Walking the Yard: Raindrops and Tears

This morning I saw that the New Year’s forecast for my area is for rain and storms–not unlike some of the storms we’ve seen throughout the months of 2020.

Rose of sharon blossom dripping in the rain

This year has brought numerous flash flood warning pop-ups on my mobile phone, days of rain that have left the ground with pools of standing water and with wind gusts that have rattled the windows and scattered broken branches on the driveway and yard.

In a figurative sense, most of us would describe the year 2020 as a storm that has left a trail of debris and casualties in its wake. It’s been a tough one for most of us. But sometimes the storms we’ve experienced this year have been internal where the tears have fallen like rain in the dark of the night when no one else is around to hear the sobs muffled by our tear-dampened pillows. We cry alone and wonder if anyone knows or cares.

But then I step out into the yard after a rain, and I see collected on every leaf, petal, and blade of grass the evidence of the storm–evidence in the form of raindrops sparkling like diamonds, bedazzling the blossoms and trees that have gathered them.

Iris in the rain

As I see those raindrop collections shining from the leaves in the yard, I know that my teardrops too are seen and known. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT). Jesus, our Savior, who himself wept, cares about our burdens and sorrows. We are not alone! He holds our tears, precious to Him as diamonds. Sometimes it is in those “dark nights of the soul” that we learn valuable lessons about trusting even in the dark when we cannot see what lies ahead.

Years ago Gordon Jensen wrote the song “Tears Are a Language” that expresses how much God does see, know, and care about our grief and tears.

Often you wonder why tears come into your eyes
And burdens seem to be much more than you can bear
But God is standing near, He sees your falling tears
And tears are a language God understands.

Japanese maple leaves bedazzled with raindrops

God sees the tears of a brokenhearted soul
He sees your tears and hears them when they fall
God weeps along with man and He takes him by the hand
Tears are a language God understands.

When grief has left you low it causes tears to flow
When things have not turned out the way that you had planned
But God won’t forget you His promises are true
And tears are a language God understands.

God sees the tears of a brokenhearted soul
He sees your tears and hears them when they fall
God weeps along with man and He takes him by the hand
Tears are a language that my God He understands.

If we flip to the back of the Book, we can know the conclusion even as some of the details of our individual stories are still playing out. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true'” (Revelation 21:3‭-‬5 NIV).

Someday the crying will cease, the tears will be wiped away, and we will be forever with the One who has forever been with us even on our darkest nights. Oh, what a day that will truly be!

Raindrops on roses

Walking the Yard: Light in the Darkness

by Rebecca D. Higgins

When the world came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 with stay-at-home orders put into effect, I began to walk around the yard with my camera almost on a daily basis. It was a purposeful decision. I didn’t want my only focus to be on the news and social media. Over a number of years I have learned that the observation involved in nature photography has helped me to see better in general. And with all of the confusion of this year, seeing better became not just a priority but a necessity.

The contrast of light and shadows.

Dorothea Lange, a Depression-era photojournalist, wisely remarked, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” I’ve found that to be true. Ms. Lange explained her statement further: “This benefit of seeing…can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image…the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.” What better time than in the midst of a pandemic to put that into daily practice by observing what I could see just in the boundaries of the yard!

Light is one of the key components in photography. When I am out and about in nature, I find myself looking for the natural light source or a unique contrast of light and shadows. In a year when so much has contributed to the darkness in our world, finding the light in the midst of the darkness has become even more compelling. In my walks in the yard, I have found myself especially fascinated by the backlit or sidelit images of blossoms and leaves. It’s as though they are lit from within. Color becomes more vibrant. The minute details of their life-sustaining veins come into sharp focus. But this is never more apparent than when the surrounding leaves or blossoms are in shadow. The contrast is striking.

The backlit beauty of maple seeds and leaves.

Throughout this year I have been blessed to observe people who exude light even in the midst of the darkness. In spite of sickness, loss of loved ones, and extremely difficult circumstances, they have shone brightly because they have the Light of Christ within them.

Several years ago I visited the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky. Its facade is patterned after Paris, France’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral, and it is adorned with 82 colorful stained-glass windows depicting scenes in the life of Jesus and the church. The beauty, colors, and details of those windows are not readily seen by those passing by on the street during the day. But when night falls and the lights within the cathedral shine through those meticulously crafted windows, their beauty radiates to all. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observed, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

The darkness of this year has certainly revealed the true beauty of some of those who carry the Light within. They are like the jars of clay about which the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 NLT:

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 

Paul and this cloud of clay pot witnesses urge each of us in the midst of a trying year to hold fast to the Light of Jesus. Many still walking in darkness are searching for hope and the Light that will dispel the darkness. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).

Perhaps it is because we have just experienced the “Christmas Star,” the confluence of the planets Saturn and Jupiter, but as I have written these observations today, the words of the following song have been replaying in my mind:

I was a seeker alone in a dark world,
I looked for truth but settled for lies.
I had been blinded, I couldn’t see
Till a Star in Bethlehem’s sky opened my eyes.

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

There in a manger, an innocent baby;
Who would believe that He was the One;
I can believe it, I know it’s true;
He changed my life; He is the light; He is God’s Son!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

We must tell the world what we’ve seen today in Bethlehem!
He’s the promised King; we bow down and worship Him!
We will Worship Christ The King!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven’s throne!

(Authors: Chris Machen, Robert Sterling)

Lord, may we always be seekers of the Light, and may our lives display that true Light of Christ to those around us even when surrounded by the darkness.

A sunburst through the trees on the edge of the driveway early on Easter Sunday morning 2020.

Walking the Yard: A Retrospective Series of Lessons from 2020

by Rebecca D. Higgins

This is the time of year when publications and news organizations begin to look back on the major stories from the preceding twelve months. I’m sure that the many retrospectives of 2020 that will appear over the next couple of weeks will show just how wild, crazy, and devastating 2020 has been.

Stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, quarantines, and self-isolation have characterized much of the year. What do you do under such restrictions? One option is to walk the yard. If you look the phrase “walking the yard” up on Google, it immediately connects it to its prison connotations. In a year of lockdowns, I guess that’s appropriate. As the world as we knew it came to a grinding halt, I literally walked the yard with my camera in hand.

This retrospective series is not so much a look at the events that took place in the world or even in my own personal life but rather some life lessons that presented themselves as I roamed the yard and focused my camera on nature and the everyday objects around me. So, I invite you to stay tuned to my blog as I share some of those lessons impressed on my mind and heart as I walked the yard in 2020.