This post has been brewing for a while.  So much has happened in the life of our family over the past few months.   But where to begin…how to explain…how about a story:
Eight months pregnant with Elijah and grieving the sudden death of my 23-year-old brother in law last March, desperation ushered this prayer from my lips, “Lord where are we?”  The question was more of a lost puppy request than a geographical inquiry.  I wanted to know where we were in this suddenly dark space that felt so scary and consuming.  “Where are we Lord?”  Weary in grief and fear, I prayed, hoping His light may shine into the night illuminating something for which to hope.
I sat in silence, comfortably aware of His gentle presence, knowing my question would prompt a tender reply.  And then, as often happens to this visual learner, the eyes of my heart were opened:
I found myself sitting on a rustic wooden bench on the side of a mountain.  I appeared to be in one of those outdoor chapels tucked away at church camps and retreats.  I sat alone on the earthen pew hugging my big, pregnant belly, staring at a frozen scene of wintery wilderness.  I looked around wondering how I got here and what the significance of this space was, when Jesus appeared before me.  Grateful for His companionship and eager for His guidance, I heard myself ask again, “Where are we Jesus?”
He smiled, that warm, kind smile that always seems to shock and melt me.   He came and stood beside me.  He bent down and placed one arm around my shoulders and pointed into the distance with the other. I followed His direction, peeking through a line of naked, grey trees to behold a scene that took my breath away.  It was a summer landscape, complete with mountain, valley, farmland, a couple country houses and a few silos.  I stared at the lush scene, as if studying a painting on a gallery wall, wishing I could somehow escape into its warmth.  Answering my silent longing, Jesus whispered to me, “Everything is made beautiful in its time.”  And just as abruptly as the image appeared, it left.  My mind was once again dark, but hope was burning like a candle, giving me just enough visibility and courage to endure the days and months ahead.  I knew that even though we once again found ourselves sitting in the darkness of sudden death…God would make everything beautiful in its time.
Fast forward 6 months…
We bought a house in August motivated by the need for space.  We found a 4 bedroom, neglected foreclosure in need of some TLC. The space and cul-de-sac location nestled out in mennonite country felt like the perfect spot for three little boys to roam and grow.  Transitioning one child into kindergarten, one into preschool and the youngest into a good sleep pattern was exhausting.  I was trying my hardest to be a good and present mother and wife, an efficient and effective project manager, a faithful and compassionate friend, all while tending to a demanding house project.  I was overwhelmed.  I began to feel paralyzed by the weight of responsibility, empathy and helplessness.  I knew I could either begin crying or walk out the front door and start running…so run I did.
As I made it to the end of our street, I looked to my right at the gravel road which cut straight through the corn fields that back up to our tiny, 18 home neighborhood.  My curiosity overcame me and I headed for the corn.  Down the path, around the bend, past two old farmhouses and all of a sudden, I turned to my right to discover a pasture filled with horses.   Countless white blossoms were gently gliding through the air adding to the white blanket already on the ground.  It looked like a magical rain shower.  Was this really happening?  Was I dreaming?  I had never seen anything so ethereal…and all this at the end of my street? I was walking now, slowly, taking in my surroundings with wonder and awe.  The path continued and I realized I was climbing a mountain.  Suddenly I felt cozy, nature wrapping me up on all sides- even the sky was a green canopy.  My stress was far gone by now. I noticed ahead a break in the trees and I determined to stop for a contemplative breather.  I knew that this was one of those moments that was going to change me.  No hour long conversation with my sister or a pep talk was needed this time.  This silent encounter with the world was somehow transforming me and the way I thought about my life.  As I turned to look out over the mountain, I gasped.  I found myself staring once again, into the summer landscape which had revived us so many times over the past 6 months- the very same scene I had seen in my vision from Jesus months before.  The landscapes were exactly the same. Tears filled my eyes, I slumped to the ground and began crying and laughing all at the same time.  I fully absorbed the moment and then I uttered aloud, “Everything is made beautiful in its time.”
God knew what He planned for me, for us.  God knew that a new season would follow the dark winter that made us feel like we could not, would not, make it.  He knew every single way He planned on providing for us and blessing us.  He gave me a glimpse and now that glimpse is a reality.
This scripture nestled in the book of Ecclesiastes is my new answer for everything.  God makes everything beautiful in its time.  The seasons always change.  The leaves always blossom again.  That said, there will always be winters for which I cannot control.  I can either fear its coming, or hope in the One who promises to be with me in the cold, leading me always to new places of warmth and beauty.
Six months ago my college best friend learned that her sweet baby Theo has leukemia.  She has been living on the side of the mountain, in the cold, dark forest of cancer ever since.  I can see Jesus with His arm wrapped around her shoulder pointing out into the distance, and He says, “Raegan, everything is made beautiful in its time.”  I see my mother and father-in-law still grieving, deeply, for their youngest son.  They too are on the side of the cold, dark, mountain.  And I can see Jesus clutching them both as He reaches out His nail scarred hands and whispers, “Everything is made beautiful in its time.”  I can see my dear friend who has just lived through the 4th anniversary of the loss of her twin baby boys, while on bed-rest with her fourth child.  He softly, gently, speaks to her, “Everything is made beautiful in its time.”  I can see my friend who has endured the pain of divorce and a marriage that was never the way God intended marriage to be for His daughters, and I can hear Him say to her, “Everything is made beautiful in its time.”
Last week, I decided to take John on a date to my mountain spot.  I told Him that when we got to the top of the mountain that mommy wanted to share a story with him.  We sat down in the small break of trees and looked out over the valley before us.  We saw our house down below and I proceeded to tell John the story of how God had shown me this very spot while praying one day, months before I ever climbed the mountain.  We talked about the hard things he has already dealt with in his little life and we talked about how God is never without a plan to restore us- that even when life feels hard, we can always count on summer to come again.  We then “marked the moment”- a trick my sister and I always used to make sure we would never forget our sacred moments together- and we headed back down the mountain.
As I watched John walking down in front of me, his blond hair aglow in the autumn sun, I cautioned, “careful Johnny, I don’t want you to fall.”  Suddenly, my worry of him tripping on a rock and skinning a knee, was replaced by much greater fears.  I was instantly weak at thought, what pain is before him?  I was overcome with panic until I envisioned a blond haired man sitting on the side of a cold, dark mountain with Jesus by his side, pointing into the distance, whispering into his ear.
John Kelty will undoubtedly see hard days in is lifetime.  At some point he will find himself, just as his mama has, asking God in desperation, “Where am I?”  And there is no doubt in my mind that the same God who has held my hand and walked me from season to season, will do the same for John.
As my granddaddy Sloop neared his final moments on earth, he lay with with my mother’s parents on either side of him.  He hadn’t spoken or eaten in days.  Suddenly, he sat up in his bed and with eyes wide open and a face full of wonder, he declared loudly, “Beautiful!” Then he lay back down, and breathed his last.
“There is a time and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh.  A time to mourn and a time to dance…God has made everything beautiful in its time and God has set eternity in the hearts of men.”  Ecclesiastes 3: 1,2,4,7
Ultimately this passage teaches us that spring will always come after winter- that in God’s timing, He makes everything beautiful again and that sometimes that beautiful is the fulfillment of the eternity that is embedded in our hearts.
My life has seen many seasons.  I have shivered in the cold of winter and danced in the breeze of spring.  I know from experience that each dark season will always be followed by new life, new joys and new experiences of God’s love.  However, there is a room in my heart which always feels like winter.  I don’t know that living without my Anna will ever feel okay.  And for this frozen place, I proclaim Granddaddy’s prophecy…Beautiful!   Just like Jesus pointed out the landscape where I now live, I know that the snapshot of eternity dwelling within me is a foreshadowing of what is to come.
As we navigate through the good and the bad of life, the light and dark, the dreary and the beautiful…ultimately we know that in Christ, beauty unlike anything we have ever laid eyes on before is waiting for us.  It is effortless for me to imagine Anna running toward me in a summer landscape for which I have been invited to enter…one day!
The list of those I presently agonize for is a long one.  Cancer, grief, pregnancy after loss, divorce, oppression- for each of these loved ones, I find myself crawling to the foot of the cross, beseeching God for for His powerful and perfect presence to swallow up the darkness by His Light.  And that this Light would make room for the hope and courage to face another day, knowing that everything is made beautiful in its time.


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