Stop and Look at the Trees(9 min read)

tree trunk

Stop and Look at the Trees(9 min read)

tree trunk

Just a few short years ago, she was cresting forty. Her vast experience was finally paying off, and she felt as if she had a pretty good handle on her own existence. Since leaving behind decades of child bearing, she was given a new perspective on life. No more dirty diapers, sleepless nights or worrying over a helpless baby. Little did she know, this was not only the end of one era, but it was also the beginning of another. God had much more in store for this mother of twelve.

If I were to write a story about my life, this would be my opening paragraph. It would be safe to say that I am defined mostly by my family and the time that I’ve spent nurturing and training my children.  However, my wedded years, prior to my turning forty, are basically a blur.

From the time I was a child, I had carefully crafted my life out of a series of lists and checks. My dreams were typical and much the same as other children. I looked forward to each of my birthdays with great anticipation. I would be adding one more year to my age, and in so doing, there would be new opportunities and new goals. I couldn’t wait for:

  • junior high
  • high school
  • graduation
  • college
  • marriage
  • a family of my own. 

I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.


When I was around the age of forty, a curious phenomenon occurred. I started having more and more restful nights of sleep. I endured twenty years of sleep deprivation, and then as suddenly as the sleepless nights had started, they had abruptly ended. My wits had now returned. I started to slowly piece together what had actually occurred in the blackout years of my 20’s and 30’s.

I found that I had successfully raised children; some even to adulthood and most without any scars.  In truth, they made my life look easy. They were incredibly mild mannered, and other than a few spats here and there, they gave me no reason to be concerned for their well being. I had done a fantastic job of raising kids. Of course, we seldom remember the bad if we choose to focus solely on the good.

It was around this time that I began to think thoughts again. This hadn’t occurred since sometime in my early 20’s. Other than a few sporadic stories that we tell around the campfire, the birth of my second born was really my last solid memory. Once I started a family, there would hardly be time to sit and ponder life. 

I considered myself one of the blessed ones. I had lived a full life. There had been plenty of quality time and quantity time with my clan of kids. It was a 24/7 schedule with everyone pitching in to create a loving and nurturing environment. Every day would be filled with laughter and crying. 

After the birth of my first baby, and from the moment my feet hit the floor at Doctors Hospital in Massillon, OH, it had been nonstop stimulation. There would be a never ending cycle of breakfast, lunch and dinner. My time would be filled with:

  • kisses and hugs
  • booboos and band aids
  • stories and lullabies
  • scolding and spanking

There would also be plenty of:

  • diapers
  • potty training
  • school work
  • house work
  • andplay                                                                                              

If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I mean. I spent my days enveloped with the responsibility of raising my ever growing family. I wish I could say that my first full night of sleep in twenty years was the turning point in my life. However the consequence of having twelve babies is that you have to raise twelve teenagers. And those twelve teenagers would in fact become twelve adults.  And those twelve adults would…..well, you get the picture. 

Little children, little problems ….. big children, big problems.

Sunday sermon

Isn’t that the truth? Life didn’t slow down one single bit. If anything the pace picked up quite dramatically. There would be:

  • drivers licenses
  • first jobs
  • college tuition
  • first loves…

It seemed that the hard work of raising kids only spawned the even harder work of parenting young adults. At least once a year we were hit with:

  • high school graduations
  • college diplomas
  • weddings
  • grand children (Oh my! I love my grand children.) 

Check and double check–make that triple check.

It wasn’t just about booboos and band aids anymore. Our life was sprawling and there was nothing to do but hold on for the ride, and I have reveled in every bit of this ride. It’s true what they say, hard times do make the good times seem that much sweeter.

Once I reached my mid forties, my husband and I began to talk about retirement. Well, he talked and I reluctantly listened. He was looking at it purely from a financial point of view. And, as always, it was his desire to make sure he was planning ahead, and being a good provider. As for me, I wanted nothing to do with the prospect of retiring. 

The conversation itself lit a fire of urgency in my soul. It was like I had started a boat trip down the Niagara River. Every big event that would take place made the current pick up more and more, and I could feel the impending doom that waited for me just around the bend. The process of growing our family had now reached a turning point, and as quickly as they had been arriving, they would now be leaving us.

You can’t see the forest for the trees.

This is an ageless saying that has been used to inspire populations of people to look at the bigger picture. I had spent the last forty years of my life looking forward to this phantom point in time where I could say, “I have arrived!”

My view dramatically changed. Instead of pushing ahead to our next graduation I was desperately trying to make life slow down. I began to stop and look at the trees. Forests were now for viewing primarily through my rear view window. After all, once you have reached the forest of retirement, the only others to look forward to would be that of old age and ultimately death.

Life’s biggest tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.

Benjamin Franklin

I am now over fifty and my moments of clarity, believe it or not, are becoming more and more frequent. When I have a distinct memory, I try to write it down. I do not want the moments which make up my life, to be lost in the annals of time. It is a process and I haven’t perfected it yet. I am still teaching myself to stop and look at the trees. I only wish I had learned this concept earlier in life. It’s safe to assume that most people my age feel the same way. 

I encourage each of you to document your life. No matter how common place your day may be, take the time to pen down specific instances that make you smile. It may not seem quite that amusing at the time, but keep in mind, your writing it down for later. It could even motivate you to create a habit of making each day more interesting.

My parents are gone now, but I spend a lot of my quiet time reflecting on them and all the hours we spent together. What if I had taken the time to catalog my life?  Now, instead of using my artistic license to fill in the details of my stories, I could be creating stories from an eyewitness account.

I know the days of child rearing can be quite mundane. Nobody wants to hear, “Charlie got his first tooth today.” That is, nobody but you and Charlie, and possibly Charlie’s children and grand children. What a treasure it would be for him and his family to look back on a daily or even weekly log of events and happenings. 

I am so grateful for the endless videos of family birthdays. I am thankful for my husband redundantly asking each child the same questions – “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” When looking back, it seems these wearisome questions are so much more important now.

Listen to your elders!

I understand these special moments are so wonderful and you think you will never forget all the tiny details that make it memorable. Can I just be honest? You will! Not because you are a forgetful person, but because there will be a hundred more meaningful moments that will crowd your memories. While these thoughts are still fresh on your mind, take the ordinary events of life and turn them into fanciful tales which will delight future generations. Take some time out of each day and stop and look at the trees. I urge you to become your family’s historian.

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