In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Study a Snowflake

snowflakeThe grass is still green and some leaves yet on the trees when the first lazy snowflakes come drifting down. It is early for snow, even here on the Canadian prairies; just a tease of what is to come, I think.

Like white feathers shaken from the wings of angels, the flakes float earthward. I go outside, turn my face up to the sky and get lost in the swirl, entranced by each crystal kiss upon my cheek. Remembering that every snowflake is unique in design, a combination of crystals only made once, intensifies the wonder.

No amount of cold, hard scientific explanation can detract from the intricate beauty of a magnified snowflake. Technology has equipped scientists to photograph individual snowflakes with precise detail. They are microscopic works of art, beautiful symmetry too small to see with the naked eye.

Author and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, said of snowflakes, “How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” The “fashioning hand” he refers to belongs to God, the Creator. Even a man steeped in Indian spiritual thought recognizes that snowflakes could only be divinely designed.

Such is the unlimited imagination of our Creator God. “He says to the snow ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ so that everyone He has made may know His work. – (Job 37:6-7 NIV) The Creator shows Himself to His creatures through His creation. So the question arises, why does God make something unlikely to be seen in its minute beauty so ephemeral? Does it really matter that each snowflake is beautiful in its own form, no two alike, when it is destined to melt away?

As with so many questions about God, I believe the answer is love. By placing His fingerprint on every single snowflake He is saying to us, “See how I love you! I want everything around you to be beautiful, to bless you and cause you to see Me and turn to Me.” A snowflake is only one wonder out of the myriad of His creations which speaks love in its beauty, intricacy and purpose.

In one way a snowflake resembles God’s ultimate creation, man. Each single snowflake, like each human being, is original, genuine, one of a kind. “For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.” (Psalm 139:13-14 The Voice) Every one of the seven billion people on earth today is unique unto themselves, formed by the loving hands of their Creator to be an individual like no other. Does that not speak love?

A snowflake cannot wonder about its maker, but I can. I wonder what He was thinking when He formed me in my mother’s womb? Did He stretch out my fingers to make them long and narrow? What shade of autumn leaf did He imagine when He chose the color of my hair? Did it give Him pleasure to plant joy with each word I would someday write?

Having come from a temperate climate to a place where there are four distinct seasons, snow is still a novelty to me. I hope l never lose the wonder of a fresh snowfall. May each minute snowflake remind me of God’s limitless capacity to create distinctiveness in nature and people. The fact that we cannot fully comprehend the vast diversity displayed in the universe should be sufficient evidence of God’s existence for those who doubt.
Just study a snowflake.

(photo courtesy of  SnowCrystals.com.)