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

Built on the Rock of Ages

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The wise man did not wait until the storm came to build his house. He did the work before the storm so he would be prepared when it arrived. The problem with that is that we never know when the storms of life will come our way. One phone call changes everything. One day brings change we never dreamed was coming. The one who devotes time to hearing and understanding and following the words of God is building a solid spiritual house. He or she is the one that Jesus describes as wise.

My husband, Matt, spent a week in the hospital with sepsis, kidney failure, and severe dehydration. He has been home for almost 8 weeks, and he is still in the process of recovering. He developed blood clots in the hospital, so those are being treated as well as some other issues that have not yet resolved themselves. He is still weaker than usual and low on energy. The raging storm that started when we went to the doctor has died down, but it is still raining heavily as we face different physical, financial, and emotional circumstances. God has provided for us in beautiful ways. I should write a full post about the ways in which living in community has blessed our lives and our family.

Almost a week ago, my dad was admitted to the hospital with COVID pneumonia. My mom was sick at home with COVID. I have been stuck two hours away, substituting phone calls and FaceTime for the personal touch and hugs I want to be giving them. Dad has had a couple of good days, and we are praying he keeps improving. Mom is feeling better today, and we trust that God is healing their bodies. It has been another tough storm. I have noticed that, when that storm begins and when it is raging so loudly, rattling the windows and knocking down tree limbs, it’s too late to put down a foundation. It’s even too late to put on siding or paint or install the door. The work needs to be done. All you can do is stand. The foundation you have built will hold you in place. Words may fail you, you may not know what to pray in that moment, but the foundation is still there, rock solid and not going anywhere.

I am not new to stormy weather, but I can say my foundation has never been quite as strong as it was this time. All the glory for that goes to God. I can read and pray and give and serve, but it is God who gives the growth.

Do you want to build a strong foundation that can withstand the greatest of storms? Do you want to be built on the Rock who holds eternity in His hands? Read the Bible. Pray, pray for yourself and pray for others. Give, give up things that are weighing you down. Give of yourself. Serve others and serve the church. Serve and give your time, sacrificing things you would otherwise do to invest in the eternity of someone else.

If you are in a storm and you need something to hold on to right now, please message me. I would love to pray with you. Maybe you are reading this and keeping the storm inside. Please find others to hold you up in prayer.

It may be bright and sunny in your corner of the world. If so, keep building on your foundation. Find someone who needs a helping hand, and serve in their time of need. I can tell you that it means so much to them. A lot of love comes in a homemade lasagna or a pot of chili given to a sick or hurting family.

This is my favorite quote. I have shared it before, but it fits so I am happy to share it again.