Friday, October 26, 2012

Ugly Anniversary

I started writing this journal entry on October 18th, but I was too tired to complete it that night. My heart has been heavy all week, as I processed the events of that day. This is what came out as I put my thoughts to the page.

I have been committed to not focusing on grief, because I sensed the Lord prompting me to do so, since the April, three year anniversary of my husband’s passing. But I am also committed to being honest about my journey, so my writing will appear to be changing direction today.

It’s 9 PM and I’m exhausted: done...nothing left! Today would have been our 15th wedding anniversary and I decided to commemorate this day by doing something that I have avoided since Buck's death three and a half years ago. It has been four years since I last visited Gifford Pinchot State Park, in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, about an hour drive from my home.  

It was our favorite, local place to go camping and being there was one of the hardest things I’ve done since Buck was called home. Frankly, it felt somewhat crazy to go back, knowing how painful it was going to be. But I felt that it would be another important step of closure, and would make it possible to visit again in the future, and be able to enjoy the surroundings again someday. That was my goal and I used it to motivate me to push through. It was just something that I needed to do, no matter how unpleasant it might be. I felt it was important to do this on my own. Just the Lord and I would go through this together. It was a temptation to invite a friend to join me; I would have welcomed the distraction. Never-the-less, I chose to go solo, knowing that facing this challenge by myself would be most beneficial. And I really didn’t want to drag a friend through what I knew would be a very emotional day.

The last time I was there, was when my sweetheart and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary, just a few months before his heart attack. We rented a cottage, instead of using our camper. Camping was our favorite form of getting away, but we decided to rent a cottage to simplify packing for the weekend. We had just moved into our new home a few weeks before and were consumed with trying to get unpacked and settled. It was a luxury to have a cottage, because it was equipped with electricity and electric heat. The location was beautiful and scenic, since it was built lakeside. It had a fire ring, so we were able to have a campfire, and Buck prepared his famous pork steak for us on 
one of our weekend evenings. And of course, there was always s'mores later in the evening after the fire died down.

The memories rushed over me like a waterfall, when I approached the parking lot of the Conewago Day Use Area. As the tears rinsed the blush off my face, I wished I had remembered to bring my towel with me.

Upon my arrival at noon, I ate my lunch at one of the lakeside picnic tables. A couple with a young child arrived a few minutes later and I turned my back to them, so they wouldn’t see the emotion I couldn’t hide. I hoped they couldn't see my body shaking as I did my best to control the silent sobs. 

After lunch, I spent some time journaling and reading my Bible. I opened it randomly and came upon a verse that comforted me, as I was reminded: “Yet we have this assurance: Those who belong to God shall live again! Their bodies shall rise again! Those who dwell in the dust shall awake and sing for joy! For God’s light of life will fall like dew upon them!” (Isaiah 26:19, Living Bible Translation).

Afterward, I walked  the Lakeside Trail and came upon the cottage where we had stayed. It was wide open, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures inside and out. I sat at the picnic table in front of the cottage, and wrote a letter to Buck to help me deal with all the emotion. I watched the Canadian geese and the Great Blue Heron in the cove. The tears ran freely as the fragrance of wood smoke filled the air, and the familiar sounds of campers setting up their temporary shelters rang through the wooded campground.

My next goal was to visit our favorite campsites near the beach. I suppose I depleted my tear reservoir, because I had nothing left as I walked through the area where we had spent so many joy-filled, memory-making days. Thankfully, I only felt numbness as I made my way through the much loved area, where we had spent so many summer and autumn vacation days.

The sky darkened with threatening clouds, so I had to hustle to get back to the day use area where my car was parked. There was no temptation to linger. I had achieved my goals and it was time to head back. To my delight, instead of getting rained on, I was blessed with a lovely sunset: a fitting way to close out my day of reminiscing about some of our happiest days. It made me smile. 

I thanked God for all the precious memories and for the wonderful years Buck and I had to spend together. Also, for this setting of the sun over the beautiful lake and for helping me to get through this difficult day. I am confident that these clouds will lift and joy will return again sometime soon, as I continue to thank God for all my blessings and look for the joy hidden in each new day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Late Bloomer

First blossom a few days after transplanting

I noticed the emerging blossom on the young Moonflower plant that day, when I was shopping in my local greenhouse. The large white flower would probably open in a few more days. It was getting to be late in the season for planting, since it was the Fourth of July weekend, but I had to bring it home and give it a chance to thrive and bring beauty into my world.

It was a thrill to watch the rapid growth as it twisted and curled itself around my porch post. I provided a long shoelace tied to the post to give it something to climb and cling to as it grew. Everyday, I did my best to give each new curly tendril the direction it needed to stay attached to the pole instead of going it’s own way, just flailing in the summer breeze. The blossom that attracted me initially bloomed a few days after I planted it, or better said, a few nights later as the large blossoms usually start unfurling around dusk and are limp and withered by early morning. It didn’t take long for the lush plant to fill out and become a lovely focal point for the front of my home.

I had to wait nearly a month before I saw any sign of another white blossom. August passed by before blossom three showed up. I confess, I was a bit disappointed at the scarcity of flowers. Just the same, I enjoyed the abundant greenery and the Praying Mantises that it attracted.

When October arrived and the chilly autumn evenings rolled in, my thoughts turned to the reality that soon I would be witnessing the demise of my beloved flowers. All too soon, I would be clearing away the memories of all the beauty and pleasure my gardens provided this summer; as the leaves would soon turn yellow, then brown and crisp, as they succumbed to the fatal damage of the first anticipated frost. I would be thankful for the joy and healing that my gardens brought to my broken heart this summer and look forward to starting the growing cycle all over again in the spring.

Autumn has always been hard for me emotionally, because it was Buck's favorite season and our wedding anniversary takes place mid-October, bringing a flood of memories with it. Never the less, I have made a decision to welcome it this year and to be more intentional to look for all the beauty that this colorful season has to offer. 

I had no expectations of finding anything more to smile about in my gardens, since autumn had arrived. Then recently, I noticed something that brought unexpected delight to my heart. It seemed that all of a sudden, my Moonflower had developed multiple blossoms and if the weather doesn’t deliver any killing frosts in the next several days, I have the potential for more flowers this week than I had all summer. Now I’m thanking God for my “late bloomer”!
Blessed to enjoy this blossom all day long, thanks to the cloudy day

Recently, I was treated to a wonderful surprise, when a blossom (number four) was still wide open and beautiful all day long, thanks to the cloudy day that fooled the flower into believing it was still nightfall. For the first time, I was able to take pictures of the fragrant saucer sized flower in the daytime.

As I considered the new growth I found, I sensed that God wanted me to draw a parallel here. Perhaps it‘s His way of showing me that I am a lot like my Moonflower. That I too, have the potential to blossom and grow, though I am in the autumn of my life. I’m starting to realize how important it is to remember that “It’s never too late to bloom where you’re planted”. I pray that when springtime arrives, I will show signs of fresh growth, creativity, and healing thanks to the emerging of the new seasons ahead. I need to believe that God can provide the ideal conditions to help me produce something of lasting beauty, if I will trust Him to inspire me to blossom, using the creative gifts he has given me. He will lovingly guide me with His wisdom. He will provide direction, as I depend on Him for i

I believe this is a message that can speak to all of us. Being made in God's image means we all have been blessed with creative gifts. My encouragement to you and myself is to use those gifts to glorify God in whatever way He may lead and inspire us.

Embracing the months ahead will make them a time to look forward to, instead of dreading as I have in the past. Lord, help me to remember everyday, no matter the season:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24