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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

Bleak Midwinter

March 6, 2019



 

I have never been a winter person.

For five years, we lived in the snow belt of New York State where the snow was regularly above my knees.  Drifts of snow outside and drifts of diapers inside threatened to bury me, and I learned firsthand what cabin fever feels like!  When Isaiah 55 talks about the snow coming down and accomplishing something, I couldn’t imagine in the slightest what purpose it was! 

I remember days of anxious irritability as freezing temperatures encroached.  Something very close to claustrophobia would niggle at the edges of my heart and mind. I would cringe at feelings of being trapped indoors with icicle daggers pointed toward me and, too often, from me as well.  The grayness was barren.  The snow looked like death.   I can still feel the frozen sandiness of the Indiana snow scrubbing my face from my years there in college.

I’ve always been much further to the Martha side of things than Mary.  It’s all well and good to sit down and listen, but I think we all know that we’re going to want to eat when the lesson is over.  Summer suits me just fine.  I want to be growing things and seeing it happen.  As far as I was concerned, snow was permitted from the arrival of Santa at the Thanksgiving Day Parade until New Year’s afternoon, but when January 2nd rolled around, I started looking for crocuses and daffodils.  This was absolutely fruitless, of course, even in the sunny south where I grew up, and all the more on the ice planets of Ohio and New York! 

However, we serve a God of miracles, and I now look forward to snowy, fire-lit days full of Earl Grey and Lord Byron.  Days when we might as well read for another hour under snuggly blankets, because we’re all wiped out from snowball fights and sledding.  Finally, the canvases that have waited all year for me will feel my brushes and palette knives as they come alive with color.  Winter days are for settling, drawing in close those around us, and long ponderings of what God has rightly done. The garden sleeps, the woodshop is quiet, and our homes gleam gold in a world turned silver.

Winter’s Rest

I’ve experienced the same sort of emotional migration from dissatisfaction to peace as well.  I remember voicing frustrations about not feeling like I was really growing and changing and being challenged by God much.  A very good friend reminded me that trees only measurably grow for a couple of months out of a year’s cycle.  They spend the remaining year solidifying and strengthening that growth.  It can be so easy to isolate and drift off into a solitary hibernation in those cold seasons.  Winter can easily lull us.  In days that seemingly stretch painfully into weeks and months and years, when the strong voice of God seems to have fallen silent, rest easy.  He is not.  He is at work and it is good. 

“’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. 

‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So my ways are higher than your ways

And my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.’”

Isaiah 55:8,9 NLT

Winter sings quietly to our souls, caroling us in its embrace, restoring our souls.  Winter is Sabbath, that sweet, remedial gift.  No wonder it is so still.

Blessed Quietness

I pray that those of you in winter seasons of climate or life feel the refreshment of it, rather than the sting, but I know what it is to feel like the dim days of cold are biting, rather than blessing.  I pray that you will find joy and beauty. 

For those precious souls who ache at the cold, brokenness of winters of life, I see you there.  Believe the truth that you are loved.  Hold fast to the promise of sun and spring and know that cold winds and deep drifts of sorrow are doing a great work.  If you look very hard, sometimes you will find silver in what appears to only be grey. 

Our God is at work, even while it seems that the White Witch reigns. 

And for those who delight in the coziness of winter, make sure the warmth of your hearth fire burns brightly enough to cheer those who may not see the snow sparkling.  Light the candles of your homes!  Warm the cider!  Let the communion of good books and great games and the Gospel of Jesus wash us all in their beauty.  We may walk in darkness, but we have seen a Great Light!  It is dawning! 

“You will live in joy and peace. 

The mountains and hills will burst into song,

And the trees of the field will clap their hands!

Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.

Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. 

These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;

They will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.’”

Isaiah 55:12,13 NLT

May joy find haven in your hearts, and may your hearts be a refuge for those in sorrow.

 



The Featured image above is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and copyrighted to her. 

This image was made in The Kilns in Oxford – the beloved home of C.S. Lewis.



 

Jordan Durbin

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