I sat for a long time today with my cursor flashing, the page before me empty. A glimpse from the white screen toward the window revealed a sudden contrast of color. It’s my favorite time of year for a stunning view of autumn, well worth the chill to step out onto the balcony to take another photo to add to the collection. I dream of someday enjoying the view from a balcony in Mexico, but I will never see a similar glorious landscape of nature in transition from there.
I’ve taken the photo on sunny days, in the rain, in the early dawn with the sunrise’s red glow, and after dark when the landscape is peppered with streetlights. Each photo is different, even though I’ve not used a filter or adjusted any settings. The lens through which I view the colored leaves depends on the time of day and the weather conditions. Sometimes the leaves look brighter than others.
Since the photos were taken within a few days, the leaves themselves have not changed much. They cling to branches with a hold that is slowly slipping, but for now, they display their fall wardrobe in this spectacular fashion show.
Life is colorful, too. I am grateful for all the things that make life worth living, and the autumn view is only a tiny part of that list. Family, friends, delicious food, music, good books, fun movies, pets, travel, sports, poolside moments, babies, nice shoes, air conditioning and heating as required, comfortable mattresses, ottomans, and a relationship with Jesus are a few of life’s perks. Your list might look different, but everyone can make one, even if some parts of your life are less colorful because of the shadows.
My recent writing has focused on the pain of loss, and I hoped to move out of that dark shadow to view the vibrant colors again. And then, this morning, the phone rang.
A friend called to tell me she had received horrific news. Test results following a doctor’s visit for leg pain revealed the worst. She has stage four cancer with tumors too numerous to treat by operation. The treatments they suggest for her have extended the lives of other patients up to six years. She now has a concrete deadline for her life.
“I will live out the rest of my life with cancer,” she said. “It will be cancer that kills me.” My heart broke for her.
With this news, my friend could view her colorful life through a lens of anger or grief that would darken the vibrancy of her final years. Or she could fight to put on the lens of gratefulness that the cancer has been found and the treatments promised will give her a fairly normal life for the next few years.
“I’m not ready to go yet. My grandchildren and children need me. My husband needs me. I’m going to fight this and have the best life I can.”
I cheered her on for her courage and promised to pray for her, recognizing she will need prayers during the darker days that will come.
Our lives are all finite, and we know this. Yet, sometimes we live like we don’t. We allow emotions to cloud our vision and dull the colors in our lives.
What would you do differently if you knew you only had six more years to live? What would you change? When you’ve answered that question, consider why you haven’t done that already.
We don’t know the day or hour we might leave this earth. It may not be a disease that slowly takes us. It might be an accident or a natural disaster that takes us in a flash. What would living each day like it’s your last look like for you? Would you more visibly express your love for others? Would you spend more time doing things you enjoy? Would you savor moments? Would you be adventurous and try new things? Would you prepare for your afterlife by inviting God to be a bigger part of your life?
Death isn’t something we like to think about. As those leaves prepare to fall and die on the ground, they make a vibrant display of God’s glory. Don’t you think we should, too?
Before we look Death in the face, let’s live our lives in their fullest colorful experience, allowing God’s love to shine through us. When we have Jesus in our hearts, we know that life here on earth is just the beginning.
Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.1 Corinthians 15:42b-44
While we don’t look forward to death, as believers, we don’t have to fear it. Jesus has given us victory over the grave. Our new and improved life will begin. Until then, we’ll appreciate the colorful one we have.
As you consider your responses to the questions above, are there things you could do now to make your life more colorful before getting a doctor’s terminal prognosis?
Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? Not only does this give you hope for your future, but He will give you the right lens to see the colors in your dark days. He is Comfort. He is Strength. You don’t have to face the shadows alone.
Father, I pray for those who have been told their deaths will come sooner than they thought. Give them the courage to live colorful lives that include You in the center. Help me to appreciate the colors that surround me and live in gratitude for a vibrant life. Since I don’t know how many days or years I have left, I want to live my best for You, loving and serving those around me. May I be a vibrant display of Your glory. Amen.
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