There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
The words of the world’s wisest man recorded in Ecclesiastes speak to me as I worship in our outdoor cathedral, thanking God for all the contrasts in life—all the seasons set both for nature and for souls.
Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed her, noticing she had her camera in hand when I rolled up the drive . . .
“Hey Anna! The lighting is perfect and we only have a few more minutes till sundown. Let’s go photograph some glory!”
This little one, all five feet of her, turning 23 in a couple weeks—she and I clomped over the deck with our cameras in hand and plopped into the front seat of the car while the yellow lab came bounding from across the front yard, begging to come along on our adventure, her eyes wide and tail whipping. I couldn’t resist. No matter the season, no matter the temperature or weather condition, Rose wants that rear window down and her nose sticking out, sniffing up all she can, ears blown back in the wind. Even dogs celebrate glory moments.
First stop, the barn across the street with a maple shadow cast. Pulling over, engine running, car door flung open and left wide—these are the moments of country living I love, catching glory with a camera like hands cupping lightning bugs on August nights now gone.
We turn the corner and a McIntosh tree bursts full of red in front of us, inviting a sampling. We stop again, helping ourselves, moaning over the deliciousness of saying our spontaneous “YES!” to goodness. I turn, hand her an apple warmed in the sun, and watch as she gobbles it down with a smile.
Might as well have had the whole thing stuck in my throat. That choking back of grateful tears I usually try not to shed because I’m just soooo emotional? Well, I decide I am what I am and I’m going to let myself feel what I feel, in—this—moment. I AM grateful and I AM emotional and I think I am just fine the way I am, because the great I AM made me like this. And if some particular others find me a bit too much for their liking? Well, they can move on to some other fruit tree and leave me in my glory. It’s OK. No one and nothing is going to steal my full joy right here in this moment. I’ll dance in the streets like David coming up with the arc, if I want.
Because she and I?
We’re on a country road eating apples that no one is going to pick but us and the engine is running and she’s smiling and I’m choking on my Adam’s apple and I can hardly stand the grace of it all because there’s just—so—much—GRATEFULNESS after a season of sadness deeper than I ever knew.
This woman-child, my little girl—the one I picked from a picture in a flier and flew half way ‘round the world to snatch up in my arms and out of a Russian orphanage 17 years ago this autumn when she was about to turn 6 —the one I plucked out of a locked psych ward five months ago when her world and her mind came crashing down and so did my heart—the one I thought I lost to medication-induced brain changes and horrible side effects—the one who screamed at me while armed guards held her back, “MOM! DON’T LEAVE ME HERE!” Oh, good God! I wondered then how much a soul could take before it breaks for good. And then I relearned what we are made of—she and I . . .
We are nothing but dust—and—we are everything to God. We are everything in His eyes, in His heart.
He knows our greatest weakness and He knows our greatest strength. He knows how much suffering and comforting each soul needs when we cry out in desperate wondering when all the pain will stop. Will it EVER stop?
Remember, my heart and my soul . . .
There is a season for everything . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .
We danced together yesterday, my daughter and I—the daughter I wondered if I would ever have in the first place—the daughter I thought I had but then lost to invisible disabilities and broken brain chemistry that snuck up on us like a thief in the night—this precious daughter, given to us by God—she’s back again, calm and joyful.
As I rounded the corner onto the gravel road running south behind our home, she looked over at me and smiled, all pretty with just a swipe of mascara, and said in her soft hush of a voice . . .
“I like doing this with you, Mom.”
Oh how three letters in one syllabic word spoken can heal the greatest hurt! When we watched that little one, hand in the orphanage director’s, walk across the threshold of the room where we sat waiting on a red couch for our new daughter to appear . . .
I can still see the old woman in the long white lab coat leaning over, whispering something in her, pointing to me.
Then, something I thought I’d never hear came tumbling out.
Anna looked right in my eyes, broke away from the woman’s hand, and ran to me. Arms wide and smile full, she squealed, “MAMA!” and fell into my arms for the first time.
As I hugged her, she opened my purse and pulled out a red apple and ate the whole thing, core and all! My lunch, given for her. I couldn’t have felt fuller in that moment.
Yes, that little one is now grown, eating another apple in another time and place. She has suffered through some very tough seasons and we—her parents—we’ve suffered right along with her. But she has entered a new season now. And so have I.
Seasons have their cycles and I’m sure we’ll have more autumns to come, where there’s frost on the veins and frantic holding on to all we must let go.
It’s all good, in the end. What will be, will be. The willow still weeps beautifully, curving and bending.
The sunflower heads droop and feed their seed to birds readying for a long, cold winter.
It’s all good. The cycling of living and dying, of loving and losing, it all comes together in a magnificent whole in the end. So I preach it to my own soul and yours right now, on this frosted October morning where my fingers have gone numb from the cold . . .
Hold fast to your faith, dear one, when times are tough and all seems like it’s dying. There’s always a new season coming, no buts about it, with God.