It is a beautiful summer evening, reminiscent of many others: There was summer evenings in my childhood spent playing on green summer lawns, the breeze flowered with the sweet smell of honeysuckle. Summer evenings in my teen years spent perched on the top rail of the fence gazing dreamily at the serene West Texas sunset. There were summer evenings in the field sitting on the tailgate of a pickup listening to the drone of an irrigation motor, the lapping of water in the ditch, and the laughter of small boys as they tossed dirt clods into the water, and I remember with fondness the summer sunset glistening off the tints of red in their hair and the freckles on Justin’s face sparkling with sweat. There were other summer evenings spent on the porch of our new house with cups of hot coco and a good book; a cool evening breeze blowing wisps of hair into my face while my children listened contentedly to the story.
Tonight I enjoy the sunset alone. My teenagers are scattered about the house each doing their own thing. I am thankful they are here, for I know the day will soon come when no one is home. But tonight I will just breathe deep of a peaceful evening, a joyful, contented close of a calm, serene summer day. Life has become a true holiday; a summer day.
This was my journal entry for June 29, 2006. Most of the entries that summer read something like this one, full of nostalgia and praise. But life was not always so peaceful.
Two years earlier I had stood at the window on a dreary spring night in March and watched the rain pour off the house and flow in a dozen rivers off the back patio and into the dark night. In the next room, hospice nurses washed the body of my seventeen-year-old son as we waited for the funeral director to come transport him to the mortuary. I would bury him beside his father. Grief felt heavy, like a weight on my chest that would not allow me to breathe, and at the same time I felt empty…empty of emotion, empty of energy and empty of spirit.
Like Moses who had to wait for God to pass before he could see Him, there have been many seasons that I have not seen God’s presence until after the season has passed. But this season was different. I felt cradled in God’s hand, shielded and protected for a season from the storm-tossed waves of life. It was a season of grief, but it was also a season of rest for my weary soul.
After Justin’s death, I was able to sleep through the night uninterrupted for the first time in over seventeen years. Social security income and my husband’s life insurance enabled me to stay home and homeschool my other children. It was a season of mental and physical rest. And it was a season of worship. For the first time in their memory, my children and I were able to get involved in a church. We enjoyed family Bible studies and spontaneous ‘dance in the kitchen’ worship times together. It was a season for delighting in my children and building deep relational roots. It was a season for star-gazing and listening to childhood dreams, for camping trips, hiking, biking, laughing, and learning.
Although I did not know it at the time, just as that beautiful summer day was drawing to a close the end of a Sabbath season was also drawing near. The work of raising teenagers alone and helping them deal with the tragedies that had impacted their lives still lay ahead. Social security income would come to an end and the struggles of balancing work and managing our small farm would soon be a reality, but that season of rest, worship, and relationship building would help prepare me for the work that lay ahead and I would be forever grateful for a Sabbath season.