Sharing moments and thoughts of life – some that are my own, many that are not. I let the reader take it all in and perhaps think about their own moments.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born,
One cannot describe that first moment of breath unless one has experienced it firsthand. As exciting as it can be for a man to become a daddy, it is ultimately the most indescribable moment for the mommy. She has spent nine months, give or take, getting to know that tiny being planted inside. The first movement which can feel like a butterfly is spreading its’ wings. The wiggles. The foot being shoved against her belly as if trying to escape sooner. The hiccoughs. How does one stop that? Holding your breath, drinking through a napkin, will that work in the womb? Probably not. Sleepless nights trying to imagine what this little being will look like. Will it resemble mom or dad? Will its’ hair be blonde or black? Will it be fair skinned or dark? Will it have all its’ fingers and toes?
Will it be a boy or a girl? The not knowing is exciting. Two names picked out. Will we name it after someone else? Or be original? Maybe a little bit of each. Nowadays most couples find out the sex of the child. Then they can plan the room, purchase the clothing, select a single name (as long as it is, indeed, only one). Ultrasounds are occasionally wrong and can take the unsuspecting couple off-guard. And ultrasounds do not share the color of the hair, or the color of the eyes. And without cooperation from the fetus, the sex can also go unknown.
But ultrasounds are phenomenal in and of themselves. Just weeks into a pregnancy you can sometimes make out the tiniest of features. Little eyes, little arms or legs. Only millimeters in size, they can produce the biggest smiles from those who see them. They sure get people excited!
Everyone waits – and as the day of birth approaches they all count the moments until that little one makes its’ appearance.
At the moment of birth, Mom is excited and anxious as well. Hoping for a “natural” birth but not sure about the level of pain that may occur. However, she knows full well that she is willing to sacrifice any pain for what she will gain. Dad is standing by cheering her on, encouraging her to hang in there, letting her know, along with the doctors, that it is time to “push”.
It’s time! There she is. That tiny little baby has arrived. Mom is crying in joy. Dad is grinning from ear to ear. It really doesn’t matter what she looks like – she is beautiful in the eyes of her parents. She takes her first pee – all over the doctor! Laughter fills the room as the doctor exclaims “her plumbing works”! That precious child is wrapped in a blanket and handed to her waiting parents. From that moment on there will never be anyone who loves her more, who will dedicate their lives to her, who will make sacrifices to ensure that she can be all that she should be.
It will be that way with each and every birth. Each pregnancy different from the other. Each birth a brand new experience. Each child loved as much as the first.
The next time those parents will feel that way again is upon the birth of their grandchildren. Again their hearts and souls will be filled beyond measure and those same feelings they had when their children were born will be renewed.
and a time to die;
We never knowingly want to die. But there is a saying that there “are only two guarantees in life – death and taxes”. It will happen. Most people do not know when the end will come. For others, the timing can be narrowed down to months, weeks, days, or hours. But the exact moment will never be known except by God.
It does not matter if we know when the end is or not. Death is never easy on those it leaves behind.
While most children probably do not experience death until they are at least teenagers, some will experience it much sooner. The younger the child, the easier the experience may be. It is crucial how those around that child’s life handle the experience. The child watches. Much knowledge is gained from observation. Unknown until much later is how critical a role this observation is. Which details did that child pick up on?
Did mom or dad cry? Was everyone silent? Were the circumstances around the death explained? Was there a funeral? A memorial service? A celebration of life where people were able to share their memories? Was the child involved in any aspect of the day? Was opportunity given to that child to grieve and mourn the loss?
More importantly, was that loved one remembered afterwards? Did people talk about him or her? Or was there silence. As though the person never existed.
Years later as the child, now grown, experiences more death, more loss, those first experiences will be retrieved from their memories. Embedded and buried amidst other life experiences, little details may emerge and affect the adult.
Through therapy we learn skills and strategies to cope with loss. Writing letters to our loved one well aware they can’t be mailed, but somehow figuring if it is on paper that they are looking over our shoulders and helping us work it all out. Journaling our thoughts can do the same thing, acting as a salve on our wounds. Prayers from friends… a hug… a kind word when we are down. Those all help. It may take a while to move through the grief. For some it is brief – perhaps months. The hardest time is that first “year”…. The first birthday without them… the first anniversary… the first Thanksgiving and Christmas… For others it may take a few years. Special occasions may dredge those feelings again – the wedding of a child, the birth of a grandchild that the deceased will never know. And, still for some, it is something they dwell upon for decades. It consumes them. It will permeate into the deep crevices of their mind and affect everything they say or do.
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
There are several types of things that can be sowed. Seeds of flowers, plants and food are one type. There are also people who sow seeds of hope and faith, who live their lives in such a way that we can only hope to be half as good as them.
Some people have green thumbs in every aspect of their life. Everything they touch thrives and grows in abundance. They plant a garden – it flourishes. They are capable of touching the hearts of those around them by saying just the right thing, by giving of themselves unselfishly. We see them and we want to BE them.
Most people have a green thumb in only one area. They have a single talent. It is important that we nurture any talent or talents we have, and use them to make the world a better place.
Did you grow up in a yard of flowers? Or have a garden? Or household plants. Mine had all three – and all in abundance. Corn, peas, tomatoes, carrots, and asparagus … a LOT of asparagus. And lots of rhubarb. Side dishes all depended on the crop that was ready for picking in the garden. Not that everything grew. Sometimes little critters found the seeds or crop to their liking as well.
Various flower gardens – from rock garden beds cascading down the hills to a small crop of iris in the garden. Flowers along the side of the garage – flowers in a small mound in the front yard. Everywhere you looked were flowers. The planting continued into the house where pots of plants were on shelves, or hanging from hooks on the wall or ceiling. Numbering up to twenty they were.
And Mom’s green thumb carried over to people where she planted seedlings in Girl Scouts, Sunday School, ESL classes and more. Those seedlings grew and sprouted inter-generational bonds of love and friendship that spanned the decades of her life.
Other people influence the way we think, the way we see the world. A special friend, a pastor, even a neighbor. Each one releases a seedling that, if we are lucky enough, we will grab, feed, allow to grow and release yet more seedlings for others to feast on.
We depend on those seedlings. We draw on them for strength when we are weary. We hold them tight when we are falling apart. People need other people to survive.
3 A time to kill,
Wars – many over the course of human history – have ravaged our nations. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires – Mother Nature’s ability to wreak havoc without regard to location. No one is safe. No one is 100% immune. It is pure chance that your end time has not yet come.
Accidents?? No one is immune to those either. While we on earth call things “accidents”, God has chosen the time in which someone is to make their entrance into heaven. Do not take today for granted as there is no guarantee of a tomorrow.
and a time to heal;
Yet it is in those darkest times that we become surrounded by others. It is in the deepest of sorrow that we as humans come together to lift up and help in whatever way we can. Those human angels all over the world that give of their time or talent or finances to help. A lifeline is tossed out as the world proclaims “How can we help?”
9/11 is one of those occasions where nations rose up to help in the search, rescue, and relief efforts. A catastrophic event where all rose to the occasion to tell the world “we will not be defeated”. We will survive. Survival does not mean that one forgets the pain. It means that we are able to put the pain in perspective and that perspective allows us to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and move forward in our lives.
Other events such as accidents often affect us in a similar way. A natural tendency to lash out at the perpetrator ensues. Why?? Why?? We may ask. A friend whose husband suffered blindness after an unforeseen illness once asked “Why me?” and her pastor told her “Why not you?” If we are fortunate enough to have faith, we may be able to answer that question, choosing to look at the bigger picture. We need to step back and take a look around.
We can use tragedies to learn lessons. We can channel all that energy and do something positive with it. Why? Because it truly does help us become a better person.
a time to break down,
It is okay to break down. It is okay to live in the moments of sadness, grief and anger. You have permission to do so. “Feel the feelings”.
Society has a tendency to frown on such feelings, particularly if they linger on, long past whatever incident took place. “Get over it!” they say. In some instances this is a proper response, in others it is not.
How long should one grieve? Most will say for up to a year. After that, no one wants to talk about it anymore. Yet, for some that is not enough time. Settling into depression may occur. It is important for the grieving person to have someone with whom they can open up. If the grief takes on a life of its’ own, then professional help should be considered
How long should be angry? Consider this. It takes a lot of energy to be angry. By holding on to anger, you are actually giving the offender the power to hold you hostage. When you forgive a person, you take back control of your life. You do not have to like them, however by forgiving them you give yourself permission to get back to living life. Sometimes, the anger we lash out at others is actually something else bothering us – there just happens to be a target in front of us.
One of the hardest things you may ever do is forgiving someone who caused injury or death to a loved one. If the injury or death was purely accidental, then I believe that the offender actually is going through their own punishment without us inflicting more upon them. In the end, the true jury and judge is God.
and a time to build up;
We should believe that every experience we have is given to us for a reason. It takes rain to make a rainbow. To truly enjoy the view from the mountain, sometimes you need to weave through some deep valleys. Hindsight is 20/20.
So it is when we experience a “valley” or a dark time in our life, once we are through it we should pause for a moment and find the golden nugget. We may not find it right away, it may percolate for years before we have an “aha” moment. The time we realize what it is we learned. How we choose to deal with our “aha” moments can make all the difference in the world.
Once we find that nugget, that gem, do not hide it under a bushel but share it in some way. Teach a class, help another person out, lift someone else up. For it is in that giving that you will receive so much more.
Turn the death of a loved one into leading a grief and loss group, or volunteering for an organization close to their hearts. If you were fortunate enough to win a battle with your weight, share that with others to encourage them. Turn your pain into someone else’s gain. Take your life experiences and use them to help others.
4 A time to weep,
Crying is good for the soul. It lets all the bad endorphins out and gives you space for some good ones.
As infants, we cry when we are hungry, tired, uncomfortable, or need a diaper change. These cries are because we have basic needs that must be met and it is up to the grownups in our lives to figure out what we need.
As children we cry when we fall down and get hurt, we cry when we don’t get our way. We are beginning to push boundaries in order to figure out who we are. It is up to the grownups in our lives to help us learn that life is not all about fairness, but there are rules all around us to help keep us in line.
As teenagers and young adults we cry when someone makes fun of us or bullies us. We cry after the breakup of our first loves. We cry when we trying to push the next set of boundaries – later night curfews, meeting friends at the mall, taking the care out for a spin – and we are told “no”.
Then, as we age, we cry again. But now we cry when we get married, we cry when our loved ones are in pain, we cry when people die. We cry out when it feels as though the whole world is against us. Sometimes we cry happy tears of love – the birth of a grandchild, the celebration of a special anniversary, the wedding of a child.
and a time to laugh;
Laughter is the best medicine. Take time to find something to laugh about, someone to laugh with.
As adults we often forget to stop taking life so seriously. We forget how to be playful and engage in things that are silly, that make us laugh. Life is so full of responsibilities that it can be hard to see through all the “stuff” and just relax.
Think back on the times that made you laugh, gut wrenching, belly jiggling laughs. Practical jokes??? Remember what it felt like to dole one out? What about the time the joke was on you? Maybe it was a great, fun movie?? Perhaps it was a time when you taught the grandkids to say “ho, ho, ho!” deep and loud just like Santa.
a time to mourn,
To mourn – to feel sorrowful. Take time to feel the feelings. Try not to brush them aside to quickly lest they turn into a cancer that grows and grows inside of you.
and a time to dance;
In elementary school we learned to do simple square dancing and line dancing. We learned how to bow and courtesy to our partner, to take their hand and allemande left, circle to the right.
In junior high we may have had our first experience with ballroom dancing. Who knew that you could waltz and polka to modern day music?
In high school, square dance lessons were “square” to most, but actually was a fun way to spend an evening with others. Meeting people, finding new partners.
Oh, how I loved to dance with my father. A polka in the living room, a waltz around the room. He was a smooth dancer. Dancing always made him smile … and that would make me smile…. And I am sure it made my mom smile as well.
5 A time to cast away stones,
There comes a time in our lives when we must let our children go. We must let them spread their wings. For some it is harder than others. We are not so much casting them away as we are carefully tossing them out into the world to learn how to make their way.
My generation did this almost seamlessly. The expectation was that when you turned eighteen and graduated high school that you had a couple of choices: Stay home, get a job and pay rent at home; go to college and maybe get some help paying your tuition; join the military. From there you are given a few years to either make enough money to move out on your own, get a job (after college) and pave you way in the world, or return from the military and start life as a civilian. Pretty straightforward.
Nowadays that happens less frequently as adult children often come home for a period of time. Sometimes briefly, just to catch their breath. Sometimes for a long time because they cannot afford to make a living to support themselves. Households are inter-generational, sometimes up to three generations of family living under one roof in an effort to stay afloat. Things are not as straightforward for many families in a world that has become increasingly difficult to make a living…. Or for children who have emotional, financial, or physical issues preventing them from being independent.
and a time to gather stones together;
In times of trouble, we reach out and gather up those that are hurting – emotionally, physically, and mentally. Natural instinct makes us protective of those in need. As difficult as it can be to have inter-generational households, the end result is that family can always be counted on to step up to the plate and help. It is in troubled times that we gather together to lift one another up.
a time to embrace,
In times of sorrow we gravitate towards one another, holding each other tightly to keep each other from sinking in quicksand. We talk and reminisce about our times together and use those memories to heal. We can be strong alone – but we are much stronger with bonds of love.
and a time to refrain from embracing;
Sometimes we know when another person simply needs to be left alone. We know that people seek solace in their silence, needing time and space to figure things out. It is not always easy to let them – we have an inherent need to “fix” what is wrong. But quiet contemplation – or solitude in prayer – is as much a salve for the wounds as any other treatment.
6 A time to get,
With hard work, dedication and sacrifice we are hopefully able to gain those things which make life a little bit easier. Conveniences such as a home, a car, working appliances, phones, and food are things we all believe we should have. And we strive to make those happen. If we are fortunate to make it happen, then we may say “this is as good as it gets”. Our hard work and perseverance has paid off.
and a time to lose;
There may come a time when you lose much of what you have worked for. Circumstances unforeseen can take things away in the blink of any eye. Mother Nature wreaks havoc and we can lose our belongings by flood, fire, or wind. It is when we are stripped of every material thing we own that we learn that the most important thing that we “get” in this world is love. Love from family, friends, and sometimes even people we do not know. That is what sustains us when we have lost anything – either partially or fully.
a time to keep,
Keep your loved ones close. But never so close that they cannot breathe. “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours. If it does not, it never was.”
Sometimes there is a fine line between holding someone and holding someone hostage. Be careful. Teach your children well. But teach them how to thrive in a world that can be harsh. Do not keep them so close that once they leave they cannot survive.
Hold tight to memories. Keep them safe. Some people have super memories. They can tell you exactly when an event happened. They can remember something that was said or done decades before. And they do so without the help of photographs or other external cues. Others can find those memories by a look, a touch, a photograph, a song. Some external force beckons a memory from the far reaches of the brain. Some memories are sweet, others can be haunting.
and a time to cast away;
Cast out evil doings is the biblical nature of this verse. Is you glass half empty or half full. The way you answer actually gives a clue to your personality.
For those who view the glass half full – theirs is a positive world. They see through all the bad things and find the good. They may choose to live their lives in the moment, seemingly not worrying about tomorrow. It is not that they do not worry, it is that they know that whatever tomorrow brings they will make do with it. They will find a way to make lemonade out of lemons if they have to.
For those whose glass is half empty – theirs may be a world where they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. They may see all the negative headlines and feel that there is no way things can get better. Life can be overwhelming. They may worry more than others about what will happen tomorrow and worry if they have “enough” of whatever it is they feel they need to survive.
7 A time to rend, (tear apart)
You’ve seen the movies where the person has the image of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. These two images are fighting for control. Only one can win. These images are our conscious beings. Due to “original sin” when Adam and Eve were given a choice of obedience by not eating the fruit of the tree or disobedience by doing the opposite, so we, too, have choices every moment of every day.
Sometimes we get pulled in to the chaos of the world around us and we start to cave in to things we should not. Sometimes the burdens of life batter us so badly we fall and we do not want to get up again. It can be easy to falter and feel that no matter what we do we’ll never get it right so we give up trying.
This is not what we are called to do. We are not called to give up. We are God’s children and as such we must fight. We must tear off the chains that bind us and rise up above the bad stuff.
and a time to sew;
To sew = to put things together. Sometimes we sew two different pieces of fabric together. Like a marriage, sometimes they fabric has two different patterns or is two different kinds of materials. But with thread you can put them together.
Sometimes we have to fix the holes like darning socks or patching jeans. Relationships take work and there can be “holes” or “tears” in the fabric. We need to work on these, take out our needles and thread and patch them up. Not always an easy task, sometimes we have to look beyond what we are feeling, swallow our pride, and mend what is there. That patch may be crooked, or untidy, but it shows the effort that was made to repair it.
a time to keep silence,
Be still and know that I am God. Take time to sit and observe. Notice the presence of God all around you. The birds singing. The brilliant blue sky. Majestic mountains and piercing blue lakes. Warm sunshine and radiant rainbows. Gentle breezes. Swaying trees. Frenzied hummingbirds and graceful butterflies.
Learn to experience comfort in quiet moments. Cuddling on the couch. Holding hands while walking a quiet path. Sit. Breathe. Relax.
and a time to speak;
Voice your concerns. Talk to those you love. Open communication. Learning how to communicate to get your point across but without harming another is a skill. It has to be practiced.
Send a message to a politician when you feel something is not right. Stand up for those less fortunate, do not let them get trampled by another. Fight for what is good and right.
8 A time to love,
Some of the greatest Bible verses are those containing the word love. Perhaps the most well know verses comes from 1st Corinthians Chapter 13.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. … … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love is the essence of life. Without it there is nothing to live for. Love is what makes us want to be a better person. Love is why we look forward to tomorrow. Love is what sustains us through the worst of times.
Love gives us hope and faith. It allows us to believe that we matter in the world. We can make a difference. We must be able to GIVE love in order to RECEIVE love. Love is a circle that goes round and round. That is why wedding rings are round – they represent the never ending circle of love.
and a time to hate;
Hate is a very strong word. We are not encourage to hate. However, it is okay to hate bad things that are going on in the world. The news headlines are nearly always about turmoil, death, wrong-doings in the world. We hate to hear those day in and day out. It gives us the idea that there is nothing going right in the world. Tune out the news headlines. Make your own headlines. Look for the good going on in the world.
a time of war,
Let’s think about a “personal” inner war –war between good and bad – Are there times when you have questioned your faith. God has given us free will. A student once asked, “How to we know there is a God?” He was told that was a perfectly fine question to ask. Often we believe something because it is what we heard all of our lives. Our values and beliefs were probably instilled in us from a young age by our parents or another loved family or friend. As we grow older, we have the free will to accept these “truths” or deny them. Only by questioning them will we look at the facts and determine whether or not we want to accept them as our own. Hopefully we will emerge from this process stronger spiritually than if we accepted the facts “carte blanche”.
and a time of peace.
The definitions of peace are as follows: Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility; a state of consciousness where you are calm, restful, and tranquil. Freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.
We often search for “inner peace”. The absence of conflict from within our hearts and minds. Inner peace can be elusive. It may come only fleetingly to us. Have you ever tried to empty your mind of all the noises of your mind? It is not easy. Every time you are quiet you are bombarded with messages. “The laundry needs to get done.” “Is it time to pick up the kids?” “Did I remember to pay the bill?” “I hope I didn’t screw it up.” “Let’s see, today I need to get to the store, stop at the bank, get the tires changed…” “Oh no, I forgot to pick up something for my husband!” “I really should be cleaning the house, not sitting here relaxing.” And so on and so on and so on.
Mindful meditation. Hmmm. No matter what we do it is nearly impossible to turn off ALL of the tapes playing in our minds. If we are lucky, we might be able to subdue them briefly and take a few deep breaths. We close our eyes and try to focus on “the third eye” that we have heard about. Try to focus on just one thing and not let our minds wander. As soon as we open our eyes, the world spins back into place and we are off and running.
What does peace mean to you?