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Thursday, July 19, 2012
Grace Like Snow
Hi to anyone who is out there with time and the desire to read my post.
I'm trying to figure out where to spend my blogging time -- here where I've been for a while or on my new website (where I can add posts).
But for today, I'm sharing a short (true) story about
a time when I felt totally unable to do -- well, most everything and God showed up to help me. I feel that way a lot and it is amazing that He cares enough to respond and help me. Hope you enjoy --
What depressed me most was I couldn’t think of one real reason to feel so miserable. My closest loved ones and I enjoyed good health. We didn’t face any major financial or personal problems. And, at a young age, I had married the man who continued to walk beside me through the changing seasons of life. Compared to most people in the world, I lived a very blessed life. True, I’d just turned fifty but wasn’t that something to celebrate?
Still, the thoughts continued to shoot through my mind inflicting injury to my sense of well-being. “You’re past your prime.” “It’s too late to do the things you thought you’d do.” “You’re a failure.” “You’re not as strong or as pretty as you used to be,” “No one wants to listen to an old woman.”
Each morning, in order to have the courage to get out of bed, I sang a little song to myself. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. In all my years I’d never doubted this before but these days I felt totally unlovable with nothing to offer anyone, even the Lord.
Thinking that a change of scenery might affect my mood, I arranged to use a friend’s mountain cabin. I headed out with the regal plan to finally take time to write, or at least begin the book that resided within me. For days I stayed inside the cabin in an unsuccessful attempt to create any semblance of a manuscript. Even when I have uninterrupted time and no excuses, I’m still too undisciplined to write. What a failure.
Even though I knew I wasn’t a total failure; a look at my successful children told me I’d done a good job raising them, and I enjoyed a small but steady publishing history over the years. But I couldn’t dismiss the accusing thoughts that bombarded me. Each one held an element of truth. And the truth of all I failed to do with the time entrusted to me was so discouraging that I wanted to stop trying. I’d come away to the mountains to write and couldn’t even manage that. So, I decided to go hiking.
Feeling old and fat helped me choose a hike rated ‘easy.’ The sky was clear but the air cool, so I wore a coat. My emotional state convinced me to take a small backpack with tissues, chocolate, a water bottle and my cell phone. It felt really good to be outside. My spirits lifted as soon as I entered the empty parking lot near the trailhead.
A short path led through the pines to the place where the trail went straight down into a steep valley. I couldn’t see the bottom but had read that there was a stream down there. The sound and look of running water had always drawn and soothed me so I began to make my way slowly down the slope.
At last I reached the bottom and felt a rush of joy at the sight of the flowing stream. I took my time strolling beside the water, sitting on logs, enjoying the scent of pine and watching squirrels scamper around the forest. The heaviness of the past few months lifted. “Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful place.”
A few hours later, my chocolate was gone and I thought it might be time to head back to the cabin for an afternoon nap. It took longer than I expected to get back to the trail that led to the parking lot. By the time I got there I was already out of breath. Then I looked up the very long, very steep path and felt my heart sink. I knew I’d descended into a deep valley but never considered what climbing back out would require.
Why did I spend so much time walking beside the stream? Where would I get the energy to climb this nearly vertical path? All the self-doubt and insecurity of the past months returned and settled like a giant weight on my already slumped shoulders.
I don’t think I can do this. It’s too hard. But what choice did I have? My car was up there in a parking lot I couldn’t even see. I couldn’t simply stay down here by the lovely stream forever, and my chocolate was gone.
Calling 9-1-1 seemed like an unrealistic and embarrassing option, so I began to climb. I didn’t rush, just took one small step at a time. The high altitude and the extra weight I carried combined to make the journey very difficult. I seriously began to wonder if I could make it to the top. It’s too steep. I’m too weak and out of shape.
Suddenly turning fifty felt like a death sentence. It meant I was old. I didn’t like the feeling. I didn’t look forward to continuing to age and weaken with each passing year. And this climb up the side of this valley demanded too much from me. I just couldn’t do it. I unzipped my coat, wiped my face with a tissue and took a long drink of water.
Maybe I should sit and rest. I pictured myself trying to plop down on the steep incline only to tumble all the way back to the bottom. Then I’d have to start over. And what if I broke something?
With the sound of the stream growing faint behind me and feelings of inadequacy looming huge inside, I criticized myself. I’m just a weakling and it’s my own fault for being out of shape. Other fifty-year-olds are probably running marathons and eating celery. Each negative thought and every slow step brought a reminder of how useless I felt.
Out of breath, I stopped walking. Sorrow and discouragement welled up. I blinked back tears. Oh, Lord, I need help! I can’t do this. It’s so hard and I don’t have what it takes. I’m not young or strong anymore. I really don’t think I can keep going.
No sooner had my prayer been raised to heaven than an unexpected response came floating down in gentle white snowflakes. In wonder, I watched them swirl through the spaces between the trees and dance gracefully in the air surrounding me. A soft layer of delicate lacey flakes coated the dark ground with a sparkling beauty. Like mercy the snow transformed everything.
No rain or snow had been predicted that day. This was God’s overwhelming love drawing near. Awestruck at the surprise, I laughed out loud. Thank you, thank you, Lord. You are here with me and you are helping me!
Snowflakes frosted my flushed cheeks, coated me with fresh strength and melted my despair. Before long I reached the top, startled at how quickly I had finished the last part of the climb. I stopped beside my car, tilted my face skyward and opened my mouth wide to taste the falling snow.
That’s when I embraced the fact the God of heaven was not done with me or with my life. Although negative thoughts had dragged me into a deep valley of depression, His truth had the power to pull me out.
God’s mercy falls new every morning giving grace to help move me forward into new possibilities. And when I call out to Him in my weakness, He offers me fresh strength so I can take each step on the path laid out before me until the day I climb out of this life into the next.