The beauty of stress. We don't think about stress as being beautiful very often. Last year, when our life was measured out in adult diapers and "Butt Cream" (yes, there is such a thing), I didn't look into the mirror and think, "Wow, you're looking more and more beautiful, woman." I saw more lines, more gray hairs, more that measured tiredness, worry and "We're in over our heads!"
We always think that stress is NOT a pretty thing. And that it's not good for us. It'd downright dangerous to us.
This isn't a post to tell you otherwise. Not in the long run, I mean. Stress is deadly. Too much stress is dangerous to health. Right
I took this picture this morning from right in front of our little lodge on the Cascade River. The sun was so bright on the water, and even the turning needles and leaves had a glowing hue to them. It was a wonderful moment, a moment that only comes in autumn when such things happen.
But if you look closely, and if you know your trees, you'll notice that there's actually something wrong with the beauty of this moment.
These are cedar trees. Cedar trees are evergreen. EVER-GREEN. They aren't EVER supposed to look this way. But up in the North Cascades this year, all the cedars have begun to look this way, to one extent or another. It's beautiful from a distance. I won't pretend otherwise. It looks as beautiful as every other tree does as it loses its leaves (or needles, as the larch does). But it's all wrong. The mighty, luscious-smelling cedars, in all their glorious orange array, reveal better than any other plant just how bad the drought has been in our woods. They are stressed to the point of doing what all deciduous trees do--they're going to shed their needles.
Hopefully, that's all they'll do.
The strongest of them will come back. The big, strong, queens of the forest will return to stand beside King Doug (the Douglas Fir is CLEARLY the king of our woods here). But the more spindly ones, the tall teenagers? What about them? What about this tree in my photo that stands beyond our deck as sentinel over the river? There's more orange on it than green now. Is this its glorious dying moment?
I hope not.
And here's the other thing, the ironically sad other thing: right below the reach of the roots of this orange-needled cedar is that Cascade river. You know, that ice-cold, clear mountain river NEVER stopped flowing fast and deep all summer long? Sure, it dropped a bit, but it was always too deep and fast for anyone to mess around with. Too fast for us to let our water-magnet puppy get near without a leash, for example. Maica could be swept away for good in the river that runs outside our cabin, no doubt about it.
There is water near our cedars...just not near enough.
All this makes me think about the trees, the drought (even though it rained plenty up there this weekend, HALLELUJAH!!!) and all the changes that are happening to our earth.
And it also makes me think about stress and me.
Do I bear my stress with beauty? Do I let it color me with bright orange (which IS my favorite color)? Or do I simply let it overwhelm me, weary and even crush me? Might I have to shed a few needles--or pieces of myself in the surviving of the stresses of my life? Not jettisoning the stress, but jettisoning of myself. That's a different thing.
These are questions I have to ask because I can't pretend to live a stress-free life. Some people talk about getting rid of stress. I think stress might be part of the human condition. So it's MORE about how our roots handle stress. That's it, of course. Do we have deep roots in the one who feeds our souls with living water and gives life to our souls? When the stress comes, we are able to withstand because we're strong enough, sturdy enough and deep enough. IN HIM. Not on our own, but in Him.
OUR river runs through us. That's the glorious difference between dying from stress and living with it. We who are in Christ have streams of living water running through us.