Archive for January, 2016

Life’s Season of Winter

Yesterday, it snowed.

Barely.

Just enough to cover our meager lawn and dust the stark trees.

Beautiful.

I think winter has a bad reputation. Of course I don’t live in Milwaukee where your lawn is covered with snow in September and you don’t see it again until March. Or April.

I lived in Florida for almost thirty years and maybe saw snow once for about fifteen minutes. You could predict the weather almost everyday–sunny and humid with an afternoon shower.

Since calling North Carolina my home almost three years ago, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the seasons. They give a kind of cadence to life.

I thought of that yesterday when I stayed home from church to care for my 95-year-old mother. We observed the white ice drift down on the front porch railing. We smiled as small birds searched for food while our wily cat watched carefully from afar.

Since becoming a farmer, winter takes on new meaning. Shorter days and cold weather prevent much in the way of crops. (Although, miraculously my chickens are still producing eggs.) I’ve gotten some much needed rest.

Because of the weather, my life slows down and gets simpler. If I can’t make it to the superstore, I open a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.

Sure, Tom and I watched four NFL playoff games over the weekend, but for the last few months we’ve mostly been watching reruns of the fire in our new wood stove. Sometimes we drink hot coffee or sometimes we read, but often we just stare at the flames and discuss how beautiful and unique they are.

I’ve noticed during the winter I can see more. During other seasons of the year, I notice several shades of green from my bedroom windows. In winter there is some green, but mostly I see weathered trunks, and brown leaves, and intricate twigs on bare branches.

I can also see farther. In front of our house, I catch sight of two tobacco barns hidden behind our forest. If I stare into the woods I view trees I’ve never noticed. Small ones that stretch for the sun. Beyond them is a mystery of gray. I can only guess at what lies beyond.

Mom is in the winter season of her life. Most people dread it or avoid it all costs. Some even avoid those who are in winter since it reminds them of the mystery after their lives are over.

I’m beginning to embrace life’s winter season. I look at the intricate lines on Mom’s face and see time and years have worn her soft young skin away. In those creases, I see wisdom, and strength, and love.

Both our lives have slowed down out of necessity. Mom can’t walk anymore so her movement is limited to her bed, the wheelchair, and a big chair in front of the fireplace.

Often in the evening, she sits in her chair while Tom and I watch reruns of the fire. I don’t know that she can see the fire much but she feels its warmth and she is content. She has to be fed now and the food must be easy to swallow since swallowing is difficult. Her food choices are limited–simple.

Her life is simple. She has few possessions and even fewer clothes. She doesn’t need them.

I’ll sometimes ask her how her days has been. “Good,” she’ll reply.

She can also see farther. She looks back on a life filled with lots of color and she looks forward to the mysterious gray of the woods. She can see the trees better and understands their intricate designs. Mom appreciates the gnarly trunks and weathered branches.

She’s lived them.

Her winter forces me to examine mine. It compels me to slow down and enjoy the day. To understand that under the green canopy are sturdy trunks and elaborate designs that are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

It also reminds me that soon Mom is headed to the mystery beyond the gray.

And I’ve heard it’s spring there.

It’s just in a different place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Ps. 23:4-5 (ESV)

 

 

Jesus is My Mouthwash

Recently, while reading through the Psalms, I noticed the reoccurring phrase of how man is just a vapor, a fleeting breath.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had bad breath. Serious. Bad. Breath.

It made me wonder what kind of breath I’d be if my life’s breath could be smelled and rated on say a 1-10 scale. Or for that matter, if all our lives could be rated on our life’s breath, maybe like the Olympics–cards would be held up with 7.5, 8.1, 6.3… (Of course the Russians would always be lowest.)

Some would say my cards would be high and my heavenly breath good because of caregiving or other good works, but I know better. I know my hidden thoughts and insidious pride.

I’ve thought about life’s breath a lot lately. One of my new friends in North Carolina died Friday. Her death came both suddenly and quickly. One day she was at church, and over the next few weeks, she went from the hospital to home to Hospice to heaven.

I miss her.

She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. A rather ordinary-looking, middle 70-ish woman who of course drove a Buick.

She was the first to greet us in our new church. Each week I could count on her pleasant smile and kind words. She always asked about my bed-bound mom or how farming was going with us. Or how my son was doing in Florida.

But it never stopped at just words. Her actions backed up her strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

She called almost every week to check on Mom and update the prayer list. One evening, on a particularly difficult night for me, she corralled chickens and even helped me make a gallon of salsa for an event I attended.

There were other acts of kindness that I am not allowed to discuss because those were her terms. If she did something for us, Tom and I couldn’t tell anyone.

She had fresh breath. It was made fresh by Jesus.

Mine, too.

Our human effort smells foul to God. Isaiah stated that all our best works are like filthy rags. A negative number on the vapor/breath scale.

Yet, by Christ’s atoning work, he makes our life-breath clean. Pure. Acceptable to God.

I’ll miss my friend, but I’m not sorry she’s gone. She’s breathing heavenly air. Air I long to breathe one day.

Fresh. Eternal. Jesus-filled.

But for now, I’ve got to think about my breath here. Do I smell like heaven, or do people move away?

What about you?