If it weren’t for
the wild winds
that whip away
see the beauty
in the branches.
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is cinematic. It sets suddenly and we find ourselves savoring each last drop like honey clinging to the bottom of a mug.
Then, there is the golden glory of autumn, tempered by the anticipation of the longer winter ahead. I cast a wary eye at it, lurking in the shadows behind my kids who are dive-bombing into an ocean of leaves. We laugh foolishly as the dry leaves stick like velcro all over my wool jacket. A mummy mommy.
Today, it's sunny. The bleary gray winter rolls over with a groan as a bronze confetti of leaves flaunt by. Their chance to dance freely before becoming compost for frost bitten dirt.
This year, I was determined to stay above my traditional winter funk by hiking with my kids. Rain or shine -- we were going to take back the wild winter. We bought all the winter gear like good Pacific Northwesterners and set out on regular treasure hunts. What beauty would we find in this dreary mess?
These are days that we need to find something lovely. These are days where we can delight our fingers with fluffy moss and marvel at blue lichen underneath the magnifying glass.
Turns out, there is no less beauty here.
Searching for beauty in winter is a spiritual discipline. I've had many spiritual winters. Even in July splendor, problems or pain can sweep in like a cold, howling gale. Trials are not polite enough to take turns. We can find ourselves at the bottom of the compost pile as it is layered too quickly and thickly that we can't stand.
Often during dark times, I have hidden. I want to stay in my bed, turn up the heat, and pray that spring comes soon.
But when I rise with thanksgiving in anticipation that God is going to show me something beautiful today, I don't care for the problems that preoccupied me or wallow in grief and sorrow or pain. I take it with me if I must and we look closely at the beauty exposed in leaf - abandoned branches, beholding a depth of grace unknown to me before.
When I draw close to the Lord, he draws close to me and reveals his unrelenting faithfulness in the darkest valley. God is good to allow us to be brought low so he may raise us up. I see more of Him when I draw close to him in shiver or a shudder. He is the living Word, the torch that leads me and the hearth that sustains me.
When our external comforts are stripped way, our character is laid bare. Like the naked branches of trees that rollick with beauty and microscopic life, we see something appearing. Suffering and loss is the time for virtues to prove themselves to be more than signals. Sometimes, they shine. Other times, it's a less than pretty picture. God has a way of squeezing us so tightly in a hug that by the time our trial is over, we look black and blue and are grinning wryling, "Lord, you did it again!" What a strange mercy, hardships are.
Lord, you know.
We have to acknowledge the mud in order to give it to God for a washing. Christ died to take away our sin and to heal us. He's completing a work in his followers to prepare us for Heaven. The dross has to come to the surface by fire so that he can skim it off the top.
"Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds." (James 2:1 )
When I was young, I was staring into my Bible at that word, joy. I asked Abba, "I don't see how the mess I'm in is supposed to make me do a happy dance." I felt a prompting within my spirit to look up the meaning behind the word. I love when he tells us to stop and look deeper. What I learned made me feel far less spiritually poor.
In the original text of the Bible, the Greek word for joy is "chara". It doesn't mean the pleasurable kind of joy that makes us bust into a spontaneous Macarena. This joy is a mysterious sense of well-being within our souls that comes from leaning on Christ and not our understanding.
Not our understanding.
In Greek, it actually means "peace" that comes to us, by God's grace, from the Holy Spirit when you-know-what gets real.
I cried. I believed in Jesus. But I was a teenager, struggling with my mental health and self-condemnation because of a traumatic relationship and my own sinful expectations. I felt somehow, disqualified from this inheritance.
God explains that we celebrate suffering because it produces perseverance, which produces character, giving birth to hope. And God says that hope in Christ will not disappoint us. It was a gentle reminder that God is not after my comfort. He's after my holiness. And these cold, unrelenting days are a necessary part of this growth.
I had to make a choice, then. Do I want a comfortable life, or do I want to become more like Jesus, who promised me the greatest thing going -- Himself?
I choose Him, still, daily. I don't want the world or the flesh's shallow happiness that ever eludes, but the deep deep joy. Seasons of suffering are part of the curriculum for holiness.
He died for me. I'll die for him. He asks us to. Scripture says that in man dwells no good thing. What a miraculous mercy, that the Most High God would sacrifice as he did just so that he could move into this broken vessel of Taryn and call me worthy. Beloved. Daughter.
When we confess our weakness and choose character over comfort in winter, God grants us strength that we didn't know we had access to before. What a wonderful, mysterious wellspring our Lord is, that when we are weak, we are strong. (2 Cor. 12)
See you on the trials -- Trails,