When I look back on 2018, this picture of ice is a representation of what it felt like to me.
This past year felt like one of disorganization, fragmented chaos, and jagged edges. Some days I could only see the disorganization and chaos. Some days, the jagged edges cut me to the core. There were tons of doubt, fear, anxiousness, and overwhelming obstacles.
But just as this is a picture of ice, that fades when the heat is applied, so did the Lord teach me some valuable truths as He lovingly applied His heat to the ice of my soul. He had to teach me that what I saw as disorganization, chaos, and jagged edges were actually a beautiful part of what He was doing in my life.
I clung to Psalm 105:4 last year:
"Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!"I literally held on to that verse daily. I did seek Him - and found Him - and look back on last year and know I would not have made it without Him.
In seeking Him, what did I learn more deeply?
Every season has its reason.
The year 2018 felt like the season of winter - all year long.
Winter is a time of barrenness, coldness, less light, and lack of color. One can see that the animals in nature have to look harder to find their food. Some have to dig deep below the snow in order to find anything to eat. In the past, if a person/family did not have goods stored up to eat, starvation could occur. Our personal winters can be the same - barren, cold, and lack of vibrancy in color.
I felt that way on many occasions this past year. I was stuck in the winter season because the whole year was consumed from January to December with what was to come. There was Wesley's brain training, then a new school year filled with new obstacles to overcome, two babies who are now Seniors and beginning to fly out of the nest, aging parents, financial uncertainties, and just the day-to-day grind of trying to keep up with it all. I found I had to look harder for the spiritual food in order to survive. My heart grew cold at times simply because life was so overwhelming and I did not have time to dig deep beneath the cold snow of life to see what was beneath in God's Word. I continued to daily read the Scripture, but the time for digging deep was shorter like the short days of winter. I had to dig when I could and hold on to the food I found. I felt winter to the core, just as cold can creep in and you feel it to your bones. I began to look around me at times and could not see any color, but the same stark landscape that seemed to have no end.
As I have reflected on this, I did not realize how much I had gone through winter until I kept calling out to the Lord. He knew I could not shake the coldness I was feeling on my own. He had to show me what I needed to understand and attach it to the warmth of His truth.
In thinking through the seasons, the spiritual food the Lord gave me in my winter had to be found deeper than I would have had to search for in the summer season. There were roots I needed for sustenance that would not have been thought of as a need in the warmth and ease of the summer growing times. In continuing to learn how to die to self, I was able to learn the value of a deeper character in the harvest of autumn.
Winter is hard. But winter has a purpose.
Winter is a needed time so that spring might arrive. During the harshness of winter, the ground is preparing for another year of growth. The trees/plants are resting so that once the air begins to show warmth, the leaves and flowers can begin their journey of bursting forth into the beauty of spring. Winter helps us to appreciate the spring and not take it for granted. Spring is when the color comes back into the view of the landscape. It is blossoming all around preparing the world for the summer fruit to come. It is a hope that all things that seemed dead are now alive again. New life. New hope. New fruit.
I can honestly say that I am a different person than a year ago. The Lord taught me a great deal in my winter year.
He taught me to seek Him and Him alone and that I have to dig deep to find the valuable spiritual nutrients that will sustain me in the barren times.
He taught me that my cold heart can be warmed by His love and gentleness. He never left me once by myself on those cold-feeling days.
He taught me that even though the days seemed short and dark, His light inside of me would continue to guide my path. He is my light, my fortress, my deliverer. It is Him that I trust to lead me.
He taught me that even though the landscape may seem quite barren and have no color, the spring ahead would be more beautiful than I ever could imagine. I cannot have the beauty of the spring, the bursting forth of fruit, if the winter did not prepare the soil and plants of my heart.
He taught me that He is my hope and it is He who I must praise as He leads me into the spring.
I honestly do not know if winter is fully past for us yet, but I do know what the Lord has shown me regarding my new year. He has reminded me that He alone is my hope and I am to praise Him. He gave me my verse for this year:
Psalm 71:14 ~ But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
Maybe someone who is reading this is also walking through a long winter season. Maybe you have felt just as I have felt. We must take heart and know that spring is coming. It will come in His timing - once He has prepared the soil of our hearts to be ready for the blossoming of spring and the fruit-bearing of summer so that we might have a bountiful harvest in autumn.
I will praise the Lord for winter because in those times He alone brings fullness and beauty out of barrenness and ugliness. He prepares us for the hope that comes with spring!
Song of Solomon 2:11-12a
for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come...