Massive thunderstorms pounded our metal farmhouse roof. The rattling sound was overwhelming, but this morning the sky is clearer than usual, the birds are happy after their bath, and it’s a stunning day filled with wildflowers and the scent of beauty in the air. There is a big debate in my mind whether spring is my favorite season. What I love about spring is the rejuvenation, the beauty that comes after the harsh cold. And I love spring fever, when we’re all eager to wear shorts, flip flops, and sunscreen. 

I flash back to winters in Indiana that I thought would never end, times when we struggled with the ice, the cold, the dark gray days, dead car batteries, cars sliding off the road and getting stuck in snowdrifts. I could never get warm, and we couldn’t wait for spring to appear.

Experiencing Winter

Recently I’ve watched friends and family experience their own personal winter. Tough times of fighting disease, unexpected tragedy, family trials, addictions, financial or legal troubles, and losing cherished family members. I often feel guilty that I’m experiencing spring when they are suffering. But we all tend to cycle in and out of good and tough times. I too have gone through my own endless emotionally gray days, wishing for them to be over but so consumed I could not see the sun breaking through the clouds in the distance.

And though I never welcome those times, I anticipate there will be more of them. Starting two years ago last week, we experienced a season of winter, losing my dad, my mom, my cousin, my aunt, and my uncle. It was a brutal winter.

Please Don’t Die

When I was a child, I was so enamored with my dad that I constantly worried that he would die. I could not imagine life without him. I don’t know why I thought about it so much, but every stage of my life, I worried, and I told myself I could never get through it if he did die. It was a little boy’s obsession that continued into much of my adult life. It was totally unfounded and illogical, and I don’t understand why it had such power over me for so many years. 

Yet when my dad did die, it was horrible, but not as horrible as I had imagined it would be. Maybe because he was ready, and he had lived a full and valuable life up to age 94. I had spent years worrying about a winter that was not as awful as I had anticipated. 

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Time and experience allow us to look back and see our mistakes, and our wins and losses. I regret having spent countless hours worried about things that never happened, preoccupied by what might happen. And though there is value in being prepared for worst-case scenarios, there is no value in worry whatsoever.  

So I decided to remove worry from my life. I rarely worry even at times I probably should. My attitude is that I’ll deal with the bad things when they happen, not before. Time is too precious for worry. I’m trying to trust God more. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

A Painful Lesson

After horrible winters that seemed endless, the sun always began shining again, and I look back on how I managed to get through the winter and came out stronger in the end. Looking at trials as important lessons also reduces worry, and I no longer cling to things. In fact, I crave change, because whenever I am stressed about change, things always end up better once the change is made.

Worry less. Stress less. Accept change. Know that trials and tough times all come with important lessons that make us better. 

What would you change?

If I had to change anything, as I reminisce about the past, I’d let go more, control less, realize that it’s important to allow others to make mistakes, and my preventing them from making mistakes does not make them stronger people. And I’d look for more ways to build confidence in others and help them overcome their fears. We all need to know that others believe in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Growth does not happen without running the race, struggling to get to the finish line, and experiencing pain. 

The Sun Always Rises

I don’t mean to make light of any terrible thing you’re experiencing at the moment, but know that there is sunshine on the other side of winter and that you’re strong enough to weather the biggest challenges. You need to know that someone believes in you, and that we’ve got your back. Sometimes we have to step on the carnage of pain and loss to get to a higher mountain. It may not be pretty, but the view is better at the top.

Growing Up the Hard Way

My dad once said to me, “Son, you never really grow up until you lose your father.” My dad was in his mid-60s when my grandfather passed, and my dad seemed pretty grown-up to me. But now I know he was right. There is a freedom that comes with knowing you have no one to rely upon but yourself and your Maker, and it sets a path for a whole new you. 

Whatever you’re going through at this moment: You’ve got this. 

Eric Rhoads

PS: This may sound silly, knowing that Sunday Coffee is widely distributed. But I’m truly there for you. I know you won’t reach out frivolously, but if you need help and I can offer it in some way, please ask. I know what it’s like to have no one to turn to. 

PS2: I’ve grown to really love Carl Bretzke, a painter friend I interviewed for the Plein Air Podcast last week. I like him because he is real; there isn’t a phony or insincere bone in his body, not a mean thought in his mind. I wish I lived closer by; I’d wanna hang out all the time. I learn so much from his wisdom.

When we were talking, he brought up that he had attended nine of 10 Plein Air Conventions, and he was eager to attend the one coming up in May in Denver. I was surprised he had attended that many times, and I asked him why he keeps coming back. After all, he is a highly accomplished and successful artist.

His answer was unexpected, but just demonstrates how the best always want to get better. He said, “I come back primarily to see my friends, most of whom I met at the convention originally. But I attend every demonstration, because I always learn new things about painting from every one of them.” Having a curious mind serves him well. The best never rest; they always strive to learn more. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you there. (www.pleinairconvention,com)

And if pastel is your thing, Pastel Live is coming up this summer in August. This is the best we’ve ever done.