Other than a white – and windy – Christmas, the Detroit area has been pretty much snow-free for the first third of our winter.  That was, until yesterday.  The forecast when I went to bed on Tuesday was for the snow to start around 8:00 a.m., but when I opened the garage door at 6:00 a.m. it had already been snowing for 10-15 minutes.
My plan for the day – made long before I heard any weather forecasts – was to make seven home-visits during the course of the day.  The first was scheduled for 10:00 a.m.  The path was to gradually work my way north, so that the last two were by Lakeside Mall.  This would give me a straight shot across Hall Road to be home by 5:00 p.m.
I figured the snow would make it a fun day to be out there.  With many schools closed there would be less traffic.  All in all, I liked the plan, even after the snow started to fall.
The snow stopped falling around 7:30 a.m. … and then started again a couple hours later.  Shortly after that, while driving from visit one to two, I received word that someone I had seen the previous day had taken a turn for the worse.  She became stop number three.  Sometime during stop number four the volume of snow falling increased noticeably.  However, the driving never became too difficult, and – with the one substitution at stop three – I carried out my plan.
However, outside of the plan, were the day’s two bookends.  During the morning lull in the snow I received a phone call that a member in hospice whom I had seen the day before had been called home.  Then, shortly after arriving home in the evening, I received another call.  A different member of the STL family had arrived home only to discover her husband lying lifeless on the floor.  One funeral will be Saturday, while the arrangements for the other are pending.
I am calling all the home-visits I am doing these days my “Farewell Tour.”  As I say that, I remind everyone that I know I am no rockstar … thus there will be no repeats – only one “Farewell Tour” for me.  What I did not anticipate were the multiple final earthly farewells intertwined into the tour.
So, were you finding yesterday’s snow to be beautiful – or a struggle … or a combination of the two?  The beauty was incredible … the dazzling snow covering the lawns … white tree branches lining the streets … delicate puffs of snow shimmering in the light.  But the snow on the sidewalks and in the subdivisions was deep.  The roads were slick.  The travel was slow.  I had to shorten my visits in order to stay on time.  Perhaps the word I should use to describe the snow is sweet-and-sour.
Or maybe bittersweet.  That’s a word I’ve heard multiple times over the past few months.  But we have not been talking about snow!  While the reference mainly has centered upon my leaving STL, the term really describes life on this earth.  And, somewhere in the conversation, we have to ask ourselves if we see the glass before us half full or half empty. 
Then there is an important second question that goes with the first.  It goes like this, “Is the Almighty God constantly pouring into that glass or sucking substance out of it?”  Now I know Job’s reasoning – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1.21)  The challenge is balancing his logic with that of David – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23.5)
Yesterday I saw many different people who were able to enjoy the beauty before them while at the same time adjusting to the challenges they faced.  I expect to see more of that today.  Generally speaking, rather than living in an “either – or” world ours is a “both – and” one.
The more classic term for this is “simul justus et peccator.”  We are simultaneously saint and sinner.  The world we live in is fallen yet redeemed.  Christ is in control, but Satan has a very long chain.  We are surrounded by death every day while Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11.25-26)
This morning as I first looked outside, our sidewalk and drive were shoveled, but not our street. By the time I came out of the shower, our street was clean … but there was now a pile of snow blocking the bottom of our driveway.  Now that is gone, too.  This evening it will be my responsibility to push the snow off our deck. … Snowstorms … farewells … life on this earth … lots of sweet beauty interspersed with bites of bitters.
Did I enjoy yesterday’s snow?  Yes … and no.  Am I looking forward to retiring?  Again, yes, and no.  We do live in a “yes and no” world.  However, with every “yes” and every “no” in our lives there comes a beautifying reality – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23.1,6)
Now I’m just praying more snow doesn’t mess up the weekend.