Deane's Blog

beauty

My Neighbor's Lovely Hickory

FaithDeane Watters2 Comments

Sitting in my study this morning, I glance out my second story window into our neighbor’s back yard. There I notice, for the first time, a towering hickory tree that obviously has been in that same spot for many years. What has been an average green-leafed tree, one among many, now stands out as its golden leaves seem to shout, “Look at me! I am here!” I just can’t help but stare at it, mesmerized.  The leaves have thinned somewhat and parted  to reveal the thick black trunk with branches stretching upward, showing it's insides as trees do when green has given way to color.

It is glorious. 

But, in this happy moment of savoring, I begin to notice something else.  If you watch carefully, leaves from this tree are oh-so-silently falling to the ground, creating a soft yellow blanket below.

Of course all my senses say, “NO! Stop that falling! I want this glorious goldenness to stay! I never would have noticed that tree except for this beautiful moment. Please, God, can it stay just a bit longer?"

Don't you just love to bask in beauty? I know that I do.

I am reminded of another time when I had a similar feeling. Two hours into a four hour trip I received a phone call. A nurse from the hospital where my mother had been admitted the day before, let me know that she had died, unexpectedly. Devastating as that news was, I found myself thankful for two more hours alone in which to grieve the loss of this dear, dear mother of mine. I had questions for God that needed to be cried out and sadness that needed to be felt.

Turning west for the last hour of my journey home I noticed that the early April sky was as dark and gray as my heart was heavy. Being late afternoon with a sky full of grayness, I set my mind on the mother to whom I was saying good bye. Who was going to pray for me, now that she was gone? Why didn’t I leave several hours earlier so I could have been with her? What was it going to feel like to live without my mother?

Suddenly a brightness caught my eye and I looked up to see a huge orange disc in the sky peeking between the clouds. It was beautiful and I found a moment of joy in it’s color and size. I settled in to just watch and enjoy it  as I drove. As I was savoring that brief moment, I realized, with frustration, that soon the glowing afternoon sun was going to slip below the horizon and disappear.

I shouted to the sky, “NO! Stop that falling! God, I want to enjoy it longer…It is beautiful I want it to stay. I love it...no, I love her... I want her to stay.” I realized that what I truly wanted was never going to be. This is not the way of life. This is not how creation works. This is not how God works. He put everything in motion and these were part of it: death, loss, separation.

A sense of peace came to me in that moment and I realized that I was ready.

So how do we respond to the losses…the stopping of the magnificent color? The dropping of the leaves? The death of someone so special to us? The disappointments that come along the way.

Shelly Miller writes: “We can’t realize the beauty in seasons of life without tending to brokenness, whether that’s looking in the mirror or into the eyes of someone else." I would add…or watching that same brokenness in God’s creation.

We can’t realize the beauty. We can’t savor the color. We can’t examine the hickory that all of a sudden stands out among its tree peers without also realizing the brokenness behind all that spectacular glory.

The good news is that brokenness is a part of God's glorious PLAN!!

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Romans 8:19-21 MSG

The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

 

There is something wonderful to look forward to after this life is over! Even creation knows it.

In the past year, several of our friends have lost someone very dear to them. These people were believers and are now in heaven, having completed their time here on earth. This confidence comes through faith in the grace of God and in Christ as Savior.  They lived beautiful lives and we would have preferred that they stayed longer, but God, in his Wisdom, knew that this was not the way of life. It has a beginning. It has an end. And then there is eternity.

Life. Brokenness. Death. New life! That gives us all a deeper willingness to "let the leaves fall" or to "let the sun set." It is the natural order of things.

Meanwhile, I think I’m going to turn my eyes to the lovely hickory sunbathing in my neighbor's yard and remember that the brokenness is only for now, for here. There is much more after this life is over and if we think that golden hickory is great, just wait!

But for now let's live fully in each moment thanking God for it all because very soon, all that delicious golden-ness will be raked into a brown crinkly pile at the side of the street, waiting for the city vacuum to come by and sweep it all away..

Favourite View

Deane Watters1 Comment

After dinner one evening, my date and I drove to one of his favorite places, a lookout overseeing the lights of the downtown of our city. He went on for the longest time about how beautiful this scene was to him; nothing was more beguiling than the night lights of the city. I looked at him and decided, right then and there, that this relationship was not for me.

Of course that was not the only reason, but later another young man invited me to see his garden and we ended up digging dandelions out of his front yard until dark. After experiencing canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, and tent camping with this guy I concluded that his love of the outdoors truly drew me to him in every way. Oh yes, this was the guy for me.

Since that humble beginning, forty years ago, we have beheld numerous, amazing vistas all over the United States and beyond. In this photo, from Zion National Park, I was so dehydrated and exhausted and mad at him for leading me that high and that far that he is lucky I didn't accidentally give him a little shove after snapping the shot. But how could stay angry I when the view was so enchanting? Sitting on those red rocks and feeling the gentle breeze while overseeing the grand vista, changed my exhaustion into appreciation and thankfulness. I'll have to admit that it was worth all the hard work to get there.

On that trip we felt that just driving through one National Park would have been enough glory for one human for a lifetime. But we went on to explore Arches, Mesa Verde,  Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands during a two week period and could hardly contain the wonder we beheld. We spent hours and hours trekking on trails, up hills and over huge boulders in the glaring August sunshine. We just couldn't stop, never knowing what beautiful, glorious thing we would find around the next corner!

The psalmist writes, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." I've have always been surprised that he looked to the mountains and found that the LORD was his helper. God revealed himself through his handiwork. I want to draw such conclusions and find strength as I "lift up my eyes."

I hope the young man who loved the city lights grew and expanded his definition of beauty, and I'm sure he did. But I am also truly thankful that I waited for the one who enlarged and developed mine.