Apple juice. Dead roses. Paradise sky.
What do these three things have in common? They all represent a time in my life where I went through a transition.
When I was married, one of my favorite ways to spend my day off with my wife, Aletha, was to go grocery shopping together. I know, very exciting. But it’s the simple joys lived together that are oftentimes the most cherished. Anyway, there was one shopping trip to Trader Joe’s that I will never forget.
You see, I love apple juice. A cold glass of apple juice is one of my most favorite refreshing beverages. And as I reached to grab one of the regular, very sugary, unhealthy apple juices and put it in the shopping cart, so did Aletha. Except she grabbed the healthy, unfiltered, organic, less sugary kind. I stopped and looked at her aghast, exclaiming with my facial expression, “I’m not drinking that.” Knowing me all too well, in her gentle but firm voice she declared simply, “This is apple juice now.”
And that was that. From that moment on, that was what apple juice was to me. It wasn’t something I actively sought or even desired - it was sort of thrust upon me unexpectedly. But I moved with it, I adapted, and I grew through it, because it was, after all, the better choice.
Fast forward six years. While I still drink healthy apple juice, my household looks quite different. Aletha passed away just a year into our marriage, shortly after the birth of our son, Hosea. There have been many waves of changes and constant adaptation to the process of grief and healing. And just last week I entered a new transition.
To be honest, I thought I was done with most of my grief. At least, I’ve been in a really good place spiritually and emotionally, finally feeling as if the Lord is beginning to let things bloom again.
But lately, I’ve been needing something to change. I think this need arose ironically because of all the new fruit that the Lord is growing in and around me, and the life that is finally filling my lungs and heart again. There wasn’t enough space for all this newness. Something had to move.
And so I debated it for a few weeks, but I knew what it was that I needed to do.
On one of the walls in my bedroom hangs a bunch of dead roses. The roses were from the night I proposed to her. She dried them and kept them as a symbol of that moment in our lives, and they’ve been hanging there ever since.
But it was time for me to let go of those roses.
It’s hard for me to adequately explain the significance of this decision to anyone who hasn’t gone through a major loss. In grief, there is a time to cling to the memories we hold of our loved ones. But there also comes a time when we need to let them go.
And so I took down the bunch of dried roses and carried them to the compost bin outside. (Well, to be completely honest, I first kept them on the hallway floor for two days because I wasn’t fully ready just yet).
There was a part of me that wondered if I was dishonoring that memory of us by throwing the roses into the bin. But mostly it felt good. It felt right. It was another step forward instead of holding onto the past. It was making room for the new. Plus, they were very moldy at this point, so that was an added bonus.
Looking ahead, there is now another step I must take. It is painting the bedroom walls a different color. The walls are still the light purple hue that Aletha chose, and I’ve kept them that way, to keep a part of her in my life and Hosea’s.
But throwing away the roses gave me courage to consider other possibilities for opening myself to the new things the Lord is wanting to do in me.
So I brought home a few paint samples from Home Depot and I let Hosea pick his favorite. He chose Paradise Sky. We haven’t gotten all our supplies yet, and I haven’t scheduled a paint day, but I’m ready. I’m ready now for this transition as well. (P.S. If anyone wants to help us paint our walls, we are accepting requests!)
I know these instances might seem like small moments, but they represent so much more than is at the surface. Each one marks a point in my life where I was forced to trust in the Lord. Each one serves as a reminder of His faithfulness (whether in the promise fulfilled of my marriage or in the healing of my heart) and His constant presence.
Culturally, we’ve been through a lot of transitions this past year, and no doubt we will continue to go through more. Whatever season you might find yourself in, know that there is always a season of change and transition, and our response to move forward in growth will require us to be adaptable while remaining grounded.
This may sound counterintuitive at first - the need to stay grounded in order to adapt. But it’s not. The more firm our foundation, the easier it is for us to pivot. We won’t fall over when doing so. The deeper our roots are set in the soil, the more we will be able to withstand the storm that hits us unexpectedly.
Sometimes these times of transition are thrust upon us like apple juice in a Trader Joe’s, or an unprecedented shelter-in-place. Others we seek out intentionally, to try get out of the ruts we find ourselves in, or to continue on our path toward healing. Either way, our constant, our firm foundation, our anchor through all of these transitions can be found in the One who stands unaffected by all of our circumstances, yet stands right beside us, holding our hands and lifting our feet when we cannot, whispering gently and intimately into our hearts “I, the Lord, do not change. I am with you wherever you go.”
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
- Ecclesiastes 3: 1,4,6 NIV
...but the word of the Lord endures forever.
- 1 Peter 1:25 NIV
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
- Isaiah 43:1-3