Spring out of Winter

Spring is such a happy time of year, don’t you think? The pastel colors. Pops of red. And endless growing lime green.

But there’s one major thing that makes spring wonderful. Without it, spring wouldn’t even exist. That cold, bitter season many of us wish would discontinue.

Winter. Seriously, winter.

Now, South Carolina doesn’t have as long or brutal winters as my past homes in Northern Pennsylvania, New York, or New Jersey. Brrrrrr. Winter lasted from October to April. On my first anniversary – October 30th – we had a foot of snow. There were more than a few blizzards in mid-April too. But when May came to Pennsylvania…..oh, it was beautiful. Those first crocuses peak through the brown mud, and frost-covered tan grass. Sunny daffodils wave hello in the crisp winds. I appreciate spring. I NOTICE spring. The colors make me pause because they didn’t exist a few days ago.

Some tropical places don’t even get a spring. Sure, the calendar still holds the spring equinox. They celebrate the first day in late March, but spring can’t have physical evidence in nature. Without the cold, the trees don’t need to lose their leaves. Without the frost, the grass doesn’t disappear. Without a freeze, even the bugs don’t take a break.

Winter can be a season of rest. A season with no harvest. A season where we hold onto trust, hope, and faith. The trees appear dead, but we trust they’ll grow back in the spring. Those daffodils, hostas, irises, daylilies, etc. lay hidden in the ground, out of sight, and we have faith they’ll return with warmer temperatures.

Like those long winters in the north, sometimes life’s “winters” feel extra long. Maybe you’re waiting for an answer to your prayers. Maybe you feel like no one hears you, or listens to your cries. Maybe you feel like you’re in an endless loop of work, mundane responsibilities, or thankless jobs. You’re stuck in a cycle of laundry, dishes, errands, school, taking care of others, etc. Or, maybe, you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything because you see no evidence of making a difference.

I’ve lost count of how many “winters” I’ve endured. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been part of one endless winter with mere glimpses of sunlight through the thick clouds – that’s depression and I won’t dwell there, but I will say this: no matter how you feel; no matter how depressed or hopeless you feel… God never desires for you to stay in that place. NEVER. While wait periods, peace, rest times, and mourning seasons are normal, wallowing in pity, guilt, and anxiety aren’t meant for us. Depression and rest are two VERY DIFFERENT things.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3

That all being said, winter can definitely hold a lot of sorrow, trials, and turmoil we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. But, even those things can be used by God.

I bet the blind man in John chapter 9 felt like he was in an endless dark winter. He wasn’t resting, just waiting. Waiting for a spring he didn’t know was coming. Even the disciples thought he must deserve his predicament. Perhaps he was depressed. I know I would be if I had to sit stuck in the dirt on the side of the road. He was alone. No friends. No comforts. Then Jesus walks up and says He’s “the light of the world.”

Do you know what thing makes us notice light more?

I bet a blind person would know the answer.

I like to nickname my hubby “Andrew the bat.” I’ll usually call him this as I laugh at his squished face when I brighten our bathroom in the morning. He’ll be standing there at the sink, washing his face in pitch darkness. I’m sorry, but I need light to see where I’m going. Light illuminates the area, showing what we can’t see at night. And in that dark bathroom, the sudden flick of light calls attention to the brightness. The burst of colors momentarily blind us in their brilliance, and we acknowledge the light’s existence.

The bible doesn’t describe the moment the blind man found his sight. It simply says “he came home seeing.” I like to imagine he ran home with a spring in his steps, jumping for joy. He wasn’t shy in proclaiming the miracle to his neighbors, so we know he was excited. He appreciated the light because he knew what it was like to live in darkness. Like Jesus said in verse 3 “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Knowing this story helps me look back at the “winters” and dark moments in my life in a new light, if you will. The sicknesses, depression, lost careers, deaths, disappointments, and valleys weren’t brought on because of sin or as a punishment… they were present so God’s work could be displayed in my life. Here, let me break it down in a simple list format:

Cancer caused me to thank God for health, and trust that “by His stripes, I am healed.”

The lack of having more kids naturally caused me to appreciate the one I do have. It also gave us the desire and opportunity to become foster parents and prospect adoption.

Depression caused me to appreciate joy. Joy everlasting. To seek out Psalms and the words of David when he also went through depression. I declared myself a woman after God’s own heart.

My failed careers each brought me to the place I am now. To quote Chariots of Fire: I feel God’s pleasure when I write. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and can’t wait to see the next steps He has in store.

Each waiting period forces me into God’s word. Some people might need far less to get them to see, but I know I need a kick in the pants too many times. I need a winter to notice when an answer to prayer sprouts life. I need a dark valley to notice the bright morning joy.

When you look up the definition of spring, two examples say “originate or arise from” and “a sudden jump upward or forward.”

It’s time to arise, my friends. Rest when you need to, endure the trial if you’re currently in it, but don’t neglect your call to jump out of it. Don’t stay in winter. Sprout into spring. Grow from the difficulties. Arise from the ashes. It’s time to thrive and spread the joy everlasting!

A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:1-3

Author Of Our Future

We live in an era of uncertainty. And I hate not knowing the future.

I’m someone who loves to make plans, schedule, research, and know everything about anything. I’ll constantly become bogged down in my writing because of my incessant need to research.

For instance, yesterday I wrote how a character visits another character on W44th Street in Manhattan. What did I do? Well, I had to search Bing maps for an aerial view. Then a street view. I explored all over 44th street, and went down 9th Ave (virtually). Spotted a few restaurants and bars to reference. Did a search for apartment buildings. Found a condo for sale on the exact corner I needed. Got the specs from listing pictures, details on layout, and the location of doors, etc. etc. Needless to say, I did about 30 – 45 minutes of research for one single paragraph.

But, I NEEDED to know! I needed to know the layout so I could continue my story without any surprises.

Guess what happened on the next page though? Yup, another plot twist I needed to research.

That’s just in fiction. In the real world it takes me weeks to plan the perfect vacation, party, or event. I say I love surprises, but in reality I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy a surprise properly.

So, this not knowing the future is driving me crazy!! When will everything reopen? Will we be able to have a family reunion this year? Will we even get to the beach? Will Riker have school next year? Is this all a ploy by the government? Will we lose all of our rights? Is everything fake? Or is everything more real than they’re saying on the news? Are we living in the end times? Will every restaurant close down before I can try a true southern meal?!

I don’t know.

But God knows.

I’m sitting in my sun room with the screen doors open. My cats are restless. The wind has been wild all day, and the clouds are rolling in. The air tastes thick with humidity. It doesn’t take a weather reporter to tell me there’s a storm coming. It’ll be here in a couple of hours. By the time you read this, I might be in the midst of it. It could be bad, or it might only bring rain. We’ve had some tornadoes in the area twice in the last few weeks, and there’s a possibility of more again tonight. But no one knows for sure. All we can do is wait it out and prepare. I cleaned our garage today so we can put our vehicles inside, and we have an amazing neighbor who has offered her basement to us if things get bad. But there’s not much more I can do to physically prepare.

Mentally though, I can choose to not let fear consume me. Riker senses when I’m upset; he’s sensitive that way. I made the mistake last week to get a little frantic in my last-minute tornado prep because we got a phone alert only 5 minutes before the wind picked up (we’d known the weather reports, but denied that we had anything to worry about). He was terrified; feeding and magnifying on my own fear. I’m not making that mistake again. This time, I’m prepared.

We might not know the future, but we don’t have to be surprised by it. We can see the signs coming, prepare, and rest in the knowledge that God has us in the palm of His hands. That doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. That means:

“Because you are God’s child, you can be confident that he will give you wisdom. And because he will give you wisdom, you can be sure that you will have a future and a hope. When you have the wisdom of God, you don’t need to fear the future.” Proverbs 24:13-14.

There’s one verse in particular that came to my attention this weekend. Our pastor loves to read from The Passion translation of the Bible, and I find it brings new understanding to verses I’ve heard all my life in the same formal translations.

“For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

As a mystery writer, this wording brings an instant picture to my mind. In mysteries there are clues and references for the end to come. A truly keen reader can follow the right clues and guess the ending that the author has planned. There’s clues and answers speckled all around us: in our relationships, our minds, even on the news, and especially in the Bible. God wrote MORE THAN 400 references to Jesus in the old testament. That’s a heck of a lot of clues. Yet, the majority of the Jewish people were surprised by his coming. Why? They didn’t need to be. And neither do we need to be surprised by our country’s future. By our own individual futures.

Am I surprised that I’m a wife, mother, writer, artist, living in South Carolina? Not really, because God put every last one of those desires in my heart years ago.

Will I be surprised if we’re hit by a tornado tonight? Not really, because I’m watching the winds bringing in the dark clouds. But that doesn’t mean I’m living in fear.

Am I surprised by this pandemic, how fast everything shut down, and how divided our world is becoming? Not really, because I’ve read the book of Revelation. I’ve read Matthew 24: “Nations will go to war against each other and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be terrible earthquakes—seismic events of epic proportion, horrible epidemics and famines in place after place. This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin! …. But keep your hope to the end and you will experience life and deliverance. Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God. And after this the end of this age will arrive.”

But don’t worry: we all know how this story ends. If we trust the author.

Is it a coincidence that I’m currently writing a book all about possible futures? Not really.

Let me leave you with my latest video I created with a fitting bit of poetry. Be blessed and encouraged no matter what our futures bring!!