I feel rugged today. I loaded stacks of lumber onto a trailer, one board at a time. Many of the boards had nails in them, or were splintered and rough. Did I complain? Nope.

Not much, anyway.

My husband is tearing down a house. His payment is the lumber, and the windows, and any other supplies he can salvage. He wants to add on to his shop. He’s even going to build me a she-shed. Then, he plans to build a second story onto our home. All with perfectly good, perfectly free lumber.

This is the second structure he’s torn down in a year, in exchange for the building materials. The first was a barn. We now have enough wood to build an entirely new house if we want!

The dismantled house was built in 1942, the same year my mother was born. I wonder what stories that lumber could tell. Fully-grown trees, in the WW2 era, would have been seedlings some time in the 1800s. Those trees must have seen some pretty interesting things over the years. Storms. Droughts. Squirrels, cardinals, owls. Perhaps a first kiss, stolen under the shady branches.

At some point, they were chopped down, only to be raised to life again in the form of a home. I know they’ve seen lots of meals prepared; the boards from the kitchen, where the stove once sat, are covered in grease. Somebody knew how to cook a delicious, fatty, southern-fried meal.

They’ve seen babies born. They’ve watched children grow to adulthood. One corner of the attic uncovered a pair of pink pajama bottoms. Judging from the size, the little girl was about four. Judging from the flowers and ruffles, I’d say she was a princess.

Now those trees have died a second death, and they’re about to get a third life. More stories to tell. More people to bless.

Each of us is kind of like those trees. We’ve grown. We’ve blossomed. We’ve seen storms and droughts. Most of us have experienced emotional deaths of some kind or other. But because we are strong, because we have value, we’ve been placed in positions to bless others.

I shared with some friends recently that God is the great story-maker. He loves to bless us, to give us stories to tell. I don’t know your stories, but I can tell you plenty of my own. And I can say, without reservation, that God is good. He is loving. He is kind. I can also tell you that each storm I’ve suffered, each drought I’ve endured, has made me stronger and prepared me for a greater purpose. They’ve made me more compassionate, more generous, more kind. They’ve prepared me to be a blessing.

We all have stories. The question is, how will we use those stories? Will we let anger and ache and bitterness take root, rotting our souls, rendering us useless? Or will we weather the storms, roots firm, heads high, strengthened for the experience?

I want my stories, the branches of my life, to provide a safe shelter for those around me. Someday, when I die, I know my soul will live on. But I also want my stories to continue, to have life after life, providing a testament of God’s love, providing hope for those who come behind.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.