“See, Life Is Still Beautiful!”

Lately I can not escape the magnificence of the sunrises and sunsets. I wake up to gorgeous red and pink rays streaming through my plantation shutters. Invariably, wherever I am, at the end of the day, the sky is on fire.  I am inclined to think the Lord is telling me, “Elizabeth, look up! See, life is still beautiful!”

My husband and I captured hundreds of sunrises and sunsets on our iPhones throughout the years. It didn’t matter what state of affairs our day was in or what season of marriage we were in: mad at each other, agitated with one another, elated with one another: if the sky looked right, we hopped in a vehicle and made the way to the best viewing spot. We were diligent at chasing the spectacular sunsets the last year of his life.

This past weekend the whole sunrise, sunset thing overwhelmed me. Almost 19 months into widowhood my grief comes in waves now. It is no longer the daily put one foot in front of the other, praise God! But in some ways, this is worse. I don’t know when it will debut. On Saturday morning my daughter’s boyfriend put a picture on Instagram of one of our favorite places at the beach, at sunrise, and I was absolutely overwhelmed with grief. It was as if I was back to the first week of his death. Uncontrollable sobs that I had not had in months. This is the part of grief that I truly don’t like, and can’t figure out. And, yet, there God was with this spectacular sunrise right out my own front door, “ Elizabeth, I am making all things new!”

I called a friend of mine who lives over an hour away and she said come for dinner. I stopped at Lidl to pick up some tulips to bring as a hostess gift. As I was waiting at the light, the sky lit up the most beautiful orange. It was more than annoying. It also made me cry. Which annoys me more. “Elizabeth, I am near” (Psalm 145:18). There are few times in my life when I have heard the Lord. It is not an audible voice, people. But I heard Him in the spirit. Meanwhile, two annoyed patrons honked behind me not knowing I was communing with our Lord.

I arrived at Lisa’s beautiful cottage and it was like coming home. Lisa, is only one of two widow friends I have. We are the same age. Our husbands died fairly young. Our husbands illnesses were terminal and quick. We both have two daughters. We both have autoimmune diseases. We both have somewhat neurotic dogs. We both have extremely complicated family dynamics. We both married quintessential eastern North Carolina men, who we are  sure either knew one another or had many mutual friends. We both loved being married. We both are writers. We both wake up every morning going “How in the hell did we get here?”  We have considered a  live video or a podcast about our lives: we are fun, we can be hilarious, I  am getting hit on by 70-year-olds on at least a tri-weekly basis. We have a lot of material! Alas, did you just read the above paragraph?  We decided, on second thought, how the heck could we be a beacon of hope for anyone? Bahaha!

As I drove home last night I felt settled and that felt good. My oldest called me from “the normal bar” I didn’t ask, she’s a grown woman. And then Lisa called to make sure I got home. It’s not my husband. It’s not my parents or in laws or any other deceased people in my life but its people God put in my path. He is near. Look at the sunset this week. I promise it will bring you joy.

At Rest

My husband has every card I’ve ever given him. I mean every single one. Like since 1984. He also has saved every note our daughters have penned. They are neatly organized in his bedside table. I have a whole stack of love letters I saved from him during college. Other than that I’m just not emotionally attached to cards. Which is funny because I love words and my husband is a man of very few words.

I can, however, tell you about every piece of jewelry, china, silver, and artwork my husband has given me. I can recall when it was given and where. I can recollect that period of time as if it were capsuled just for me. Some pieces have strong emotions attached to them. Seasons of passion and seasons of pain. To me, that’s what makes them priceless. That’s what illustrates our story.

When we were dating we spent a lot of weekends on his family farm. Being a man of few words he loved to drive the fields and just observe. We would drive through soy bean, tobacco, and cotton fields in his grandfathers 1964 pickup truck. The floor boards on the passenger side were rusted. You could see the eastern North Carolina sandy soil beneath you. Tobacco leaves swishing up through the floor as we bumped along in that old three on the tree truck.

One of the things I love about my husband to this very day is that he taught me to be still. To observe. To watch. To appreciate the flatlands we live in. To see the story in the land. Architecture in tobacco barns. To take in the sunset in silence. To take notice of all the beauty that surrounds us. I believe that God used my husband to set the stage for me to be able to see Gods glory much later in our marriage. 

I wish I could articulate to our daughters just what love and marriage truly mean. Our daughters are at the age of being bridesmaids and attending the weddings of their friends. The beautiful dresses, gorgeous rings, and extravagant receptions. But do they truly comprehend what the joining of those two young people mean? If it was all meant to be perfect then we wouldn’t need Him.

I read the most fabulous quote recently by Lysa TerKeust “Most of us spend years chasing things in this world that we think will make us feel loved. But everything this world has to offer is temporary. Everything. The kind of love our souls crave is lasting, eternal. And only God can fill up our hearts with that kind of love.”

My husband gave me a beautiful oil painting of an old pickup truck for Valentines Day. The artist had entitled it “At Rest”. Few things have moved me like this painting. It reminds me of the farm, young love, and all the bumps in the road over the past 27 years of marriage. The epiphany that through it all we are finally at rest with one another. We no longer expect the other to fill that empty hole. We know, now, that only Jesus Christ can truly satisfy our souls. That our spouse was never intended to be our god. 

I love my husband more than words could ever adequately describe. He is my very best friend. My confidant. My partner. But he alone can not complete me. He compliments me. And hopefully our earthly love is a preparation for the eternal love that we have in Christ. 

“We love because he first loved us.”-1 John 4:19