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Koping with real life - The tree stop

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As soon as I wrote this title I really wanted to tell the story of when my brother in high school came into my parents house at eleven at night as white as a ghost and said “Corey. I just hit the neighbour’s tree with dad’s van!”

Did he stop for the tree? Yes he did.

But that’s not what I really wanted to write about.

In every life there is both struggle and joy. Joy leaks, but struggle doesn’t seem to as easily.

I’ll bet you only have a handful of joyful memories untainted by something negative happening in the same stage of your life? I would also bet that you could cite a thousand times you were scared, messed something up, or had to deal with something hard?

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We say things like “I remember our wedding day and how awesome it was…. buuuuut remember when your sister threw a fit because no one mentioned her at the reception?”

Who have you ever heard looking for a job say “Buuuuut, remember how good the last time worked out?”

That’s why I have a tree.

It’s behind my house. It’s an evergreen. Every time I walk past it I reach out, strip some pine needles off, crush them and inhale their scent as I walk the next thirty or forty feet.

Every time.

I do it when I’m out enjoying the weather.

I do it when I walk to exercise.

I do it when my heart is crushed by someone’s bad choices.

I do it when I’ve hurt someone and am praying for the courage to apologize.

I’ve done it on the best days I’ve had in this city and the worst.

Heck, I even do it when Erin and I are walking and arguing about something (Christians call it disagreeing, but I’m pretty sure it qualifies as fighting:).

If I had to weigh the hard days against the easy ones, the hard ones would always win. I think the only people who have more easy ones than pressure ones are teenagers, but not if you ask them.

This is also funny. It’s nearly impossible to tell a teenager in a spat with their friends about something stupid that it’s not really all that important in the grand scheme of things and if so-and-so wants to act like an idiot, LET THEM. Hang out with someone fun!

But to them it’s the end of the world and “You don’t even know Mom!!!”

Oh sweetheart. Mom knows.

I got thinking during a wickedly hard season of my life “What if I’M the teenager still? What if the pressure is only ever going to go up? What if some things only ever get harder?”

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..And I didn’t do what I see a lot of people do. I didn’t just block out that thought and try to control the situation. What I really mean is that I had already tried that for most of my life and it never worked and might as well something new.

So I started crushing pine needles and inhaling the scent while I was still having a “moment”. And somewhere along the way, the hard times stopped being able to control me.

Have you ever had the thought that it might be possible to BE Ok when everything around you is not?

Having a solid relationship with God didn’t mean I had learned how to relax and let him worry about my survival. It took me years to learn how to do this.

You might not be a God person but I’ll bet you weren’t born with the skill to be able to lose badly, and still be ok on the inside?

None of us are. And some of us need to crush more pine needles.

I was walking with a friend who is in a tough place personally and stands to lose it all. When we passed my tree we stopped in mid sentence and I said “Doesn’t this smell amazing!”

It’s not being insensitive because we went back to our conversation and I had to tell him some truth about himself that no one wants to hear. A few hundred yards further I stopped and said “Look at the way the sun glints off the water! Beautiful!”

Not insensitive. I was trying to teach him something.

You can still deal with negative things positively. You can still wake up and choose to believe the best will happen, even when it never has. You can still give thanks for what you’ve been given when you suffer loss.

It doesn’t take the hurt away, but it does give me the courage to believe that the darkest night still gives way when the sun rises.

We all tend to travel towards what we’re focusing on…

Corey pastors Venue Church (new service time 10:30 am Sundays at the Bert Church Live Theatre) and lives in Airdrie with his wife and four daughters. You can watch him online at venuechurch.ca!

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