Photography Credit: Joshua Fears
Location: Berchtesgaden, Germany
I used to love the quiet. Always being an introspective person, I would often sit with my thoughts and reflect on them and why I was thinking those things. And it was in the quiet that I felt myself connected and close to God. That I could feel his presence. In college, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on one of the swings they had scattered throughout the campus. I would swing away. I’d look up at the clouds and talk to God. I’d see the flowers around me and hear the birds singing and knew that God was near. I felt happy. Content. Close to Him. I’d journal my thoughts instead of studying for my next exam. But this was something I loved to do.
Life and circumstances have changed since those college days, back when life was more simple and carefree.
There came a time when I was sick after the birth of my daughter. I had postpartum depression and anxiety and oh, how things changed! I did not want to sit with my thoughts anymore. I didn’t want to hear my thoughts or have the thoughts I had. They scared me. I did not want to be alone.
But things have a way of coming full circle sometimes. Despite not wanting to be alone for a second while I was sick, there were times when I would take the courageous step outside of my parent’s house (who were taking care of me and my baby at that time) and I would walk out into their backyard. It was beautiful out there. It overlooked a quiet, peaceful, still lake. And, there was a wooden swing. Waiting for me; calling out to me to come sit on its bench and do what I’d done long before. Talk to God.
And I would swing away. In desperation, this time, I pleaded with the Lord to please take this away from me; to please, please heal me. Heal me for myself, but more importantly, to heal me for my family. They needed me and I was so sick I could barely take care of myself. I remember crying out to the Lord with tears in my eyes, “My God, My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”
God heard me. He even saw me hit a tree with a very large stick…with great force, I might add. I was so angry. Why was this happening to me?
But it was in the stillness, out on that wooden swing, that I knew in my heart of hearts that God was listening to me. I could feel his presence, not strongly, but I knew or hoped that He would have pity on me.
And he did pity me. My Father loved me. He sent birds my way that made a nest outside my window and they would sing to me loudly every morning.
And one day, healing finally found me.
Now, after surviving such a battle, I have been on the mend. But I still struggle.
As a stay at home mom with a two and a half year old daughter, I now find the silence to be like a double edged sword. Perhaps other moms can relate. Some moments, after being constantly needed and followed around all day (let’s admit – having your space invaded all day!) and then when it’s nap time, I welcome the stillness and quiet with open arms. I turn off the tv, and even leave the music off. I’ll just sit there, and revel in the peace where I can finally breathe again.
But, on the other hand, there are times when the silence is truly deafening. Even frightening again at times. Our thoughts can consume us…thoughts of worry and “what if’s”, contemplating our purpose and all the deep questions you can think of can arise in just a few moments time of sitting there alone with your thoughts. Isn’t this why we are so busy all the time? Why we’re always on the go, leaving no idle time? That’s why we’re on our phones, scrolling pointlessly through our Facebook feed, wasting time, but it keeps us, or maybe even “saves” us from thinking.
But God, he is beckoning us to come to the stillness. To find that wooden swing to sit on and just talk and pray to Him. For that is where we will truly find our peace. We find our peace in the stillness. We talk to Him and lay our burdens at his feet.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. To know that we have a Father who cares for us should bring great comfort to our souls.
In my prayer/writing room, I have this sign hanging above my desk; “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. It is a reminder that I need to see daily. It may be intimidating and overwhelming to think of being still, for you, like me, may be afraid of your thoughts and where all they can lead you. But God is powerful.
Satan is powerful, too, yes, and he wants your mind to dwell in the dark places. That is why we must remember the verse: “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Give your thoughts to God…tell Him. He already knows your every thought, but we grow close to Him in releasing that to Him. Our thoughts might be scary and overwhelming, but surrendering those to Him can leave us with a sense of freedom. Peace. He has the power to calm the anxiety within us; we just have to hand it over.
Be still, and you might just find the God your heart has been searching for.
[Backstory. I wrote this poem about a dark time in my life, when I suffered through postpartum depression. This is very personal to share, and a word of warning that it can be triggering and intense, but the ending of the poem offers Hope. I have felt the need to share this in hopes that it might help someone know that healing will come. Do not give up!]
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
And they remind.
They taunt . . . “Remember? Remember?
Remember your pain. Remember your fear.
I will always be here to remind you,”
Their screeching, ugly voices tell me.
I often wonder how they found me.
I’d seen them using their evil powers
In those I loved
From the time I was a little girl.
I always deeply feared them.
That one day they would search me out
And find me.
That their midnight black darkness
Would encircle me and choke out the world.
That those birds would steal my joy,
And replace it with tears.
I never knew Fear until they found where I was hiding.
I’d seen it and felt it before
But I never truly knew Fear until the birds came.
I brought Life into this world.
She was Beauty.
Heaven came down and Love
Came flowing from my eyes,
When I saw her for the first time
And she breathed her first breath;
When her first cries were heard
by her Mother and Father.
Yes, Heaven came down in those moments.
My eyes beheld Beauty
And my arms held her.
And then, in a moment,
I thought I was losing my Beauty,
The life I’d just brought into this world.
Something went wrong with my child,
And for tortuously long moments
That will forever be immeasurable,
She was taken away from me.
And I was left alone.
Alone I cried,
Alone I wondered if I’d see
The Beauty again.
I wondered if I had seen her for the last time.
I wondered if I would hear her beautiful cry,
If I’d ever hold her again.
My beloved husband
Returned to me,
As I lay there waiting.
There was hope in my heart again
When he whispered, “She is okay.”
That our little Beauty we’d created
Had held onto his finger tightly.
We then knew,
Our Beauty was a Fighter.
When I saw her again
She was under a glass container;
The artificial oxygen filling the air
To help her breathe.
But I saw a little baby,
Struggling, crying, fighting.
Fighting for her life.
Frantically and Fearfully
I watched the numbers
And felt helpless,
As they were not where they were supposed to be.
I was scared.
Scared I was still going to lose her.
“Don’t grow attached,
Don’t grow attached,”
Something told me.
When she was finally returned to us,
Relief filled our hearts.
But something held me back —
I couldn’t believe that she was back in my arms.
Hyper vigilance set in.
Anxiety took over my entire being.
I was so thankful,
But I was stunned.
I was traumatized by thinking
That my Beauty was dying in my arms,
In those seconds when something went wrong with her.
I was traumatized —
Believing she was still going to be taken away from me.
“Hold on . . .
But don’t on too close.
Love her . . .
But don’t love her too much.”
Were words that echoed in my mind.
Nightmares haunted me of losing her.
A month after the Beauty debuted her appearance,
All was well with her.
But not so with her Mother.
For that was when they came.
The thing I’d always feared . . .
Finally found me.
I watched the leaves fall from the trees,
And I watched my world turn grey.
In an instant the darkness
I watched the sky cry tears
And the sun hid its face from me,
In my darkest and loneliest hours.
I wanted to die.
The buzzards hovered overhead
And flew in circles above me.
Waiting for me.
“We want you,”
Their beady eyes looked down and I knew their deadly thoughts.
A dead tree overshadowed
And towered above our home —
And the tree became the crows and buzzards’ battle position
Sent forth from the enemy.
They wanted me to die.
They were a constant reminder
I battled the thoughts —
The war that waged within
Of wanting to take my own life
And yet . . .
Fighting desperately for my life.
This battle lasted for months.
Months that should have been beautiful.
That should have been blissful.
That should have been Heaven,
That should have been what they were not.
I was robbed.
We were all robbed.
The thief had come in the night
Stealing my joy,
And, thus, stealing all of our joy.
And those who loved me suffered immensely.
I remember the day.
The day I stood outside
Staring up at that dead tree,
Feeling defeated and completely hopeless.
I remember seeing the parting of the clouds
And seeing and feeling the ray of the sun
Finally break through the clouds
And show its face to me again.
I heard the crows and saw them.
They were so loud.
I saw the jay clothed in blue.
I saw the sparrow,
And I saw the red cardinal.
I saw them flying from bush to bush,
From tree to tree,
Right in front of my very eyes,
And I heard their melodic singing.
And I faintly heard the song
Of a bird in the forest.
Just a tiny sound at first,
That slowly crescendoed into a loud chorus.
That would not be the last time
I’d hear that little bird in the forest.
That day, his song was too powerful
And I watched in wonder as the crows flew away
And I could no longer hear their lies.
It was a moment my heart had hungered for.
That tiny bird had flown from far, far away,
And had found me at last.
He found me one day sitting by the window
Feeling in despair again.
He sat on a red chair and looked in at me.
His eyes looked into mine
And he didn’t look away.
“Get better! Get better!” He told me.
I felt the very presence of God
And that He was sitting in the red rocking chair,
“I am here. You are not alone.”
That tiny bird had the loudest song
Of any bird I’d ever heard.
And the most beautiful.
He stayed around our house from that day on —
The days that I was still sick.
He was a Carolina Wren,
A bird known for being shy —
And yet, he stayed so close,
In the moments when I needed to hear
His song the most.
The mornings were my darkest, scariest hours,
When the panic would set in,
And when I’d usually been awakened by crows.
But now, that same wren had found his home.
He made a nest right outside my window,
And he sang for me.
I’d look out my window
And he’d be there looking at me,
Watching over me.
Time had taken its time,
But with it,
Came my healing.
The sickness, the darkness finally left me.
The crows, the buzzards, those preying birds
Finally flew away.
They had learned that I wouldn’t
Be taken by them.
I would not be their victim.
They saw that I was a Fighter.
That I had a Beauty and a Beloved
To live for.
To this day,
I still hear the crows.
I still hear the buzzards.
I still see them.
They circle the skies above me,
From time to time.
But, I still see my wren,
I hear my wren,
From time to time.
And he says, “Remember? Remember?
Remember your healing. Remember Hope.
I will always be here to remind you.”
He is a constant reminder
I’ve always been fascinated by Job.
This story in the Bible, of how a man had EVERYTHING, and then, just like that, it was all gone. Taken away from him within just a few moments.
There is so much to learn from him. For me, by the end of the story, when he stays faithful to God throughout his great loss and suffering, I’m just in awe of his faith. In the end, he praises God, his faith and belief in Him is stronger than ever, and then he is blessed by God beyond measure. (“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10).
But it’s the middle of the story that I can’t forget.
Job didn’t just mourn for a day and move on.
He lost everything. He lost the ones he loved. He grieved. He mourned. Job even cursed the day he was born.
I wonder why this story is in the Bible? For me, Job seems so real. He seems like you and I. He has feelings and emotions. He does what I think we all would do if faced with his situation. Or if we have in fact been there ourselves…faced with loss or pain and suffering.
Job seeks counsel from his friends, and they accuse Job of doing evil – that perhaps this is why tragedy struck his household. God later reprimands his friends, by the way.
What I see, though, is a man who is doing what is only natural.
He’s asking “Why?”.
He is seeking comfort from his friends, and perhaps answers. Isn’t that what we do? “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did this have to happen?”
Or, “this should never have happened.”
Have you ever asked this? I know I have. I’ve looked up to the skies above and asked Him why, about many things that have happened in my life.
And when I’ve asked God this question, I have not heard a reply. The heavens have not opened up in that moment and a voice called down from me and given me the answer and I then say, “Oh, okay! That’s why God. Thanks! Now I know!”
I get goosebumps when God does speak to Job: “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.”Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Job 38:1-7.
I don’t know about you, but just reading those verses and imagining that scene and God speaking to ME, I shudder. It puts me in my place. And it puts God in his rightful place. The Mighty One. The Creator of the Universe. The One who created me and gave me breath. Who gave me everything.
God speaks to Job for a long time. He uses Nature to show his power and that He is in control. That He runs the show. Not us.
I think it’s interesting that there isn’t necessarily a “why” answer from God. Yes, he shows Job who He is and that he maybe shouldn’t be questioning Him. But God doesn’t say, “Hey, here’s why I took your family from you.” Here’s why you experienced that heartache. That rejection. That suffering. That loss.
Sometimes I don’t think there’s a why for everything that happens.
Or perhaps we are not meant to know the why. Not in this lifetime.
That’s a hard pill to swallow. Hard to fathom. Hard to accept.
But, what are we going to do with knowing that? Does it mean that we aren’t going to wrestle with God and ask Him and wonder the reasons? Does it mean we put ashes on our face for a day, and then carry on and never look back?
I don’t think so.
Just look at Job. He did what is only natural, and probably what God expected would happen of Him. He mourned. He was sorrowful. He sought counsel and comfort from the world. He was left with questions and doubt.
But He turned to God. He had his time of this inner wrestling, yes, but He did not turn his back on God. One of the most powerful verses says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22
It’s easy to want to blame God. To blame someone. Anyone. To blame ourselves.
Though I think it’s natural to think and feel all these things, I don’t think we should stay stuck there. It’s easy to get stuck. To dwell. To turn away from God when bad things happen.
We can’t stay there. Can’t stay there forever. In that place of anger. Of doubt. Of questioning. Satan wants us to stay there. He wants us to turn our backs on God.
Sometimes there just isn’t as the saying goes, “a reason for everything.”
But there is a, what am I going to do now?How am I going to live the rest of my life? After the pain and hurt has happened, and you’re now living in the aftermath.
“There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep AND a time to laugh, a time to mourn AND a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). I believe in this so strongly. There IS a time to mourn. We have to grieve and mourn what we lost; to grieve over what should have been. And that is a process. Sometimes a very, very, very long journey.
But, there is a time to laugh. To dance. To be happy. To move forward. I don’t like the phrase, “move on,” because it sometimes can sound and seem insensitive. Though we may not want to look back, I think we are still going to. We aren’t not going to come out of those painful times without scars and wounds that are triggered now and again, but, we have to keep walking on. We eventually have to move forward. If we’re always looking back, we are held prisoner, and we are missing out on the beauty that does lie in our future. The blessings that will come upon us again -even if we can’t see it now. If we keep looking back, we can’t see where we are going. We can’t see the present and be thankful for it. We’ll just see the darkness behind us, and miss out on the light in front of us.
In the end, Job ends up praising God. Despite everything, this is what he does. May we strive to draw closer to God during times of trial. To bring our questions to God. But may we never turn our backs on Him or curse His name.
After all, where was I, or, where were you, when He laid the earth’s foundation?