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As I type I am anxiously awaiting a phone call. A sweet friend of mine is expecting her firstborn son. Her due date has passed, and her usually intermittent contractions have been intensifying today. I have the incredible privilege of being on the “first-call” list, even (hopefully) getting to play a support role in the birthing process.

You’d think I was in the earliest stages of labor. My anticipation and excitement is through the roof, I’ve been busy today trying to focus on the ordinary things that need to be done (like laundry, the dishes, schooling, and food prep) while also scrambling to make sure my bag is packed for the hospital—with personal items I may need, lotions and massage therapy tools that may be useful during labor, snacks, a Bible, my journal, a notebook for keeping track of labor’s progress and hopefully soon baby’s stats.

Bags packed, I finally got a text saying they were in town walking to encourage things to move along a bit more quickly (apparently the going has been slow). Sigh. Ok. Not needed yet. Hang in there, Lauren. Don’t get too excited. This could still go on for a couple of days. Just move on with your day and be ready whenever the call comes.

It’s a beautiful day, so I decided to walk down our long drive way to check the mail. The boys were in bed for nap time, and I usually like to step outside at this time of day for some fresh air. The grass and ivy, ferns and flowers, trees and bushes are all so lush and bright with color. Spring is a beautiful time of year, reminding us of God’s promise of new life. What a wonderful time of year to have a baby!

As I walked down the driveway I saw that the large trashcan was at the curb. Yes, the trash truck had been by and now the can was empty. I’ll get to pull that back up to the house, I thought. It wasn’t a hard job, but something about the slight physical exertion required sounded perfect to me right now. It would give me an opportunity to exert some of my pent-up energy. As I drew closer to the mailbox and the dumpster, I took a look down the road to our next door neighbors’ house. We had collected their trash in our can so that we could help them out during the difficult time of trial they’re facing.

It suddenly struck me that I could be celebrating the birth of a precious newborn and comforting a grieving widow this week. I do not know what the future holds exactly, of course, but it is a possibility. Our next-door neighbor, George, was recently diagnosed with both lung and brain cancer. About a week and a half ago, his wife Carolyn had to drive him to the ER as he suffered a heart attack. Just this past Saturday, when we stopped by to check on them, we found out they had just returned home from an overnight visit to the hospital—the cancer in George’s lungs had metastasized and began causing internal bleeding that had to be dealt with immediately. Carolyn is weary but hopeful that the Lord will deliver them from this trial. Our prayer is that we can be a blessing to them, that the Lord would intervene on George’s behalf, and that most of all they would hope in the Lord no matter what happens.

And so I walked back up to the house, mail in one hand and the handle of the trashcan in the other, remembering how, about six years ago, and about this same time of year, Nathaniel and I felt many of these same emotions. We lived next-door to a woman named Evelyn. At about the same time I gained a husband, she had lost hers. And with her husband, she had lost the will to go on. I visited her from time to time. We’d sit and have a snack and talk, or I’d sit with her while she watched TV. It was a very hard decision for both her and her daughter when they finally sold the house she had shared for decades with her husband and moved her into a nursing home, but one bad fall when Evelyn was home by herself sealed that fate. I continued to visit her in her new home—and Nathaniel and I were glad to share the news with her—we were expecting our firstborn son. I had hoped Evelyn would get to meet him, but we told her goodbye in the nursing home a couple of months before he was born. Life and death. Rejoicing and grieving. I remember how stunned I was to experience them so close in time.

Once the trashcan was back in its proper place, I gazed at the irises that had already bloomed and withered next our front porch, and I considered how fleeting life is. How beautiful, but how fleeting. Like the flowers that spring up as the days grow warmer, but fade ever so quickly away. We enjoy their radiant beauty—a reminder of the creative splendor of our God—but soon they whither as the cycle of the seasons moves on.

So, too, does the cycle of life move on. It can be a bleak meditation to consider that just as life seems to really get going, we begin to realize that our parents are aging, our friends are aging—we are aging. And not only this, but we see that when one person dies, the rest of the world just keeps on going without them, the majority of people unaware that someone has died at all. Our own insignificance and mortality begins to stare us in the face, and we wonder, what’s the point? We’re here for such a short amount of time. Much like the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, we ask, Why do we go about our work or pleasure just to leave it to another? Our lives are so fleeting, a vapor. Where is the significance that I long for?

But oh, when I consider the creative beauty of God, and His purpose in ordaining the seasons—both the natural seasons of each year and the changing seasons of our lives. There is much beauty to behold. And its purpose is not merely to grant us some bit of pleasure here and now, as precious a gift as that is, but to point us to the true and lasting beauty that is the Lord Himself in all of His glory and perfections. As we ache for the changing of winter into spring, so too our hearts long for the eternal spring to one day relieve us of every dark and dreary winter. He has set eternity in our hearts. He is not far from each of us.

And so this mixed up time of anticipation—in which I both delight in the thought of a friend’s new baby and fear the impending death of a dear neighbor’s husband—I remember the wisdom God has given concerning such things:

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

There is indeed a time for everything.  Including that phone call.  I suppose now I can take a deep breath and continue on with my day.