“You’re holding up pretty well for an older woman.” -Joseph M. Price
It was at a funeral that Joe and I reconnected almost twenty years after our teenage courtship. I mean, where else, right? We exchanged pleasantries and a brief hug after the service. I was standing in the frozen foods section of Walmart that evening when my phone buzzed, letting me know that I had received a Facebook message. From Joe.
It read: You’re holding up pretty well for an older woman.
We like to think of it as the pick up line that will forever live in infamy. 🙂 But…it worked.
He loved to pick on me for being a TEENSY bit older, but if ever there was an old man, it was Joe Price! His “old soul” was one of the things I loved about him most. Even though he had the spirit of an old man, his mind was sharp as a tack. Walking through the woods, he could (and would) tell you the name of EVERY tree he saw. He knew the names of my own ancestors (and probably yours, too) better than I knew them and could rattle off a list of names at the drop of a hat. He could NOT remember a birthday to save his life, but…I digress.
One of the ways I knew his age was beginning to catch up with him a little was that he had begun to repeat himself. He would tell me a story, then tell it again just a few days later. I never corrected him. I fondly remember the voice of my sweet Granny saying, “If I’ve told you this already, just listen again. It’s worth hearing twice!”
Speaking of hearing something twice—if you have followed the blog since the beginning, you may remember that the first lesson I posted was actually dated March 15, 2020. It was the last sermon Joe delivered to our congregation before Covid ended life as we knew it. Joe wrote these lessons for several years, so I considered using one for this week that he wrote in March two or three years back. Yet, I just kept returning to this one. It was relevant last March. It was relevant on Christmas Eve. Oddly enough, it is even more relevant today.
Trust me. As Granny said, it is worth hearing twice.
March 15 2020
A SEASON FOR EVERYTHING
I really enjoy fall and winter. Each year I look forward to the cooler temperatures after our hot and humid Eastern North Carolina summer. I look forward to hunting season, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, by the time we get through the cold, short days of January and February, I’ll admit that I am ready to see some signs of spring.
Winter helps to prepare the ground for the next season. Without each season playing its part, our environment here on earth would surely collapse.
Sometimes, as Christians, we may think that if we follow God’s commands and do like we are supposed to, we won’t (or we shouldn’t have to) endure hardships or hurt. However, life, like nature, moves in seasons.
Ecclesiastes 3 states that “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven. A time to be born. A time to die. A time to plant. A time to pluck what is planted. A time to kill. A time to heal. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.”
We are part of a sinful world, and we ourselves are not without sin. Sometimes being part of that world means that we have to go through our own painful experiences or seasons.
Yet, God will take our hard times and trials and use them for good and for His glory. He will take our season of suffering and use it to open our eyes to the hard times others are going through. He will use seasons of death to remind us of the beauty of life. He will use our seasons of sorrow to draw us ever closer to Him.
Whatever season of life you find yourself in right now, I want you to remember that God uses everything for the good of those who love Him.
Take some time to examine the seasons of your life. Remember how God spoke to you and as you go out into the world this week, look for others who need your encouragement.
I’ll leave you with Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He hath made everything beautiful in His time”.
I. Hate. Pollen.
I mean, I get it. Scientifically, pollen is necessary. If I wish to enjoy the goodness of warmer weather, I must endure the days when pollen falls in sheets, my head pounds and my eyelids are pretty much swelled shut. Despite the fact that the lush green of late spring is quite a sight to behold, this particular season is physically painful for me.
So, between my pollen induced sneezing (have you sneezed snot into your mask yet, friends?? Good times….), a streak of mild temperatures, and the time change, the seasons have been on my mind this week. As usual, Joe’s words are right on time.
If nothing else, grief has made me empathetic to the suffering around me. Joe’s message, along with another devotion I read this week, caused me to reflect upon how seasonal changes might affect other creations. What must the change be like…for the tree?
I have a recurring epiphany toward the end of every spring. Flowers bloom, the azaleas really show off, and grass is lush and bright again. But there’s always one day when it seems as if overnight the barren tree branches of winter have come alive with vibrant green fullness. The sight of it takes my breath every single year. It is such a happy sight.
But what did that transformation feel like for the tree?
In early summer, the tree is green, healthy and strong. Birds rest on branches, children squeal with delight as they climb and swing, adults find rest under its shade. Trees are needed. Trees are loved. Trees are admired. In summer, the tree is living its best life!
Then fall comes. Sure, the leaves stiffen a little and begin to lose color, but with that comes the delicious breath of cooler air. Older and wiser, the tree understands that even though life was good when its leaves were green, the days were hot and tiresome. This season is a bit slower, the noise a little softer, and the tree is still a sight to behold. It understands that there is beauty and wisdom that comes with age.
Even though winter comes each and every year, it is always a shock to the tree when it happens. One day the sun is warm and bright, and the next day the bitter winds come and strip the last of the leaves away, leaving the tree shocked and exposed. While humans layer up and huddle beneath warm covers, the tree finds itself with no layer of warmth or protection against icy winds that cause the branches to snap and break. The birds are gone. The children kept inside. And although it thinks it cannot bear another broken branch, sometimes the pruner comes. More branches are snapped away, leaving open wounds that are painfully slow to mend and callous over.
And finally, the breath of spring arrives. Humans see the buds, the first glimpses of new life. But the tree? The tree looks down and sees the wounds. The scars. The holes left behind when the winter and the pruner chipped away at what the tree had believed made it whole…The tree sees the buds and feels the buds as they push their way through. Even that process is painful. You see, the tree liked who it was before. The old branches were strong and trusted. The old branches were safe. To the humans, the fresh new greenness is full of beauty and hope. But to the tree, this newness is frightening and foreign. Perhaps the tree does not even recognize itself.
And so, in the early morning dusk when trees look black against a sherbert colored sky, its limbs are heavy and hanging low. Gently and sweetly, God whispers. Quietly, the leaves rustle as they lift themselves upward to listen.
“In just a few hours, ” He tells the tree, ” she will see you as she does on this day every year. But this time, she will see you through different eyes. As always, she will be struck by the sheer beauty of your vibrant leaves, but her eyes will fill with tears. This year, she understands. When you were living your golden days of summer, so was she. As you eased into fall, as your leaves faded and stiffened, she noticed herself aging as well. Just as you relished in this season, she relished in her own golden age of contentment. I think you both would have been satisfied to stay that way forever. But, that is not how seasons work. Winter took you both by surprise. Your branches broke and cracked, as did her heart. Sometimes being the Pruner is a most difficult job. This season, it was especially so. This year, it seems that the Heavens cried longer, rained down on the earth for days on end. Yet, while other trees in the forest toppled down under the bitter winds and relentless rain, you stood. I know you wanted to fall over, too. It seemed a kinder fate, I’m sure. Yet, this year, you learned to lean in. She learned to do that, too.
When she sees you today, she will think to herself that your leaves have never been as vibrant as they are this year. And she will be correct. As painful as that season was, with all of its pruning and bitter wind and rain, it was the only way to grow you. I know that doesn’t make sense to you now, but one day it will.
So, today, I need you to lift yourself up and dance in the beautiful breath of spring. I know it doesn’t feel the same. I know you miss what used to be. But, don’t look back. Don’t look down. Look Up. Look at Me and I will whisper gentle winds of hope all through your branches. She needs to see you dance.
She will look at you in this new season and appreciate what you endured to get here. She may even run her hand across your wounds, and gently touch her own chest where her deepest wounds are kept. I hope you’ll let her touch your hurt places so that she will know in time, her own hurt places will heal. Like yours, her scars will remain, but they will become a testimony of all that was and all that will ever be. Through her tears, she will look at you and understand that it was in the very season that almost broke you that I created the strongest, most beautiful tree she has ever seen. You will remind her that although My ways are not her ways, I make everything beautiful again…in its time.”
Sweet friend, I don’t know much, but this I know for sure. Winter was tough, but we didn’t topple over. As long as we are still standing, there is more to our story. It’s ok to take a moment to run your fingers over your scars. Those raised up places represent the healing power of Jesus. In every inch, you’ll find His mercies. But you must also open wide your heart to the gifts of new life He gives you in this season. Before long, this earth will explode with gorgeous, bright, new spring life. You might miss it if you look down at your scars too long. Look up. Lift your limbs high and let Him whisper gentle words of hope all through your branches. He wants to see you dance.
(image source: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/320248223486351996/)
-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe