Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Life and Death Intertwined


A cloud of caramel-colored cattail fluff flew towards me. Waving his cattail sword gleefully against the red slide and grey drawbridge, Daniel laughed as each swat emitted another fairy-tale cloud of fluff. It clung to his navy and red-striped pants, and tickled his neck near the blue hoodie. Wrinkling my nose unconsciously at the tiny fibers brushing past my nose, I didn’t even try to avoid the stream of air-borne particles glinting in the sunlight. 

The air smelled damp and earthy after yesterday’s rain which had melted the snow back to small resistant patches. We’ve had several days of sixty degree weather and forecasters have predicted a week of low seventies actually. All of Minnesota is giddy. Accustomed to slush in March and possible snow in April, this weather has bewitched us. Trees tentatively bud, daffodils stand tall against all dire warnings, and Minnesotans of all ages put on shorts, grab running shoes or strollers, and head outside. 

Lying on a damp park bench and taking deep breaths of the spring air, I lazily watched my preschooler explore the woods beside me.  Chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, and red-winged blackbirds called. Robins chattered and warned of passers-by. With blue skies and sunshine, it is so much easier to count God’s gifts. They roll off the tongue with each new bird I identify and breath of spring. 

But the hard gifts? Those are harder to name and count, especially when they happen to those close to me. Three of my friends wrestle with cancer. One friend marks a year since her tiny three year old has battled cancer, lost strawberry-blonde hair, and bravely taken toxins via a port. Two other friends have just made Cancer’s acquaintance, and already he demanded heavy fees. Surgery sliced the chest. Femininity isn’t dependent on that. Chemotherapy stole another’s red locks.  I read, and prayed and wept. 

On the park bench dampness was seeping into my jeans now. The sun had moved slightly, and preschooler explored further in the woods. Life and death lay entwined beneath him, old grasses, bare trees, and twisted brambles that scratched his tiny hands as he climbed doggedly over fallen trunks. 

This week a dear friend gave birth to a beautiful baby with a head of hair! This lovely baby stares steadily out at us all from her photos, amazingly alert, and already planning adventures. We rejoice and delight in each photo. 

In my Bible this morning I read the NIV study note’s introduction to Lamentations. One scholar said: In the middle of the book, the theology of Lamentations reaches its apex as it focuses on the goodness of God. He is the Lord of hope, of love, of faithfulness, of salvation. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam.3:22,23)

What is amazing to me today about this well-known verse and song lyric is noticing where this verse is said, and when. 

The ancient city of Jerusalem had been besieged, destroyed, and burned. Most of its peoples had been carried off to a foreign land that was over 543 miles away. Only the weak or the very old were still left in the city. Famine had been horrendous and people had eaten the unimaginable. 

In between weeping and grieving for their families, cities, and home, the survivors and remnant said: “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed…for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

Over 543 miles from home, surrounded by a new language, grieving the life they thought they would be living, they say, “his mercies are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.”  I have so much to learn.

Life and death interwoven. Toxins, toddlers, and floating caramel-colored cattail tufts, glinting in the sun. Climbing doggedly over fallen trunks and scratched by brambles, Daniel emerged from the tangled undergrowth. Holding hands, we ambled home, counting gifts, and breathing deeply.

11 comments:

Denise said...

Wonderful post.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Denise. Blessings to you this week.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AmyAlves said...

This was a beautiful post Jennifer, it felt like it flowed right out of you! Thank you for sharing your heart! As you know, I am learning the heart of gratitude right now too, in all things. God is good. -Blessings out to you girl, Amy

Tina said...

This is beautiful writing Jen. God is amazing, ESPECIALLY in the midst of pain and sorrow. Had I not gone through it, I wouldn't have known just how great and how good He truly is!
May He bless you and your family this week!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Amy,

It really is a learning process, isn't it, to pause, see, and name the gifts back to God. I like how Ann calls it "changing from a default of discontent to doxology."

Have a great week.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Tina,

Thank you. To hear you expound on how amazing, great and good He is from the road you have walked blesses me. Thank you. That grows my faith.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Cheryl Barker said...

Such is life, huh, Jennifer? Pain amid the pleasure... Thanks for sharing the context of the verse in Lamentations. Amazing. I pray I will always be able to speak such faithful words.

Kristen said...

Love the post Jen. It's been remembering the blessings and goodness from God amongst the pain that has kept
us close to God. I love the spring analogy.
Love you guys!
Kris

Lolita said...

I got time to go back for missed post, those when I wasn't stalking you yet. Ha ha ha.

I have fallen in love with the way you romance with God's word and reflect it in life.

Thank you for this one, Jen. Although it was written way back, it is as fresh as the spring you are picturing to us.

The analogy of springtime fun versus the woes it carries is at balance before God. We rejoice at anything and everything.

What words of reminder to reflect upon.

His compassion I am benefited at all times.

I thank and praise God for you.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Lolita,

You are welcome to browse any and all of my posts. I am honored and thrilled to have you here. Thanks for your encouraging words.

Blessings,
Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com