Winter

Spring Comes Even in Winter

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          The mists hang low this morning. Like a soft lace shawl around our home, heaven is putting its arms around us.

It must know how very tired my husband and I are.

Yet, November is far from over.

          Just as I was waiting to rejoice that after weeks of hard work, I’ve more or less cleared up my yearly work portfolio well ahead of time, the news came that yet another programme was on the way, made that much heavier by a boss seeking to burnish his personal credentials through our efforts. Then came a meeting with my supervisor and suddenly, in addition to a packed-to-the-gills November, I found myself staring at 3 massive deadlines in an already crammed road leading to Christmas.

          Although I didn’t flail and weep as I am wont to do, a quiet anguish nonetheless lanced the calm waters within my heart.

          These past weeks, from a distance, I had been hearing God’s call to prepare for winter – but in a slightly different way than before.

To prepare for winter by intentional shedding of the weight of the year.

Once I heard it, I understood why I had been led to push myself these past weeks, why despite the worsening chaos at work, I had remained very focused on clearing my in-tray. I was preparing for a winter of quiet and rest. From something that I had feared and struggled through these past years, winter was now a time to look forwards to! And that knowledge filled me with happiness, for nothing compares with sitting by my Lord’s fireside, my head on His knee.

          But now, with the new tasks and deadlines, it seemed as if, in a single stroke, life had rendered that hope gone. From seeing the sun’s rays push deeper into my November, all the windows had now been shut tight and resolutely against the happy light. Why tell me to prepare for a quiet yet joyous time and yet allow these huge boulders to crowd the path? I asked God.

          All through our travelling through winding roads to the family wedding this weekend, I thought about those boulders which had to be cleared in such a short time. How on earth was I to accomplish that and yet keep still, in watchful silence in the lead up to Christmas?

          No direct answer came to my seeking.

          But something else did. Looking out at the friendly mists that gathered around our trees this morning, I realised that recently I had been seeing geese in some way or other a number of times. Just as a sudden sighting or hearing of the kingfisher’s call is a sign for me to Quieten Down and Listen Up, from this year, geese have become another avian sign to me. Seeing them soar determinedly across the skies told me that one season had ended and soon another would take its place. That it was time I too made ready to pack and move on to whatever lay ahead. With a sigh, I would then nervously and reluctantly move to comply.

          But this year, the geese began to herald something else. They began to come as a sign of hope where there appeared to be none.

The hopes of spring even in the deeps of winter.

          As I pondered the various geese sightings in recent weeks, slowly, a learning wove its way into my heart.

          Life seldom works out the way we envision it, no matter how well we plan. We could work hard, face down all the Goliaths in our way, do all the right things and still find the road ahead marked with rocks and stones. It is easy then to give way to fear and worry, to dejection and defeat.

          But we often forget that it’s not our job to actually move those boulders. That power to move mountains rests only with God. It’s not for us to put our worn shoulders against the burdens that can often be too much for us, and to heave and push till we break. And yet, we often do just that because we forget to take His yoke upon us. We might pray for strength and wisdom even as our first response to a problem is to swing into action to wear down or circumvent our hurdles. But what often slips our memory is to first ask what His will for us might be.

And that includes asking if we have any business going near those huge rocks in the first place.

          This is where I fell. Some weeks ago, God had sent an emissary to tell me to continue to keep my eyes upon Him and not upon the rocks in my path. Since then, I have been trying to do just that – but I’ve been doing it from a place too close to those boulders – because I thought it was up to me to get them out of my way. As a result, I’ve inadvertently allowed the coming work and deadlines to block out a lot of God’s light and the cold of anxiety and disappointment has slowly begun to trickle in.

        Today, as the early morn sun slowly warmed the mists to a gentle shimmering, my heart saw what heaven had been trying to tell me through the sighting of geese. Keeping my eyes on God meant exactly that – eyes on God. It was not as I had been doing, praying, yet with my gaze full on my work and studies.

          Still, even as the morn’s gentle lesson wound its arms around my heart, I remained by my window, uncertain. How do I do that? I asked God. How would I know I am doing it right, that I’m going about my Father’s business and not mine?

           Ever so slowly, on the breaths of eventide came the softest reply,

When you believe unwaveringly

that even in winter, spring can come. 

Heralds of Spring

Canadian Geese Flying in V Formation

For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God. After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name. ~  Acts 5: 38 – 41

         The birds around our home were in the throes of mad, secret avian joy, their calls ringing out in exuberance just as the early dawn rays began flaming the skies into golds and yellows and tangerines. One chapter of my life has ended today, and with it, hopefully, much of the darkness. Yet, I greeted the news with an unnatural calmness. For a moment, I wondered if it was because I was not being grateful enough. Nonetheless, I had to admit that I was also very tired, that having given all I had within me these past years, it had likely taken me beyond the point of celebration.

          Still, reaching out to close the old gates behind me and to walk into this next phase of working life, I wished for some joy. Even a spark would have been welcomed.

But there was none. I was well and truly spent.

          It was past twilight when I came to the readings of the final Friday of the month of the Holy Eucharist.

…they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.

          I thought of the calvary we had endured as a family these past years. Cut after cut of an invisible whip, days, weeks and months of it. Fear, anger, pain and shame. Choking grief. Over and over telling God, I cannot go on. I just cannot. Over and over, He had put His hand out to me,

Oh yes, you will.

Do not waver.

Keep going, you’re almost there.

Walk on water.

Meet Me at the other end.

I am already there.

          Each time, impossibly, I would rise to my feet through the love of so, so many who would not give up on me, to let me fall to the earth and die. With their arms about me, each time I managed to stand up and to make my way forwards. On and on till I reached today.

Oh, for just a spark of firelight now at the shores of freedom.

          Just as I was wishing for that special joy to sing once more, something made me look up from my writing. A quick scene on the tv.

A flock of Canada geese intent on their journey across the bluest of skies.

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring.   ~  Aldo Leopold

          In that tiny moment, I felt the spark. Even a heart still frozen in the old ice of winter knows that life is about to live once more when the geese are sighted in blue-shot skies.

For they are the heralds of true spring.

Lent 31 ~ In Winter, Choose Life

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During the worst moment of the illness, I thought I could die and I was scared of leaving alone my wife and letting my son grow up without a father like me   ~  Pierpaolo Sileri, Italian Deputy Minister of Health upon recovering from Covid-19.

 

          As I heard this man’s words, I marvelled at him. In the cold and dark of his fear, he chose to care about his wife. He chose to care about his child.

          His worst moment was the best of all. Because in his winter of fear, he chose Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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