I think life will forever being a battle to determine if something is good or if it is garbage, hopeless, or dead.

Having a dog has forced us to have to go for walks more and, having Covid in the world has forced us to have almost nothing else to do but take our dog for a walk! 

Once school resumed in September, I began walking the kids to school with our corgi, Rafa, in tow. On those walks, I started to notice the maple trees in the area had black spots on their leaves. I had no idea what this was but would notice it day after day. 

At first, I just wondered why the leaves had these ugly spots, but then I started to notice that they kind of made the leaf look uniquely pretty. 

In the last few weeks, the leaves have come tumbling down and lay on the yards or piled up in the ditches and I’ve been relieved, knowing that they will get a fresh start in the spring. 

As if the St. Catharines Standard knew that I had been noticing this but been too lazy to research any of it, they posted an article about it last week. Finally, answers served to me on a platter!!!! So let me tell you what I found out.

These black markings are called Tar Spots. Here are some quotes I want you to read, with my own bolds and italics added:

garbage hopeless dead
garbage hopeless dead

“Rhytisma acerinum is a plant pathogen that commonly affects sycamores and maples in late summer and autumn, causing tar spot.  Tar spot does not usually have an adverse effect on the trees’ long term health.”                                                             – Wikipedia

“…not a serious disease, but primarily is a cosmetic disease that makes trees and shrubs look unsightly.  Tar spot does not kill trees or shrubs, nor does it typically even cause serious defoliation.”                                                                                 – hort.extension.wisc.edu

“When you discover that your tree is suffering from tar spot of maples, you may start to fear that it spells the end to beautiful fall scenery forever.  Never fear, maple tree tar spot is a very minor disease …is a very visible problem.  

“It starts with small yellow spots on growing leaves, and by late summer these yellow spots expand into large black blotches…The tar spots don’t emerge right away, but are typically obvious by mid to late summer…

“Don’t worry, though; the fungus only attacks the leaves, leaving the rest of your maple tree alone…They don’t do any harm to your trees and will be shed when the leaves fall.  

“Unfortunately, maple tree tar spot is spread on the wind, which means that your tree can get reinfected next year if spores happen to hitch a ride on the right breeze…

“Prevention is the key with this disease, but if nearby trees are infected, you can’t reasonably expect to totally destroy this fungus without community support…burning, bagging or composting them…

“if you leave the fallen leaves on the ground until spring, the spores on them will likely reinfect the new foliage”                              -gardeningknowhow.com

garbage hopeless dead

SO interesting!  

If I had to quickly sum up what I took away from it when I read it the first time was this:  tar spots do not mean the whole tree is garbage or hopeless.  It’s just a little problem.  

A little problem that starts tiny (yellow) but grows (turns black).  They are COMMON! Not pretty at all, but we don’t need to be afraid of them.  

They won’t kill the whole tree and neither do WE need to cut the tree down and throw it out, thinking the whole thing is dead.  We don’t need to worry.  

BUT we do need to do something to prevent it from recurring.  And to do something, you will NEED community support.  It isn’t isolated to just your tree.  

You need to look to the trees around you to deal with your tree’s issues.  And if you don’t do what is needed and get rid of the problem, you can count on re-occurrences.

Now, let me tell you something that you may not realize yet.  Ted and I live on a new lot with no trees so I don’t have a tar spot issue so I’m not here to tell you about our tar spot problems.  We have marriage issues and problems.

Let me tell you about our week, ok?  Starting Monday.  

Being in our second marriages, and having both come in with issues from our first marriages, we are NOT GOOD at doing this whole second marriage thing.  We often talk about how we try to act and live like we don’t need each other.  

I had the rug pulled out from under me with my first marriage and so I plan to not have both feet on this rug the second time around…that way, if someone tries to pull it out again, I can smugly smile and say, “Not this time! See?  I didn’t have both feet in! Joke’s on you!”

garbage hopeless dead

But the joke isn’t on anyone but myself.  

I watched my dad be heartbroken and scared last week after my mom had a heart attack, because he didn’t want anything to happen to his best friend and the love of his life.  

I came home from that and told Ted that I want to feel that way about him…I want to put both feet on this rug and take the risk.  

Living one foot on and one foot off isn’t fun for anybody and you don’t reap most of the benefits of being all in.

So now to our argument.  This is going to seem stupid, and I guess it is, but it represents something bigger.  


No, let me rephrase that.  I hate having miserable children after sleepovers.  

Growing up, sleepovers were rare for me.  They truly were a treat that we only got once in a blue moon.  

When I married Ted, though, I realized that they were a weekly event.  Perhaps, twice a week???  This drives me crazy and I have a very difficult time with it.  Multiple times lately, I have questioned Ted as to why playdates ALWAYS have to be sleepovers.  

I have told him that I struggle with them but they continue to happen.  This week, after the kids got home, I was informed about TWO pending sleepovers this week, one with TWO people at one time.  I lost it internally.  

Mentally, I get angry because I feel unheard and unacknowledged and then I speed ahead and take the exit ramp that takes me to “Lock it up, Nance.  You can’t trust this man with ANYTHING. (Yes, this is an overreaction.)  

“I don’t need him.  I can do this without him.  He can stay here with his sleepovers but I’m making plans to get out.  I’m not going to talk to him about this because I don’t need to.  I can continue in the same house but making my own decisions.”  

No joke.  And then we go to sleep in silence night after night.  

Eventually, though, we have a conversation and temporarily calm the storm, but another one is always brewing and do you want to know why?

Because I have a ditch full of marriage leaves with tar spots on them.

And because I refuse to address the problem at heart, which is my fear to trust and need someone again, the spores are just going to reinfect over and over and over and we will once again be going to bed in silence over the same issue.  

And I’m scared. I feel I can’t do this. I shouldn’t have tried marriage again because I just don’t have what it takes. I’m ruined goods.

So here are some tar spot lessons if you feel the same way.

garbage hopeless dead

First, the tree is not garbage and neither is your marriage.  (Fill in whatever else here – your kids, your job, your life, etc.) Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  

We just need to deal with the wounded leaves.  Don’t cut down the whole thing.  The marriage is not garbage or hopeless or dead.  So put the chainsaw away and take a deep breath.    

Second, there is no need to worry.  

Nancy…take your energy that you put into worrying and get on your knees and pray.  

I read a verse this week that said:

 “Is anyone among you suffering?  Then he must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises.”

James 5:13

You have 2 choices:




I guess realistically, you have three…You can panic, pray or praise.  

I’m a natural panicker but this week after reading that verse, I kept whispering to myself “Pray or praise.”  And this week I was suffering, so I needed to pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  

One morning, instead of reading my typical quiet time stuff, I just wrote my prayer and told God exactly what I was feeling.  It was ugly but I prayed for me to not go to bed the same way I woke up…and for Ted and I to not go to bed the same way either.  

The tree is not dead.  

If it is sick and struggling and has visible tar spots? PRAY.  

If it is green and alive with the sound of music? PRAISE.  

Every situation calls for one of these.

Third, you need to look at the trees around you.  Look at the marriages around you.  To the friends and family around you.  You need community support.  

Forests withstand storms so much better than an isolated tree in the middle of nowhere.  And if you are in the middle of nowhere, you might need to transplant yourself…place yourself in a healthy forest.

As I would think about these tar spots, I would initially use the metaphor towards me as a person.  And that works.  I am a person who has tar spots.  But I am not garbage, hopeless or dead.

 God does not make people who are 

garbage, hopeless or dead.

When Ted and I hit yet another bumpy road this week, that led to me going out and buying two books on marriage, that was when the metaphor went further – our marriage has tar spots but our marriage is not garbage, hopeless or dead.

God does not make marriages that are 

garbage, hopeless or dead.  

Not even the ones that end. 

My first marriage has been a gift, too, in many ways. And though it ended, it gave me a new hope and a new way of living.  

I guess in the end, I hope you remember that you just have tar spots and so does your marriage.  But you, nor your marriage are garbage, hopeless or dead.  

If your marriage or if YOU are suffering, then PRAY.  Pray, pray, pray.  Even the ugly, angry kind of prayers.  Just put it out there.  Let Him hear.  

And if you are in a season of green leaves without a tar spot in sight, then PRAISE.  Praise, praise praise.  What a gift to be in that kind of season.  

Whatever we do, just don’t let ourselves entertain that third option of panic.  It won’t do any good. 

Pray or praise.

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