“God has not promised skies always blue, flower strewn pathways all our lives through; God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrows, peace without pain.  But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, and undying love.”

What amazing gifts our Creator, this Supreme Being, has bestowed upon His unworthy, undeserving, and oft times disobedient people. The Architect of this Universe has painted the heavens a stunning pink each morning as the sun rises in the East just through my kitchen window; each evening He washes the horizon a bold orange and a rich royal purple behind the pine trees to the West. Viewed from our front porch rocking chairs or from the cozy swing just at the end of the porch, the stunning display is the same month after month, year after year; breathtaking.  Some evenings Bill and I drive the golf cart down Howard Street and through the woods to the back entrance of Merrimac Lake where we sit quietly and watch as the sun drops, quickly now, into the horizon. There lingers a line of soft tangerine; we sigh and drive home—often without talking. What can one say about such a magnificent display, arranged and played out for the likes of us? 

For years, 57 to be exact, Bill and I have taken such casual moments, routine little occurrences, as just that—routine, commonplace, ordinary. Something we have earned. Why, we have worked hard in order to have the time and the place (our retirement home) in which to spend our days filled with pleasant, predictable activities. We can choose whether to lunch on the back screened porch, eating ham sandwiches and potato chips and enjoying the antics of the birds, squirrels and tiny chipmunks or we can go to the Pizza place or to the pricier French restaurant on the hill. We can choose. We have labored hard. We have earned this retreat from the hustle bustle of the work world. God has promised “rest for the labor,” and it is sweet.

Of course, sometimes it is too hot to enjoy the porches, the grass is sere from three weeks or more of drought, or the rain is blowing into our lunch space with the force of a hurricane. The flowers, red salvia, pink begonias, and tender ferns which were planted with such hope and optimism, have shriveled and begun to die. Reminders that God has not promised that we shall always enjoy “flower strewn pathways,” “blue skies.”

September 14, 2019 was the three month anniversary of the day our lives changed. Big time. In the space of a moment, with the doctor’s diagnosis. The lesions that had taken up residence in Bill’s brain and in his lung would put us into a Category 5 storm. Defined as “an abnormal change in structure of an organ due to injury or disease; especially: one that is circumscribed and well defined.” There went our blue skies, our flower strewn pathways, sunny days, and our peaceful existence. Our lives took on a new cadence, a routine we had never imagined would be ours. I was given “strength for the day,” strength to care for and advocate for Bill almost 24 hours every day for weeks. But I was also given rest. There were others, my precious daughters, my sister and brother, my sister-in-law, and countless, I mean Countless friends, who came to the hospital and then to our home, who would offer me and my daughters “rest from the labor,” sincere, heartfelt “sympathy,” and Love. A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck! 

Cards have come in daily. Three, four, five or six each day, attesting to the love with which our family, our small town community, our dear neighbors and our sweet church friends feel for Bill and for me, too. They have come with food, with flowers and gifts and with small “appliances” (like a bath chair, a walker) to make his recovery easier. There has not been sorrow without joy, or sadness without laughter, nor has there been pain without the peace that has followed. There has been light and grace, and much help from above. We have felt God’s empathy, His responsiveness. I have seen His spirit in the eyes and hands of the nurses whose kindnesses and smiles have given balm and comfort to Bill’s mind and body.  And I have felt with deep certainty His undying love for us, His children.

A sweet calm lay over the darkened hospital room, day after day, night after long, long night as I thought about our future. There will be trials; I know there will be pain. Of course, like all humans, we will experience loss and sorrow, endings of all things here on this earth. But we are blessed with the truth that there is one who will hold us close through those times, and will walk with us to the other side of sadness and of grief, for that is God’s promise.

 “He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge” (Psalm 91:4 NKJV).

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.