Our pastor ran a sermon series in December called God With Us. The promo video that ran each week began with a reminder that God is always with us: “On the mountain…in the valley….”
Ah, yes, the valley. The first sermon was all about the valley, which is where our family spent most of 2016 and a fair portion of 2017. The valley is supposed to be a dark, desperate place–“I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” from Psalm 23, right?–but here’s what hit me as I watched the video intro:
Valleys are beautiful.
Honestly, on our trips to Colorado, valleys are my favorite places to be. Mountains are majestic, of course, but the countless houses tucked into the deeply wooded valleys? That’s where I’d want to live. There’s beauty there; it’s not hard to see.
There’s beauty in the valleys of our lives, too.
A perfect example came to me a few Fridays ago, when I went to bed early (like before-dinner early) with what seemed to be a stomach bug. My husband had plans that night, so my twelve-year-old daughter put my four-year-old to bed. While I lay curled up under the covers, miserable and barely awake, the sound of my older daughter’s voice floated down the hall, reading bedtime stories to her little sister. Snuggles, giggles, a chapter of Betsy-Tacy; A Birthday for Frances….
When did she get to be such a beautifully fluent reader?
Beauty in the valley.
Watching your oldest pull back and withdraw, more and more often, until you fear that depression might actually really win–that’s a valley. No doubt.
Watching your son buy his younger sisters stuffed animal souvenirs on the zoo trip he chose to go on with the family, smack in the middle of the ugliness….spending his own money to put a smile on their faces….there’s beauty in the valley.
Holding your son while he sobs and begs….begs you to buy him a gun, so he can end it all and just be done with it for good…that’s the deepest, lowest valley I’ve come to yet.
A doctor who returns your calls while on vacation to ensure he gets medication started: beauty in the valley.
Any trouble with friends tripping a switch that still seems to be set to “despair” is even now a very real part of our valley.
Watching the same child–barely 24 hours later–bringing the folding card table up from the basement, setting it up on the back deck, and cooking and serving dinner to his entire family under the light of the near-full moon….that is a step beyond beauty. That is unbelievable.
Watching my middle child lose her older-brother-best-friend to the gaping maw of depression has been one of the most ongoing, difficult valleys.
Signing off on her “homework” for church and realizing that under “list three ways you know God cares for you” she included, “He gave me a baby sister….” That is beauty so vivid it brought me to tears.
It’s beauty, too, when the big kids do reconnect and find out they are still friends, even after everything they’ve been through.
I know that God has been with us in every one of these situations. He was sitting on the bed with us, brokenhearted, while my son sobbed into my shoulder. He was pulling up a seat with us, outside on the deck, rejoicing in His gorgeous night and healing child. I know his hand is on my family as we walk this rocky road, full of switchbacks, that winds through the valley. But I’m also realizing the valley can be an amazing place, full of beauty, if I can just pay attention. I don’t know how much longer our valley is. I do have faith there will continue to be beauty along the way.