This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
It is winter.
The chill bites and bones rattle in frosty winds. I cannot hear the songbird – is he hiding? Asleep? In warmer climes?
Many places have snows deep and ice hard, but here in the South it’s just cold, and not even that cold if you are willing to glance to the north, but cold enough for us.
Logs snap and crackle in my fireplace and I am well-bundled.
I love winter with its sharp crispness. I know my breed is rare, but I am made for the cold. I look for it in October after the first frosty tease and am always disappointed when it’s not here to stay. Most folk simply don’t believe me, but indeed there are some of us who love the bright sting of frigid air on warm skin and the frosty breaths on too-cold mornings. Gloved girls skip rosy-cheeked into school and we all watch our steps on slippery paths.
Winter makes us a bit more careful, more watchful. Not a bad thing.
Alas ~ it is the figurative winter that always seems to surprise me, though I’ve read and seen enough to not forget its coming. I know that winter nights are long and cold because the earth actually tilts with constant regularity (remarkable!), and I understand cold seasons when the suns rays are less direct. The earth teaches me there are times of barrenness and quiet darkness, I know cold reality sometimes falls onto the soul like the first early snow unexpected, and yet I still wonder Why me? and why now? When the nights are long, I often cannot see what is coming, I do not want to see what is coming.
I have seen enough to know the other side of the bright moon is dark.
And yet I must ask ~ what am I to do with winter, if not embrace it? Am I called to breathe it in and feel each of its stings and really really live each of its harsh moments?
Must things really die in order to live, even my things?
Yes, I think they must.
Is God asking us to pay attention to the cold days – to open sleepy eyes and look, seek under hard-frozen things for His beauty and His gifts, yes, even there?
Yes, I think He is.
What will I find if I gaze honest into the winter of my discontent, if I really feel the cold pain of the inevitable and not bundle up too much in avoidance. Do I have the courage to try?
Today I sat with my dear friend as she ate her little hospital lunch. She is quite ill and today forgets my name. I understand – it is her winter and she is bravely living every minute of it. She tells funny stories and well-remembers the past, not the present. We smile much and when I have to go she says See you tomorrow and returns to eating her Jello. She says she really likes the Jello here so the kind cafeteria-lady always brings her two for lunch.
Even winter has its sweet surprises if you’re looking and not so angry at the cold you fail to pay close attention.
Last week the church kids and I put on coats and hats and walked outside – a winter nature walk it was. I asked them to stay silent, I said we could hear and smell and see more that way. I must admit, I didn’t think they would be able to manage silence, but they did. We smelled the winter, heard its crackle and crunch, saw the necessary death of things, dipped ungloved hands hard into near frozen water and felt the winter, and they were silent in the awe of it, the gift of it.
We will walk again in the cold, the kids and me, and I wonder if we will be a bit sad when winter wanes. Will you join us, can you be quiet? Can you see your winter with fresh child eyes? Do you dare to unbundle a bit and try?
The cold strips away pretense and opens the raw side of things to me. Southern winters are brief; humid warmth and foliage will arrive soon and cover what’s been uncovered.
I need to really look at the nakedness of things while I can, before they are covered again and much harder to examine.
To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. What is my winter purpose? What am I supposed to see?
The solstice is past now – the days are lengthening. The church kids and I heard the twitter of a songbird at the end of our walk – we heard him because we were listening for him. I tell them of what the Psalmist said – It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter.
We will draw some pictures and try to make some sense of it all.
Soon enough, the earth will tilt again and spring will come, this is the way of our world.
But while we are here in winter’s cold raw grasp, literal or metaphorical, let us pay attention, turn over a cold stone ~ or a cold heart ~ and take a LOOK, dare to see what’s underneath.
This is the day the Lord has made – the least I can do is to unbundle and feel it. Maybe then I will rejoice and be glad.