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Good Ol’ Hackberry

Written by Brandi Johnston on . Posted in Muchness

Good ol’ Hackberry

“Miss Brandi, Miss Brandi it was SOOO scary!”

“Yeah it was this horrible popping and we ran so fast to the porch and then ‘POW’ it hit the ground.”

“Wow girls, that sounds awful.  Were you so scared?”  I cringed inside as the three little blonde cuties who lived next door shared their near death experience with our tree—good ol’ Hackberry.

We had moved into our cozy little cottage just over a year ago.  It was, as so many things in my life, a perfectly timed blessing from the Lord.  With my “unreal” expectations and “impossible” list of wants/needs, the Lord had answered faithful and true as always.  We had instantly fell in love with the big backyard (unheard of with a tiny house and yet here it is) complete with the most gorgeous century old tree that was just begging for someone to hang a swing from its lofty branches.  But our poor old tree was rotting or maybe it was just a fungus depending on which expert with whom you chose to agree.  This was the second time part of it had fallen and still it stood majestic and lush with its lovely greenish yellow leaves.  Still glorious despite the fact that the branches that had fallen both this time and previously appeared to be sizable trees in their own right extending nearly fifty feet with a span of forty feet on the ground they engulfed nearly one third of our yard.


We were struggling to figure out what to do.  Neither I nor my husband had ever owned a home let alone dealt with tree issues.  Do we make last ditch effort and bolt the low crotch (apparently this was the greatest issue with our tree—who knew trees’ had crotches) to save the tree?  Pour rot treatment on it?  Or, do we do the very thing we could not bring ourselves to consider—chop ol’ Hackberry down and have him removed?  We researched and discussed the issue over the course of the following months.  And then as life has a way of doing the decision was made for us.

I was at work when the receptionist said, “Your neighbor is on the phone.” I drew a deep breath.  I knew exactly which neighbor and I knew precisely why she was calling—to tell me the bad news.  Even with this third fall ol’ Hackberry remained strong and resolute though he was just over half his previous glorious size, and this time his mighty branches had stretched so far they landed squarely on our dilapidated garage that was now no longer so square and far more dilapidated.

And so in a matter of a week ol’ Hackberry who had stood glorious and mighty for a century came down.  It was a great undertaking at least it must have been it took all day and part of the next and cost a small fortune.  I couldn’t watch.  I was heartbroken.  All I could think was that ol’ Hackberry had made that yard offering the only shade and refuge.  He had looked rather grand with the new bed I had created around his mighty trunk.  I couldn’t go in our backyard for a month I was so upset.  Our backyard is just another room in our house in which we spend a lot of time.  And there is something deeply troubling about losing so grand a tree that has with stood so many storms, droughts, winds, tornados and looked out on the many families and parties that had happened just beneath its branches.

When I finally forced myself outside I of course was shocked being able to look so far beyond my fence.  Our yard was dramatically different.  There were stubbles of grass peeking up through the ground that had once refused to grow any no matter how hard we coaxed it.  There were these mighty stumps sitting in the yard.  “I thought you might want to use them for something,” my husband told me.  There was firewood stacked so high along the fence.  I started doing yard work and rolling the giant stumps, ol’ Hackberry’s former branches around to different parts of the yard.  I loved the idea that he would live on in our yard in a small way.  The stumps made excellent accents to several of our beds and ideal spots for potted plants.  As time went by we would enjoy an evening in front of the chiminea warmed by the tiny branches of ol’ Hackberry and again I was happy to think that ol’ Hackberry still was adding to our yard and our time spent in it.

We have given away much of the huge stack of firewood save for the tiny pieces to use for our late night fires.  I wanted to do something else with the wood, something useful.  So we chopped them down into coaster size bits to use to set candles on or keep drinks from leaving a ring.  Rustic wood coasters that I could share with friends, coasters that will serve as a reminder that even when the worst thing happens, the very thing we can’t or don’t want to consider that there is beauty and purpose beyond the loss.

I think of Stephen so full of the Holy Spirit who was faced with an even greater decision, whether or not he would back down from sharing the Gospel.  As he stood before the council already a condemned man in their eyes he boldly declared what he knew to be true and in so doing he lost his life.  But many would say and I think our current body of believers confirms that in the horrible loss of Stephen so much more was gained.  In losing this saint we gained the spread of the Gospel.  Immediately following his death persecution of believers intensified and they were forced to flee and in so doing took the Gospel with them.


Sometimes when things don’t work out as we had hoped or when all hope seems to have floated away we feel defeated.  We wonder where God is.  We wonder why He didn’t stop this horrible thing from happening.  And we forget that He is God and there might be, no there definitely will be rough patches and sad moments, disappointments far worse than ol’ Hackberry that rock our worlds and still we are defeated.  God can redeem any person or situation.  He can make beauty from ashes and life from death.  He does it all the time.  He is God and with Him our loss has a way of equaling gain.

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Comments (4)

  • Marla


    I don’t think I’ve seen your Hackberry coasters… what a great idea! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! More please…


  • Brandi Johnston


    Marla they made their debut at the Townies. I just started stamping them with the words “Loss is Gain.”


  • Tammy


    Brandi, that was amazing! Thbak you for sharing. You do have the gift of writing.


  • Arla


    Very insightful and true, sometimes it is through the tragedy we truly see the love and provision of God. It is one of those moments when in the midst of the struggle, we see God move and think how perfectly everything was orchestrated to achieve HIS purpose. Sometimes hard is the only way it could come to pass…and the fruit multiplies. The tree cannot grow if the seed does not fall to the ground.
    Love it! I am with Marla..more, more, more!!


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