by Sue Duby
Finding a home was hard. Not just hard… impossible. We’d moved from a tiny town in East Texas where houses rarely sold quickly and prices seemed so low as “not to be imagined” in any other part of the country. Nashville decided to boom, drawing folks from California with real estate cash offers. Nissan and other companies marked this as the spot to move their headquarter operations.
Driving around for days, we knew we wanted a backyard of refuge. A place to refuel. A place to find quiet, contemplative moments. A place to see green, not the neighbor’s kitchen windows. A place to sip our morning coffee and star gaze at night. A dream, but an important one for us.
Just when every potential house sold before we could even have a second thought and be equally, impossibly out of our price range, a listing popped up. I looked at Chuck with a sigh. “I don’t know about the house, but we should probably just check out the neighborhood anyway”. He returned a sigh in agreement.
As our realtor opened the front door, we stepped across the threshold, looked at teach other and gasped, “I think this is it!”. Without a further step, we could see right through the house to huge windows, framing an expanse of green. Within eight hours, the deal was sealed.
Our patio view included a crazy stretch of lawn… ours merged with six neighbors’ since none of us had fences. Each of those lawns rolled down the hillside to a bright white fence bordering ten acres of forest.
Halfway down the hill stood The Willow. A huge billowing mass of waving fronds of green, draped like an umbrella around the trunk and branches. Children loved to park underneath, as if it was a magical hideout. Gentle breezes caused branches to sway in a near hypnotizing motion… calming and beautiful. So many evenings we’d comment, “If we ever lose our willow, we’ll be so very sad!!!”.
As year eight passed, we began to notice some dead branches. Chuck sawed a few off. Year nine, bigger branches turned brown. Then, a neighbor offered to trim more, but said to Chuck, “You know, the tree really needs to just come down”. Chuck called me at work to ask for my decision. I groaned, then gave permission. We laughed in the midst of sadness, knowing an era was over. Down The Willow came, leaving only the remnant of a small stump on the hillside. Neighbors carted off the branches for firewood and suddenly it was finished… all gone.
After work, we headed out to the patio to sit… and look… and ponder… and be still. I broke the silence. “You know, it actually looks nice. Our yard looks huge. The big river birch next door is so tall and I never knew! Now it has room to fill out even more.” We stared at the woods. “I never noticed that hole in the tree line where the sky peeks through… so beautiful!” Within minutes, we sighed in agreement. “This is good, really good”.
Later that night as I pondered, I knew God was nudging me about The Willow. The old, safe, familiar is so very comfortable. It’s known. It seems to fit. It just “is”. It doesn’t require adjusting. The new is just that… new, unfamiliar, uncertain, surprising and definitely not known.
In chopping The Willow down, we feared what we’d find. A distasteful view from the patio. A sorrowful reminder of what “was”, but what “was no more”. Disappointment in our decision. Wondering if things could ever be as “good” as they were with The Willow standing tall. It took a step of faith, trusting that chopping was the best thing. Circumstances lined up… Chuck had a morning free, our neighbor offered his skill (for free), our other neighbor had been looking for free wood. Still, we hesitated.
How often, O Lord, do you set a decision before us? You give some information… enough to ponder, not quite enough to be “sure” on our own without trusting You for the bigger picture. Then You wait for us to act, without us knowing how things will really turn out… a bit scared, maybe a lot scared… yet choosing to trust You. Often those decisions involve letting go of the “old” to make room for the “new”. Somehow, You rarely allow us to have both… to hold on to what we’ve had AND grab on to what You’ve planned ahead. It’s all a lot of trusting and believing that You do in fact know what You are doing in our lives!
We missed The Willow, but the new view was so very amazing! Open, majestic and fresh. We began to say often, “Why didn’t we chop it down sooner???”. May The Willow be our constant reminder to boldly dare to trust that You have something better beyond the old tree trunk.
All photos by Sue Duby, used with permission