Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lessons Learned from a Long, Hard Winter

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 (ESV)

As I watch the snow melt away, I reflect on the lessons learned this winter. This was the winter that wouldn’t quit. It was brutal. A record breaker. Polar vortexes. Sub-zero, arctic temperatures. Snow, snow and more snow. Across the country snow storms closed schools and the government.

 When you thought there couldn’t possibly be more snow, it snowed again. I have never shoveled so much snow in my life. Our snowblower stopped working. One of our two shovels broke. We started shoveling just half of the driveway—just enough to get in and out.

I can finally see my driveway again and the mountains of snow are dissipating. A new season is here, even if we may have some snowy or cold days ahead. Spring has come. But the long, hard winter reinforced many life lessons.

Every season has its beauty and its challenges

 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

A fresh snowfall is beautiful. It looks like the earth is covered in a pure blanket of white. The snow and ice-covered trees look like they have been encased in glass. There is a peace and a quietness, a stillness. But then there is the challenge of digging out and navigating through dangerous streets. There are accidents and pileups. The snow turns black and ugly.

In life, even in the difficult times, it’s good to take time and take in the beauty of the season. Admire God’s handiwork. In all things, give thanks.

I took the time to enjoy the snow with my son, sledding down a nearby hill. He’s growing up. He won’t always want to sled with his mother. I made a snow angel and tried to catch snowflakes on my tongue. Reliving the joy of my childhood when a snow day was something to celebrate.

While shoveling snow one day, huge, fluffy snowflakes fell. One fell on my black coat and I could actually see the detail and design of the snowflake. Just one snowflake. And like the snowflakes, God has made each and every one of us unique. It was amazing to think about as I looked at how many snowflakes were just in my yard. And then to think of the snowflakes all over the world. God is amazing. Nature reveals his character, care and creativity. Even during challenging times, there is still beauty.

Take time to take in the season and in the midst of adversity, look for beauty. Give God thanks that he cares about the details of your life.

The season will change eventually; Endure

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9              

No matter how awful the winter was, I knew that spring would come. It was just a matter of time. Sometimes I would just say out loud, “Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming.” Sometimes you have to set your face like flint and just endure, knowing that a change is coming. Even when the forecast week after week keeps saying sub-zero and more snow, know that a change will come. Keep working, keep believing. Encourage yourself in the Lord. Stand on the truth of His Word.

Storms will come; be prepared and make the best of it

With advancements in technology we know when most storms are coming these days. Even if we didn’t have radar, in every season you’re going to have some type of storm whether snow, thunder or tornado. It’s just a matter of time. So it is in life. The storms will come. They will do damage. You may lose power. They will test us. But they will also clear some stuff away.

We know storms are coming so we prepare. We empty the grocery shelves and make sure we have food and emergency supplies in the house. We buy some wood and make a fire. Plan on family time and watch some movies because you know you’re not going anywhere.

In life you need to be prepared for the storms. Make sure that you are stocked up spiritually with prayer and God’s Word. The storms in life can be times to retrench, re-evaluate or just be still. Make the best of it and know that eventually this too shall pass.

Let the challenges of the last season increase your gratitude and appreciation for the beauty of the next

When the weather turns warm, people seem to get warmer too. They greet each other as they walk down the street smiling, happy to shed their winter wear and enjoy the sun. I know this spring and summer, I will relish every warm day, remembering the arctic cold of the winter. I will say “Thank you, Jesus” when I walk outside barefoot and feel the grass under my feet. I will inhale the roses, admire the beauty of the flowers, inhale the freshness of a garden tomato and I will be grateful and appreciate the warmth of the summer because I will remember the cold of the winter.

There’s a reason for every season and even when things look dead, there is still life


“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;” Daniel 2:21 (ESV)

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)

The seasons show us the order of God and I believe there is a reason for every season.

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Maybe the winter is a time of rest. The melting snow leads to the green grass and replenishes lakes and rivers. There is a cycle and circle to life. Even in the winter when things are frozen and cold, there is still life below the surface. Even though things may seem dead and lifeless, there is still life.

The trees will sprout new leaves. The grass will grow and turn green. Flowers will bloom. So it is with our lives. Even though we may “die” we have eternal life with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. We will live again eternally. We will have a new season of rebirth. In order for a seed to grow, it must “die” and be planted in the earth, but within that seed is abundant life.

“I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn't produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain.” John 12:24 (God’s Word Translation)

Look at the seasons and even the hard winters and let it remind you of our hope in Christ.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Picture Day

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
Monica Fountain, Class of 1986

Today, I ordered my daughter’s yearbook photo in her cap and gown. Weeks before, my daughter took her senior pictures. The night before we were searching for a white blouse for her to wear as one of her outfits. Classic and timeless I figure. She will look back on these pictures 20 years from now so no need for something too far out there or faddish. Just plain, simple, classic will do. This is the picture that will be in the yearbook that she will look back and laugh at years from now. Laugh at how young and innocent she was. At her hairstyle, perhaps.

A milestone is being marked as we march toward graduation and also her matriculation to the next level. While there is joy, pride and excitement, there is also a tinge of sadness as I think of the inevitable separation. Once I carried her inside me. Now she is preparing to leave us. I know it’s not like she is leaving, leaving forever. It’s not like we will never see her again or that I won’t be texting, facebooking, skyping and calling in this technological age of social media. But while since the day she was born I have been preparing her for this day, I know I will miss her when she is in college and not asleep in her room under our roof. That she is growing up.

But this is what we prepare our children for—to leave us. To go and fly and live their lives. To prepare them to pursue the purpose that God has for them.

I look at my senior picture and realize how quickly time flies. My classmates and I are in our mid-40s now. Many of us are grandparents. Some of us still have school-age children. We’re headed toward the big 5-0. It amazes me when I see babies that I babysat getting married and raising their own children and I deal with the reality of time and mortality.

It reminds me to live each day to the fullest. To not let fear paralyze me and that whatever your age, as long as you have life and breath to pursue your dreams and your purpose. To let those you love know that you love them and show them that you love them. To forgive. Learn. Live. Laugh. Because tomorrow is promised to no man. But also it reminds me as my father has often preached at funerals, death is just a comma, not a period.

There is eternal life and I’m living this life to live again. This is just a part of the big picture.
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