In the early spring of this year, we had a span of beautiful, mild weather. The sun came out, the snow melted. After a harsh winter, it was welcome balm to the soul. Celebrating the change in season with great fanfare, my beloved apricot trees exploded into full blossom. Tensions eased, and I relaxed into a peaceful enjoyment of the season.
But it was not to last.
Irritated that we would dismiss it so quickly, Winter reared its angry head and came roaring back with a vengeance.
In a way, it seemed fitting.
The past year has been filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. Our family has enjoyed moments of serenity and calm, only to shift abruptly into confusion and chaos. Such is life when two of your children are diagnosed with special needs.
And so it was that the return of winter found me with my face pressed up against the glass of our sliding door to the backyard, glaring at the icy storm front headed our way. After all the emotional turmoil I had been through, watching my apricots freeze for a third straight year seemed like the final straw, in a childish, silly way. As the snow began to fly, I said an even more childish prayer– although it did not seem so frivolous at the time. It went something like this.
Dear Heavenly Father, I am really struggling right now. I feel like my world is unraveling right before my eyes, and I don’t know what to do. I really need to feel You near, and I really need to feel Thy love. Please… please, if it is not against Thy will, will You please let some of my apricots survive this year? I know it is a silly request, and not a great matter of consequence, but right now life is breaking my heart. Please, even if just one apricot would be saved… But in all things, let Thy will be done. It’s just… you know, if it’s not opposed to Thy great plan… please?
And with that, I moved away from the glass and let it go.
The temperatures plummeted, the snow and icy hail blew.
My blossoms froze.
Again and again. Over and over.
I sighed and moved on. It was a pretty silly request, after all.
Honestly, afterward I didn’t give it much thought until midsummer, when Bryson came into the house after working in the yard. He had a quizzical look on his face, and as I was about to ask him what was wrong he opened up his hand. In it there was a single– slightly green– apricot.
“I just found this on the ground as I was mowing,” he explained. “I don’t know how it survived all the spring freezes, but somehow it did.”
A wave of peace and love rushed over me.
In my heart I thanked God for His tender mercy.
Just one little apricot. For me it was enough.
And again, I let it go.
So imagine my surprise, when Taylor burst into the house a few weeks later. “Mom! Mom! Look at all the apricots in the tree!”
At first, I was confused. I knew we didn’t have apricots. I had checked the trees. None of the blossoms had made it. I asked him if he was sure.
He looked a little uncertain at my words but responded, “Well, then what are all those orange things in the tree?”
I looked out that same glass sliding door I had pressed my face up a few months ago and looked at the apricot tree. Sure enough, a branch was covered with little orange apricots.
I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt, standing at the glass and seeing all the fruit that had no earthly business being there. It has been nearly four months since that day, and I still have no words.
Life can be so difficult. Heart wrenching, soul piercing difficult. Some days it can be so easy to wonder where on earth God is, or why He has seemingly left us. But I have learned that while there are lessons and trials to be borne here in our mortal lives, that His love never fails. He has never left us alone. His mercy surrounds us. His love is of such depth and breadth that it is absolutely unfathomable to the human mind. And if we let Him, He will show us over and over his love for each of us.
As I have navigated this year, I have wrestled my way through rocky ravines and barren fields of doubt and despair. Choosing faith is not always easy. But it is still a choice.
And when we take that step of faith into the darkness, I have found that always– eventually– the light will come. A light filled with peace, love, and understanding.
Last night, the women’s auxiliary of our church held a meeting where the artist who is creating the stained glass windows for the new temple under construction in our town spoke to us. It was a beautiful meeting, and the Spirit was strong. At the close of the meeting both the artist and his wife bore testimony of the Lord being able to work with our individual weaknesses and trials; turning them into strengths. To close her own remarks, the wife explained that she had been strongly prompted to sing a song– remarking that if the Spirit could touch just one person through it, that would be reason enough.
The song that she chose to sing was an eleven year old song by Nichole Nordeman. Relatively unknown, at least in my little corner of the world. And of all the inspirational songs in the world she could have picked, this one was actually a favorite song of mine; one that has gotten me through several tough times.
Truly, God answers prayers. They are not always in the way or time frame we desire, but still answered all the same. Perhaps trials and weaknesses will not be removed from our lives, perhaps for a purpose that only God knows. But if we will give thanks to Him even in the midst of the darkness, peace can be found. And the lessons learned in how to trust Him can lift us to greater heights of light and understanding.
Miracles happen. Once in awhile they are witnessed in big overwhelming manifestations of divine intervention. Sometimes they exist in the small, seemingly silly tender mercies that remind us of His eternal love. But most of all, they are to be found in the simple inner workings of grace on the human heart.
And for all those and more, I give Him thanks.