(By Melissa Miller)
My youngest daughter, PJ, graduated fifth-grade last month (I will have three middle schoolers in the house now—pray for me), and her teacher signed the final email with these words, “All good things come to an end.” Even as I type it out now, that phrase cuts deep like it did when I first read it. Because it still feels raw; through my season of recent change, adopting from foster care, many good things came to an end.
I found out about the ending of “Old Oak” while visiting my alma mater over spring break. Linfield College is nestled in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, surrounded by farmland, vineyards, and people that call soda “pop.”
One of the first things I noticed was that the Old Oak tree wasn’t there. Apparently, it fell over a few years after I graduated. The Old Oak was a staple at Linfield—so iconic that it became a part of the school’s logo and seal. The tree was estimated to be 200-250 years old; its boughs provided shade to countless graduations, weddings, memorials, and picnics. The Old Oak provided a subtle but constant reassurance, like an old grandpa always telling the same stories.
It was a Philosophy class near Old Oak where my faith was forged. My professor was a young atheist with sandy blonde hair. One day he scribbled something on the chalkboard that changed my life forever:
If you knew there was a God, would you change your life today?
Everyone in the class seemed certain they wouldn’t change their life. But I stayed silent because I didn’t want to be the only one to admit that I would change everything. That question haunted me for weeks. It wasn’t that my life was bad or that I felt like a horrible person—I just didn’t have any meaning beyond…me.
I started reading the Scriptures sprawled out on my apartment floor some days and on a picnic blanket under Old Oak on others. I studied Art and English in college, so the segments of literary genius drew me in. I saw a grand story with various genres, but the story wasn’t predictable. I reached the Psalms, and something shifted.
A verse sheltered me like the branches of that tree. “God is a Father to the fatherless, He sets the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:5-6) Now Abraham wasn’t the character, Moses wasn’t the character, Joseph wasn’t the character—I was the character, and I was all in.
Day after day, I’d rush home from my classes and shuffle through more Scriptures. I smiled, wept, scratched my head, underlined passages, scribbled notes in the margins, and offered up choppy prayers as I went along.
College was a strange time in my life, especially the first couple of years. I wasn’t sure where I fit. My family tree felt broken after my mom’s death; even though I had family, it felt scattered and disjointed. I never knew where to visit during college breaks. I wasn’t entirely fatherless or family-less, but I couldn’t shake feeling like a nomad.
But when I read the verse about God as my Father, something shifted. It felt like I came home—like my soul found roots.
My faith wasn’t conceived in a church, through religion, with a pastor on a pulpit, from my parents, or through a particular denomination. It didn’t come through a missions trip, door-knocker, or evangelistic outreach. My (now) husband helped guide me, but mostly my faith sparked from an atheist professor, Scripture scouring under Old Oak, and that audaciously hopeful little psalm.
My heart broke hearing that Old Oak fell because the fall of such a great tree is a reminder that even good things that seem impermeable come to an end. But that tree was the living witness to the seed of faith deposited in my heart—a seed that grew into its own Old Oak. The tree might not be alive and growing anymore, but my faith is.
The Ancient of Days became my constant through all of life’s changes. And He is the good thing that never comes to an end.
Melissa Millers is a writer and family girl living in South Florida. She authored the book Restful Anticipation and has been married for seventeen years with three biological children, and two newly adopted children from foster care. She loves beach days, country music, and pickleball.
Melissa can be found on Instagram @melissamillerwriter and on substack at