Monday, September 9, 2013

God's Incredible, Amazing Grace

The bathing suits and sunscreen are put away.  The leaves are putting on their annual colorful show, everybody’s apple picking and there is a definite chill in the air.  In Vermont, this all means just one thing – the Fall season has arrived! 

Fall for me is the season that is always so bittersweet.  When I was younger, I always loved the Fall and so looked forward to it.  It meant school was starting again and, call me crazy, but I loved school!  I loved the order and the routine of the days and I loved reading, writing and arithmetic; well, maybe not so much arithmetic.  But I did love school!! 

As an adult, I also loved the Fall season.  I loved the crunch of the leaves under my feet.  I loved the cool, crisp nights that made you want to snuggle under the down comforter.  I loved the freshness in the air and I also loved getting back into the routine after a lazy, crazy summer.  I loved the feeling of having my family all around me in the evening with all the world shut out, like we were in our own little cocoon.

I met my husband in the Fall of the year, but sadly, I also lost my husband in the Fall of the year, thus the bittersweet.  Since that October day when he died 9 years ago, I sometimes find myself floundering this time of year.  Yes, I still love all those things about Fall that I loved before, but now there’s also an underlying sadness, too.  Over the years, however, this sadness has given way to an incredible joy in the gift of life that God has given me.  God has indeed turned my “mourning into joy”.  One of the greatest works that God has done in my heart has been enabling me to give thanks in and for all things.  If I was writing the book of my life, I would certainly have written that Phil and I lived happily ever after, but God is the one with the pen for this book.  What God has done in my heart as a result of my husband’s death is a very precious work.  I am not the person I was.  I see with very different eyes and I treasure life in a way I never did before. 

Sometimes when I am remembering my past with Phil, I think of certain times, days and events and wish I could go back and have a “do-over”.  The thing I would change is to be present in the moment.  So much of our lives are spent planning and preparing for future events, running here and there to get this and that done.  I am learning to treasure the moment, live in the here and now and enjoy each moment as a precious gift from God.  There are so many things we do that really have no eternal value and yet so much of our precious time is spent doing them. 

I want to enjoy the sunrise, savor the breeze on a warm summer day, hear the leaves crunch under my feet and enjoy silliness with my grandchildren.  I want to relish the presence of God I feel at unexpected times during my day.  No matter how many times God blesses me with a heart-shaped stone, I want the sight of the next one to take my breath away, because I hear him saying to me “I love you, Donna”.  I want to live in the wonder of all that he has given me that pertains to life and godliness. 

Do I always succeed at this?  No, I do not.  Sometimes I get caught up in the craziness of life and God has to remind me of what really matters.  I am basically a task-oriented person and I can forget the people around me when I’m focused on the task at hand.  But I desire God to change my heart and gradually I feel things changing.  When I awake each morning I pray that God will help me to be aware of the treasures and gifts that that day holds for me; those things that he has prepared for me; those people he has chosen for me to interact with that day.  I ask him daily to give me a thankful heart, a heart that chooses to believe that God is always good and therefore, all he gives me that day is good and I want to “enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart”. 

I think anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one appreciates life a lot more having gone through something like that, at least I know I do.  I breathe deeper, I see clearer, I feel more intensely.  I am so thankful that I was loved by a wonderful man for over 33 years and I am so thankful that I know I will see him again.  That promise from God is very precious to me. 

So, even though Fall comes with a sadness for me, it also comes with a new and greater appreciation for life and the love of God in my life, and an appreciation for those people he has placed in my life.  Even in the midst of the sadness, I feel joy – joy in the incredible, amazing grace of God!