Monday, June 14, 2010


“I press on…” -Phil. 3:14

Surviving is way underrated. There’s a lot to be said for just hanging in there in the midst of difficult situations. As I’ve counseled hundreds of families over the years at Shelterwood, I’ve spent countless hours with grieving parents. These loving moms and dads have been through heavy trials with their teenage sons and daughters. But they are true survivors who refused to give into the difficulty. They believed and loved when no one else would.

A few weeks ago, Jeanie and I were traveling through Oklahoma City on our way to Amarillo. We decided to stop and visit the Oklahoma City Memorial that honors all those involved in the April 19, 1995 bombing. We walked and toured the Memorial and we were touched by the tragedy.

An American elm on the north side of the Memorial was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building, and commuters would come into work early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by its branches. Photos of Oklahoma City taken around the time of statehood (1907) show this tree, meaning it is currently at least 103 years old. Despite its age, the tree was neglected and taken for granted prior to the blast. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the Tree ultimately survived after nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation, in order to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark.

The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left of the tree. Most thought the tree could not survive. However, almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree, noticed it was beginning to bloom again. The Survivor Tree now thrives and an intricate irrigation system keeps the tree healthy. Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing today in public and private places all over the United States; saplings were sent to Columbine High School after the massacre there, to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and various other times.

Parents, as difficulty and trial come your way, never let go of the hand of God and “hang in there” as the battle rages. I had a dad say to me once, “Joey, no matter what it takes, I’m going to hang in there with my boy. When I look back on this life, I want to look back with no regrets. I may be broke, but I’ll know I gave everything I had to love and save my son.”

All we can do as parents is love the best we know how and survive under God’s grace. Like the Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City, you might be battered and scarred, but you stand tall as an example to struggling parents.

You too are spreading seeds of hope and love to people around you as you hang on to survive with your teen.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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