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  • Laura Alvarado-Newson

To bend or to break

As I watch the weather channel and say prayers for those affected by hurricane Matthew, I can't help but look behind the brave news reporter reporting from Daytona Beach as the eye of the storm brushes the coast. There is chaos all around her, the angry ocean pushing waves, water invading the first floor of a hotel, the reporter hiding behind a column so she doesn't get hit by flying debris. The hotel swimming pool water swaying violently, while street signs are falling down, and the power is going out.

What keeps catching my eye are the palm trees that sit right in front of the ocean, the palm branches being tossed around violently by the 100 mph gusts of wind, but the trees themselves are standing tall and strong, bending in the direction of the gusts but not breaking under the pressure. I have heard in the past that a palm tree would be the last tree to fall down during severe weather because of it's ability to bend and remain flexible during strong storms. There are many reasons why most palm trees bend and don't break. Also, I am not pretending to be an expert on palm trees, much of this is a little research and a little observation. Here are some reasons, as well as, how I need to apply this strength to my own spiritual and emotional journey during this strong storm.

1) "Inside of a palm tree are a bunch of vascular bundles made of xylem and phloem tissue. Xylem tissue conducts water phloem conducts nutrients. Each of these bundles is wrapped in a ring of cells called a bundle sheath. These bundles not only feed and water the palm, but they sort of act like reinforcing bars. They give the trunk of a palm suppleness and allow it to bend in the wind." -Clay Thompson (azcentral.com Palm trees tend to bend, not fall, in the wind)

I ask myself during this storm: Am I feeding and watering my mind, heart and soul? Am I reading the Word of God and holding on to His promises? "Jesus replied, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'" John 6:35

To neglect this important discipline of seeking Jesus and nourishing our spirits is to become spiritually and emotionally sick and weak. A sick and weak palm tree will not be strong enough to withstand a strong storm, it will fall!

It is very obvious that the palms off of the coast of Daytona Beach have been well taken care of as they prove their health and strength during this hurricane. Another thing that makes them strong:

2) They aren't crowded together, each palm tree root has room to grow and extend deep into the soil. "The University of Florida study revealed that trees with plenty of rooting space---those grown in lawns, on college campuses or in parks, for example---had a much higher rate of survival than those growing too close to other trees whose root systems didn't have enough room to develop fully or properly." http://www.ehow.com/about_6643176_do-palm-trees-survive-hurricanes_.html

This speaks deep to my heart about having an overcrowded life and schedule. This is difficult for me being a caregiver to my husband and son; as well as, mom to my son and daughters. I am learning the art of really removing things that are more of a disturbance than a help, and the art of stopping, breathing, and resting; sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) even when there is a tornado of demands just inches away from me. This is very difficult for me. I need my roots to be strong and I need to give my roots room to grow and dig deep into the soil of Hope and God's promises, that way I will be strong enough to stand in the storm. Lord, how long will this storm last though?

3) A strong palm can withstand very wet or very dry soil. "The longer a hurricane is preceded by lots of precipitation, the more water there is in the soil. In general, this reduces the tree roots' ability to hold up the tree. Native palms have an advantage in this sense because they grow well in very wet or very dry soil." http://www.ehow.com/about_6643176_do-palm-trees-survive-hurricanes_.html

This teaches me a lot about how I faired in past crisis'. Did I allow that situation whether it was a dry, hot desert, or a lonely valley of darkness to grow me? Did I get through these situations clinging to God and hoping in Him or did I ride the wave of despair and complaining? I'm not going to deny those seasons when I thought I was going to wither and die of despair and fear; but God has always been faithful to gently tap me on my shoulder and whisper the gentle reminder that He is there and He will never leave me. I will always look to the Lord, sometimes it will be standing tall and victorious with my hands raised in praise and sometimes it will be with my face to the ground in tears and weakness. That is the confidence I have in my God, I know He loves me and is there for me when I'm on top of the world and He loves and is there for me when I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

( read Psalm 23) So it is in my best interest to allow God through every difficult situation to mold me and accomplish His purposes even if it looks messy on my part. Easy to type, not that easy to live out. This in turn will make us stronger when a bigger crisis arises.

4) The weakest palms were the ones that hadn't been trimmed. These were the palms that cause the most damage in a storm because the dried out and/or excess branches break off causing major damage. I know this for a fact, I have six palm trees in my back yard that are in desperate need of a trim and any amount of wind knocks down branches causing debris and potential danger, not to mention, the mess it leaves. The palm trees by the coast were well groomed, trimmed down and healthy, these are healthy palm trees.

"I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me." John 15:1-4

Ah yes! The pruning. I think we all can relate to those times in our lives where things are stripped from us; friendships, careers, dreams, ministries, or when the Lord is calling us to surrender a certain attitude or opinion. He does this because He loves us and wants us to be more fruitful, or that one thing is harming us and will stunt our productivity; but we have to be healthy in order to bare healthy fruit. What is one healthy fruit I am needing right now: patient endurance! So pruning and trimming is good for me, so I heard.

I am not going to lie, there are some days when I feel like I am going to break. I am bending so far down it feels like I just can't anymore. I am pushed so close to the ground I just want to surrender and stay there, it just seems so much easier. However, it is only by God's grace and tender mercies that I continue to stand and face the storm another day. I am living proof that in weakness He is strong. One day at a time...

God bless you!

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