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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Recent Reflections - January 2018: The Blessing of Dead Trees

I decided to do a new type of monthly post called Recent Reflections.  Recent Reflections will go live the third Friday or Saturday of each month.  Each Recent Reflections post will cover something that I'm reflecting on.  If you'd like to share a post with a similar theme, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your post, and I'll hop on over and leave a comment (and maybe some other readers will, too).

This month, I'll be sharing about a burden-turned-blessing in our lives: our dead trees.  (Note: It's quite a long story, but please read it all - you won't regret it!)

A picture of some of our dead trees when the Village came out to do some water main work.

For the last 3 or 4 years (possibly longer), we've been dealing with dead trees - 6 to be exact.  We called the power company multiple times to remove them because the trees were near power lines, and we were told by both workers for the power company and tree removal people that the trees were the power company's responsibility and that we should NOT remove them ourselves.  Each time we called, the power company told us they would take down the lines attached to the house, but they were "not obligated" to remove the trees or it was "within acceptable risk" to let the trees remain standing.  They even refused to remove the trees when doing work in the area, despite them saying they would remove them if they were working in the area and workers telling us they would remove the trees if the power company would give the ok because the trees needed to come down.  It was a real matter of frustration, especially since we were being told the cost could per tree could range between $150 to $1,000+ (and we were told it would probably be closer to the latter due to the line involvement and how close the trees were to the house) if we could even get anyone to agree to come out, that we would have to coordinate multiple companies to get the lines down (electric, cable and telephone) to remove the trees safely, and not finding anyone who was willing to remove the trees because everyone was saying it was the power company's job.  Talk about a nightmare!

When a limb came down in November of 2016 and took out half our power, nearly causing a fire.

In November of 2016, we had a limb come down on our power line, taking out half our power and nearly causing a fire.  We were able to get the power company to come out to replace the line, but they didn't remove the limb hanging above the line for almost a year.  When the crew came out to remove the limb, they tried to help us out by calling the power company and telling them the trees needed to go.  Unfortunately, the forester that came out told us that it was "acceptable risk" to leave the trees standing, and that if they were doing work in the area they'd take them down - which was not true because they'd just finished doing work in the area less than a year earlier and had refused to take them down then.  Anyway, after that encounter, we decided we had no choice but to figure out a way to remove them ourselves.  Due to the possible high price tag, we knew we'd have to wait until our tax return to deal with them because we didn't have $1,000 to spend, let alone over $6,000.

A few of our dead trees after one fell on our neighbor's power line and car.

Fast forward to December of 2017.  We had a horrific wind storm the beginning of December, and one of our trees fell...not on our house or power line, but on our NEIGHBOR'S power line and car.  We were horrified.  The tree took out half their power, bent their power pole, and did minor damage to their vehicle.  We did all we could to help them, and promised to make things right with them by offering to pay for the deductible to get their car fixed and the cost of the electrician to replace the power pole, though we were technically not legally obligated to pay anything (that was up to their car insurance and home owner's insurance).  We also told them that we'd get a tree removal service out there ASAP, though we knew we couldn't possibly afford it.  We felt it was the right thing to do, even though we feared that the cost could be anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 - depending on how much everything turned out to be.

(Now, I want to take a moment to clarify something here.  About 2 weeks before the tree fell, God had really impressed it upon my heart to be grateful for the ugly, awful things.  I'd read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with my son for school the year before, and I just couldn't get over how they'd been grateful for lice and fleas because it had allowed them freedom in the concentration camps.  I was in awe of how the Lord had used something so awful to be such a blessing.  I realized then that I wanted to have that sort of faith - to have the ability to be grateful for the awful things and let God show me how they could be a blessing in my life.  Little did I know what He had in store for us.)

Right after we made the decision to do right by our neighbors and get those trees down, we knew we'd have to pray for a miracle.  We prayed as a family, begging Him to provide the funds, begging Him to not let another tree fall until we could get them down, and asking Him to keep our relationship good with our neighbors.  In my heart, the Lord reminded me to be grateful for this burden.  Trust me - I didn't want to be.  I was so scared about the potential financial impact, so nervous about the forecast (more wind was on the way), and just overwhelmed.  Nevertheless, I told the Lord, I would be grateful, and asked Him to show me how those trees would turn into a blessing.  My kids even prayed with me about it, especially my daughter.  As we prayed, God gave peace that He would provide, and we trusted in that...and then the blessings began to come.

Blessing #1: We were able to find a local man who was willing to remove all 6 trees for $800 in total, if we did the clean-up.  We were thrilled, especially since it was less than the cheapest we were told it could be, PLUS they wouldn't have to take down any power, cable or phone lines (which meant we'd be able to keep the electricity on during the project which is a HUGE plus in the winter time).  The only set back was we would have to wait 2 weeks.  We set to praying that the trees would hold up until then...and God kept them standing for those 2 weeks.

The trees coming down!!!

The 22nd of December, 2017, was one of the most exciting days of our lives!  Our burdensome, dead trees (AKA "those dumb trees") were coming down!  We wouldn't have to worry about them anymore!

 It took about 2 hours...
...but then they were down...
 ...with only clean-up remaining.
Blessing #2: My dad came over to help us chop up the trees and stack them by the side of the road.  He was a HUGE help, and there is no way we would have been able to do the work without him!  If we had had the tree service do it, it would have cost us an additional $400, so he helped save us a bundle!  (He did get lunch and some homemade muffins as a thank you, FYI.) 

Also, the weather was perfect for the job!  It wasn't too hot or cold, no crazy snow or rain - absolutely amazing, and made the job a lot more tolerable.

Everyone pitched in a little bit...

My husband and boys...

 My daughter...

 (I think she liked "supervising" with Grandpa best!)

...even I helped, though I didn't get pictures of that.

And about 4 hours later...
 ...we had 2 large piles of wood to get rid of!

Blessing #3:  For about half a minute, we thought about advertising that we had firewood for sale.  We probably could have made quite a bit of money (a truckload can be about $300 in this area, and we had 10 truckloads-worth easy), but we quickly decided against that.  The Lord made it very clear that we were to give the firewood away, and let Him take care of the cost of the tree removal and cost to make things right with the neighbors.  So, we advertised on Facebook about free firewood...and that's when things got a bit wild.

In less than 24 hours....

...our yard looked like this!

We thought it would take days to get rid of all that wood, but it didn't!

Blessing #4:  Not only that, but we got to see 9 or 10 different groups of people come by to get wood who needed it right before Christmas and be a blessing to them!  We had people tell us on Facebook that we were a blessing, and one gentleman in particular left us this note, that made me cry:

I was so moved that the Lord let us be such a big a blessing!  We ended up being a Christmas miracle to that man and his family, and I couldn't have been more filled with joy in my entire life.  God reminded me in that moment that He turned those trees into a blessing for so many, and wasn't I so glad I'd been grateful?  I cannot express to you how special that day was!  God wasn't done blessing us, though.

Blessing #5: I forgot to mention, the tree removal service told us we'd have 30 days from bill date to pay for the service, so we had a bit of time to figure out how to get the money for the job.  That was a relief, for sure!

Blessing #6: On Christmas Eve, we sold our Jeep that we'd been trying to sell for months to someone who desperately needed a vehicle.  We'd wondered why it'd taken so long to sell it, and it had been very hard to be grateful.  We'd had a few people interested, but nothing had ever panned out, and in our hearts we wanted it to go to someone who needed it.  Well, it did, and we've been told it has been a real answer to pray for the person who now owns it.

Blessing #7:  We didn't get much from the sale of our Jeep, but we knew it would be enough to at least cover the cost of the deductible for our neighbor's vehicle, so my husband went over there to talk with him.  My husband told me to pray for a miracle as he left the house to go over there, so that's what I did with my daughter.  We prayed that God would keep the relationship with our neighbors good, that we'd figure out a way to afford the cost of the tree removal and the cost for the damages to our neighbor's property, and we thanked Him for turning those trees into a blessing, too.  When I got done praying, it was like I heard the Lord say to me, "It's ok, Julie.  I've already paid for the damages.  I've taken care of that bill."  I thought it was wishful thinking on my part, but thanked Him again for the goodness He'd already showered upon us.  Little did I know what was coming....

Within a short time, I saw my husband come back inside, and he was crying.  I was mortified!  I thought for sure the neighbor had quoted him a price in the thousands.  I asked him what was wrong, and through his tears he told me that nothing was wrong, and that "we were good".  I looked at him like he had two heads and asked what that meant.  My husband said, "He doesn't want a dime."

I was floored.  What on earth did he mean by that, I wondered, and then he explained.

When my husband went to talk with our neighbor, my husband told him that we didn't have much, but we knew we had enough to cover the deductible for his car, and we wanted to at least pay that, and that we wanted to know how much the cost for the electrician to fix the power pole was, and we'd pay that, too, when we could.  Our neighbor said he wasn't sure on the cost of that bill, but he'd go look it up.  Our neighbor then went inside for about 5 minutes, came back out and told my husband, "We had a small miracle happen today.  A family in our church gave us enough money to pay for the damages.  God paid your bill for you.  You don't owe us anything."  My husband asked him if he was sure about 3 times, and said he wanted to be a good neighbor and all that, and our neighbor assured him he was sure, and that we were all good.  Talk about a  miracle!  And that our neighbor used nearly the exact words that God had given to me in regards to the situation blew me away!  God is so good!

Blessing #8: On top of that, our kids got some treats from that very same neighbor (we've been friends for 10 years, and exchange Christmas goodies each year) that included some money for each of them.  We were overwhelmed!  God had been so very good, but He wasn't done yet!

Blessing #9:  We didn't get a bill from the tree service for weeks, so my husband finally texted the guy and asked about the bill.  My husband's text was something like, "I was wondering about the bill for the tree removal.  I believe we agreed on $800."  The guy texted back something like, "It went good.  Let's call it $700."  We were going to save an additional $100!  Hallelujah!  A few days later, we paid the tree service, knowing that God will provide for the rest of our needs somehow.

Blessing #10: I know that sharing this story with you all has blessed and encouraged someone.  This blesses my heart beyond words!  I also know that my kids have learned about the power of prayer, and have witnessed God working a miracle in our lives first-hand - a lesson that is beyond priceless and that will stick with them in any tough times to come.  This has also increased my husband's and my faith, as well.

I can't believe how good God has been, taking a horrible situation and turning it into a blessing.  This situation could have cost us up to $10,000 and the friendship of some amazing neighbors, but He allowed us to have this all settled for $700 and kept the friendship intact!  We know that if we had at any time decided to be selfish (i.e. charged for the firewood or decided not to do right by our neighbors or wait to remove the trees because we could) that things would not have gone the way they did.  And to let God show me just how He could use such a burden by turning it into multiple blessings - I can't tell you how amazing that was!

Never, ever fault God's timing, and be grateful in ALL things!  He can truly turn ANYTHING into a blessing!  We had to wait over 4 years to see the blessing of those dumb trees, but we saw it in full force!  All the waiting, all the praying, all the sleepless nights wondering why we couldn't get those trees down or sell our Jeep were worth it all!  God made it all very clear in one weekend - Christmas weekend, no less - that allowing Him to move in His way and timing was the best thing ever!  We can "be still" and "know {He is} God", and truly know that He is always working for our good.  Amen!

I truly hope this post has been a blessing to your heart!  What has God done in your life lately to bless you?  What are you reflecting on?

Have a wonderful weekend!

(This post was originally posted on my original site, Fibro, Fit and Fab!)

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