I stepped out on my son’s deck yesterday morning and noticed right away that the temperature had suddenly dropped. The air smelled sweet with crape myrtle blossoms and a gentle wind swept upward into the tall oak trees behind the house, shaking the drying leaves so it sounded like a distant surf. Fall is coming I thought. Even in North Carolina I could sense it. Today my granddaughters put on their new first-day-of-school dresses and their magenta backpacks and head bravely off to school. Summer bows to the next season. As I’ve said before, I get sad when seasons change; even winter to spring. It’s a deep sort of aching melancholy, almost indiscernible, and you would not see it there, in me. But it is, and I’m sure it’s connected to loss, to Spence and the hard indifference of time.
But I didn’t want to leave this month without acknowledging the three-year anniversary of this website and blog. I think one of the reasons God gives us measured time is so we can look back and measure ourselves. This can be daunting. You have to be tough and kind at the same time. After all, I’m not selling a product or raising cash. I’m not even looking for approval. I just want to praise God. And be truthful about it. How can you measure that?
The past year leaves a pile of milestones. Lost two sweet friends to heaven, lost a few more friends to life just taking them a very different way than mine. But gained as many more, reconnected with some old acquaintances and more importantly, learned a lot more about how precious people are, how loving them, even when they walk away, is right and how God supplies more than enough to help me.
When I was a kid, my older brother loved to build “booby traps” in the woods behind our house. He was a camouflage master. An innocent dirt path dusted with leaves revealed a deep hole once you stepped on it. He became more elaborate with time, inventing trap doors and haunted woods with creepy things falling on you from above without warning. I think sometimes life is like that. I’d like to thank my brother for preparing me for this but it really didn’t help. I still get surprised when I fall in the hole or a creepy thing pops out at me at work or church or sometimes just in my head.
There is a higher road to take, where there are no surprises. In fact, there is a peace beyond understanding and even joy in the midst of unspeakable sorrow. But it is sometimes hard to see where the path starts if we keep our eyes on others or looking at the ground for booby traps. And it can take some effort to climb, especially if you tend towards spiritual laziness like I do. But I do know that God shows the way and when we just ask, He will lift us up to the tabernacle of His grace, and there it doesn’t matter what month it is, or who is no longer with you. God is with you, and in His presence is fullness of joy.
I dropped out of the gym a few months ago. If you know me and my disdain for sweating, you wouldn’t be at all surprised. I have a fistful of good reasons, mainly that I keep hurting myself because I still think I’m 10. I vowed I would exercise at home (twice), ride my bike (maybe five times), swim (once). Ah well, maybe when the weather changes…
But here’s the main thing. I really can’t afford to be lazy in my pursuit of Jesus, of truth and of personal holiness. I can’t afford to lose my way, to be distracted by what I see here, forgetting to look up, to keep an eternal perspective. Spencer wrote in one of his journals,
“More than anything I need a heavenly perspective. If I won’t get desperate, I won’t get anywhere. Desperation is one of the main ingredients of faith. Help me to be faithful to you in all things, to break out of my own experience. Please teach me the value of souls.”
My granddaughter, Brooklynn, has been reminding me for over a year that when she is in middle school, we are going to travel around the world telling people about Jesus. We went out to lunch yesterday before I was taken to the airport, and over catfish and hush puppies, she brought it up again. Her mom asked, “Why don’t we start telling people about Jesus here?” and I could see Brooklynn’s face light up as she looked around the restaurant. We got up to leave and she had to use the girls’ room so we chatted with the cashier who fell in love with Olive and was holding her in her arms. Brooklynn came out of the bathroom with a big grin and told her mom that she had asked a girl in the bathroom if she knew Jesus. And the girl said Yes, she did, and Brooklynn was elated. Lord, I want that.
In their kitchen hangs a blackboard. Erin or Miles will write a scripture in colored chalk on it that fits the time of season they are in, a wonderful visual reminder of God’s clear answer in the midst of very busy lives. But this trip they pointed out that Brooklynn had asked if she could write on it. And in her almost six-year-old scrawl it said,
Jesus, thars nufeng like yor love and I cant stop my voyse frum showting.
Lord, I want that too. As I move through another year on spencersmom.com, I want a heart that is so filled with your love, that I can’t stop shouting and praising your name. Keep me desperate for your presence. Let my words show the way there, and let my heart stay as pure as a six-year-old girl’s. There really is nufeng like your love.