Beauty from Ashes

 

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Today marks one year since Daddy departed this earth. A winter storm is scheduled to roll in soon. As I laid in bed last night here at my in-law’s house in Wisconsin twenty minutes before 12:22am—the time I got the call—I felt the familiar sting hit me like the first sting of winter’s wind on one’s face. However, the sting I experienced was of the heart.

I am here in that familiar place where I was this time last year. In ways I wish I were back home in Florida for a change of scenery on this anniversary day, but that won’t bring Daddy back. I’d likely spend the day pouring over pictures, touching memorabilia, the chasm in my heart growing larger and larger. I find myself echoing the words I had said last year. “Perhaps it is a blessing I’m not there. God spared me.”

From the recliner in the basement where I sit, I look out of the sliding glass doors and what I see reflects how I feel inside. The trees are bare, arms reaching desperately to the heavens for rain, for warmth, for life. The sky is gray and cloud covered, pregnant with rain and ready to give birth, but not to warm rain.

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The bird feeders that are normally frequented by cardinals, woodpeckers, and sparrows sway silently vacant in the cold wind.

And then I see it.

A sparrow darts to one of the feeders and is soon followed by another. A tear forms in my eye and I hear the words of my Father:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” -Matthew 10:29

I smile, thanking God for the reminder that no matter how barren the land may be, how barren life may seem, and no matter what storms are forecasted or unforcasted, we are never alone. I also thank him for the reminder to never place a period where He wants to place a comma. There is always more that He wants to reveal to us.

Another sparrow lands on the bird feeder preparing for the winter storm expected to hit this afternoon. Frozen rain fills the sky and gathers on the ground. A Christmas wish granted for this Florida girl. More and more birds land on and around the bird feeders. They aren’t afraid of the storm, and neither am I. It is beautiful, and I am filled with joy.

Prayer: Thank you Papa for your love, your warmth, and your grace. Thank you that even sad days that remind us of those we have lost can be made beautiful. You turn ashes to beauty. Every time.

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Perspective

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The last time I saw Daddy.

 

“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” –Psalm 126:3

It’s all about perspective. You know, the way we look at things—glass half empty or half full. Today would have been Daddy’s 73rd birthday. Today I would have been stopping by his place for a visit, presents in tow, greeted by his smiling eyes and soft voice. Instead, I am feeling the void of his presence, and clinging to a photo taken of us at his birthday celebration last year—the last time I saw him, touched him, heard him. It’s eight days before Christmas, eleven days before he joined the angels.

My birthday was two days ago. I missed not getting a “Happy Birthday” text from him for the first time. Life kept on moving, but a part of me stood still.

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Can you relate? I imagine the holidays are difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one. I think of my friend Ryan whose beautiful wife Tammy graduated to glory the beginning of December last year. How quiet the house must be. But then, I am reminded of Jesus, his birth, his coming to fill the void of humanity—if we will let Him. To view life through a lens of “this is it,” is quite depressing, but to view life through the lens of “I am just passing through” creates faith and hope—expectation for what’s to come. Ryan and I view life through the same lens. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it means there’s hope.

This verse is a reminder that while we live in a world full of violence, pain, and death, the LORD has done great things for us, and we can be filled with joy. Joy is always possible. Thanksgiving proceeds the miracle. Always.

Prayer: Father, help me to remember the good times I had with my loved one, and not focus on their absence. Remind me to have a heavenly perspective when it comes to the ways of this world. Thank you for Christ in me, the hope of glory.

“Grief, no matter how you try to cater to its wail, has a way of fading away.”
V.C. Andrews