Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fragile Beauty in Rough Places

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
(Psalm 145:8-9)

The pond near our house is a mess. For at least 2 years, the city has been working on an improvement project, building stone retaining walls (complete with ramps for the ducks) and improving bridges. Morning walks are accompanied by the sounds of jackhammers, and cranes, bulldozers, and other heavy machinery mar the view. A few years ago, this would have been my youngest nephews' favorite place on earth, and they would have known the names of all the equipment.

The workers are friendly and have taken pains not to harm the birds. Ebony has won his share of admirers among the crew, although the loud noises tend to make him relapse into his old anxious habits.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

(Hebrews 12:11 ESV)

As messy, loud, and unsightly as the work has been, it is now near enough to completion that we can clearly see the effort will be worth the wait.

Construction had paused here until some of the rainwater could be drained.

The stands of black-eyed Susans, firewheels, sunflowers, and primroses which usually blanket one swath beside the trail have not survived the big wheels and treads. Not much green between the path and the water has survived.

You can imagine our surprise, then, when last weekend we spotted our state flower, the bluebonnet, peeking up in a small cluster of violet-blue right up next to the new stone.

Bluebonnets have never appeared there before. What a wondrous gift that some should spring up in that very spot, and that they should not have been crushed before they came into bloom. Mother's Day weekend is late for bluebonnets here in the best of circumstances, and these were not the best of circumstances.

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

give your strength to your servant,

and save the son of your maidservant.
Show me a sign of your favor, 
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. 
(Psalm 86:16-17 ESV)

As I marveled, I saw in these wee flowers a parable. Crumbles, you know some of the rough weather the Lord has taken my family through the last 5 years. In just the last 7 months, there have been illnesses, hospitalization, bereavement, surgery, significant life transitions, and almost 2 months of housebound disability for a family member usually bustling with activity and service.

Yet in this time, Terza's youngest boy has put his faith in Christ. The Lord has blessed us with good times together as a family, some the direct result of our "rough weather." The ailing family member has been supported by her husband's unflagging care and the encouragement and meals of church friends. Two old friends have reached out to reestablished contact after a few disconnected years. Some of the challenging life transitions proffer hope ahead after a long circumstantial drought.

North Texas's literal drought has been much relieved by days and days of rain; for the first time in several years, our lakes are well above conservation level.

 A recent fall of mine resulted in relatively minor injuries and no fractures. The doctor said I was lucky; he's seen people with much more damage from much less severe trauma. I say it's grace. And it still would have been if the injuries had been much worse.

The beauty is there, friends, even in the rough places. God does give tokens for good when we most need them, to help us hold fast to hope. Often it's a passage of Scripture, a message, or a hymn that speaks just the truth we needed to remember. Other times it's encouragement from a friend or time with loved ones. Or perhaps the Lord may add some special touch to a day, some token that might not mean anything to anyone else but conveys His loving care to you, to me.

If you find yourself in a rough place today, Crumble, may the Lord send you fragile beauty right there in the middle of the mess, even before He clears the mess away.  May He open your eyes to recognize it. May He fortify your soul with His Word and multi-colored other gifts to help you hold fast to hope. He is good; He does good. Let us trust Him in the midst of the messy work of transformation.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

as is your way with those who love your name.

(Psalm 119:132 ESV)

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