If This Old Tree Could Talk

If this old tree could talk, I wonder what stories it might tell.

It stands in my front yard with a girth of about 12 feet round the base. Its branches reach a good 40 feet high and sprawls out and around probably 3o feet in diameter. It has weathered many storms in its life. It has shaded many a horse; a stone hitching post still stands sturdy in the earth underneath its branches.

This is the tree that has given shade to many of our family picnics. It has lent its limbs for climbing on and hanging swings. It has been the backdrop to portrait photos. And it is the tree my son paced under one sunny afternoon seeking a protective cover for the hard emotions he was suffering.

Have you ever tried to project your voice in the outdoors? A voice level that would be a definite loud yelling inside the house is somehow lost outside, a small cry in the open air under this old tree.

Have you ever stood next to a 40-foot tree? A person is so small in comparison; a man at a 6-foot height and nearly 180 lbs. may seem large standing man to man but stands small in the open space under this old tree.

Here is where my son let it all out. His weary heart desperately seeking answers. Standing small under the old tree. A small cry in the open air.

If this tree could talk, it would say it has heard these cries before, just as God has. These cries my son cried are universal to humankind.

If this old tree could talk, it’d likely say:

“Dear human, you are not alone, for many humans struggle with these same frustrations and want answers to questions that seem un-answerable.”

You cry, I just want to be normal!

“Dear human, there is no normal, it is a facade. Comparison is a lethal injection to a growing soul. Please don’t look at yourself as less than, against others. You are who you are; your normal is normal for you.”

You cry, Why did God make me this way?

“Dear human, God makes each human uniquely and for His purpose to do His work on this earth; whether you know Him or not, He has a purpose for your life. Your struggles are yours to battle yet most often has impact on growing others around you as well. I know it’s not easy, but you must stand tall in the storms just like me; Plant your feet like roots in the Truth. Humans rarely know why God creates them like they are, you don’t need to know why – you just need to trust in the One who made you and knows you better than you know yourself.

You cry, I hate my life!

“Dear human, hate is such a strong emotion and it’s not helpful or productive. You must above all things resist the temptation to hate your life. Fight against this with all your might. Each human life, yours included, is precious. Hear this. Know this.”

Yes, my son said all these things underneath this old tree. For more on this story, consider ordering my book about my son’s journey with addiction and these hard emotions he suffered.

The Beast & The Battle

The Beast grips and rips – lies and deceives. Angry fists shake, words are spewed, and hearts break. This is the Battle with addiction and it consumed my son quite literally. Nose to Nose we stood in the Battle.

If you love someone who suffers from addiction – if you suffer yourself from unseen battles – if you grieve an overdose death of a loved one – or want to know just how addiction can affect a family … my shared story is for you.

I am smiling here in this photo not because this is a book to enjoy, but a book that will open your mind so that stigma is squashed; open your heart so that you may see yourself and others better; and leave you with hope – not despair.

Two years rolling around in my head, one year of writing, and now here it is for you to read.

How to do the Battle During the Christmas Holidays

Okay, I am going to keep this short and sweet. First, the obvious: Christmas Holidays are dreaded, difficult, and decidedly hard for those of us who grieve a loss during this time of year. Second, the less obvious perhaps: three things NOT to do during the battle at Christmas time:

  1. Turn away from the battle
  2. Walk away from center
  3. Obsess about the loss

Never turn away from the battle. Thats when you get clocked unexpectedly. POW! just like the jagged word-bubble in the comics! Turning away from the battle of grief and loss can plummet you into an abyss of wallowing and wandering. When we aim to ignore our feelings of grief, we can lose a sense of purpose and value in ourselves. Trying to erase feelings, sort of erases us. We need to own our feelings so that we can be exactly who we are, even at the holidays: people whose hearts ache to have our loved one joining with us and our families and friends at all the festive gatherings – like in past years. Embracing our feelings allows us to be present and if we are present, we can be here for the rest of our living-loved ones and enjoy the time we have together.

Walking away from center, the rest of our family (i.e. people who care and share our grief), just gives us the chills. Literally, we are cold and not good for much. A fire burns hot in the middle. Coals in the middle of a fire are red and glowing and good for cooking and throwing heat; the coals that fall away to the edge stay cold, not good or useful for much. It is only when they are picked up and placed in the center that they become good, hot, and useful. We all need purpose and want to feel a part of living life, don’t we? So – we need to figure out how to get ourselves in the middle of the fire. Be receptive to someone gently nudging us, moving us, albeit picking us up – or just get our own feet underneath our legs and walk, run, or leap there ourselves. Either way works, just get to the middle!

Obsessing about our loss usually plummets us into the territory of depression and fear. Hello? We do have a choice. We can choose to obsessively focus on our loss to the ignoring of all else, or we can temper our focus and keep perspective. We need to give a lighter focus to our pain and give a more determined focus to the opportunities of living life fully with those who surround us this Christmas Holiday season. Maybe it’s your spouse, your aging parent, your children, or your friends – all of whom love us dearly. Whoever it is, focus on them. When we focus on others, we cannot focus on our sad selves and often this is what pulls us out of depression. With others, it is less likely we will be full of fear, there is comfort and safety in numbers.

So, in short, do not turn away, walk away, or obsess. Own your feelings and be exactly who you are alongside the people who are the center in your life and focus on them and on life and living. I would be willing to bet that the battle will be a little easier this Christmas Holiday if we do. You and I will be glowing, even though we are grieving.

How to Win the Battle!

When the Battle is too long, we can lose.

We can lose our perspective.

We can lose our motivation.

We can lose our purpose.

It will be four years, this May 27th, that my son lost his battle with addiction, and we lost our son because he accidently overdosed and died. I confess there were many times during these painful trials that I lost perspective, motivation, and purpose.

During the fight and the pain of it all, the struggle for right perspective rages. What is right perspective when we go through rough times? It is not survival. It is focus. When we look only to the troubles and nothing else, we can lose and feel decimated in a sense; we become embroiled and overwhelmed because we lose sight of our most powerful weapon. Our most powerful weapon is faith in Jesus. All of our battles are spiritual; and these battles belong to the Lord. We need to pray and give it all to Jesus; engage in the fight with the power of prayer.

At the beginning of the struggles, we have plenty of energy, stamina, and fortitude. As time goes on, and on, and on, we are at risk of losing our motivation. Doubts run rampant in our every thought. We grow weary of doing good, no matter what we try. We grow weary of doing what is necessary. Our motivation wanes and lethargy and depression set in and soon we are good for not much. Why? Because we lose our focus. Where does our help come from? It comes from the Lord. So, we need to pray and give it all to Jesus; engage in the battles and be sustained by the power of prayer.

A battle that is long eventually brings to mind the question: what is the point? Is there any good purpose in me enduring these battles at all? We become blind to everything except what we see in front of us, the short view; we again, lose our focus. We easily forget that engaging in a battle is for the long haul; you can’t just quit in the middle, we must fight until the end comes – until the long view is more obvious. Each of our hard struggles has a duration for a purpose. Again, we need to pray and give it all to Jesus; ask for sight into the purpose and be lifted up by the power of prayer.

What is prayer? It is a process of relinquishing control. It is putting all your trust in Jesus for the power, stamina, and wisdom needed to continue on in the battles we face. I hope you will consider turning your battles over to the Lord, so you don’t lose! With God, all things are possible and with God, you are victorious, no matter what! Keep your focus where it belongs: all eyes on Jesus.

I do not know what your specific battle is right now. Mine has been a struggle with motivation. Motivation to keep writing my story to encourage others; to keep writing to engage others into deeper thought as the battles rage on. Just recently, I have put my fingers to the keys and played out the musical dance of words onto the screen. Below is a book I have contributed to, in effort to spur you all on to write, speak, and share your stories. Please check this out and consider obtaining a copy on Amazon!



Death, comes unexpectantly!”

A quote from the Disney Pollyanna movie that sadly, couldn’t be truer.

Before my son, Caleb, died a sudden death, I never gave this topic a thought, ever.

It was something that happened to other people, not my family.

Yet the topic of sudden death sits on my mind almost daily as I contemplate the numbers of people dying of Covid, dying on the streets of our country for a variety of unnecessary reasons, especially those who are still dying of an unintended drug overdose, like my son. Or, as I reflect on the numbers of people who died on 9/11, and who died in the many wars throughout history, my mind cannot fit it all in. It is incomprehensible really.

And then, to think of the numbers of the hearts that are broken, like mine.

Sudden death is not a new thing.

It is however, a life-altering, shock-paralyzing thing for those of us left behind.

Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, teachers and co-workers, …my heart aches with yours: past, present, and future, because sudden death just happens. It shreds the heart in a way that no other death does because there is no preparation for the emotions and the loss.

Pain. Tears. Wailing. Anger.

…in my body, …down my cheek, …out my mouth, … in my words, …

Piercing, stinging, whipping, and annihilating the heart of my life.

This is grief. For those of you who have lost loved ones in a most sudden, unexpected way, I see you and I hear your guttural question that takes the form of the three-letter word: W.H.Y.

Honestly, I can answer you: I do not know why. Why my son, or why your loved one. But this I know:

It hurts deeply.

I also know that God knows your pain and He cares because He loves you. This fact does not make the hurt any less, yet, in my experience it gives me strength to face the days, weeks, and years ahead. What matters for me is how am I going to live going forward; this is the test of my faith and character. Who, and whose, am I?

For me, I am a daughter of the Almighty King who sits and rules over all the earth. He knows it all. I do not have to pretend with Him, cuz He knows. I am His daughter, which means I am loved, forever and always no matter my mood or emotions. Who & whose; so important to identify.

It is in this claiming of my identity that I have the strength to go on living well.

I find the most compelling way to live is by dying my own death daily. To put others first and to pour out my love in a way that reflects the love of Jesus in the best trajectory I am able for each day. In this way, the love in my heart that grieves has a place to go and be useful and purposeful.

What does that look like?

Preparing. Tickling. Working. Appreciating.

… to serve others, …the downcast spirit in others, … in practical ways to meet the needs of others, … the life of others in mine…

Praising, trusting, worshipping, and adoring the Lord as he heals the heart of my life.

Sudden death is a tragical thing to endure, that is certain.

I am so sorry if you too have experienced it. Just remember who & whose you are, and if you do not know… I can tell you. You are a child of God who is dearly loved. Look to the Father for all you need.