The first week of April is always breathtaking on my small suburban street in Southwest Ohio. Bradford Pear trees flank the sides of the road and the white blossoms are in full bloom. To some of the senses, the blooming trees are irritating—the allergy sufferers in my home have itchy eyes and sniffly noses—while breathtaking to the eye, the trees’ blooms are in juxtaposition in the way they are breathtaking to the nose.
For as long as we have lived on this street, our family refers to these first-week-of-April beauties as popcorn trees; when my babies were small one of them mentioned the blooms looked like popcorn and the name stuck . . . probably always will as they grow.
The changing of seasons is a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and consistency. Every fall I can expect the October Glory in our front yard to be awe-strikingly orange and every April I can expect the popcorn trees to be in full bloom.
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
For me, the popcorn trees come with reminders of beauty and reminders of great loss. Every year, the first week of April comes with wrestling and reminders of springs past. My mother lost her battle with breast cancer so many years ago, this year will mark twenty-three years—I was fourteen, she was forty-one.
I can hardly believe it—the time in calendar years and days feels long, but to my own heart, twenty-three years have passed quite quickly. Every April 7th comes faster than the one before it, the grief contained in an awkward package that stretches decades, but cradled in what seems like moments.
The years have changed me. Especially the recent years we have lived life among the popcorn trees on our current suburban road.
Alongside the consistency of the early April blooms, God has been consistently faithful and good. Our circumstances have not always been easy, but God has always been faithful and good. God has provided seasons of joy, seasons of healing, seasons of loss, and seasons of pain. God is changing me and His faithfulness to me remains the same.
For God’s own glory, He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. He foreordains the seasons and every matter under heaven. To my human mind, I can’t always know or predict what God is up to—but my theology reminds me what God is up to is for His glory, not my own glory, but His glory.
The losses experienced on earth will pale in comparison to the gains of glory in eternity. “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17). When I think about twenty-three years, the affliction of loss is long, but fleeting. Earthly afflictions are preparing Christ-followers for heavy glory.
Even with good theology, I admit, I stumble in the losses. I believe, but like the father who comes to Jesus to heal his son in the gospels, I believe, but I need the power of Christ to help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). When the losses on earth break my heart, I am weak—but I am confident in the power of the spirit that works within me, “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us,” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Though I stumble, Christ is the only thing that enables me to rise. He is my hope, my banner, my shield, and my very great reward.
After a season of recent loss, the popcorn trees are a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness to heal, redeem, and restore all things. The healing may take decades, but one day I will look back and it will feel like merely moments. On the journey, I can choose to see the beauty in the blossoms or get caught up in the stink that strives to overcome the beauty. Twenty-three years ago, I never imagined God would bring me to where I am now—and though I stumble, I know I am living a life that would bring my mother great joy.
I pray and hope in the next season—God is doing more than I could ask or think, even when I cannot see. He will be glorified in the joys, the healing, the loss, and the pain. He is near and faithful. His consistency in creation reminds me that He never stops working and His promises are true.
In moments of great loss, it is a gift to be able to find beauty among the stink. He creates beauty out of brokenness and He will be glorified because He is faithful and good. By His power we can truly heal and be restored.