See that tree in the middle? I have another picture of it zoomed in so that it looks alone. Obviously, the tree stands among others. I could fool you with my camera if I so chose to do. This is my favorite tree. I can see it outside of my bedroom window, from the front porch, and from the circular swing that hangs under an oak tree dripping with Spanish moss. A picture can show the totality of the reality surrounding it, or it show only what the photographer wants it to show. In other words, a picture can be deceiving.

I wish I could put this particular moment of the picture in a bottle. Baby boy and I are on the circle swing. I can hear some tree frogs and I call his attention to the sound. The wind softly rustles the Spanish moss that is casually tossed onto the tall, wide oaks. A lone boat comes by, and Baby Boy points to it. I can simultaneously smell the river and grass . If one opened a bottle containing this moment, I believe it would drift softly around that person and make him/her feel completely at peace. It would seem by my description that everything is as it should be.

This moment with my son is just a snapshot in time. The rest of the day was a struggle. I didn’t feel well.. at all. It was hard to get anything done. I made the mistake of comparing my life to those on social media. Remember, a picture can only show part of the story. God didn’t intend you or me to live someone else’s life. Someone will have more materially, his/her marriage, job, parenting, and health may be easier… but not everything. Everyone has hurt that a picture just can’t show…. or that we don’t want to show. We can never know the bigger picture. That’s why it’s important to always be kind.

So many times I see this tree from the window when I’m hurting and think about how strong and defiant it is in the face of terrible heat, storms, and even hurricanes. I look at this tree when I’m outside playing with my toddler and I’m taken by the beauty in its off-kilter shape and green, shiny leaves. In the winter, it’s bare branches remind me that there are seasons in life that are not permanent. The tree is bare, but life inside that tree is just waiting to show itself in spring. I used to dislike winter. Now I try to think of it as a season of rest, just like I need to learn to rest in the knowledge that God is still in control even when it seems like life is unraveling.

And that’s how I believe this so-called life goes. God didn’t intend for everything to be easy ALL the time. We need His guidance in both the easy and the hard times. It has been said that one can’t appreciate the mountains if not for the valleys. Maybe I word the sentiment differently, but the message is still the same. The hard times make us much more thankful for the easy times. And when I look at the big picture, those hard circumstances are just a snapshot in time.

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