My eyes stretched to see the story of a single icy crystal, each a curious artistic creation. I tried to witness its escape from a vaporous cloud. To trace its descent and mysterious morphology into a plump feathery-light puff. To see it rest upon the rigid ground or the soft coyote fur of my hood, or better yet, to feel its frost upon my upturned cheek.
Having no success at deciphering the origins of a single flake, and hesitating only a moment, I turned off the main concourse and took a logging trail down and up and down again through the whistling hollows.
The deer sheltered under low-hung boughs of protecting pines. They would wait out the storm, feed in calmer climate. Light-footed squirrels and flitting birds ventured out earlier on this blustery day. Tiny footprints sketched their bold adventure, and then vanished. They most likely now nestled in a tightly woven tree-top nest or the dense undergrowth beneath the autumn olive. The wind had flown away, too, perhaps pausing momentarily to take in the beauty, as I did upon reaching the crest of a gentle slope.
I walked on spotless snow-carpet. Nature donned her new wool coat. Pines, hemlocks, evergreens of all sorts held the snow with out-stretched arms as one holds a bubble in a wand, aware that only a glancing breeze might spontaneously burst the slippery vitreous liquid or dismantle winter’s fluff-fur coat. Everywhere, snow-draped, the vista rolled before me for miles of unharnessed forested beauty.
The snow slowed. Gentle gusts of air intermittently defrocked the bent-over white-cloaked limbs of the conifers and blanketed the ground beneath. I played tag with God. He teased me from above with snow showers. I sprinted ahead—tried to outrun His breath blowing through the branches. Evade the snowy spray. I giggled. Light-hearted . . . light-hearted like I had not been in months, maybe years . . . . maybe ever. As easily as His breath of life winded the wings of birds and snowed down beauty, He breathed new life into me. He made me fully alive—joyfully alive. We frolicked together. He caressed me with His snow.
As quietly as it had commenced, the hushed snow now suspended. The woods stilled.
It came to me—or me to it. I am not sure. It hung from high in an oak tree. I might have missed it but that I gazed heaven-ward. Upon its slender thread lay sparkling snow crystals, only intermittently, still close enough to decipher the
Stream that meanders through Sneaky Hollow continuous coded-line—thinner than fishing line—that ran through the leafy branch perched far above my head. I couldn’t tell if it climbed higher or ended on the overhanging appendage. I could only barely discern that somewhere, from heaven’s heights, the spinner decided to cast a thread of proteinaceous spider silk. I paused a moment in wonder of spotting such a delicate slight creation amidst the splattering snow stuck on wood, rock, dried grass—all that stood perpendicular to heaven or lie down upon earth’s floor.
This single strand of silk hung suspended before my face—only inches from me. What wonders fill the earth! Awe swells. The soul humbles. I paused, took in God’s power and presence displayed in His creation, then hurried on my way, determined to reach the bottom of Sneaky Hollow where life’s water flowed freely from the earth’s bosom. I wanted to hear life’s song flow over the rocky places that day.
Where earth’s water bubbled from deep and darkest hidden springs, I stood still. Listened. I breathed in the harmony of the Life-giver’s aria, the melody trickling through every configuration of this world’s stony path. The water’s melody joined wings’ fluttering, snows’ dripping, leaves’ rustling. God’s symphony played on. Unbroken.
Alas, the spinning earth moved round the sun and time ticked off the moments. Soon the woods’ filtered light would dim. Forty years of these logging trails and I still get turned around, especially when summer’s dressing or winter’s fluff camouflages the trees and ground, and every marker to me is hidden. I turned back, started home.
Wading through deep snow, winding up the ravine, I paused at the top of one hollow to quiet my heaving chest. Could it be? There before me poised that same single strand of the orb-weaver. I stood, face to face with the diamond-studded strand of fiber.
How could it be? I recognize nothing to mark this place along my path. Every suspended tree limb above, every planted rock and fallen branch below snow-covered!
Motionless, I waited. Would the silken string come closer? Was it hovering, as a humming bird over nectar’s sweetness? Would the breeze catch it? Would it come to me? A palm’s width from my nose, could my breath draw it nearer or blow it farther from me? I held my breath; it floated across my face, its drift barely perceptible. I tried to breathe it in; it controlled the course, I didn’t. I couldn’t command its presence, nor alter its distance from me. This vertical trail to heaven appeared delicate, yet was so strong life’s storms couldn’t break it. I marveled again—the web-path discernible solely because of the snow clinging to the thread. Intermittently, the filament disappeared like a dotted line upon a translucent piece of aerial parchment or the alternating, deliberate on-off code of some celestial messenger.
What hidden communication, what grace-gift had God encoded upon this receptacle now mysteriously hanging unopened before me? What message? Forehead and brow wrinkled. Eyes fixed upon the dotted line. I saw it!
I saw it. The web mirrored my perception of God’s presence in my life. Intermittent. Sporadic. Here, now—fully aware of His presence. Other times—unaware—he felt painfully absent. Had I simply lost sight of Him? And my daughter, my precious child. . . Stacey had crossed that great chasm fixed between the living and the dead (Luke 16:2).
Stacey reached the “heavenly country.”[i] Now she lived with myriads of angels, cherubim and saints—those who’ve gone before and now abide in His visible presence in a way in which we earth-dwellers cannot. Yet, because of Christ, although there is an inconceivable distance between heaven and earth, “there is not an impassable gulf, as there is between heaven and hell. This firmament is not a wall of partition, but a way of intercourse.”[ii]
I knew—one day I’d go to her. She would not return to me. God reminded me of King David’s words. “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept. For I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ but now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?” (II Samuel 12:22,23).
I couldn’t bring Stacey back to life. Nor could I fully live until I moved beyond my mourning of her death. I needed to accept God’s comfort, His forgiveness, to change my ways, to take the fresh start he offers each new day. Then I could move ahead with hope and joy in anticipation of a fuller, more meaningful life. I determined to put my trust in Christ, listen to His voice, keep Him first in my life.
It was time for me to return to life—to the fullness of life in Christ.
It was time to let go of all that interfered with my awareness of God’s enduring love. His active presence, His involvement in my life, was not limited to a few dots upon a thin line of mortality. God inhabits the praise of His people. Praise is the key that would open the door between us so I could sense His abiding presence.
It was time to begin to walk in faith. From the foundations of the world, God planned for me to dwell with Him. He had prepared a Holy City, a kingdom filled with His eternal presence, which one glorious day, he would unveil for all to see. For this season, most often, I could see only vaporous evidence of God’s footprints. Other lucid, shining moments, His presence sparkled as snowy diamond studs upon my life’s eternal thread.
As a father cups his child’s chin and gently redirects her downward gaze to meet His loving eyes, God directed my gaze heavenward. God the Father showed me through a slender, snow-splattered thread of spider silk—He had been with me all along. Faithful. Constant. He connected all the dots of my life.
God never moves from me. I walk out of fellowship with Him. At times, I wander from His protective perimeters. Other times, I obstinately ignore them. When I become aware of my offenses, once I confess my failures and ask for His forgiveness, I can move back into fellowship with Him. He drew the lines to keep me safe, to ensure that my joy in Him—and from Him—flows freely as springs of living water. I am saturated in His love.
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the work of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”[iii]By faith I understand that salvation is through Christ alone. Jesus promised to prepare a place for us to dwell with Him. There is no need to “sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. . . We who remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”[iv]
I needed to join the cloud of witnesses—those pilgrims who had gone before me and those who still walk this earth—those with faith to believe God exists, that He fulfills His promises and rewards all those who call on Him.[v] I saw the golden cord that connects me to Stacey and to all who have gone before me and entered the Throne Room of God. Looking closer, I saw the crimson cord that pulses with the blood of Jesus Christ and connects me to God as an umbilical cord connects the babe to the one in whom life began.
I fixed my heart upon God, determined to set aside all obstacles in my relationship with Him and with others. My troubled heart stilled. God’s aria flowed rhythmically between the visible and the invisible, communicating a message of hope, encouraging me to keep on persevering in my faith. I walked on with joy knowing that although, “The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine. But God, who called me here below will be forever mine.[vi]