Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Forever Spring

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: 
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; 
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Isaiah 43:2

Spring has sprung around our house!
The colors are glorious....
and vibrant.

God's handiwork is everywhere I look.

How blessed we are to have eyes to see and take it all in!

Our cherry tree is taller this year....

its blossoms magnificent....

and such a joy to behold.

Every year, I look forward to the view from our kitchen window
of our peach trees....just beyond the garden fence in our back yard.

Such delicate, beautiful petals.

I love their shade of pink.

It is as if everything is waking up....and coming to new life.

We bought some new azalea plants and made it a family project to
plant them along the sidewalk out front.

"The roses sure are blooming pretty this year", 
Kevin commented, while we worked.

All I could think of is how much Mom loved our roses.
She looked forward to them blooming every spring 
and would admire them as she wheeled her walker along the sidewalk
towards our front door.
She enjoyed them each time we brought her to visit.

I never dreamed last spring was to be the last time she would see our roses.

"I sure wish she could see them this year", 
I muttered, 
fighting back tears.

This is the first spring I have faced without her...
to take drives and enjoy the beauties of the season.

Can you believe it will soon be one year....
since she left us?

In some ways, it seems so much longer than that.
In other ways, it feels like I should be heading for the hospital to see her in ICU....
like it is still happening.
Other days, it feels like it was last week....
instead of last year.

I've tried to stay super busy lately to drown out the memories....
and the dread of the anniversary date coming up next Sunday.
But, no matter how I fill or overfill the hours of each day,
I can't stop reliving it....and dreading it beyond words.
It is like a steady stream of flashbacks....that incessantly creep up...
and force themselves in front of my eyes.

Last year, at this time, she was fighting for her life....
day after long day...
still clinging....
hoping with all her heart to stay with us....
just a while longer.
Each day was agonizing.
Such a roller coaster...
one minute things were looking up,
the next minute another complication had set in.

Mom will not see our roses this year.
But, I have a feeling the beauty of the flowers she is seeing 
far surpasses the prettiest ones in our flower garden.

I miss her.
Does the pain of that ever stop?
In some ways, I am so much better...
so much more hopeful....
so much more at peace.
In other ways, some days, I can hardly function.

Grief this deep doesn't heal overnight....
or in a week...a month...or even a year.
Is a lifetime long enough...to make it go away?
I wonder if it ever completely heals.

Everything around is so full of life.
It is hard to imagine that she is not here to see it 
and bask in the newness this season brings.

I have learned much over the past couple of years.
Lessons with depths that seemed to far surpass all of my other life lessons put together.
I have taken Isaiah 43:2, and I have tested its words....over and over again.
I have passed through waters...
deep waters, full of turbulence and foamy, overpowering waves, 
so full of force that I wondered if they would suffocate the very life right out of me.
I can tell you this.
He was with me.
Every grief and anguish-filled moment.
Every time I stumbled...and fell flat...on my face.
He was there.
He is with me still.
I can vouch that He never leaves...never forsakes....
never abandons....never deserts....
even in the aftermath of the storms of life.  
He is still there.
Full of unconditional love...that never ends.

I have passed through rivers...
that felt like the Jordan overflowing its banks....
way over my head...
to the point that my feet were no where near touching bottom.
To the point of being forced to just trust,
fall back into His everlasting arms....and believe He wouldn't let me drown.
He didn't.
I can tell you that the rivers never overflowed me.
Even when it felt like they would.
Even in waters over my head,
my head never went under...not even for a second.
He wouldn't allow it.
When the undertow tried to draw me in,
He swooped me up...every time....just in time.

I have walked through fire...
heated seven times hotter than normal.
I was never burned.
The flame never kindled...upon me....
though it burned all around, threatening to consume at any second.
He didn't allow it.
He was in the fire...with me....
controlling the elements.
His hand never left the thermostat.

His nearness made the flames worthwhile.
I can say that from the heart.

So, Sunday marks one year...since I stood by Mom's bedside and said good-bye...
for the very last time.

We have come full circle.
We've passed the dreaded firsts....
Mothers Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday, Easter, 
and all of our birthdays.

My sister, Debbie, was the last one to face her first one without Mom...
last weekend.

Last year, Mom's life support was removed on Debbie's birthday.
I remember looking across Mom's hospital bed 
and telling her what a blessing it was that Mom was awake
and could wish her a happy birthday.
One week later, Mom was gone.

One year later, we still grieve.
But, we made it.
We are still standing.
We still believe...in the One Who doeth all things well.
The One Who was despised and rejected of men; 
a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
The One Who "was wounded for our transgressions, 
He was bruised for our iniquities: 
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; 
and with His stripes we are healed."
Isaiah 53:3,5

He suffered every, single thing you and I will ever suffer.
He knows how we feel.
And He cares.
How would we ever know how much if we never had 
need of healing?
How would we ever experience His depths
if we were never taken through the deep waters?
How would we know of a certain that we can walk 
through fire and not be burned, 
if we never walked through the fire?

I am a walking, breathing testimony of His faithfulness.
I don't ever remember a time that I have loved Him more,
nor have I ever felt closer to Him than I do right now.

To fellowship Christ through suffering is truly the sweetest fellowship of all.

Last night, I had just finished filling out a card to send to a dear friend
when I happened to flip the card over to read the back.
My eyes fell upon the printed lyrics to
"What A Friend We Have In Jesus".

As many times as I have heard and sang that song,
its words have never moved me the way they did last night.
I put the card in its envelope
and walked across the room to our keyboard.
I sat down and began to play the melody to this sweet, old, precious song.
As I played, my tear-filled eyes were drawn 
to this beautiful picture we have hanging directly above the keyboard.

It was a gift from my niece, Kristen, and I cherish it dearly.
See the nail prints in His hands and how tenderly and closely He is holding the little lamb?
"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: 
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom..."
Isaiah 40:11

I heard His dear, comforting voice.
It was as if He were right there...talking to me.

"That little lamb is you, My child.
This is where you are.
I am carrying you...closely...to My bosom.
You are safe.
I will never let you fall.
There is nothing to fear.
This is how much I love you."

I sat there and played that melody over and over and over....
I don't know how many times.
My eyes were fixed on the picture.
My mind was focused solely on Him....my precious, gentle, loving Shepherd.
I felt His presence surround me.
It was so real.
It was if I would see Him face to face any moment.
I was enveloped....caught up....into a holy atmosphere...
more precious and hallowed and sacred than I could ever put into words.
I didn't want to stop.
 The sweet flow of worship was so pure....
so sincere....
so from the heart.
It sprang from deep within.
There were no words.
There didn't need to be.

He is healing me....slowly and tenderly and precisely.
He sees the source of the bleeding hurt, and He applies the healing balm of Gilead
right where I need it the most.

I wish Mom were here...enjoying the roses.
Seeing the sights of spring.
I gaze at our flowers from the front porch.
I wish I could look up and see her smiling at me....
walking up the sidewalk....just one more time.
I wish we could have experienced this together....just once more.
I cherish our memories!

Spring was her favorite season.
She always hated the deadness of winter, 
and every year she welcomed spring with open arms.
I wish I could hear her familiar voice....
"Oh, Cheryl, look at those roses!
They're beautiful!
I don't ever remember them being more beautiful."
Bless her dear heart!
 My heart aches thinking of it.

The comfort I find is in knowing she is resting with the angels....
forever safe...
in the arms of the One in the picture.....
in a land where she will never grow old...
in a city where the roses never fade....
in a place where it is forever spring.

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