In Ohio autumn has come late this year. We have just begun to have cool, crisp evenings and nights as well as a reduction in daytime temperatures and humidity. Only a few trees are arrayed with leaves that have begun their showy fall display. I revel in these beautiful sunny days with crystal clear blue sky along with a few white fluffy clouds. They nudge me to go outside and let all my senses drink it all in before we dip into the late fall that ushers in winter.
Autumn gives me much to celebrate: my birthday, our daughter’s wedding anniversary, my dad’s birthday, memories of falling in love during this season on a college campus more than 50 years ago. But if none of those things had happened during this season, the season itself would be enough to celebrate.
During this season my thoughts often go to someone else who celebrated autumn and relished every aspect of it. Her name was Linda. I first met her a bit more than twenty years ago. She came to see me for a heart and ears to listen to her prepare for and grapple with her approaching death. Her various physical difficulties had been going on for a long time and she felt journeying with her had exhausted her family, friends, and church body. She had no questions about her destination, but the ever-present pain was wearying her. She sought a Christian clinical counselor for this last part of her journey home. I shared that journey with her for nearly two years.
This autumn season was her favorite and she especially loved a metro park not far from where she lived. She was unable to drive, but would often ask others to take her there and drive through the park noting her memories at various points along the way. During her last autumn she asked me if I would come and pick her up and drive her through her park. It was an hour’s drive to get there, but I agreed without question.
As I drove along the winding roads of the park, she bubbled with joy and conversation. She pointed out beautiful trees, the rocky bank of a stream, and more. She told me when a friend had brought her to that rocky bank where she had smashed eggs against the rocks to deal with her anger at the pain she endured. Her pain began early in life with abuse and then a serious heart surgery that left her with complications that led to the diseased liver that was killing her now. She pointed out the fire pit where she had once toasted marshmallows and the set of swings she loved to swing on. She asked me to stop so she could swing on them one more time and invited me to join her.
She told me at our last visit before she could no longer come to my office that she had learned a great deal from me, but I knew then that I was the one who had learned the most. Sharing her journey had become a precious gift. Her courage and unwavering faith provoked my own. Her well-honed faith was the kind that grew from telling the Lord exactly how she felt whether she was sad, angry, lonely, or afraid. It wasn’t the stained glass sort of faith that never seems to serve us well during difficult times. Her faith had been forged through much testing. She never minced words with the Lord and in return He met her at every turn with His presence.
It was only a few months after that late autumn drive together that she finally was able to see her Jesus face-to-face. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and included a videotape she had made while someone else was driving her through her beloved park on another autumn day. It ended with her swinging on a swing, encouraging all of us, waving good-bye. Linda blessed each one of us beyond measure that day.
Not long after that, a friend of hers brought me her last journal. She said Linda had wanted me to have it. She thought it might be something I could share with others on difficult journeys. Today I sensed the Lord nudge me to pull out the journal and share some of her words with you. This is the first of three posts. Perhaps He knows just who needs to read them. Linda left the gift in 1999 for you!
“Storms and boats! Ever been in a storm? The waves are crashing, lightening is flashing, the boat is rocking! Feel alone? Well, we aren’t! Jesus has promised to be in the boat with us! He’s promised to bring calm to the waves. At times though, I sure feel alone! But God’s promised He’d never leave us and never forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5) Jesus has promised to calm our storms! (Matthew 8:26)
We think He’s not even in the boat – yet He’s there…yet we try to calm our boat! Have you ever stood up in a boat? Just our standing up makes us rock the boat all the more! Yet, if we wait and trust in Jesus – He is sure to calm our storm, steady our boat, and keep us from drowning!
Jesus has even promised to be “our anchor” in the storm. (Hebrews 6:19) An anchor works best in a storm. It is our safety line in our seas of turmoil and crashing waves. It’s our footing on shaky ground – our lifeline! Out lifeline to Father God! Are you struggling in your storm? Well, put out your anchor in the storm and hold on! Our storms won’t last forever…God’s promised!”