Deflated Balloons.

A red polka dotted balloon, almost knotted at the end to conceal it’s robust filling, slipped out of my hands and emptied itself of the air my lungs had worked double time to inflate it with.

I watched it fly spastically around the kitchen to land defeated on the counter by the coffee maker, and I cried.

I had been feeling a lot like that balloon. Exhausted. Worn. Tired. Full, but quickly deflated. So close to the end – nearly with the knot around this winter season – and then I lost it.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the purpose and importance of winter. I’ve discovered that pressing in to this vulnerability, despite how uncomfortable it is, pushes me towards healing.

Maybe you’re like me: when things get hard, when winter shows up unexpectedly, I try to run. Not so much away from the problem, but through it. I figure if I pick up the pace, the days will pass faster and spring will come sooner.

But what I really needed to learn in this winter is not how to get out of it faster. No, I just need to know that it’s okay to be in winter.

Did you need to hear that, too? It’s okay to be in winter. 

It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to want to stay inside. It’s okay to lock the door and shut the blinds. It’s okay to mourn.

It’s okay to cry in the wake of the changing seasons, to petition the earth to stop it’s rotation, if only for a moment, that you might regain your sense of direction.

It’s not just okay; it’s essential. Rushing into autumn leaves something in summer undone. And waiting for everyone else to be ready, or being pulled along by the ones lighting bonfires and baking pumpkin treats in August isn’t fair either.

And sometimes more than knowing that it’s okay to be there, we need to know that it’s okay to let others be there, too. We have this funny tendency to get uncomfortable when the people we love are hurting. And so we give advice and we say, “It will get better soon!” or “We’re here for you!” or “This won’t last forever!”

And as lovely and true and kind those things are to say, sometimes all the ones we love need to hear is “I know that sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s hard. And I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

That’s hard for us, isn’t it? It’s hard for me.

I’m a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to heal. I want to do. I want to say. I want to contribute tangibly to the get-my-friends-out-of-winter endeavor.

I’ve had a lot of beautiful, kind, encouraging, well-meaning folks around me this winter. I’ve heard lots of ‘It-won’t-last-forever’s and ‘Soon-it-will-be-better’s. And ya know what happened? It didn’t bring spring any quicker. It didn’t invoke sunshine. And it didn’t melt the snow. It left me feeling like I need to just get over winter and stop being affected by the cold. And somehow, somehow that made me hurt even more. Oh, the opposite of what was intended became inescapable.

Ultimately, this recent winter season has taught me how to love people better in their winters. I saw how badly I just needed to be validated that winter sucks & it’s hard & we’re not supposed to do it alone. It’s messy, isn’t it?

Sitting with people in their mess is hard and uncomfortable. But may those never be good enough reasons for us to stop.


How can you love your people better in the midst of their winter? How can you fight with them & for them? Do you know someone that needs a “I’m sorry it’s hard. Know I’m always on your team.” text message today? Or someone who needs a surprise white mocha, just so they know they’re loved?

Send those texts. Buy those mochas. It will speak worlds to your frozen friends.






 

The Thing About Seasons.

I feel duped by nature.

Just when I thought I had things under control, I feel blindsided by a reality that somehow slipped passed me:

seasons are cyclical.

Growing up in Florida gave me a fairytale view of Winter, consisting of warm cookies on cold days, pretty scarves, and Christmas day snowfalls. Autumn was a once a year feeling of 60-degree mornings, surely stolen by sunshine in the early afternoon. Spring was what we called autumn days that happened after Christmas, and Summer was every other waking moment.

I studied for exams on the beach in December. I wore sundresses and shorts and flip-flops year round. I owned boots, but rarely ever had a valid chance to wear them.

still my heart longed for seasons in a way that would validate my sometimes-weary heart. Although Summer seemed perpetual around me with the Atlantic just across the street, the seasons were surely changing within me.

My heart felt Winter when a dear family friend lost his battle with cancer months after his eighteenth birthday. Winter came again my first year post-grad when I worked an office job and realized I hated high heels, 9-6, and sitting alone behind my desk while my heart longed desperately for ministry. Winter came and taught me deeply, and I made myself believe I had learned all that Winter had to offer.

After enduring what I considered to be the coldest Winter of my life, Spring came again and it was lovely. I danced in fields of wildflowers and got sunburnt on the beach. Summer followed Spring, as it always does, and I delighted in every moment. I reflected on Winter, thanked Yahweh for the frost, and dug my heels deep into the warm seasons that followed.

But though I withstood that deep, dark Winter, patting myself on the back for surviving and moving on, I forgot that seasons were cyclical. I forgot that Winter would someday come again in my heart and life.

Moving to Dallas and taking a full-time position in ministry left me feeling quite comfortable in Summer. Things were new and fresh and I was feeling more free than ever before. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of Winter.

But somewhere in the sunshine of moving to a town full of new adventures, Winter snuck in uninvited. A ministry team became me working by myself. Brainstorming sessions and staff meetings were left with my name alone on the attendee list. Event planning, weekly meetings, and overall administration came under my sphere of responsibility. Still barely able to navigate myself around town without my GPS, I was thrown headlong into a season I did not want, and was not ready for.

And that’s the thing about seasons: they don’t work on your time frame.

They don’t come and go when you want them to, or when you think you’re ready. Sometimes you’re thrown recklessly into a season of winter with one brief phone call, or after a marathon conversation that leaves you suddenly, and regrettably, single.

Sometimes Winter lasts longer than you would prefer. You could spend weeks and weeks longing for Spring to come, only for a blizzard to shock you in April. Seasons don’t honor our schedules or desires. They come uninvited and leave only when Yahweh deems it time for change.

And that might be the very best thing about seasons: they always come and they always go.

The sun shines in Alaska and South Florida still gets frost warnings every now and again. Winter will never stop showing up this side of heaven, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Spring will never, ever cease to follow. In the glory of sunflowers and Texas blue bonnets, the snow will melt and your heart will heal again.

In the midst of pain and confusion, hold tight to the promise of restoration. Let Winter heal your heart as it heals the earth and prepares for Spring. And just as Winter will never stop surrendering to Spring, so Yahweh will never stop fighting for your wholeness.

And in the midst of Summer celebrations with water slides and fresh lemonade, thank Jesus for the gift of carefree, giggly days. Recognize that this season is special and hard days will come again. Store the memories of these weekends on the lake knowing that they will be balm to your wintery heart.

Yahweh knew what He was doing when He crafted the earth to need seasons, and He knows your heart just as well. So whether you’re in Summer, Winter, or somewhere in between – trust Him, look to Him, cling to Him. He alone is our hope for spring, both on the earth and in our hearts.






Winter Won’t Let Go.

For so long I have longed for the seasons of the earth to reflect the seasons in my heart. For so long I imagined what it would be like to watch the ground surrender to Winter as the rotation of the earth forced our hemisphere to turn away from the sun and rest.

I wanted to watch the leaves fall as if it would give my heart permission to grieve. I wanted pieces of my brokenness fall to the ground with every leaf until my heart was as bare as every Oak and every Elm.

I wanted my hurt and longing and pain to be covered by the snow and frozen beneath the glistening blanket that covered the ground. I wanted it to melt away as the sun rose high, never to be seen again. I dreamt of expectantly watching the buds emerge on the trees and anticipated feeling hope leap in my heart with the unfolding of every Cherry Blossom. I wanted to feel my strength grow with the lengthening of the day as Spring slowly took control.

But Winter came for the earth in a time of Spring in my heart, and so I didn’t grieve. I built snowmen and went sledding. I opened the curtains and giggled as the sky turned gray and the earth turned white. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t mourn.

I didn’t even feel like I was losing.

Maybe missing Autumn isolated me from the full effect of Winter. I was thrown into this season abruptly and I welcomed it. But now? It’s the middle of March and it snowed all night, with no sign of stopping til late afternoon.

Winter won’t let go, and I think he’s trying to tell me something.

I think he’s reaching out with every last snowflake and below-freezing-temp saying, “Wait! You haven’t learned it all, yet. There’s more you need to know before Summer; I’m just not finished.”

I imagined he saw me frolicking in a dress on Saturday, sipping my iced coffee and relishing the sunshine, and simply refused to surrender. So he rallied his troops of Snowstorms and Cloudy Skies and said emphatically:

“This fight is NOT over! We’re not giving up this easily.” He barked instructions and sent them out with the decree, “Tonight! I don’t want the week to start until every last one of you has fallen from the sky.”

And so I woke up to white, white, white. With more falling from the gray, gray sky.

The only thing more chilling than one hundred days without the sun is coming out of it unchanged.

Summer ruled my days for nearly every month I’ve ever known, and as whimsical as the newness of Winter has been to my sunshine-addicted heart, I would be devastated to have lived in his company for all these weeks without getting to the bottom of his purpose.

So today? It’s me and Winter. I have a steaming cup of coffee, and I hope he accepts my apology for not asking sooner why he’s here, and what wisdom he would share with my Summer infused heart, that I might be a better gal in every season because of it.

Snow Day.

I lived my first 23 years and 5 months in the state of Eternal Summer. Growing up on a beach recently named one of the Top 10 in the world by Yahoo! Travel and a favorite in my heart for the wildest of sunsets and the soft, white, powdery sand. But today, for the first time (not counting my daydreams), I watched a new soft, white, powdery substance fill the earth… and it was glorious.

When I say daydreams I literally mean that my heart would ponder on a regular basis what it would be like to live in a place that had seasons and how my life would look different if the physical season of winter ever came. I even went through a phase where I told my mother frequently that she deprived me of childhood by raising me in Florida. That’s ridiculous, I know. There’s just no other way to express my curiosity and desire for the earth to reflect what happens in my heart when I grieve the death of a loved one, or seek to make sense of change, or find my way in a new season of life. I was drawn by the idea that the earth needs a time of rest, too, and that snow gave it a chance.

I think it’s both brilliantly creative and unimaginably gentle for Yahweh to craft the earth with such wisdom, and I have yearned to know it in the experiential way and not just the textbook way.  Not just the way I know there’s no gravity on the moon, but the way I know that losing someone you love hurts in places you didn’t know you had.

So as I sat with a sleeping 3 month old snuggled up close to my chest and I saw a white speck float passed the window, something inside my heart swelled like a little girl. I walked to the window and simply watched as snow flurries became a snowstorm. And the children I nanny went home early, which means I, at 23, had my very first snow day.

And a snow day it was, snowing nonstop for the next twelve hours. I made my way home (not without fear and a tightly gripped steering wheel) and binge watched The Office with a warm cup of coffee, a plate of cookies, and a sweet little brother.

For all the dreams I’ve had of snow, and for the way my heart has been convinced for years that Yahweh made winter to teach our hearts to grieve, new things filled my soul today with every snowflake that fell from the sky. Our backyard is covered in a flawless blanket of white and it soothed my soul to watch the snow cover the ground so carefully.

And He whispered the promise,
“I will cover you like the snow covers the earth. With peace and precision I will pour my grace upon you and you will find rest in me.”

Watching the snow fall today reminded me that winter is a promise and it’s as real in our hearts as it is on this earth. But the bigger promise is in the One who designed it. The One who didn’t just promise winter, but promises to cover us in it. I’ve said it for a while, but now I’ve felt it.

I watched the snow the cover the earth and it made me feel whole. I know He’s good. I know that He only lets the snow fall because He knows it brings peace. I know He’s making all things new.  I’m singing praises tonight to a God who gives me dreams and then lets me live them.

He’s so, so good.