On our first wedding anniversary, CPod and I both graduated from BYU. The next morning, we and all of our earthly belongings began the drive to Memphis, TN where CPod would embark of the next stage of his education.
We rented a little apartment close to his school. Our apartment complex was safe enough, even though it wasn't in the greatest neighborhood. After all, it was surrounded by a chain link fence topped with three feet of razor wire, and an armed guard manned the entrance at all times. It felt like a prison compound, and the cockroaches didn't do much to dispel my gloom whenever I thought about our living situation.
Housing is cheap in Memphis, and after crunching some numbers, we decided to look for a house to buy. If we played our cards right, we could end up spending less on a house note than we were on rent.
We searched, and found a great little house. It had a tree in the front yard, and I was sold. It was one of the only trees on the street, and it was lovely: tall, and broad, providing shade to the little flower garden by the front porch. I had been longing to get my hands in some soil.
I loved that tree. I fertilized it, and pruned it, and took great care to keep it healthy. In return, it ensured lush grass and blooming flowers in my little planter. It's H.O.T. in Memphis -- the kind of sticky, humid heat where you just become complacent in your discomfort, when your clothes always make you feel like you are encased in hot dog skins, when your sunglasses fog up between the front door and your car even at 7:30 in the morning.
The tree was a Bradford pear, and I will never have another one. Early one Sunday morning, we were experiencing one of those Memphis storms, with a lot of wind. We heard an awful crack, and when we checked the front yard, our beloved tree had split down the middle, coming to rest finally on the back of our neighbor's new truck.
Turns out, Bradford pear trees are the antithesis of delayed gratification. You plant one, and just a few short years later, voila! You have a big, beautiful shade tree. But all of that growth you can see comes at an extreme sacrifice: very little growth under ground. The Bradford pear expends all of its energy branching out above the ground without building the necessary support system underneath, and when a little wind comes along, it doesn't have the strength it needs to stand strong through the storm.
It only took a few days for my flowers to die. They relied on the shade of the pear tree to protect them from the brutal Memphis sun. When the tree was no longer there to shelter their delicate blossoms, they did not have the resources they needed to survive in their environment.
I'm determined not to be that Bradford pear tree, because my responsibility to shelter my family is one I take very seriously. But taking it seriously means, first, strengthening my roots: caring for myself physically; partaking of the spiritual sustenance that comes only through the activities of personal discipleship and maintaining a relationship with my Savior; saying "no" to outside activities and additional stressers when my plate is too full; finding and participating in non-Mommy outlets that help me stay sharp and sane.
How many of us look great to the outside world, but are really withering inside because we have neglected our roots? I would wager there's more of us out there with atrophied roots trying to maintain the facade of well-being than we would imagine . . . like, maybe, all of us, to a degree.
We are responsible for so many things -- as my mom used to say, semi-jokingly, when I was growing up, "If there's a war in the middle east, somehow I'm responsible." But the thing we are responsible for first and foremost is our own well-being. My ability to provide shelter, to bless others with my talents, to care for those both in my own family and out of it is directly related to how much care I have been taking to ensure my own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. And yet. It's those very actions that demonstrate care for others that I choose to do instead of first working in my own vineyard.
I will not be that Bradford pear tree. The winds come every day, and I pray that my roots will be strong enough to support me, to withstand the buffeting that, certainly, will not lessen before my job is through.
InkMom is a musician, writer, and midnight bookkeeper for her husband's business. She revels in the beauty of their Western North Carolina home and sincerely hopes heaven closely resembles the Blue Ridge Mountains. While she and her husband live out a great love story, they raise three crazy boys (4, 4 and 3) and one blessed brand new baby girl. To find out more about InkMom, visit her personal blog, I'm (not) Crazy Mommy.
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