|Wheat on the Howell family land in Kansas--2011|
It's something I've never been good at. I am a hopeless romantic at heart, a sentimental Southern girl who will always have deep roots in three places: my birthplace, Kentucky, where I spent my first 25 years; Texas, where I have lived almost 24 years; and Kansas, my late husband's birthplace, the land he loved and cherished his entire life. Because of his love for the land, I grew to love it, too.
So much so that we were planning on moving there this year, in July, after he retired.
It's a beautiful place, with wheat fields as far as the eye can see. Young green wheat covers the rich black soil in the wintertime, in stark contrast to the sometimes-brutal snowy landscape. To me, the greenness serves as a subtle reminder that spring cannot be too far away. And with spring, the wheat grows, first into strong green plants, and by early summer, into the golden color seen above. I never truly appreciated the phrase in the song "America the Beautiful" ('amber waves of grain') until my first visit to Kansas, during wheat harvest in 1987. There's nothing more spectacular than the wind rippling through thousands of acres of ripening wheat fields, as far as the eye can see.
I stumbled across the scripture above this morning. I say "stumble," but I know I was supposed to read it today.
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal."
John 12:24-25 (MSG)
I've tried to "let go" of my life since becoming a widow. On the surface I have succeeded. I'm doing well, despite the fact that my best friend, my love, the great daddy to my two sons, is now in heaven.
We've established a new normal, one that is beginning to feel comfortable, much like my favorite pair of running shoes.
We aren't sitting at home, twiddling our thumbs...we're living each day like both our Heavenly Daddy and our earthly one would want--no regrets, thankful for all that we have been given--still, though, I have insecurities, doubts in the back recesses of my mind.
All of that came rushing to the surface a couple of weeks ago, on Sunday, April 14th. It was the anniversary of the day Mark proposed to me, one day before my 25th birthday. This year, I turned 50. The entire day Sunday I was a complete mess. I spent much of it chauffeuring boys to and from activities, so there was a fair amount of time I was alone in the car, just me and God.
I was dumbfounded to feel my chest tighten, and deep sobs coming from within. I felt alone. A quarter century ago, my life changed on April 14th. My boyfriend became my fiancée, and a whole new chapter of my life began. Hands down, the most memorable day of my life up until that point. We were young, in love, on the edge of a great adventure that we could only imagine at that time.
The dreams that we had came true, and God blessed us beyond what we imagined. We had a great marriage, a partnership that worked, day in, day out. We planned two children at a time in our lives when we could slow down and enjoy them, after spending 12 years as a couple, which allowed us to be ready to sacrifice everything in order to focus on our children. We got all the running around done before the boys came, and were just content to be a little family at home.
But I digress. April 14th was hard. I cried every bit of makeup off of my face. I didn't care. In my mind, I was getting ready to turn 50--a half century old!--and I suddenly felt apprehensive about what my next 25 years would hold. Where would we live, long term? Would God put another wonderful Christian man in our lives, to make us once again a two-parent family? I've done well thus far, but do I really have what it takes to lead this family through the upcoming years? God, what am I supposed to do? When will You tell me?
I've struggled and prayed about those fears (and more) in the two weeks since that lapse. And this scripture is my answer.
I must let go of everything. I cannot hold on to one grain of the life I had or imagined I must have. And I am guilty of holding at least one little thing back, in reserve, in order to feel safe. A connection to my former life, you know, the one I had for 25 years.
For life to be lived fully, for God's kingdom to be magnified in my life and in my family's life, I must open my hand up and allow that last little piece of grain to fall to the ground.
Hopefully it will fall on tilled soil, where it will sprout and grow. It will be tender and green and young for awhile, but with cultivation and love and proper care, it will grow strong and bear much fruit.
I know that only God has the answers I want for my life. I can only trust that He will reveal them to me in His perfect time.
In the meantime, I will try to be patient and tend the ground and crops that He wants me to care for.
I am letting go. It's hard, but I'm doing it.
By letting go of life, I can embrace every circumstance with a combination of reckless love and awe. Then and only then can I truly understand that my life is eternal, real, and forever a testimony to the power of my great and powerful Father.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some "ground" to tend to.