Love is the greatest.
1 Corinthians 13:13
The afternoon felt heavy. An ominous malaise settled down over me. Nothing felt good or right. I pulled on my coat and scarf and pushed open the door, hoping that a gentle walk would lift my spirits. I walked through the meadow, by the tall trees, and listened to their leaves applauding the day on the breeze. Somewhere off in the distance, a farmers dog barked excitedly. The sun did her best to warm my body, but my heart was cold as stone.
“God, can you please help me?” I prayed under my breath with each step I took. “I’m discouraged.”
“Here, take my hand,” God replied and began walking with me. “What seems to be troubling you? Tell me all about it.”
I shared with God the heartaches I’d kept to myself lately. They tumbled out of me fast and furious—tears joining them as I spoke. When I finished, God hugged me. “I’m here for you,” He said. I wiped my nose on my coat sleeve.
“Thank you,” I replied through my sniffles.
“I love you, my sweet Sparrow,” He said softly. We walked the rest of the way in silence, me holding His hand tightly. When we got back to the cottage, I put another log on the fire and cozied up on the chaise. All I had needed to banish my blues was to know that I am loved.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The cottage was cold when I woke up; I threw a sweater over my shoulders and made my way to the kitchen. A stew would be good tonight, I thought to myself. I poked around in the fridge and found the vegetables I wanted—parsnips, turnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and rutabagas—along with some grass-fed beef. I took my time peeling and chopping everything, savoring the quiet of the morning.
Hours later, I was curled up on the chaise lounge working, when the stew’s heady aroma found its way to me. It reminded me of fall, of gathering together to share a meal. A melancholy welled up in me. I missed my children. “God, I’m a bit lonely,” I said. “I’m cooking a gorgeous stew and there isn’t anyone to share it with.” God started to reply but a knock on my kitchen door interrupted Him. “Coming!” I hollered down the hall. I opened the door to find Tom, my elderly neighbor. I motioned for him to come inside.
“Whatever that is cooking sure smells good,” he said, as he took his hat off.
“Would you like to come by later and join me for dinner?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t be an imposition?” he asked, twisting his cap in his hands.
“Heavens no. I’d love the company,” I said. “But what can I do for you now? Did you stop by for anything in particular?”
“No, not really. I was driving by and something made me want to stop in and see how you are doing,” he said. I smiled because I knew who had sent him.
“Thank you,” I said to both Tom and God. I opened the lid on the crockpot and stirred the stew, looking forward to setting the table for two.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
His eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen…
I laced up my hiking boots and set out to walk the woods just beyond the property line. The sun had not yet climbed high enough to warm the earth, the night’s chill was still present.
“Where are you going this morning, Sparrow?” God asked.
“Walking in the woods,” I answered.
“I’ll join you,” God whispered through the trees. We walked on, following a deer path that carved through the underbrush. As we made our way uphill, God pointed out things I’d have otherwise missed. “Look there,” He said. Off to my right was a tiny paper wasp nest that had fallen from a tree. I picked it up gently to take back home with me. Farther uphill God pointed to a sunbleached jawbone of a deer. “Life and death happens here in the forest,” He said. I nodded, not wanting to break the still silence of the woods. We walked on, as the sun rose higher. “Do you see that?” God said as we passed by the creek. There on the banks was evidence that a bear had recently visited the rushing water. And farther uphill, God pointed out colorful lichen that laced the boulders next to the path. When we finally arrived at the top of the ridge, we stopped. Beyond us, as far as the eye could see, were the foothills of the Sierra Mountains.
“They’re beautiful,” I said and leaned my head against God’s shoulder. We stood there for quite some time, taking in the grandeur of the terrain. “I’d like to write about this morning—the sweetness of your company, the beauty of your creation,” I said, “But I’m not sure how to capture the feelings.”
“You’ll find the words,” God said.
“I hope so,” I said and turned to make my way back to the cottage to tell you that about my walk with our Father, in hopes that you’d be inspired to walk with Him, too.
“Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.”
Outside a bird is singing, its voice a new addition to the garden—I’ve never heard this song before. It’s a small cry, like the mewing of a frightened kitten. It makes me think of the Psalms of lament; the plaintive wails of troubled souls. Like the bird, I lift my voice up to God. “Have you forgotten me, Father, for today has been an arduous journey,” I moan. Tears that I’ve held at bay no longer can I hold—they spill down my face in rivers of grief and pain.
The bird flies off and all that I am left with is the gentle sound of the breeze rustling through the oak trees. All that remains is the promise of God, and on that, I must rely. A finch breaks the spell of my mourning with a song of joy. I wipe my tears and settle my breathing, knowing that outside, a bird is singing, and all is in Divine Right Order. Even my pain is in God’s glorious good hands.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
Here, where the morning has not yet revealed herself fully, I sit in the coolness and watch the light spread across the garden. In this tender moment of daybreak, I lean into God, nestling my head onto His shoulder, seeking His comfort.
“Thank you for this morning,” I whisper.
God brushes a tendril of hair from my face and whispers, “You are welcome.”
I want to say more, to pour out of my heart all that has been troubling me, but something about the softness of the morning stops me. Instead, I sit in silence and rest against God.
The sun makes her slow climb up beyond the horizon, and I rise and make my way into the start of my morning, carrying with me the warmth and strength of God’s strong shoulder.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
My dog Shakespeare balked at jumping into the back seat of the car. I thought it odd, as he is usually excited to go places. Eventually, I convinced him to get in. Once we ran our errands and got home, he balked at walking up the stairs. Quickly, I connected the dots. He had hurt his back and was in pain. It’s happened before. I gently picked him up and carried him inside and put him in his dog bed.
I had major back surgery when I was 21. Most of my back is fused together. I can empathize with sweet Shakespeare’s pain, because years ago, I had pain too. It is easy to recognize someone’s pain if we’ve experienced something similar, but not so easy if we haven’t.
I’m learning to ask others, “What does that feel like?” when they tell me things I haven’t experienced, and I don’t have a reference point. We don’t have to fully understand someone’s pain to be helpful. All we have to do is to listen and to give someone our time and attention. Lending someone our ears, and our arms for a comforting hug is often the best medicine on the planet. In Shakespeare’s case, it’s a trip to the vet, rest, and lot’s of my attention—and some dog treats!