I wrote this three years ago. Rather apropos today…
I find myself questioning without doubting
Not understanding but believing
For what is faith?
The substance of things hoped for
Even when my mind is perplexed
My heart is pierced with truth
The evidence of things not seen but sure
Indications and manifestations to hold me
To keep me on the way
Hope, that thing with feathers
Faith fluttering as a breeze
Mystifying yet dependable
“…you don’t have to understand things for them to be.” – from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
“What’s ahead?” has been in my mind for quite a while. I make plans because I have to go on, but I do so knowing those plans may change. My life and my times truly are in God’s Hands. I remember Chuck preaching a sermon using this very verse in Psalms – he knew then and he knew on his deathbed that he was in God’s hands.
Back in June of 2015, I wrote a post entitled When You Do Not Yet See the Way in which I quoted Andrew Murray – “Cultivate the habit of rejoicing in the assurance that the God of divine wisdom is guiding you, even where you do not yet see the way.“
I don’t remember what was going on in my life at that time. It was long before the loss of my mother-in-law, my mom and my husband. I think it’s a lesson we learn and forget and have to relearn throughout our lives, that lesson of following in faith when we do not see the way.
“…Help us to avoid getting too immersed in the things of this world, for we know that we are just passing through on our way to our true home with You.” – Pocket Prayers for Women – Simple Prayers of Hope
As I continue the fun/not fun task of house hunting, I have to remind myself that though I hope this will be my last earthly house/home, it is not my final home. I’m looking for a front porch, a walk-in shower, a nice kitchen and a decent backyard. This all pales in contrast to the heavenly home that awaits.
Which leads me to thinking about death and that transition from earthly life to heavenly life. Believe me, I’ve thought a lot about it the past six months. All the platitudes about Chuck being in a “better place” don’t help when I am not in a better place. Yet, I know these people saying it mean well and they really are telling the truth. I just can’t wrap my head around the whole process. I’ve talked to a pastor and former pastor about these things. They have both been helpful and patient with my questions. I know much, but have so much to learn. But I do know that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” Deuteronomy 29:29.
I’m not the only one who ponders these things. One of my favorite writers, Sean Dietrich, had similar thoughts a few days ago. From his blog:
But, like I said, what if I have death all backwards? What if this earthly life is only a glorified batting practice? What if the real ballgame awaits?
And how about the concept of time? What if within the next realm, time ceases to exist? And if there is no time, this means no future or past, either. Which means that calendar years won’t matter, now will they?
… I’m praying that when we pass from this life into the next, our left-behind loved ones understand that we are not leaving this universe, but we are unfolding two bright, colorful wings, soaring upward into the undiluted sunlight of Joy.”
For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. II Corinthians 5:7-8
“We were not standing, hands clasped, weathering the storm together. He was living the storm and I was standing by, desperately, unsuccessfully, trying to bat away individual rain clouds to get to him.
Somehow, the universe had succeeded in pulling our hands apart.
...And the truth was, whether I was wife or caretaker was never as important as whether I meant the words I’d said to him all those months before: we were in this together, no matter what. ” – Elaine Roth
My last post, Everything tells a story: Amazon , is like me trying to “bat away individual rain clouds”. When I was packing up before we left Birmingham he told our daughters I was “busier than a one-armed paper hanger”. One of his old, favorite expressions. And I was. And I wonder, should I have slowed down? Should I have spent more time just sitting quietly with him? But, I felt I had to keep going. I had to get it done because he couldn’t. Then the girls came as reinforcements, yet I still plowed ahead. We had to go. We had to get to Jacksonville. There was no magic cure there, but there was hope. And a longing to be home.
We made it there. He struggled on for a month, wrapped in prayers. He sat quiet for hours, unable to do much more than let us poke him with needles and try all the protein concoctions we used to tempt him to eat. I don’t know if he was lost in his thoughts, in prayer, or just zoned out. I do know he never lost his gentleness or his need for me. I just hope I was there enough.
I decided to take a walk around the hood tonight. I left my candy on a table on the front porch. Still there, and I’m sad. I truly don’t need to eat it.
I only passed three groups of trick-or-treaters. One was a group of three teenagers. The other two were little kids with parents. And though I passed some decorated houses, it was just so quiet.
But, you know what I heard that made me happy? Little voices shouting “thank-you” as they walked back to the street where their parents waited. It reminded me, in the words of TAB, “There’s hope for sure”.
In the middle of a very rainy winter, when it seems like spring will never come, I welcome the sunshine. I head to Red Mountain Park and am never disappointed. There, amidst the lifeless flora, I can always find some green. Sometimes a flower, even though considered a weed, peeps out below my feet to remind me that spring will come.
I find the abandoned railroad tracks where trees have grown up in the middle.
When my mind is burdened with thoughts and decisions that need to be made, I can find a calm. Though I return home with those decisions still unmade, the burden seems less. I not only have the assurance of spring, but the assurance that my future is in God’s hands, just like spring.
See, you can only live one day at a time Only drive one hot rod at a time Only say one word at a time And only think one thought at a time And every soul is alone when the day becomes night And there in the dark if you can try to see the light In the most pitch black shape of the loneliest shadow Well then you ought to sleep well ‘Cause there’s hope for sure
Last year was hard. This year seems harder. “Celebrating” without extended family isn’t easy. Some are gone, some just don’t come around. I read articles that say this:
“Maybe in that year, or in a string of years, it feels like Christmas just doesn’t work for you. Maybe while everyone else is enjoying the season and dancing to jingle bells it all rings hollow to you. ” -from When Christmas Loses Its Cheer
“What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.” fromChristmas Is For Those Who Hate It Most
I read these articles and find a glimpse of hope. My mind and heart begin to connect a bit more. All I know but have set aside in sorrow comes back to me.
“I’m not going to put it up anymore,” Mom told me as she sent me home with her two-foot tree after Christmas in 2017. We hadn’t put up a tree since we moved to Birmingham, so I thought it would be perfect. I didn’t realize how her words rang so true; less than two months later she was gone. She wouldn’t ever put up a Christmas tree again.
Today I thought, ‘What would mom do?’ So, I climbed up to the attic and got the little tree. And the wreath. And my decorating is done. I’ve made cookies and wrapped presents for a little girl I may never meet and mailed a few gifts to my kids. Now I have my tree and wreath. But I have so much more. I just need to be reminded of it every now and then.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11
In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I am writing a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors.
It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain. – from A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
He’d smile at them across that distance, and the smile was sad and hard, and it meant estrangement, even when he was with them. – from Home by Marilynne Robinson
I never know quite how to describe the music of the Avetts. True Sadness seems an odd album title, but actually it’s pretty perfect. It was the first TAB album we purchased. I didn’t know it had been nominated for Best Americana Album. It’s also referred to as folk and alternative country. It’s all that and more. It’s hope.
‘Cause I still wake up shaken by dreams
And I hate to say it but the way it seems
Is that no one is fine
Take the time to peel a few layers and you will find
….there are seasons in a believer’s life – and sometimes the seasons change suddenly…Faith is perplexed and yet goes on pleading. The psalmist does not use God’s baffling him as an excuse for disengaging with God but as an incentive to press on with him. from – The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
I don’t know just what season I’m in right now. It’s like the rainy season – sprinkled with showers of doubt; covered in clouds of despair. But sometimes, the clouds will break up and the sun will shine through and I am reminded that God is still there, always there, even when I doubt.
The Psalm begins this way in verses one and two:
Why do You stand afar off, O Lord Why do You hide in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which
they have devised.
Why? I’m always wondering why. I find myself too full of questions and doubt. But, the psalmist sees that God is good in verse fourteen:
But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.
And again in verses 17-18:
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
My prayer for myself is that God would change my whys into words of trust. That I would
trust in Him to shelter me in the days of darkness and give me joy in the rays of His grace.