Mourning, Hope & Peace
Do you ever feel guilty when you’re in a season of life when things are generally peaceful for you yet the world around you seems to be falling apart? Like, “why is that stuff happening to THEM instead of me?“
A close friend lost her infant granddaughter after a terrible car accident, a church family lost their wife and mother after her many years of illness, my aunt has been going through chemo for cancer, another friend is dealing with lice in the heads of her 5 children not to mention her own health issues, the nephew of a church friend was just murdered.. my news feed on Facebook is filled with articles about children being abducted and sold for sex... It seems like all the bad stuff is endless and so much happens all at the same time! Even my grown children ask "Why do such bad things happen to good people?" It's overwhelming to be the one hurting, but can also be overwhelming to try to be a comforter with the feeling that I can't do enough to help so many hurting loved ones all at once.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 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 from embracing, 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.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV
Our individual lives take us in different directions all at the same time. Today, while loved ones are mourning, my biggest stress is trying to keep my house clean and family fed during the craziness of chasing after an extremely inquisitive toddler and reasoning with an overly anxious 4 year old. Yesterday, it seems, I was mourning at the loss of the twins we were in the process of adopting while others were rejoicing in their blessings. My family has suffered significant losses and trials, several of them snowballing all in one year and we are still here to tell of them. I grew up with an abusive father who moved our family around the country so many times I never learned how to make AND keep true friends until later in adulthood. I experienced bullying in school and lost a best friend to cystic fibrosis. We lived during my first 5 teen years without electricity deep in the woods where I witnessed the most fighting between my parents. I was nearly coerced into sex by a boyfriend in high school (someone knocked on the door just in time). My family and I lost nearly all of the precious memories we had in another house in the city that burned to the ground - all except the ones that my dad had suspiciously stored ahead of time in my apartment that were precious to him. I was sexually assaulted by an employer. I had nightmares over the years after Hubby and I married that my father was chasing me to kill me and his face would turn into my husband's when he finally caught me. I experienced 2 miscarriages and a stillborn, struggled with my marriage, cut off communication with my father to protect my children, lost communication with my sisters, moved 5 times during our marriage, lost precious relatives to cancer. Hubby lost his job of 12 years due to a neck and shoulder injury so we had to sell our farm and my dream home. The birth parents of the twins we were adopting changed their minds and took them back after three months of pouring our love into them. Our oldest son was diagnosed with MS while in the military in a foreign country where we were completely unable to go to him or hardly communicate at all. Believe it or not there is more... and yet others have suffered and still suffer much more than I.
BUT. While I was growing up, my mother did her best to teach us kids about God. During my teen years, in a time of my parents' terrible fighting, I felt the comforting warmth of the Lord around me for the first time while I was outside on a beautiful, chilly fall day. It was, you could say, a "Pocahontas moment" where the wind suddenly picked up and caused the colorful leaves to circle around me while the warm sun beamed directly upon me. I knew without a doubt that I was not alone. The Lord was with me and He cared. I was special to Him - at least at that time - and I didn't want to move from His presence. It was the very beginning of my relationship with the Holy Spirit.
I can look back, now, at all of the negative experiences I mentioned and see how much I learned and how the Lord was with me and our family through all of them to work things out for good. I know how to melt snow over a propane stove to heat water to wash my hair in a large bowl and pour it in buckets to flush the toilet. I can process chickens, turkeys and rabbits and grow a lot of my own food. I learned that all acquaintances are not my BEST friends. A teacher rescued me from the abusive boyfriend and became my mentor and father-figure. The church provided my family with necessities after our house fire. Hubby and I made it successfully through our toughest years and I no longer have nightmares. God seemed to send special people our way during our greatest times of need - and some of these special people had no idea what we were going through when they called me. They just felt in their spirit that I needed a call. Our son came home from the military and is now doing well. The twins we were going to adopt are doing okay, and because we did not adopt them, we were open to becoming foster parents. Because we went through all the things we did, we understand significant loss, which is necessary when fostering children. Through all of these trials, life lessons, and provisions, I have heard God's Voice in numerous ways. My faith is stronger BECAUSE of the things He brought me through. ..."we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5
Because my faith is stronger I have courage to do things I would not formerly have been able to do. Like write this blog, and connect with others who I think are better, more knowledgeable, wiser, or more spiritual than myself. And trusting that this book He has put into my heart and soul is actually going to make a difference for children!
I mentioned earlier that the Lord has made our home a safe place at this time. Birds that have made their homes around our house remind me of the Precious Presence of the Holy Spirit and give me hope and peace. A couple of robins are raising their 2nd clutch of eggs only about 3 weeks since their first babies jumped from their nest. Last year my husband saw a stray cat licking his chops by the step under the nest and then discovered the new family of robins gone from their nest. He removed the nest, thinking it was a dangerous place for baby birds to be raised there. This year, when the robins came back again to the same spot, one kept flying at the window in the screen door, leaving muddy streaks all over it, and sending our two indoor cats into a frenzy. We are still baffled as to why the robins did that. We thought maybe they were confused by the reflection in the glass. Maybe they were warning us (and the cats?) to leave them alone. Maybe they were asking for help or protection? They are just birds, right? Maybe so, but to us they are beautiful, the reminder of a fresh beginning after a long, cold and rainy end-of-winter season. They signify hope: spring is finally here. My gentle-natured hubby nailed up a small piece of fencing to prevent stray cats from getting to the nest. We weren't sure the robins would continue to build, but they did, and must feel safe enough to do it this second time, even though we come and go by that door constantly.
While the robins were busy with their nest in the back porch awning, a couple of house finches struggled to start a nest in the front porch awning. I watched through the living room window as one beautiful little red one carried a long piece of straw up to the corner. She wrestled to tuck it somewhere I could not see, and then as she flew away to get more nesting supplies, the strand of straw caught on her foot. She stopped to sit a little distance away from the nest site, looking confused at this strand hanging down and picked at it with her tiny beak until it fell on the porch below. She picked it up in her beak and tried again to start her nest. For several days my husband and I watched this poor couple try to build their home as the pieces of grass and flimsy twigs continued to fall down on the porch. They were determined, and continued to sing as they worked, even though we, as humans, would think they would get frustrated and give up. Hubby suggested we help by wrapping a piece of twine around the awning support to give them something to weave their nest in on the flat piece of aluminum they were building on. I immediately loved the idea and found the scissors and twine, grabbed a chair to stand on and carried them out the front door. Hubby reminded me to try to avoid touching too much of the strand of twine just in case my scent would scare the birds away. So I managed to only touch the end that I cut and wrapped it around and around the post (or whatever you call it), leaving it to dangle rather than cutting the excess. I figured if the finches were interested, they might even weave that strand into their nest. For a few days afterward there were no birds on the front porch, but gradually we saw the finches hovering in the trees around the house and inching their way closer. We were very excited to see that they did actually decide to try again, and this time they did not drop their building materials on the porch. The nest is too high up to look inside, but my husband occasionally stretches his arm up to take a video with his cell phone so that he can show Princess and I how they are doing. Right now all we can see is a little pile of fuzziness so we can't count how many there are.
While the finches were busy failing at their building project, another nest was being used on my garden shed by a 2nd pair of robins. This time not right under an awning, but sitting on top of the bee-box I hung on the side of the outside wall last summer! I had seen a robin a few times from my kitchen window flying back and forth to that spot, but I never ventured out to look because of the constant rain, cold, and soggy ground in that area of the yard. Hubby thought for sure this would not be a safe place, and, after our daughter found tiny broken egg shells on the ground when I was finally able to take her out to play, we thought maybe a raccoon or other animal got them. He considered moving the nest to the front porch to help out the finches, but I counted the weeks and realized that most likely the owners of that nest were successful at raising their young. They often return to the same nest once or twice more the same season, so I asked him to leave the nest alone. In my garden is where I find peace and tranquility while I listen to my chimes make music in the breeze and the birds singing their sweet songs, as I work pulling weeds. I want these birds to know they are safe with me. Besides, it looks picturesque in that spot, adding more natural beauty to my garden!
So Hubby left the nest alone and we waited to see the robins come back, but were surprised to find a mourning dove instead! The pair of mourning doves had built up the robin's nest in the days filled with unrelenting rain. By the time I was able to get out and look, this gorgeous and serene bird was sitting as still as a statue on her nest. Only her eyes moved slightly to watch me as I moved closer to her nest, telling her almost in a whisper how beautiful she is, hoping she would not fly away. I have since been able to work right under her nest, carrying tools in and out of the shed only a few feet away, and walk right up to her nest to take pictures, and she does not move a muscle as she guards her nest. I like to think maybe her muscles are a little more relaxed as she gets used to the idea that my garden is her home and she is loved and safe there. Even her two little ones, as they sit snuggled under her, peek their tiny heads out at me now, curiously, cautiously, still as stone like their protector.
These birds and this crazy, cold, rainy spring weather are a reminder to me of God's incredible protection and love in the midst of tragedy, storms, torrential rain, mud, whatever trials we are going through. Psalm 91 is a great chapter in the Bible filled with His promise to those who trust Him and "dwell in His shelter". Sometimes it's really hard to believe that He is there when so much evil is happening to us or all around us. Even the birds get confused at reflections in glass, try to make a home where the foundation won't even stay put, lose their babies to predators, and have to live in someone else's nest.
This is where the light of God's love shines the brightest. If you turn on a light in an already sun-lit room, the light does not make the room brighter. Only in the dark is a light NECESSARY to illuminate the room. Allowing the birds to build around our home, listening to their songs, offering a start for them to build on, and providing them safety not only helps them to survive and thrive, but gives us joy, peace, and hope as well.
So, instead of feeling guilty about the time of peace we might be experiencing while others are suffering, maybe we should think about this: What light are we shining on those who are hurting to remind them that the Lord has not forgotten them? They NEED someone to listen to their stories, to love them, to hear something positive. They need especially to hear from others who have been through something similar, to give them HOPE. They need reasons and means to put one foot in front of the other and get through one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time to survive, build a new foundation, and thrive so that they can also find joy in their own lives to share with others.
If we are truly being that light to the hurting, if we are mourning with those who mourn, loving them as we would want to be loved if we were in their shoes, then we will be demonstrating to them that "whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1). They will be able to say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.." (Psalm 91:2) Let us remind others of this hope: "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4)