My mornings are pretty much the same, when I am home and not traveling. I get up and get the coffee brewing and take my little Yorkie out for her morning walk. Then, my hot coffee in hand, I walk around the house and start opening the blinds to let the morning light in. It has been the most beautiful picture outside my front window, the past few days, as the leaves have been at their Autumn peak and the colors seem to capture the sun. This morning, I noticed that the huge Sugar Maple Tree in my front yard that was ornate with yellow leaves, just a week ago, is now completely bare and the leaves have filled my lawn and driveway and turned brown. Winter is coming.
In the next couple of weeks, I’ll change out the mums in my outdoor planters for pine trees with lights and red bows. I’ll throw the pumpkins that have decorated my front porch and fireplace into the woods behind my house so that the wildlife can enjoy them before they go to their homes to hibernate for the winter. Then, I’ll look forward to the mornings when I can open that blind, coffee in hand, and see the lawn and trees covered in white snow. It will be a great time to turn on the fireplace, curl up with a warm blanket and drink my coffee while watching the snow fall. I’ll enjoy that . . . while it lasts.
I love seasons. At one point in our marriage, David and I considered moving to Florida. He took a job there and, for several weeks, lived and worked miles away while I packed our home in Tennessee and made plans for me and the kids to make the move and join him. We were excited about walking on the beach in flip flops at Christmas time. We love Florida and have vacationed there many summers with our family. But, just a few days before the moving truck was scheduled to come, we pulled the plug on the entire plan and realized that we were making a mistake and it wasn’t too late to change our minds. It was exactly this time of year, 7 years ago, when we made that decision. David drove home and barely stopped along the drive because he was so excited to get home to see us. We had been separated for over a month and he was homesick, and we were missing him. Our house was packed in boxes, so we started unpacking, setting up our Christmas tree and putting our future in God’s hands. For now, we would enjoy the holidays together and be glad that we hadn’t made the wrong move. We love the beach, but we enjoyed the snow, that Christmas. More importantly we enjoyed being together and trusting God for His perfect plan for our future, not ours.
Just like the weather, life is made up of seasons. I’ve not been very happy about the season we have been in. Like many I know are in a dark season, I’ve spent a lot of time searching for answers or, at the very least, peace. The Lord took me to Ecclesiastes this morning. Solomon writes, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. . .. (Eccles. 3:1) This time last year, David and I had just returned home from Mexico and he was facing medical procedures as we were still fighting to keep him alive. This was the worst season that we have ever walked through, as a family. Now, memories of how I did or didn’t handle something during that time will hit me out of nowhere and most of the time riddled with regret. I was driven toward the goal of keeping David alive and doing everything in my power to not let cancer take him. There was not a moment that I wasn’t thinking about what to feed him, had he taken his supplements, was I following protocol for his treatments, was he in pain, had we prayed enough, had we spoken the Word enough, was there any stone we hadn’t turned and given to the Lord in our lives, was the air in the house clean enough, did we have an appointment we needed to go to . . . . The list was endless. I was also trying to make life as normal as possible for my kids. I wanted Christmas to follow our usual traditions and for everyone to be happy despite the dreadful season we couldn’t seem to escape. Yet, I was reeling on the inside with fear, fatigue, oppression, doubt, anger and so many questions.
Solomon goes on to say:
“For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.
Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
so no one has power over the time of their death.” (Eccles. 8:6-8a)
“No one has power over the time of their death.” Well, I guess I can’t look with regret at what I did or didn’t do. It was not in my power, regardless of how hard I tried to follow each days tasks toward what I thought was the goal of keeping David alive.
I was talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago and he was telling me about a widower who just lost his wife a couple of months ago. His friend was telling him how hard it was to go to church and hear the clichés that we so easily let come out of our mouths with no real knowledge of their effect on someone who is battling the questions that come with feeling like we have failed or God has failed us. This particular Sunday, the man had gone to church to hear the pastor preach about “Mustard Seed Faith that Moves Mountains.” Well, let me tell you that for someone who has had more than a mustard seed of faith and watched the mountain remain, that is a tough message to hear preached. And, this man left angry. I’ve found myself trying to see the road through tears when Lauren Daigle comes on my radio singing,
“When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”
(Trust in You, Lauren Daigle, 2015)
I try to sing along with her, with everything in me, willing myself to believe those words. As I say, “I will trust in You,” I do believe it, but nonetheless it’s still a struggle.
I went to see Mercy Me in concert a few weeks ago and my mom got me their CD with the song, “Even If”. I’ve found myself skipping past that song, many times, because I don’t want to cry or even think about the pain I’m still trying to numb. Then the words hit me, just like that message hit the man listening to his pastor.
“They say it only takes a little faith,
To move a mountain.
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now.
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable,
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul.
Then the chorus starts, and I have such a hard time as I hear the words:
“I know You’re able and I know You can,
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand,
But even if You don’t,
My hope is You alone.
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word,
But even if You don’t,
My hope is You alone.
(“Even If”, Mercy Me, 2017)
It is so hard for me to grasp that He was able to change my situation, my husband’s situation, my children’s future, but He didn’t. As I listen to these words, I’m having to forgive God, yet again, for the questions I’m still having a hard time releasing Him from. I thought that David would be healed and all the sorrow and “hurt would all go away” with just that ONE word from God. But, it didn’t. So, I say to pastors and well-meaning friends, “We are doing everything in our power to hold our heads up and say, “It is well with my soul.” We have held onto faith more than you care to realize. Please use your Christian clichés carefully and be mindful of who you are talking to. Remember that for many in your congregations, life as they have known it has changed forever. They are questioning everything they have ever believed and holding on for dear life. Unless you have been in that place, you have no idea what they are going through. The truth is, my hope is truly in Christ alone. I don’t understand why He didn’t “Just Say the Word,” but I must trust that His ways are so much better than mine and there is so much that I do not know and will never know. I’ve heard it said many times throughout my life that a man’s days are numbered and that we prolong our life with good living. Then, good, God-fearing people get cancer and die at an early age while evil people seem to live long, full lives untouched by the punishments of this world. Women get pregnant and it’s not “convenient” for them to have the baby at that time, so they end that life in an abortion, while other women pray and long to be a mother and cannot conceive or lose that precious life in a miscarriage. Of these things Solomon said, “There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.” (Eccles. 7:15). So, the answers that I have of now are what Solomon so eloquently tells us throughout Ecclesiastes. I believe that God is a good God and that His ways are perfect. They are not my ways, but I will trust that He is with me through this life and one day I will see Him, face to face, as those who we have loved and lost have seen, and all the difficult seasons of this life will be forgotten forever. For now, I must let Him lead me and know that regardless of the evil that touches the good and the bad in this world, He will never leave me and never fail me.
This week I was driving to a church where I have been doing some work and the neighborhood, I was driving through to get there was so alive with color as all the trees were in their peak. God’s beautiful palette throughout the seasons never ceases to amaze me. The Holy Spirit began to speak to me during that drive about how I walk through this life (or, in this case, drive). I’m a very goal-oriented person. I’m driven toward the task at hand each day. This morning I was thinking about everything I wanted to accomplish once I got to the church. I was missing this beautiful drive because my thoughts were on the goal ahead of me that day. The fact was, I wasn’t going to get there any faster thinking about what I was going to do once I got there. I had a 10-minute drive, no matter what. So, why was I wasting these 10 minutes of spectacular scenery and life? I listened. I began to take in everything around me and realize that I had made this drive so many times and missed so much along the way, because my mind was on the future, not living in the present. My thoughts were on the task ahead of me. Then, my mind went to David’s last week in our home. We had placed his bed as close to that front window of our living room. This particular morning, it had started to snow. I said, “Oh Honey, it’s snowing!” I realized that he couldn’t quite see out the widow when he began to literally cry and say, “I want to see it! I can’t see it.” He was adamant and so full of anxiety and I rushed to try to move his bed so that he could get a better view. In my mind, I was still driven toward the fact that David was going to be healed. In his heart and mind, however, he had resigned it to the Lord and I realized that he already knew this would be the last snowfall would ever see out that window and he was distressed that he would possibly miss it because he was confined to that awful bed. It took me all this time to realize the lesson I wish I would have learned from David that day. At that moment, that snowfall was priceless. I wish I had stopped striving to make sure every task was covered for his care and just sat by him every second of that week and left his life in God’s hands, which is where it was anyway. There was nothing I could do to change that. He breathed his last breath “under the sun” just four days later.
That lesson I am still trying to learn every day is, “Don’t Miss the Drive.” Don’t miss a moment. Enjoy this life. “Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked. Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.” (Eccles. 7:13-14 NLT) Fully enjoy every second and learn to trust God through it. Stop missing out on the beauty in life because you are driven toward the goal. You will find that you never really reach that “goal” and you have missed everything along the way. This takes a conscious effort sometimes. Just this past weekend, my daughter and I were going to a Trivia Night fundraiser for a school we both love. We were supposed to dress up and she was all excited about this. She had her costume all planned and just needed a particular skirt to make it complete. My day was full, and I couldn’t help but let my mind be filled with all the tasks I needed to accomplish toward the goal of helping my sister make this event go well. I thought my daughter and I could just go into one store, find the skirt and I’d be off onto the next task at hand. However, the skirt was nowhere to be found and we were continuing to search all over town for this skirt she had to have. I felt anxiety start to creep in as I began to feel that we would not complete this goal of finding this skirt and time was ticking away. As my nature tends to direct me, I was thinking about where I needed to be, rather than where I was at that moment. I was missing the fact that it was a beautiful day and I was spending some quality time with my daughter helping her with something that was important to her. I had to let the anxiety go. I had such a good time with my daughter, after that, and we found the skirt! I could have missed out on a great memory if I had continued to look at that time as a task to reach a goal, rather than time spent with my daughter enjoying the day.
The funny thing about regret is that it is pointless. We will gain nothing by dwelling on what we didn’t do. We cannot change the past. We can only learn from the past and create our future. One of my favorite quotes is, “Those who don’t create the future they want, must endure the future they get.” I am on this journey of dealing with grief and regret, that is true. Right now, I can’t change that path. If you are on this journey, let me encourage you, today, “don’t miss the drive.” Don’t miss out on the special moments that are around you right now, wondering what is to come in your future. Don’t let your grieving rob you of those who are still alive and can bring so much joy to life. And, you can bring joy to their lives.
Solomon ends Ecclesiastes by saying,
“The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.” (Eccles. 12:13b-14, The Message)
Live life! Do the best you can each day. Enjoy each moment and cling to Jesus when those seasons that want to destroy you come. Know that He has a beautiful plan. And, just as my barren tree in the front lawn will be full and green again in a matter of months, so will my life spring forth with good things, blessings, hope and promises fulfilled by my God who truly is perfect and loves me and you.