About Cheerio

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In general I am a cheery and energetic person. But I am enshrouded in a cloak of iron. That cloak is the weight of greiving my son, whom I've lost to adoption.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sight of the Unsightly Redbud Tree

The week of my original due date was very hard emotionally.

Just two days before she was due, I took yet another hike in the mountain. This time, though I was scouting for redbuds. It is a beautiful native tree here in PA, and early April was when they started to blossom. One of the characteristics of redbuds is that they have big heart shaped leaves.

That day and each time I walk through these woods, I am just amazed at how much work my husband has put into restoring the land. When we first bought this property, it was an unsightly sea of green overgrowth. It was not a good or healthy green at all.

In the sunny areas mile-a-minute (devils tail) had taken over and literally climbed up and grown overtop all the vegetation. It climbed the wildflowers, shrubs, bramble bushes, and was even growing in the trees. When walking, our footsteps were precariously balanced on vegetation, not touching solid ground.

The woods were in just as bad shape. The trees were choked and being strangled by white clematis, wild grapevines and worse -- the foreign invasive Oriental Bittersweet vine. You could not look through the woods and see trees or shrubs. Instead everything was entwined with some kind of vine and/or vines.

Here is a brief synopsis on the growth habit and damage caused from Oriental Bittersweet vine. True to a vine’s nature, the vines grow encircling the branches as they spiral their way up. Over time the vines themselves get thicker while the tree is also trying to grow. The vines constrict the branches and reduce nourishment to the leaves. This constriction deforms the branches and stunts growth. The greatest danger; however, is how quickly the vine races for the tops of the tree and there in the sunlight it becomes very dense with leaves and fills the treetop with it’s ever encircling vine. The bittersweet vine reduces the amount of sunlight to the leaves, thereby weakening the tree. As the bittersweet vine thrives, the weakened tree gets to the point where in several years it can no longer bear the weight of the vine with being weakened and top heavy, the tree breaks and collapses.

Oriental Bittersweet vine is not a native plant. It is foreign plant introduced here. It was not part of the original landscape thereby disturbing the natural balance. It is invasive because it crowds out and kills native vegetation, which in turn affects wildlife – flower, trees, birds, butterflies, and more.

So as I journey on my hike, there is an amazing feeling to be walking on a path, and be able to see through the woods, down to our house. This was not possible three years ago. I was strolling up a path my husband cleared just last spring. I was walking slowly, enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. I saw purple ahead of me and anticipated seeing a beautiful stately redbud in full bloom.

As I got closer, I was confused by what I saw. I was trying to make sense of it as I noticed the redbud branches and blossoms were low to the ground, which is not normal for this type of tree. It looked like an older dead tree must have fallen over on top of the redbud.

The confusion changed to puzzlement as I got closer. Is this broken tree I see a redbud? Those blossoms near the ground, are they evidence of survival?
Can this ugly brokenness I see at the top be the same tree as the purple buds branching from it?

I leave the path and walk down to investigate.

Sure enough, the brokenness and blossoms were from the same tree.

I walked around the base of the tree and noticed remainders of Oriental Bittersweet vines hanging from it. This must have been one of the trees my husband has freed from the strangling vine. When he found her, she was weighed down, crushed, and broken. If he had not intervened, surely this tree would have simply collapsed and died, killed by an invasive foreign vine (Oriental Bittersweet) that was never part of the original design.

As I’m standing there in amazement at this tree, it was as if God spoke to me. It was as if He was pointing out that right now in my life I’ve been feeling broken. Not only from the lost of our unborn little flower bud, but also and even more so from the adoption pain of the son I have not seen for over 15 years. And it was as if He was letting me know that even though I am broken in ways, that it does not have to utterly destroy me. Instead there can be some beauty from my life, despite the brokenness. As I was sharing with a friend this bit of encouragement from my hike, she says to me, “But how do you know you are broken? How do you know you’re not what God intended you to be?” No wise person would look at this tree and say it's meeting its full potential. This tree is obviously broken. It is bent over and will NEVER be in the straight upright position that a lovely redbud tree is designed to be.

No matter how many years pass, the gaping holes in its trunk will never grow closed. No amount of time will erase the scars of brokenness and years of damage done to this redbud tree. This is what adoption has done to me. Just as the Oriental Bittersweet vine was a foreign plant invading our hillside, so adoption is a foreign blight in our world. It was never God’s design to break women’s hearts, lives, and motherhood. It was never His design to bring about crushing brokenness to families.

Even though some claim it to be “ordained” by Him or they claim superior knowledge that adoption is “His Will,” they are misguided. Just as it is with the Oriental Bittersweet vine, it is so with adoption. The people who want to keep it alive are the ones who benefit from it. Crafters view Oriental Bittersweet as a wonderful thing of beauty because they can use the bright orange berries. But they totally ignore the damage the vine does.

So it is with adoption. The ones who view it as a wonderful and beautiful thing are not the ones living under the crushing weight, the strangling pain of losing a child, or losing an original parent.

Another irony I see in this story is that the bright orange berries are more highly revered than the natural heart shaped leaves of the redbud. Could it be mere coincidence that this vine was choking out the ‘heart’ of the forest?

I have been strangled, weakened, and choked from pain caused by adoption. I have collapsed at the weight of it upon my soul. My heart is broken and pieces of it have splintered beyond repair. I will never be what I was originally designed to be. I will never stand in the forest straight, tall, and strong.

When people look at my life, they will not see beauty BECAUSE OF adoption. No, adoption has caused the grotesquesness. But when peole look at my life, if they see beauty, it will be IN SPITE OF THE permanent damage caused by adoption loss.
Beauty Despite Brokenness


  1. Too right!!A brave post and good to see you here.That tree, like you, has the beauty of strength, charachter and survival, which will always make it stand out from the others.
    Religion an adoption should never mix, it has been a cruel perversion of what families should/could be.

  2. Ohhhh Cheerio, what a fabulous post and I had tingles down my spine as I have recently been thinking along a very similar line:

    "And it was as if He was letting me know that even though I am broken in ways, that it does not have to utterly destroy me. Instead there can be some beauty from my life, despite the brokenness."

    We ARE broken. We are living withouta part of use that was never supposed to be broken away from us... but its usually when we are at our most broken that we can finally see the rays of sunlight peeking through the darkness. When we are on the ground and have no where else to go. We can only see these things when we acknowledge how broken we are and see how we can still achieve beauty in spite of our 'brokenness'.

    You are giving beauty, through the pain. You are hear, writing, sharing a part of your soul, gently helping others with your experiences.

    God Bless you richly Cheerio, and your hubby. I still think of your precious little flowerbud so often and carry you both in my heart.

    Much, much love,
    Myst xxx

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I really needed to read it tonight. Sometimes I forget that I can have beauty despite my brokeness. Tonight all I was feeling was the deep wound. Thank you for making me see there is more

    Aislin(who is too lazy to sign into her blog)

  4. Thank you for your comment, Von. It's not that religion and adoption should never mix, because religion is often a way of life to people. But I agree that religion, especially those faiths that proclaim a God with all power and unending love should never promote adoption. Yes, that's what I agree is perversion!!! Out of one side of their mouth they say God answers prayer to meet all our needs - yet out of the other side of their mouth tell an expectant mom that she doesn't have the resources to parent. Where did that God of yours suddenly go?

  5. Myst, I know you are going through a dark spot yourself lately. And yes, I think it's important to acknowledge our brokenness - instead of pretending and being in denial. Denial will not allow us to see the truth in the bad, but it allso will not allow us to see the truth in the good either.


  6. Dear Aislin,
    I am glad this was an encouragement to you.