenish-yellow of its youth. He became a steady tree, so full and lush with leaves. Willow had weathered those dark winter winds and summers of scorching heat with a strength that you could almost touch.
Willow has imitated his owner's life - me.
Soon after Willow came to live at my house, my only son, Tyler, was taken from me in a tragic accident. Ty would tease me about Willow and ask why I would want such a weak tree in my yard, warning me that the poor sapling would never make it where it was planted. So maybe Willow could feel there was a new challenge given to him, more than just his nature’s call.
So after losing Ty, I felt an overwhelming urgency to act strong and continue on no matter what, and found I was paralleling the life of young Willow. The winds of life were playing havoc with my heart and most heavily, my spirit. I merely existed, ending up bending and swaying with whatever blew in or around my life and accepting it all without as much as a thought about what was truly happening. I did not break, I did not crack….on the outside. But as time went on I felt weak in my spirit, lost my love of life, put aside my convictions, and yes just like Willow, the neighbors were afraid I would break from my personal storm.
As Willow had been placed in a new area, green and inexperienced in his new life - so had I. He had the basics of survival and so did I. But the turning point was when I saw him mature in his strength and prowess and realized he was telling me his facts of life; a life of strength, of beauty, of standing on firm ground and taking root in what is good and right. He found his way through all those difficult times to be strong. I have found my way through a sorrow that cannot be described to a strength I had not known before. He taught me to go deep, to look at Who made me and why, as he does. That there are reasons to be strong and go on with a life that will give my Master joy, as he does.
I have a true and steadfast friend in Willow. I know someday we must part, but the lessons he has taught my life and my heart will not be forgotten and I hope to teach or show others this: That there is Strength to be had, to be found, to accept and grab on to with both hands, and most importantly to live for. I am so thankful I’ve been reminded of the Living Water I need and the Son shine in my own life, in my core, in my roots.