|My granddaughter, my daughter, my daughter-in-law in Saugatuck last July.|
I came to my birthday celebration on the shores of Lake Michigan last July rather depressed. Not clinically depressed whatsoever. More the kind of depressed indicated by deep sighs, as if one's very soul has become weary.
I must admit that I hadn't looked forward to it as I should have. Even if it was the first time our family would all be together since Mr. & Mrs. Christopher's wedding. And the first time we all would vacation under one roof. Not to mention Stephanie had used her amazing planning skills to find a beautiful cottage in the quaint and quite wonderful town of South Haven. She knows what makes my heart sing.
However, the Giver of all good gifts knew precisely that I needed that week. A week full of family fun and laughter and bonding all over again with the people I love most on this planet. And a return to the shores of Lake Michigan. Stephanie spent her childhood near here in Holland, where we lived over eight years.
I experienced an epiphany that week, some of which I have written about already. But during that week there was a lifting of the darkness... a Truth realized as I walked down flower graced streets holding the hand of my youngest granddaughter, visiting the Farmer's Market with Stephanie, enjoying girl talk and amazing shops with my daughter and daughter-in-law, watching my grandchildren make smores, all of us coming together for a birthday celebratory dinner at a quite amazing tapas restaurant, and most of all... gazing out at the Lake.
It came to me that I had reached the age of sixty. For one thing, how did that happen? Where had the years gone? We were to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary a week or two later. A lifetime. Merely a blink of an eye and my children were grown and married. Not to mention I still felt eighteen inside.
But the epiphany did not occur as I wondered where the years had gone. It came at first a slow dawning in my spirit which, when it finally took hold in that area where thoughts are birthed, brought about a sense of peace. And joy. And a thankful heart. I. Had. Reached. Sixty.
That is why these past few weeks, as I came closer to the year's anniversary of our "Birthday Trip", I thought about the time at the pond and the crushing trials of that year. There had been quite painful trials before and after but none had been like the year that changed everything.
I thought as we lived through that year that we had reached the end of... everything. All our hopes and dreams and desires had disappeared like a vapor. A series of events had come together to bring about our circumstances. And to be honest, I seriously doubted God really could bring anything good out of all the destruction.
But He did and it was when I turned sixty that I could see it. For one cannot always see God at work when walking through the fire. No, pretty much all we can see at that time are the flames of adversity and much like being in the middle of a great forest fire... there appears no way of escape.
He did bring us out of the fire and planted us back home again. Quite miraculously I may add. So amazing that when Christopher gave his graduation speech at the homeschool graduation event, he talked about those very events and the miracles God provided.
I must also admit that when we arrived back home, the trials were less intense but ongoing. The worst perhaps was when I missed one insulin shot and ended up in the ICU unit of the local hospital. I remember laying in that hospital bed, insulin dripping into my veins, monitors going on and off at the nurse's desk, and asking God to at least let me live to homeschool my son through the high school years.
He answered that prayer and as you know. I also lived through his college years and his marriage to a lovely young Christian woman. The girl I had prayed for since my son was born. I didn't know her name but her parents were at the same time praying for my son as she was growing up. How amazing when both of us mothers talked about those prayers and now there was a name and a face to them.
So coming back to my birthday week, what was the epiphany God gave me? That I may not understand all trials that occur but that without them many of the wonderful events of my life would not have happened. We would not have purchased our house at the edge of the forest. My son would not have met his wife. Nor would my daughter have met The World's Best Son-in-Law if a trial had not moved us out of Iowa.
He showed me something else that week, perhaps the most important of all. As I walked and as I watched the water and as I stopped to (literally) smell the flowers and as I took in the laughter of this quite wonderful family He has given me.
I realized it is in the time of trials that our roots either grow deeper into Jesus or they dry up and wither.
Would I have sit on the cement stairs with my Bible open to Psalms day after day if everything was going just fine? I seriously doubt it. I would have been busy with all sorts of things. But God has a way of bringing us to a stop when He wants our attention. He certainly had mine that year.
What was the result? I think part of it was that celebration in South Haven last year. By sinking my roots deep into His Word, He could provide wisdom. I learned even more to hear His voice. He built my faith as He provided all of our needs. He taught me that my life is His to do with what He wants whether I am comfortable or not. While He led me beside still waters. Literally.
Trials will not cease until we leave this life and live with God in Eternity. Trials taught me that. As I grew closer to Him in the fire, Heaven became more real. I think of it each and every day. Trials taught me to have an Eternal perspective.
This world is not our home. It is not Heaven, yet. This is but the Shadowland I truly believe He uses to teach us and train us to become more like Him. The Father gave us Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. The Spirit breathed through men who walked with Him to give us God's Word.
I am still quite amazed when God sends provision. I shouldn't be but I do. To think He loves me so much... He loves you so very much... that the same Creator who put the stars in place and caused the galaxies to spin and provided the coffee bean and the tea leaves and the chocolate plant and furry friends and all that is quite amazing. That same Creator loves each of us enough to allow us to know Him personally.
And I fully came to realize that as I turned sixty last year, surrounded by children and grandchildren. He had indeed answered my prayers and everything else after this is pure icing on the cake. All that and Heaven to come.