But A Breath

image-13 A few nights ago, I took my dog for a late evening walk. With the sun setting in the distance, casting a warm glow across the brilliantly decorated trees, the scent of campfire hung in the air. A thick warm sweater, hand knit wool hat and gloves, and bright orange scarf kept me warm and cozy against the refreshingly cool wind. My dog and I strolled slowly around the block, reveling in the soft clicks of leaves meeting pavement, crunching piles of them underfoot as we walked. The evening was as perfectly Autumn as they come.

Caught up in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, I felt the sudden urge to use my body to the fullest of its capabilities, and I began to jog. The dog and I ran the length of 3 blocks before slowing to a walk again, panting slightly as we caught our breath together.

I stopped at a corner to stretch my muscles, surprised at how limber and able I felt. It had been well over a year (possibly two) since I’d run like that, and several months since I’d managed to even walk without waddling. Toward the end of my recent pregnancy, I had endured chronic hip pain, severe heart burn, loose joints, insomnia, and extreme fatigue. I had slept on my side while wishing I could sleep on my stomach, caught myself panting after climbing a normal set of stairs, and held on to furniture for dear life as I struggled to put weight on my legs without pain first thing every morning. Now, just a month and a half past the birth of my fourth child, those problems were largely gone or disappearing. Not only was my physical strength returning, but my mental clarity as well. No longer pregnant, I once again had the stamina to do more with my days than nap and mope.

In retrospect, I can see that my “preggo problems” were zapping my energy and preventing me from accomplishing things my non-pregnant self easily accomplishes. For nine months I lived in something of a fog, unable to meet deadlines or keep commitments or remember what I ate for breakfast. My children went through periods where they watched a lot of tv so that I could rest, and we only ate healthy food for dinner if my husband made it. (Which was often. Thank goodness he likes to cook!).

Despite the hip pain and heart burn, if you would have asked me during my pregnancy how I was feeling, I would have told you, “pretty good! Can’t complain too much!” I had normalized and accepted all of the pain and discomfort of pregnancy to the point that I might have even told you I was rather enjoying being pregnant. At times during my second trimester I even thought with delusion how nice it would be to remain pregnant forever. I wouldn’t have to endure the pain of childbirth that way! ;)

But pregnancy does not exist for pregnancy’s sake. Pregnancy was designed to develop and nurture a beautiful person created by God. Lord willing, the physical pain and discomfort of pregnancy does not last forever, but is replaced by a new life with a baby and a body on the mend (albeit stretch marked and saggy!).

Just as I enjoyed my pregnancy, accepting the pain and discomfort I lived with daily, I often find myself enjoying this world as I willfully ignore the pain caused by sin all around me and within me. Sometimes I even think with delusion how nice it would be to live here on earth forever. I wouldn’t have to face death that way! I cling to this life as though it’s the best there is, as though I don’t hope for something greater to come.

But this world is not all that God has planned for us. This temporary life of pain and sin will eventually be replaced with a new, perfect, eternal life. God has Heaven in store for us after our earthly death! When we compare our time in this world to the one God has in store for us, this time is so brief. The Bible refers to our life as “a breath.”

Psalm 39: 4-5 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”

As Christians, we can approach this short time we spend on earth surrounded by sin and the pain of death much the same way an expectant mother suffering from “preggo problems” views her pregnancy: focused on the end goal. Just as a mother yearns to hold her baby in her arms at the end of her gestation and labor, we can yearn for our heavenly father to embrace us one day at the end of an earthly life of suffering and death.

Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Rather than cling to the pain that we know, we can cling to the hope that we have.

Hebrews 6:19a “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

How do you feel about death and the life to come after it? Are there times when you cling to this imperfect life fearfully as though it’s all you’ve got? What reassures you of the hope and assurance of eternal life with God that we have as Christians?

AmberSignature

fall into grace // a collection of short stories

My favorite thing about Autumn is the harvesting. Food and grace bring people closer. A gift from God.

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.

The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. Psalm 65: 11-13

fallhhh

  • A sweet older German woman from our church comes rushing to our door with paper bag after paper bag filled with seasonal vegetables, plums, and apples. She doesn't have time to stay because she has to get back to her garden. I call and tell my Mom about this and she informs me that my Grandpa (diagnosed with acute-leukemia) coincidentally said that he missed the mini plum-tree from their old house and wondered if she remembered how sweet they were in comparison to the store-bought plums. IDEA! I quickly strap the kids in the van and we cruise off to complete a special delivery. We are not able to see my Grandpa in person as he had completed his first chemotherapy treatment hours before but we are greeted by my Grandma and Mom in their driveway. My Grandpa has very little appetite these days but the site of the plums made him want to taste and remember. Our hearts are full. Abundance. 

towerhhh

  • A woman in her 90s with wit and humor quicker than my own welcomes my family over to have complete access to her garden and pick fresh raspberries. Her eyes smile as she watches our kids run and eat raspberries without abandon. Their energy enlivens her. After our long day at church (no nursery for two years! but behavior improving nonetheless) she calms my conscience by pulling me close and telling me that she loves hearing the kids in church and urges me to keep on... to not stop bringing the little ones to Jesus. She continues, "The years go by so fast... I still remember the years of being that needful mama and I miss them." A reminder. I hug my children closer, look at their tiny hands and am filled with gratitude. Our time together warms my heart and she calls later to tell us what a happy time she had as well. What is her gift? What else is she harvesting? Gladness.

falleafhhh

  • Upon pulling into my driveway I stop short of almost hitting our neighbor - I'm holding my breath, no joke. His form was hidden behind a large tree. I roll down the window to say "Hello! Oh! Please excuse me!" but he doesn't answer or even acknowledge that my van is within feet of him. I quickly realize that our new neighbor, a 92 year old Chinese man, is hard of hearing. I park the van and walk near to tell him the crab apples that he is sweeping off of our driveway will be cleared by my husband. He cannot understand me so I say in Chinese, "Mei guan xi!" that means "No problem, it does not matter!". He insists on clearing our driveway and I relent pushing the matter. I continue to practice my broken Chinese with him and learn where he is from. Our little conversation reminds me of my love for his home country and my heart is so happy to have made this new friend. Almost everyday I catch him and his wife outside my window working together and enjoying this simple task of sweeping the crab apples from our driveway back on their lawn.

    Another day the children and I are outside raking regular apples in our backyard and we see our neighbor in his garden. I jump and scramble to find several large apples without spots from our fruit trees and have the kids join me in delivering them to him. Again with my broken Chinese I offer him the fruit. He repeats "Bu hao!" which means "No good!" to me while pointing to his mouth of missing teeth. Ah... he doesn't have many teeth to chew the apples with. I nod and leave the apples awkwardly on the bench anyway. My oldest yells "Zai jian!" with her squeaky voice and takes off for the play house.

    Later, I notice a person walking up to our front door. I open it to find our elderly Chinese neighbor's younger daughter. What a surprise! I thought it was just the elderly couple that lived there. Turns out she works at Panera Bread and hands me a large box filled with AMAZING pastries and decorated pumpkin cookies from her work. We quickly learn each others names, her parents' history, her life in America, our brief time in China and we agree to have tea soon. IDEA! Remember all those crunchy apples that I harvested from our fruit trees? I'm going to make some applesauce just for them. Strong and weak teeth can enjoy that. :) Oh! What gifts I have been given just so that I can share them with others! Joy. 

...remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35b

What are you harvesting this season? Who can you share your blessings with if you have an abundance? Perhaps someone who least expects it? Maybe you can share some words of encouragement to reap gladness? Or random acts of kindness to bring joy? 

AmandaSignature