A lot has happened in our small coastal corner of the world. From an amazing week of waves before Hurricane Florence, to surviving the storm and then navigating the toxic remains which made our ocean a scary smelly place to go. In my personal life too, a multi-faceted storm blew through colliding with Florence shaking me physically and emotionally.
My real job—unfortunately not surfing—or writing (yet)—is working with children with behavior problems. Such severe behaviors that they are at risk of being removed from their home. Our three-person team provides counseling, strategies and parent coaching with the simple goal of keeping the family together. I’m always looking for engaging ways to teach children conflict management skills that will make sense to a kid brain. I’ve learned a lot over the last eight years with these amazing kiddos.
For instance, one teen whom I dubbed the worst-case scenario kid, often exploded in anger due to her conviction that the worst possible outcome was imminent. I was surprised to learn I’m a bit of a worst-case scenario adult.
In July, I developed a terrible case of Plantar Fasciitis—IN BOTH FEET. Besides the constant pain, sometimes throbbing and other times piercing I was terrified there was an underlying cause. I learned from Dr. Google that having PF in both feet could mean I had Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had to quit dancing, walking the dog, and limited my surfing to only the special days (you know the ones). I also wore reef booties with inserts when I surfed. I couldn’t even feel the surfboard beneath my feet. So, to accompany the physical pain, I was afraid.
I was driving a different child home after our session one day—this precious child had to have his way or else—and spotted a post Florence oak tree. The tree had been blown sideways. The massive trunk took a sharp turn about three feet up and ran parallel with the ground, so the entire canopy of branches and leaves hung sidelong. It was otherwise fine. The tree created a perfect word picture.
I yelled and pointed to the tree, “Look!” Across the lot there were many other trees that had snapped and laid broken. I asked him. “Why didn’t this tree break?”
He shook his head.
I described how being flexible is a character trait that could help him in a myriad of situations, especially relationships. I explained how the tree had survived the worst of storms because of its flexibility. And now whenever we drive past the tree he yells there’s the flexible tree.
Whether it’s a major hurricane, an illness, or an interpersonal conflict I’ve learned flexibility can keep me going. An inflexible person will quit, wipe their hands of a relationship or snap in the winds of opposition. But the flexible person carries a promise that this too shall pass.
Trouble is, the only way to practice flexibility is to endure the storm. So even after the insurance company looked at our Florence claim of 5,000 and gave us 300—even after a beloved friend chose to believe the worst instead of the best of me—even though it’s too painful to do the things I love most. I am bent but not broken.
I’m very thankful for the comfort of friends who have encouraged me through the worst times and for my sweet husband who has held me and protected me. I’m thankful for God’s word that reminded me all my knots, cracks and tears can be used to encourage and comfort another when the next storm threatens.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned.” 2 Cor. 4:8,9
My pastor friend used to say now and again in his sermons, “If you’re not in a storm now, your tsunami is coming.”
P.S. When I went back to take a picture of the tree it had been cut down. Another lesson I suppose. But my sweet and talented friend Grace Brookshire took a pathetic scribble I had made of the tree and turned it into a beautiful work of art. Her work can been seen on instagram @gracemarie_b and @Brookshiredesigns