Out of the four seasons, winter is my least favorite . . . . by a lot. Once Christmas is over, I'm ready for spring. The fun of New Year's and Valentine's Day help me tolerate a few more weeks of winter, but by mid-February I'm ready to shoot a groundhog.
For me, winter represents the end. The end of flowers blooming and birds singing. The air is cold, the sky is gray, the trees are bare, the world is dormant. But lately I've learned to appreciate the winters in our lives--a lesson taught to me by a little boy named Daniel and a grown man named Tom.
You see, we adopted a son whose life had been divided into only two seasons (literally and figuratively)--rainy and not rainy. Living in Guatemala, they don't have the changes in seasons like we do. Daniel has never seen the first flower of spring announce that winter is over. Or rolled on freshly cut grass on a hot summer day. Or witnessed autumn leaves turn the color of precious jewels. Or watched winter winds lull nature to sleep.
He has had nine years of rain--precipitation of longing and loneliness. Not that he has never known sunshine--he has told us about happy memories from his time at the orphanage, but the clouds were always there because his heart longed for a family.
Thus, we have sunshine living in our home. (He has been nicknamed "Sunny-D"--like the juice--by his siblings.) It's hard to complain about winter blahs when you've got a kid experiencing the first springtime of his life in 30 degree temps. A child that was dormant is now sprouting new life. And there are so many buds on this little tree that when he is in full bloom, it will be a sight to behold.
We got a real snowfall last weekend--about 3 to 4 inches! I know this is merely dandruff to you Northerners, but this kind of snow is a big deal in Georgia.
My kids danced in it till their heads looked like snow cones.
They tasted it,
rode downhill on it,
built a snowman,
and savored every minute of the iced manna from heaven. They were certainly good PR for winter's bad reputation.
A few weeks ago we found out that a dear friend from our church had cancer. His prognosis went from bad to devastating . . . we were heartbroken to learn he only had weeks to live. Those who love him were surely feeling like our friend had had pages ripped out of the calendar of his life. I thought, "It's not time for this season of his life. What happened to autumn? How can it be winter already?!!"
Friday night my heart was heavy about our friend Tom. I looked out the window at our yard in the moonlight. A fresh delivery of snow had erased little footprints and it was a perfect blanket of white. Pure. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. It reminded me that there can be great beauty in the midst of winter.
If you've ever had the privilege of being with a loved one as they prepare to meet their Creator, you understand. It's a snowfall of faith, courage, peace and surrender. And just like it only snows in the coldest of temperatures, this level of intimacy with God seems to happen when their spirit is within reach of their Savior.
We visited our friend Tom on Sunday. I have witnessed enough winters with loved ones to recognize that Tom's winter was in full glory. He wrote in his CaringBridge journal with such wisdom and eloquence. We sat at his bedside and joked about different things, but I could tell he had gotten a glimpse of heaven's travel brochure and the things of this world were quickly becoming unimportant. He was blanketed with God's perfect peace. And just like the snow, the view was breathtaking.
Brad called me yesterday afternoon and let me know that Tom was now at the feet of Jesus. And I acted like my nine year old daughter when she woke to find her winter wonderland had melted. I cried.
Just like Ava knew the snow wouldn't last forever, I knew our time with Tom was limited. But I still wished for more. I wished I had taken more photos. I wished he could have come to church one more time. I wished I had cherished my time with him when we were teaching Sunday school together or painting dorms on mission trips. But as I learned with the passing of my mother and grandmother, if God had granted me 10 more years with them, I'd still ache for one more day.
As Ava wept last weekend that the snow was "gone, gone forever" (she's a bit dramatic . . . hmmm, I wonder where she gets it), I showed her the green tips of the daffodils peeking through the soil . . . that one gift of beauty was being exchanged for another. Just like the loss of a loved one is replaced with the legacy of their lives.
So today, I'm not impatiently awaiting spring. I'm celebrating winter. And I'm rejoicing in the life of my mural-painting, wise-cracking, preschool-teaching, facilities-organizing, creative-cartooning, people-caring, Christ-serving friend.
This photo is of Tom sketching out his plans to paint a mural of a castle.
And this is the finished masterpiece on the wall of a little girls' dorm at a children's home in Guatemala.
And yesterday the masterpiece known as Tom Carpenter was completed. And the Artist who sketched out the beautiful plan for his life surely said, "Well done, good and faithful servant."