RING BEARING: Telling My Story


It’s October. One of my months. One where I can’t help but remember.

Always Chris’ birthday and always Chris’ surgery. The two are forever combined.

(May is another one of my months. The memories of the last Mother’s day in the month my mom died.)

If I were a tree, and you cut through my middle to look at my rings, could you tell when my life was tough?

Apparently, the answer is yes.



:  the science of dating events and variations in environment in former periods by comparative study of growth rings in trees and aged wood (1)


My most narrow ring would start in May 1996.


Drought-stressed trees may exhibit signs of dieback or decline. This may be the tree’s way of coping with a stressful situation. (2)


There would be another series of drastically small growth rings following October of 2003.

You’d see my Season of Fear from the Winter of 2010: when we left the church we grew up in, I got in a very bad and very random car accident, we all got the worst GI bug on the history of planet earth (I thought I was going to die), and I was almost abducted (not by aliens, but by a man. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true, and I promise I’ll write about it another time). I cried in paralyzing fear, not wanting to leave my house, over the “whys and what if’s” and I’d lay in bed repeating Bible verses like Psalm 34:4 and 56:3-4 until I fell asleep. 

You’d also see my Summer of Indulgence, when I decided not to worry about food or money or having one too many drinks. (That season was short-lived.)


Permanently wilted plants may recover when water is added to the soil, but prolonged permanent wilting usually kills most species of plants. Keep in mind there is great variation in wilting among different tree species and different types of soils.(2)


Perhaps I’m actually a tree?


I’ve been writing in my head for decades. And, as many of you know, I started to write on-line this year. I’ve been told it takes a while to “find your voice,” “find your audience,” and “find your message.” I’m still working on it. Thank you for your patience with me as I find all those ridiculous and illusive things.

In deciding to write publicly, this was the message impressed upon my heart: Tell Your Story.  

It’s what I know and it’s what I want to share. Mostly, for my children, should I not get the chance as they get older. And yes, it’s also for you. Someone who may see a part of their hurt in mine, find common ground, and a meeting place to feel your pain but not be overcome by it.

But it’s not easy to Tell Your Story. For no other reason than the fear it won’t matter. That no one will care. (Not to mention how painful, personal, and emotional it is to share my heart and revisit the hurt, while finding the delicate balance of details since my story is intimately woven with another’s.)


During dry years, little radial growth occurs and the annual growth ring will be narrow.

Because severe droughts adversely affect trees in many ways, radial growth often will be reduced for the current year and maybe even one or more subsequent years. (2)


Given time, I now can see the effects of the hardest seasons of my life. Stress and drought profoundly altered my growth. (Word to the wise: Do not joke about me growing a new ring in my middle every year after this, okay?)

After so much time of drought, making very narrow rings for years on end, we have recovered and our roots are now drinking deep. Just today, I told someone we are in a season of Growth and Equipping. 


I’ve been asked multiple times lately (in one form or another) about my spiritual gifts. (See 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Peter 4). Knowledge. Faith. Healing. Teaching. Helping. Leadership. The on-line “Find Your Gifts” questionnaires will give you many more.

I know mine from the standard Christian-ese Bible lists. But I have a few others, too. (Before you throw stones at me, let me say this: Maybe these aren’t spiritual gifts, per se, but more the way God wrapped me up.)

Honesty. Empathy. Openness. And I think (although I hesitate to say it out loud for what the future holds) I am a conversation starter. 


Every single person I know has a story; a really hard but good one. And we all desire to feel connected. And I want us to start talking and telling our stories to each other.

So, I write.


I mark the passing of time with my memories. Unable to show you my rings, I can tell you about them.   

We are told to remember. Passover each year. Shabbat each week. On our hands and foreheads and houses each day. Build Ebenezers, a physical reminder of God’s help, to help us remember His hand on our lives.

It’s October, and I can’t help but remember. I’m going to start to share my story. It’s not a neat package and it can’t be told all at once, so please bear with me.


Before I start, I’d love for you to think about your story. If you were a tree, what would your rings look like?

What time of year passes and you can’t help but remember? What were (are) the hard seasons which forever mark your life?


I don’t want someone to examine a cross section of me one day and say “This one had some hard times. Poor thing never recovered.” My hope is that the remark, instead, will be “This one had some hard times. But look how she grew once she recovered!



Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s pe (1)



1: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dendrochronology

2: http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/main/popup.aspx?id=1283



Psalm 34:4 – I sought the LORD and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 56: 3-4  When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?



~ ~ ~

A thousand thankyous. For reading. For sharing. For joining me in this journey.

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Sonya Spillmann


  1. Oh goodness, braided essays are my favorite to write and read, and this one is gorgeous. I love how you wove the definition into your story.
    October is tough for me, though it is one of my favorite months. A birth and death both mark these 31 days, and I feel I live that metaphorically, I guess, each year October arrives.

    • thanks Callie. since I admire your writing like crazy, this is a HUGE compliment.
      As for “your month”… what else do we do, but get through it the best we can? Thinking of you.

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