Winter

I had to smile at this tweet from Jen Wilkin, because I feel the same way.

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Then I just read this morning that the third Monday in January is said by some to be the most depressing day of the year, due to debt from Christmas spending hitting, having already failed at our New Year’s resolution, less daylight, more cold, etc. On the other hand, one article called that pseudoscience and another said it was made up by a travel agent trying to drum up bookings to vacation climes. I wouldn’t doubt it. 🙂

Winter is not my favorite season, and a few years ago I wrote Help For the Winter Blues, ideas of other things to focus on or do, quotes, poems, etc. Last year I reflected on Finding Beauty in Bleakness – that’s one aspect of winter I have the most trouble with, and it helped to reflect that God has purposes for even that.

So I won’t rewrite those this year, but I’ll share some other day-brightening thoughts found recently for coping with winter.

brumous

Doesn’t that just fit?!

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I don’t know if that works, but I sure wish I had some bubble solution to try it out!

Winter fun

 

Carroll snow

Winter tree

 

 

Tolkien winter

Fireplace

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Laudable Linkage

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I’ve come across a lot of good reading already in 2018! Here is some that stood out to me in various ways:

How an Old Man Helped Save My Faith, HT to Challies.

I Couldn’t Call God “Father,” HT to Challies. A sweet testimony of an Iranian woman’s journey to Christian faith.

Show Me Your Endurance. “While church leaders dismissed my friend as unpolished and uneducated, I realized her experience was a part of my discipleship journey in ways that information acquisition and discipleship habits alone were not. I saw in her life what my own could look like as I trusted God to be there for my child and for me.”

These Hibernation Days, HT to True Woman. “Winter is a fallen seed, before it has sprouted again. It is God’s gift to us, to teach us of the value of rest, quiet, hiddenness, and death.”

Harsh Light, HT to Story Warren.

A few with the new year in mind:

Bible Reading Schedules. A couple of these I have seen before, a couple were new to me.

Preventing Spiritual Scurvy this Year: The Micronutrient Bible Reading Plan, HT to Challies.

Beginning of the Year Check-in Questions for Christians, HT to Challies. “Don’t leave your spiritual growth up to spontaneity. Make a plan. Now that we’re in 2018, here are some questions to ask as you formulate ways to grow.”

A Launch-Yourself-Forward Worksheet. If your resolutions or “one word” choices fizzle out sooner rather than later, this worksheet might help you implement those changes.

How (Not) to Read Next Year, HT to Bobbi.

They are our children, after all. When everything does not turn out all right in our children’s lives.

Clearing to Neutral: The One Habit That Stops You From Procrastinating, HT to Lisa.

What Sugar Does to Your Brain, HT to Challies. Not good news after the excess sweets throughout December.

And finally, many of us are in a very cold weather system right now. We haven’t had snow here except for about an hour one day. I hope those of you “snowed in” get some sunshine and warmer temperatures soon. Meanwhile…

Happy Saturday!

“The Beauty of the Bone”: Finding Beauty in Bleakness

img_00231A couple of weeks into January, and the excitement of Christmas and new beginnings has died away. Darkness comes early, the skies are often overcast, it’s cold, the landscape seems barren with no hope of any new blooms or growth for months yet. Our family makes a big deal of Valentine’s Day, so we have that to look forward to as well a few birthdays before spring. But otherwise this time of year seems bleak and colorless. I feel I’m just longing for that first warm breeze and green shoot indicating spring.

John Updike’s poem “November,” from A Child’s Calendar, seems more suited to January for me except for the last verse and the line about the year being old:

The striped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
Departed leaves

The ground is hard
As hard as stone.
The year is old.
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Nevertheless,
Displays a certain loveliness–

The beauty of
The bone. Tall God
Must see our souls
This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do,
Each in his place
Around the table
During grace.

The first time I ever read this, the quote I was reading stopped at “the beauty of the bone,” and that phrase arrested me. (This, by the way, is not a total endorsement of Updike: I’m not familiar with his other work.)

Leafless trees do have “a certain loveliness.” You see the structure, the symmetry, the basic form that is usually hidden underneath the leaves. Artist Andrew Wyeth is quoted as saying, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”

The lack of foliage also allows other sights to come into view. On the “scenic route” to church, there’s a stretch where trees line the road. But in the wintertime, when the leaves are gone, I can see what was hidden before: a pond with various animals coming to drink from it. Mountains covered in varying leaves most of the year display houses and meadows I would never have known of without the missing leaves.

These observations led to reflections about winter times of the soul, when everything (financially, relationally, or otherwise) seems stripped down to the bone. My own salvation was like that. Everything in my life that I had ever leaned on was no longer available: my parents divorced; my mom, with whom I had always been very close, was distant for a while; we moved from a very small town of less than 200 to Houston, a city of over a million, causing a major culture shock, especially when I started school; I had no contact with friends or relatives for a time. I never felt so totally alone in my life. I had not grown up in a church-going family, but I had heard enough in going occasionally with friends and relatives to know where to turn. I had made a profession as a child that I struggled with, but at this point I desperately needed to know God was there and He cared for me. Through a series of events and seeming “coincidences,” God led me to a Christian school and then a church where I was regularly under solid teaching and eventually made sure of my salvation.

When life seems like a barren winter landscape, we can see and understand spiritual truths we never realized before, or at least not in the same depth. In a different metaphor, Hebrews speaks of  ” the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain” (12:27, ESV). Spurgeon said in the June 22 reading of Morning and Evening:

We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain “things which cannot be shaken,” and I invite you this evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of his cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, “He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.” You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of his affectionate nature–nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose. Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

Sometimes when things are shaken to their core, we see the strength of that core of God’s truth; we see what really matters. Corrie ten Boom said, ” “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” Or, taken in reverse, when Christ is all you have, you find He is all you need.

Nancy Guthrie wrote in  Holding on to Hope. “Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness—this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken. “

Our winters shall not frown for ever; summer shall soon smile. The tide will not eternally ebb out; the floods retrace their march. The night shall not hang its darkness for ever over our souls; the sun shall yet arise with healing beneath his wings. – ‘The Lord turned again to the captivity of Job.’ Our sorrows shall have an end when God has gotten his end in them. ~ Spurgeon

Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory. ~ Richard Sibbes

The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer.  I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood. ~ John Burroughs

So winter is still not my favorite season, but I have learned it has its purposes. I almost never see a bare tree any more without thinking of that phrase, “the beauty of the bone.” Sometimes winter is a time of rest or preparing for new growth. A friend who describes herself as a homesteader loves winter for catching up on reading and knitting and planning for her garden, things she can’t do when planting, weeding, harvesting, and tending animals are all in full swing. Hard freezes kill bugs. And if nothing else, winter helps us appreciate spring and summer all the more. So in spiritual “winters,” we can “hunker down” with the bedrock of God’s truth, nourish our souls with it, and trust that spring will come.

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. Psalm 74:17.

See also:

Colorlessness.
Help for the “Winter Blues.”
The Winter of Life.

(Sharing with Inspire me Mondays, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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Laudable Linkage

Here is my periodic round-up of notable reads discovered the last week or so:

Ignore the Pundits and Keep Praying.

Divine Appointments. Neat account!

An Introduction to the Family Advent Art and Reading Guide. “I wanted us to think about Jesus and the nativity, but I had not provided a sense of his pending arrival. Meanwhile, everywhere we went, my kids were told Santa was on his way. Fortunately, I had a couple thousand years of church tradition to back me up, if only I knew how to draw on it. It was time to learn about Advent.”

9 Things You Should Be Doing to Support Your Pastor’s Wife.

12 Steps to Avoid Disappointment This Holiday Season.

28 Reasons Not To Hate Winter, HT to Lisa Notes. I come pretty close to hating it, especially in January, so this is a help.

Have a great weekend! I am behind visiting with blog friends – hope to catch up some time this weekend.

Waiting For Spring

Though cloudy skies, and northern blasts,
Retard the gentle spring awhile;
The sun will conqu’ror prove at last,
And nature wear a vernal smile.

The promise, which from age to age,
Has brought the changing seasons round;
Again shall calm the winter’s rage,
Perfume the air, and paint the ground.

The virtue of that first command,
I know still does, and will prevail;
That while the earth itself shall stand,
The spring and summer shall not fail.

Such changes are for us decreed;
Believers have their winters too;
But spring shall certainly succeed,
And all their former life renew.

Winter and spring have each their use,
And each, in turn, his people know;
One kills the weeds their hearts produce,
The other makes their graces grow.

Though like dead trees awhile they seem,
Yet having life within their root,
The welcome spring’s reviving beam
Draws forth their blossoms, leaves, and fruit.

But if the tree indeed be dead,
It feels no change, though spring return,
Its leafless naked, barren head,
Proclaims it only fit to burn.

Dear LORD, afford our souls a spring,
Thou know’st our winter has been long;
Shine forth, and warm our hearts to sing,
And thy rich grace shall be our song.

-John Newton, 1779, from Olney Hymns, vol. 2, hymn 31