We are in the heart of winter, here in Ohio. February has a record for being the coldest month. However, we were blessed to have a few days last weekend in the 50s, which still was chilly, but a nice break from the grey skies and freezing temperatures. This weekend will be a different story, with freezing temps and snow showers.
Winter is my least favorite season. When I lived in Florida, I never minded the sun year round or the lack of seasons. I love my flip flops and summer dresses. However, upon living in Ohio again, I have over time come to appreciate and enjoy the different seasons. The seasons have become an analogy more often than not for me. And every winter, I believe God allows for fresh perspective on the winter season. This winter is no different. I read something this morning which resonated with my soul.
*Chris McAlister wrote, in Sight Shift, " The winter is permission to stop. It is a desolate period, a period where we feel isolation. A period where we learn we don't force our way through change....In the coldness of winter, the trunk of the tree is growing stronger."
He goes on to say much more, but I want to take those words and piggy back off them for a moment.
Winter is permission to stop.
If you know me, you know I don't slow down very well at all. This winter, God is teaching me to stop a bit more often. Sometimes, the stopping is one which I don't really want or ask for, but nonetheless, I am asked to do. Stopping allows for rest. Stopping allows for reflecting and taking in. Stopping allows for stillness (again, not something I do well) but stillness allows me to hear His voice more clearly, to take in what He is saying to me. I am no master at this, in fact, I'm pretty awful at it. It usually takes illness (and this winter has provided that in some ways) to force me to slow down. But in so doing, in those moments, when I finally do slow down and stop for a moment, I find the most rest. The most peace. I often have to wrestle my way to the stopping point, but once I arrive, beauty is found. It is ok to stop. Winter - both literally speaking and in the sense of a winter season of life where we can be found desperately wanting answers- begs us to take the opportunity to stop.
It is a period where we learn we don't force our way through change.
Most of us are opposed to change. Oh, we pretend we are fine with it, that it's a part of life, but in reality, We don't like it. We feel, often times, forced to accept it for what it is, never really allowing ourselves to see it for what God wants to teach us through it. We begrudgingly accept it and push through it, rather than processing and praying through it. I am often that way. This winter has been teaching me about change. Yes, changes around me which are obvious to anyone in my world, but I really mean heart changes, in this sense. I cannot force my way through those changes. I have to sit still and learn through them and what God wants me to do with them. When I do this, instead of just begrudgingly accepting and pushing through it, the difference in my perspective is phenomenal. This is part of my word for this year, even. Different. I want to be different. I don't want to continue in the same ways or be the same person . I want to be different so I can make a difference in the every day. In order to do/be this, I must not force my way through the changes. I must process them and learn from them. Every experience, especially changes, are opportunities for learning and growing. I heard a quote that said "Change is just another word for opportunity" Whatever that change/opportunity is is different every time, but nonetheless, when I give myself permission to stop, I can better navigate the change instead of forcing my way through it.
The trunk of the tree is growing stronger.
Without winter here in Ohio, our trees would suffer. That's why what plant life you see here is different from what you see in Florida. Our trees here need winter to grow. We cannot see what is happening in winter. The trees are barren, skies are grey, and it often seems as though it's unending and nothing is happening. However, the roots are soaking in all the moisture from snow and rain, growing the tree to be stronger. We cannot see it, but it is happening. This is true in the winter seasons of our lives as well. We cannot always see what God is doing. But He is working to "grow our trunks/roots" stronger. He is working in our hearts. Winter is necessary in order to get to spring. Winter snows are necessary for spring skies and blooming growth. In life, we must go through periods of change and grey skies and wondering if the season will ever end, but once we come out of it, we smile brighter, have a lighter step and thank God for what He did during the dreary winter days. The trunk of the tree is growing stronger in the winter season. The trunk for me is my heart. What God wants to do so that I can be stronger, be more of who He has created me to be, to accomplish what He wants me to do. To Be Different.
So perhaps this weekend, when snow decides to fall again, you'll remember you have permission to stop, and to somehow find appreciation for the beauty in the winter and what it has potential to do.
*Chris McAlister is author of Sight Shift and leads conferences on Sight Shift and Marriage Shift in Columbus, Ohio.