My son often spoke of the spectacular view from Mill Mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. Several days ago, after locking the door to his apartment, Justin and I walked to my SUV. “Mom, how about driving to the look-out before we leave for Richmond? I’d really like you to see the view.”
Minutes later, we were driving on a narrow road that curled its way up the steep and heavily wooded mountain. “Justin, look how far you can see into the forest,” I said as my eyes beheld beautiful rock formations and waterfalls usually hidden by dense vegetation.
Justin gazed out his window at the woods’ treasures. “You know, Mom, if you walk through this forest when the leaves are out, you can’t see anything else in the woods – not even another person who might be only 20 feet away. You could easily think you’re all alone in there.”
“But once the leaves come down, you can see everything clearly—even someone walking a quarter-mile away.”
Slowing the SUV as we approached a sharp curve, I noted the absence of guard rails as I looked down the steep drop-off just feet away. A car could go over the side and no one would know if the foliage was out! Heart pounding, I looked quickly back at the road.
“Mom,” his voice pausing, “this forest is just like a person’s life.”
“What do you mean, Justin?”
“Well, everyone has problems, but when we keep them to ourselves, it’s like we’re surrounded by thick foliage that makes us feel isolated. The leaves also keep others from seeing what we’re going through.”
I nodded, taking in the wisdom of Justin’s analogy.
“But when we speak about our problems, the leaves fall to the ground and we realize that we’re not alone in the woods; other people – people with all kinds of problems - are walking just feet away. Once we share our experiences, we can see things more clearly. Then we can find the path that leads us out of the forest.”
“Mom, if I hadn’t told Megan about the problem I was going through, I’d never have known that she’d gone through the same thing. And I’d still be in that forest, unable to see that someone close to me had already been there and found the way out.”
We reached the mountaintop and stood silently, our view of the valley and surrounding mountains unobstructed, until a piercing wind hurried us back to the warmth of our vehicle. Together, just an arm’s width apart, we found our way down the rugged mountain road.
“Ready to go home, son?” I asked when we reached the gently rolling valley that spread out before us.
“Ready, Mom. The road we need is right up ahead.” Justin turned toward me and smiled.
Are you allowing foliage to make you feel alone, afraid, overwhelmed, discouraged? Do you feel like a failure? Do you think you’re the only one going through a rough time?
Cut that foliage down today. There’s more people in the woods with you than you could ever imagine.
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
But if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Photographs by Cynthia Howerter © 2013
My yard, wearing its leaf-woven quilt, had been raked and mulched. A crisp cold wind blew its way down my mountain hollow, singing its prelude to winter. Frost diamonds glistened atop pumpkins destined for decorations on my farmhouse porch. All the vegetables from our garden had been preserved in glass jars and lined spring house shelves, joining sister jars of plump summer blackberries.
The season of thankfulness had arrived. Time to bow the knee and fling praises toward heaven for harvest gifts and blessings bestowed. The calendar confirmed the natural signs. I had decorated the altar table at church with a cornucopia of fall’s offering, wheat sheaves and a painting of an older man saying grace over his bountiful table. I was going through the motions, but my heart was heavy and not even the slightest thanks could penetrate the sorrow barrier binding my spirit.
Earlier that week, I retrieved my tablecloth from the dining room credenza and underneath the heirloom covering were place cards inscribed with family members’ names. I remembered the excitement of finding the beautiful cards in an antique shop and rejoicing over how they would complement my grandmother’s tablecloth. I lovingly picked them up and pressed them to my heart.
The name of my son’s fiancé was on top, the beautiful young woman who died of a brain aneurism shortly after accepting Brad’s proposal of marriage; Gretchen was twenty-eight. Next in the stack was the name of my own precious daughter who passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer; Brooke was thirty-four. My mother’s name was on the next card, the mother who died six months after my daughter’s death. Tears fell, leaving smudges on the beloved names. How could I have a spirit of thankfulness after such tragedies? I crumbled in a heap of overwhelming sadness.
Through my sobs slowly came a realization: I was so fortunate having had these amazing women in my life, two of them only for a short season. How could I not celebrate with thankfulness their grace and beauty?
It was Gretchen who started the tradition of giving me a flower arrangement for our Thanksgiving table every year. Brooke carried on Gretchen’s custom until her own death. I had not been able to face flowers since Gretchen and Brooke’s passing, and had started serving Thanksgiving dinner on TV trays to avoid the memories made around the holiday table. I decided to renew the floral tradition to honor those memories and in thankfulness for Brooke and Gretchen’s lives.
This year, I will again set our holiday table, and embrace Morgan, the lovely young woman God has graciously brought into Brad’s life. As for the name cards, I will give them a place of honor on the sideboard.
We will once again hold hands, offer thanks for our blessings, for those around the table, and those who have left our sight but not our hearts.
Sweet readers, my prayer for your family as they gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings is for love to permeate the room, and that the heaping bowls of food remind you of God’s provision, that grace abounds, and that the memories of loved ones gone on to glory hover close.
Come, ye thankful people, come
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!
With a thankful heart,
Dee Dee Parker
Thank you, my precious friend Dee Dee, for sharing your beautiful memories and thankful heart with SOAR WITH EAGLES. I’m praying that our Heavenly Father creates an abundance of joyful new memories for you and your family this Thanksgiving.
Author Dee Dee Parker writes of her beloved Appalachia, captivating readers with her tender southern voice. She has written Josie Jo’s Got To Know, a delightful children’s book that can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.josiejo.com. Dee Dee is currently finishing an adult Christmas novella, Peppermint Snow.
Please visit my friend Dee Dee’s website: http://comegohomewithme.blogspot.com
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
Are you in a dark place? A place without lightbulbs? Even if you had one, it wouldn’t work in this dungeon.
Are you grieving something? A diagnosis of cancer? The end of your marriage? The poor choices of your child? The death of a loved one? The loss of your job?
These are the things that can stomp the life, the joy right out of a person. Yes, even you. Even me.
Are you thinking that Hell is actually a place here on earth, not below it? I tell you, friend, that I am right there with you.
But I’m not going to stay there. And do you know why?
Because God is extending His hand to me. He is reaching out to me. He wants me to grab hold and allow Him to pull me out of this life-sucking situation.
God isn’t called “The Great Comforter,” “The Great Healer” for nothing. No, God is ever-present – even in the worst of times. When misery raises its ugly head, we have a God who never left our side.
Our worst situations are opportunities to become close to God. You see, God wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him. We can’t have that when other things have our primary focus.
We were placed on this earth to serve God. Not ourselves.
It’s a choice we make. Simply put, you either choose God or you don’t. What is the alternative to not choosing God? It’s choosing Satan. Makes the choice obvious now, doesn’t it?
So, I’m going to take God’s outreached Hand. I’m going to read His Words. I’m going to believe His Promises.
Because if I don’t, as sure as the seasons change, I’m going to stay in this dark place. This place that weighs heavily on a person’s chest.
No, I don’t want a lifetime of that. Or even a day of that.
I’m choosing joy. What about you?
“God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.
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Jesus Calling: A 365 Day Journaling Devotional is written by missionary Sarah Young from Jesus’ point of view. It is filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year. A Best-Selling book in 2011 and 2012.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012Read More