Dead of Winter

The dead of winter. It is cold. It is dark. It can make you want to grab a few blankets and a heater and hibernate for a few weeks. When I lived in Missouri, almost any amount of snow was cause for great alarm. I have been in Waverly for nearly 20 years (excuse me, what?), and I know by now that the cold and snow do not phase Iowans. Life goes on, people still go to work and church and sports and shopping and whatever else they feel like doing.

We went to a restaurant for my birthday dinner last week, and even though it was Friday night, I figured it wouldn’t be that busy. It was a bitterly cold evening,and I imagined that most people wouldn’t want to go out. I was wrong! You never would have known it was deathly cold from observing the restaurant that evening.

In the years that my children were little, we didn’t venture out a lot in the dead of winter. Bundling up kids, warming up the car (no convenient attached garage), buckling in car seats all for some meaningless errand or even just for mental health were a giant undertaking. So I avoided it. I also suffered with a lot of depression in those years. It took me longer than I wish it had to realize that it was worth getting out of the four walls of our house, seeing some sunshine, getting Starbucks, and even just letting them nap in the car. My mental health was worth it.

The dead of winter outside is sometimes mirrored by a wintry season of the soul. Often we keep those dark and cold situations to ourselves. We struggle within the confines of our own minds but never step out and bravely share with another soul.

Is it the dead of winter in your heart today? Is it hard to see what’s coming in just a few weeks? I promise that our God has not abandoned you. I use the dead of winter to remember all the amazing summers and beautiful things God has done through winters past. None of them were fun or enjoyable, but they drew me closer to Him and led me to lean hard against Him. He is big enough. He can handle my winter and my hard stuff and all the questions that linger on for years without answer. He may not answer when or how we want Him to answer, but He is working in ways we cannot see. Deep underneath all the layers, He is healing and restoring, and when spring comes, it is going to blow your mind. You can trust Him.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.5.10.ESV

Boxes of Hope

I walked into our storage unit a few weeks ago. The kids needed winter clothes, and I had packed them all away in the hope that we would be listing our house for sale and hopefully bringing those boxes back to a new home when the colder weather rolled around.

I opened the door, and right there was our Christmas tree bag. The feelings from 6 months ago flooded over me. Hope. Excitement. Anticipation. Joy. We had rented this storage unit on the advice of a realtor who said we needed to get the house cleared out so we could list it. I had started on this task months ago. The me from 6 months ago was excited about the possibility of finally moving into town and passing on our project house to someone who wants a project. (Our project is three kids for the foreseeable future.)

I took some winter clothes boxes and put them in the back of my car. As I drove away from the unit, sadness overcame me. I remembered the hope I had when I put these boxes into storage. I had hope that the months to come would hold some big steps for us: preparing the house, selling it, buying another one, and moving from the only house we have lived in for our entire marriage. A verse popped into my mind.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/pro.13.12.ESV

This hope has been deferred for years. I thought we were finally there, finally ready to make this happen. I certainly had no concept of what we would go through this summer with Matt’s sickness, hospitalization, and complications. I never saw it coming. Who would?

The God who knows our days from beginning to end knew. He also knows what the coming days and months and years will hold for us, and I can trust Him. I have already learned and grown so much from this season. I know it isn’t wasted time. It is not in vain that we walk this road and defer the hope of moving out of our house for yet another year.

So I will hang on to Him. I love the imagery of this Psalm, in the shadow of His wings. I have no doubt He can keep me safe just as He always has.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭57:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.57.1-2.ESV

Strength in Waiting

This is my view on a regular basis during the summer season. Last year, I ended up taking over most of the mowing duties since I was home and the kids were old enough to play outside while I mow.

I would prefer not to mow, but I try to use the time to listen to podcasts or pray. Last week as I rode across the bumpy lawn, I was praying about our future, our desire to move to a new home, and the challenges we face in getting there. I was (maybe) trying to rush God because the market is good for selling.

Then God said, “Do you think I care about the housing market situation?”

And I sheepishly answered, “No.”

I was looking through human lenses, and God reminded me that He works outside of time and the constraints we assume will be challenging for our situation.

Are you looking for a house in a market where they get snatched up before they are listed? Are you frustrated in your relationship with someone who stubbornly refuses to change? Are you devastated that your arms remain empty even as you pray and beg God for a child?

When I feel like I’ve been waiting far too long, I remember Joseph who spent two years in prison without knowing how God was working and if he would ever be released. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness for decades waiting for the last generation to die out so they could enter the Promised Land (our pastor illustrates this so well a few weeks ago). David waiting years to be crowned king.

Waiting is never an accident in God’s plans. My path from full-time ministry to years of volunteer ministry doesn’t make sense to me. But all along the way, I have seen His hand working. I have felt the peace that I am doing what He wants me to do. I have seen the necessity of certain seasons even as I simultaneously begged for them to end.

God knows your situation, too. He loves you and He loves to work things so beautifully that we have no doubt He made it happen. This is one of my favorite songs right now. Don’t waste the wait. Seek Him.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/59/isa.40.31.esv