4 reasons why my love for winter is deeply spiritual
It was a Thursday night and I was baking muffins with some girls that I was watching for the evening when I heard it, "It's SNOWING." I gasped and said "Go, go, GO. Let's go outside!" We dashed out the front door and swirling in the air was perfect white snowflakes. We had indescribable joy as we danced and jumped up and down on the front porch, celebrating the first snowfall of the season. I wasn't surprised when the snow didn't stick to the ground the next day, and the winter wonderland quickly returned to rain and brownish grass. But it didn't matter. There was snow. For some reason, it brought hope - of a new season and reminders that life really does move forward (even when sometimes it feels like we're stuck somehow).
I love all seasons, but especially the start of each season. The first spring magnolias and the first tulips. The first really hot summer days, or brilliant sunsets. The first leaves that start to turn colour and fall to the ground. Something we haven't had for an entire year is back again and it feels oh so exciting. It's the same with winter.
I simply don't understand those winter haters out there. I know you exist, and it's okay. But don't you feel that sense of winter magic when you look up into the sky and see swirling snowflakes, sticking out your tongue to try to catch some?
The smell of snow is fresh. The crisp air hits my face, and makes my cheeks rosy and pink. Winter means so many things. It means candlelit dinner with friends and sharing delicious food. It mean all things #hygge . It means snowshoeing, and sledding, and ice skating by City Hall.
My love for winter is spiritual too. The beauty of nature points to deeper spiritual truths that come alive in my heart. They serve as reminders of who God is, and who I am.
Here are four:
I can give thanks in tough circumstances
As winter settles in, it gets tough. It doesn't mean I don't still love it, but there are days when I enjoy it less. The bitter cold, the snowstorms, and car accidents that remind me that life is precious, and death can sneak up unexpectedly. In winter I have faced some of my hardest moments.
The weight of grief: feeling as if I sit at the bottom of a swimming pool and the weight of the water pushes down on me. Family brokenness and divide: not knowing how or when things may start to mend or get better. Doubt and longing: an anxiousness to be certain of who God is and what he wants to do with my life.
The harshness of the winter climate is a reminder that all things are gifts from God. Each day is planned and set forth by him. He is in control of all things. God is present in each moment. He is there in the summer evening sunsets, and in the harsh winter wind. While they look very different, each day is a gift from God.
The way I respond to God changes my perception of that gift and my experience, though it doesn't change the gift itself, or the gift-giver. Embracing tough circumstances and heart pain with a tiny amount of thankfulness helps me remember that God is good and that he is in control. I don't have to be thankful that life is hard. But I can be thankful that God is stable and secure, unchanging, and reliable when life feels chaotic and out of control. I can be thankful that no matter what the circumstance, God can use ALL things for his eternal good, and to bring greater blessing into my life.
I can rest with peace
Winter is a time to get cozy, warm, and light candles. In Denmark, the idea of Hygge is everywhere: being indoors with friends and family, sharing life and food. A warmness that brings joy in long and dark winters. Life slows down in winter. I'm less willing to cram my already-to-full schedule. In the evening I choose to stay home rather than face walking to coffee shops.
In winter, hibernation and Hygge come together for me. I have to choose who I will spend time with and what I fill my time with. Those are important decisions as I can't do everything, and in winter I try to do less. The freedom to say no brings peace. Rest is a gift from God (ok, we're created to sleep 1/3 of our lives!), and a gift I want to embrace wholeheartedly. I've learned how much better I do at work and in relationships when I live, serve, and give from a place of rest.
I can celebrate with joy
With winter comes the promise of spring. Dead dead leaves and sparse vegetation point to the coming of new life and fullness. I can celebrate and enjoy winter fully because it doesn't last forever. It ends. Everything has an end - and the end of death is new life.
In spring with Easter this stands out prominently to me. With the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday, there is the promise of the resurrection Easter Sunday to come, and the gift of eternal life through faith.
I can celebrate even in the dead of winter because I know there is a promise of coming joy in new life. I can celebrate and enjoy the gift that winter is because as life moves on and seasons change, it will soon be gone again for another year.
I can wait with hope
This is most meaningful to me this year. The dawn of winter is a season of waiting. As we start Advent, we are waiting for the birth of Jesus (celebrated at Christmas) - and yet now since his death and resurrection, we await his second coming. Winter is a season of waiting for me. It's slowing down, listening, and drawing close to God. Winter welcomes me into a quiet place, to hear God whispering into my heart.
Waiting is painful. Slow. Sometimes boring. In my impatience I want to throw my hands up into the air and declare, "God let's get this show on the road! Start to work in ways that I want please!" I too often think that I am right and that God needs to get a move on. Waiting can hurt because even though I know God has the ability to answer prayers of reconciliation or direct me into a relationship, he doesn't. In his wisdom he says no, or doesn't act - and as I wait and keep praying I can too easily grow discouraged.
I'm learning that in the waiting, my hope cannot be in my circumstances changing. My hope cannot be in my desire for family restoration, or in that boy changing his mind about me. My hope needs to be in God, who in his goodness and grace and sovereignty acts with perfect and complete wisdom.
In the waiting, is God enough? If I never got what I waited and hoped for, would God be sufficient? He must be. In the Bible there are promises that I can wait for to come true with certainty. Like Jesus returning, or God destroying evil once and for all. Other details in my life like marriage, family reconciliation, or even work-related dreams - those aren't promised to me.
As I wait and pray and trust in God's wisdom and plan for my life, I choose to believe that he really is good. I can wait with hope - because even in the waiting I have access to the Giver of Eternal Hope, and that is enough.
So winter, I'm ready for you.
I'm ready to dig deep. To enjoy your gifts. The snow, the cold. To snuggle into blankets and host candlelit dinner parties. I'm ready to quiet myself God and listen to your voice. Trusting and waiting.