Actually, replace ‘Why’ with ‘Who’ in that title
“Memory is the power to plant roses in winter,” the words in the image said. I was in a craft store, flipping through decals, when I saw it. I bought it.
It pictured a girl who I imagined could be me patting the snowy soil around a freshly planted fledgling rose bush on a snowy day. I wanted it to be me. No matter that I lived in Florida. The landscape looked as I felt. Cold, isolated, frozen in time. And yet this girl planted roses in winter. “Hope,” it said to me.
My husband had died, leaving me a widow at 26. My future – one with Bill and me in ministry and raising a family – had died with him. In plans made for us, there was now only me. What was I to do alone?
Plant roses in winter.
For memory isn’t just the power to remember the past; memory is the power to plant a new future. One hope at a time. God will help you if you remember Him.
This weekend I found and read a stack of journal pages and unsent letters I had written in the months before my dear husband died of complications from a routine surgery. Bill had suffered long as doctors tried to determine what was causing his symptoms. It could have been anything from pancreatic cancer to an ulcer, and the uncertainty and misery drove me to pray as I had never prayed before – by writing to God.
What a treasure I found in those prayers this weekend.
One of my prayers centered on a story I had just read. In it, a mother and her son spent hours walking while the son collected sticks and stones along the path. They walked home under this burden, sweating, worn out, trying not to drop a single precious treasure.
The minute the two walked through their front door, however, the boy dropped everything and ran into his father’s arms. He had found something more precious than his treasure of sticks and stones. This was my prayer that day:
“Father, I need to come to you now. I need to drop my burdens – those things I love (my husband’s health?) – and come spend time with you. I’m scared, God. I know Bill is, too. I want to be strong for him, and I know that strength can only come from you.
Can you reach for me today? I need you but I don’t know how to let go of my burden. I can understand giving up the anxiety that doesn’t do any good. But I feel I have to carry this burden. Help me! That’s all I can say today.”
This weekend, I wept as I read through those raw, honest accounts of those days of fear and anxiety that would end months later in pain and loss. But I knew then and I know now that “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, ESV). And I knew that He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB).
Dear Reader, God reached for me that day when I felt I couldn’t lay down my burdens and reach for Him. As Bill and I walked that road toward his death – not knowing how it would end – we were not alone. Though it felt as if I died with him, and certainly life as I knew it was over, I hoped in God.
I could plant roses in winter because God was near to heal my broken heart and crushed spirit.
The day before Bill and I would have celebrated our third wedding anniversary, about nine months after my husband had died, I wrote a column for the newspaper where I worked as a reporter, editor, and writer. Its title was “No greater loss to be feared.” (It still brings me to tears; you can read it here.)
Let me point you to hope by sharing a few paragraphs from that column (“few” might not be the correct adjective here, but they’re short paragraphs):
When I drive alone at night and my mind wonders what would happen if I lost control of the wheel for just a minute, instead of fear, I think, “I could see Bill!” And then the tears come, grief ripping me like a tornado.
I am scared once again. Scared of myself. Scared of life.
And then I remember where there is no fear. Bill is there – in close proximity. And I can know that the same God who lives there is here with me, holding me gently in the palm of his hand. I live in a world where there likely always will be things to fear. Things that will cause pain. A world where there’s always something to lose – even if all you own is your life.
I remember that awful phone call when the doctor told me: “His heart expired.”
“What are you saying?” I cried, not wanting to understand. “He’s dead?”
It was not expected.
I got off the phone. Alone. So alone. My heart was beating so rapidly, I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and I made efforts to calm myself down, keep myself alive.
But I thought, “It would be so much easier to die.” I wanted to die. In many respects I knew it would be easier than dealing with the pain, the loss.
But, even more, I was surprised to find that I wanted to live.
I’ve found that life can be more than precious even in the midst of pain. I find myself clinging to it, hoping to regain control, hoping to live whole again – though scarred from my loss.
Dear Friend, I don’t know where you are or what you’re going through today, but know that God offers hope even in your darkest hour. If you can’t drop your burdens or your treasures and reach out to Him, ask Him to reach out to you, just where you are.
Hope for the future
This morning, as I contemplated whether or not I should publish this post (as I so wanted to write something humorous and light), God reminded me of my own father. I was blessed to have a dad who made it easy to picture God as my father.
The things that touched my heart and made me cry often touched my father the same way. I can’t count how many times a sermon would bring me to tears, and I’d feel a light tap on my shoulder as my dad handed me his clean handkerchief. I’d wipe my tears and hand it back – so he could then wipe his.
Father God loves you. He’s aware of every little thing that touches your life, and He cares. Imagine Him handing you his handkerchief today – and then using it to wipe his own tears.
My friend, let me end with this simple blessing from God’s Word:
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”Number 6:24-26, NIV
Now, go plant roses. Share the hope.