Faced with a devastating change in her daughter’s life, one mother learned to adapt to the new challenges she and her family faced with courage and strength
While walking in the woods, I discovered a tree that twisted around itself as it spiraled high above the forest floor. What misfortune of nature forced it to twist at a young age? Was it hit by lightning? Was the ground too hard and it had to adapt to severe growing conditions?
We all have obstacles and setbacks to overcome. Some are minor and some are huge, but it’s our choice how we allow them to touch our lives.
My own struggle to overcome severe conditions came when my thirty-five-year-old daughter was sentenced to life in prison without parole. My world, as I had viewed it, crashed around me into shards of brokenness. I dropped into depression as I hid in my house under my covers with all the window shades closed and disengaged from any involvement with other people. My daughter was in a maximum-security prison 300 miles away. How could I continue to enjoy my life when she couldn’t?
For six months I continued to plunge into darkness. But when my daughter’s two pre-teen children came to live with my husband and me, I had to decide: bend or break? When life throws us curves, do we fall apart, or do we find a way to endure and thrive?
With my grandkids now living with us, I knew I had to find a way to function and pull myself out of my ‘poor me’ state of mind. Should I change my mindset like the twisted tree needed to change its growth pattern? Should I look at my life obstacles as growth opportunities or as blockades? Was my soul telling me it’s defeated and it’s time to quit? Or was there a part of my being telling me I needed to adapt and look at my circumstances differently?
As a child, I loved the rainstorms that created puddles outside my house. I’d gleefully jump with both feet into the middle to see how far the splash would go. Sometimes the water went fully around me but often, it just squirted out to one side. Twists of nature, twists of life, twists of thinking.
A tree twisting at the base to overcome an obstacle to continue to grow into a beautiful tree. Our lives twisting and changing to adapt to lifetime struggles.
My daughter has now been incarcerated for nine years. During that time, I have come to believe that the way we choose to react to our trauma can be the Band-Aid we need to survive.
One day I stepped outside and felt the kiss of the gentle breeze on my cheek, the sweet smell of the lilac bush, the sound of a warbling bird, and the thrum of hummingbird wings. God and Mother Nature were giving me a wake-up call — as if they were saying…
Life goes on and you need to pull yourself together. Crawl out from under those covers and relish the good things in your life.
By acknowledging tiny blessings in nature, I began to see positive developments in my own life. My grandkids were safe and healthy. I was still able to occasionally visit my daughter who had begun to walk a path with Jesus. My prayers for an innocent verdict had not been answered, but if I looked closely, I could find tidbits of answered prayers in our new reality.
Nature calms me, so I often snap pictures of perseverance in the outside world. The tree that bent 180 degrees but didn’t break. The tiny wild strawberry bloom that sprouted out of a rock cliff. Many times, I will look up and marvel at the clouds; angel wings formed in wispy clouds are my favorite. I also relish rainbows after a storm. The prisms of pastels assure me that God is with me and His beautiful nature surrounds me.
Even when dark clouds quickly descend in our lives, as they can in nature, I remain mindful to look for the good in any situation. Instead of seeing a storm as a hurry, get indoors event, I now walk boldly into the rain that heaven is sending down and feel its droplets on my upturned face. I spread my arms wide and spin around. If the rainfall is plentiful enough to create puddles, I stomp that puddle and tell that storm thank you! It is, after all, Mother Nature’s way of cleansing the air and providing sustaining nourishment.
I have learned to see blessings amidst the chaos of my life.
Yes, my daughter is still incarcerated but I’m able to be thankful that as a family we have survived. I have learned to be like the twisted tree and persevere through difficult times. I’ve learned to change the way I look situations, searching for tidbits of wonder rather than trauma. You, too, can learn to see your world in a more positive and beautiful way… no matter what twists and turns life throws at you.
You may also enjoy reading Adapt, Heal & Thrive: A Q&A with Dr. Chad Woodard and Bill Miles