The easy-breezy summer days I enjoyed in June and July morphed into August schedules, appointments and an effort to be on time, always a struggle for me. September arrived without the flourish I might have wished to give it.
I anticipated changing a few things in the house to reflect the season of Autumn, the mat on the front porch, the door wreath, a spicy candle on the hall table. But responsibility takes precedence over such thoughtful tasks. People come first, or at least they should. Those who come and those who live with me, aka Sweet William, do not care about the current décor of the house. They care about the love they feel within it. They notice if they are being heard. If I fill their tummies with good food and welcome them with an open heart, that is what really matters.
The gardens became a jungle in the summer heat and rain. And yet there are flowers blooming continually. The sunflowers growing in view of the kitchen window attracted butterflies and goldfinches. The Texas Star hibiscus came up randomly near the back sidewalk. The bloom only lasts a day, and I will take its short-lived extravagance. In the front garden, the tall wispy stems of tiny yellow flowers whisper fall, drawing my eye to the swing where my cousin Candi and I sat often last year, talking about anything and nothing at all.
I feel her absence from my life. Her house on my lane, a short walk away, is changing, little things I notice, evidence she is not living there any longer. Sometimes I want to tell her something that only she would understand, discussions we had that made us think or laugh. It leaves a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my heart. Who else would understand what I’m talking about. Who else would care?
Death leaves a hole that is never truly filled. I attended too many funerals this year, heard of too many deaths. It is the age and stage of life where I am, I suppose. My generation is moving on. I think about it without being morbid. It is a fact of life, and I experience the loss, the changes, and the adjusting it takes to keep walking forward. I’m thankful for the life and health I have, but I know it is temporary. My body is a tent on earth, and it’s becoming a little more tattered each year, the laugh lines on my face deepening.
On a day of musings, I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit. How do I know it was the Holy Spirit? Because I don’t say the kind of things to myself that He does. His message was one of ancient wisdom: Count it all joy.
They are familiar words, and I let them linger through the day, acknowledging I do not count the hard and hurtful things as joy.
What does that really mean, then? I went to the letter of James and studied its original text, feebly I might add. I am no Greek scholar, only relying on others’ studies instead. The word ‘count’ or ‘consider’ as it is in NIV is an accounting term. In essence, it means to evaluate, let it lead to a thought. I begin to get a picture.
Counting it joy means to consider how the temptations and trials in my life are having an effect on the outcome of my daily living. Are they reenforcing truth or a lesson? Are they turning me where I need to change direction? Are they teaching me compassion for someone in a similar situation? Are they showing me my weakness, leading me to my Savior’s strength? Are they sending me running to the Father’s arms? Are they maturing me and preparing me for what is next?
In my Bible I wrote a quote from Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth: “Anything that makes you need God is a blessing.”
Selah – I pause and think about that.
As a child of the Living God, I have to believe these hard places are not random or without purpose for me. Is anything of God ever wasted? He means to bring good from the experiences that come my way. While it may be harsh, intense, long, even painful, yet in the hands of a loving Father, it can be useful, even beautiful for someone else or for me in a way I could never imagine.
I am the woman who still deeply loves Jesus and wants to follow where He leads in this season, with my slowing gait and aching bones. Whatever comes, I want to learn to consider that my experiences will bring joy eventually, all of them. They are common to all people and lessons God is using to teach me, to grow me and make me stronger,
This counting it all joy is a work in progress for me, as is my entire existence. I believe I am held close to a loving Father’s heart, that He understands my hurts and struggles, and most importantly, that He is with me through each one.
His presence is promised in and through all of my days. I hold to that like an anchor when the water is choppy and my boat is tossed about in a stormy sea. He reminds me, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”
Peace be still. Open your eyes and see. Count every blessing. Consider how all things lead to the Savior. Joy is all around.