Firewood is an interesting object lesson. Since it was Labor Day Weekend, I was forced to take some time off work – just kidding. After running errands on Saturday and going to a kid’s birthday party … Church and teaching on Sunday … and finally sorting through some boxes in the living room that have been there an embarrassingly long time for a mini-remodel that has never ended … then hosting dinner for some friends … I felt accomplished and tired enough to take a few minutes to stare at the dying flames of our beloved fire pit. Only interrupted occasionally by me yelling into the house, “Are you two ready for bed yet?” And what I noticed in this momentary calm was the firewood.
This past January a neighbor jumped over our block wall and notified my husband as he was headed to the car that two 90-foot pine trees in our backyard had just fallen. Now totally and completely parallel to the ground, the root system had taken out the block wall between the properties, as well. The rain had been terrible for weeks preceded by years of drought, and the gale force winds had finally been too much.
These and two others along the same property line were eventually cut down, and I begged to preserve some for firewood. As impressive as the trees were, safety had to come first. As an amateur tree ring counter (you should see my National Parks passport), I figured these trees had been there 30 years. Again, impressed with the trees, I quietly considered the last 30 years of my own life.
Apparently, pine firewood logs take normally a year to season – to dry out enough to burn in a fire (otherwise green/wet wood produces a lot of smoke). However, in wonderful Southern California “living tree” really means ¾ dry tree and three months left alone in a firewood pile in the summer sun is plenty of extra insurance. So our fire pit was doing well the other night.
But the best firewood for burning is that which has been left alone to season. Either 12 months in a mild climate, or 3 months in a harsh one.
Yet another example of what God knows and I forget. The best firewood is left alone for a season. Not abandoned, not forgotten, but observed and considered from a distance.
Whether it’s my kids or a young engineer at the office, all have to be left to their own devices for a short season. You have to observe what they are made of and what they have learned. My mom calls it, “giving them enough rope to hang themselves with”. Probably some obscure reference to an old “B” Western movie. If my kids aren’t ever allowed to fail, how will I be able to teach them how to cope? If they aren’t ever allowed to make a judgment call, how can I help shape their thinking? How will I ever know what they still need to learn?
As I have given my kids more rope, I have received the blessing of reassurance. Yes, they can swim when they start to panic and usually their judgment is better than expected. And they have learned to listen to at least one thing I’ve said, “Whatever you do, stick together. Two brains are better than one.” (I imagine that being my dying words to them many years from now.) I’m sleeping a little more peacefully at night. I might actually survive this parenting experience.
Additionally, it is also good for the team lead to go on vacation or the program manager to be out of pocket. You learn what your team is truly made of.
On the flip side, as a child in this object lesson with the Teacher being God, it stinks! Being left to my own devices is scary and unnerving, I hate it. It is SUPER uncomfortable. Argh! The prayer of my heart is that I make the most of every lesson, so maybe I can test out of the next semester/trial.
Like there’s a shortcut for The Special (yes that was a movie reference). And I don’t really want to be firewood. I want to be that trunk section in the middle of the living tree that gets its nutrients from the section above, and its water from below and I just have to hold on.
Unfortunately/fortunately, God loves me more than that. For some reason yet to be revealed, He needs better firewood. Oi vey! Just don’t leave me in the woodpile for the termites, please.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.