The wind is finally blowing cold in Alabama and I can see my breath outside this morning, which makes me giggle a bit. I fondly remember the childhood wonder of seeing my breath for the first time at the beginning of each new wintry day and then feeling a smile cross my face, which happens still and for that I am grateful. Our thirteen year old baby dog is taking her time crunching through the frosty grass as she welcomes the dawning of a new day. The yard appears incredibly still this morning as most of the usual visitors have realized it is too cold a day to be roaming about, except for one very persistently noisy bird that has nested outside of our bedroom window. As I breathe in deeply and watch my exhaling breath become vapor in the wind I begin to notice the familiar frosty feeling on my fingertips. The sting of the cold on my cheeks is a welcomed feeling taking my mind back to familiar places in time and bringing comfort to my spirit. My nose sniffles a bit as I walk through the brisk morning wind and my lungs are met with the familiar burn of winter’s crisp and clear air. Leaves that need to be raked cover the ground as most have fallen from the trees leaving only the barren branches now. I utter a quiet “burr” under my breath as I urgently reach for the door knob taking me and the dog back into the warmth of our well heated home. The day carries on as usual with morning chores, a full day of work, washing laundry, and visiting with friends over dinner but that familiar cold still lingers in the air and seems to permeate my mind.
Colder weather is something I long for regularly and always welcome with open arms, like a precious friend returning from a long trip away. The cold weather reminds me not only of building snowmen in the yard as a child, on the rare occasion that it snowed in the south, but also of fresh starts and new beginnings. Winter feels like a time of renewal; a time to shake off all of the old and prepare for the promise of possibilities that lie ahead. Winter feels like home to me; a safe place to start over.
The familiarity of winter reminds me of my Daddy’s farm where we visit at every opportunity. There we enjoy brisk Christmas hayrides with chattering teeth and rosy red cheeks while collecting presents or colorful candy canes on our annual family scavenger hunt. The farm is where we sit alongside bonfires, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, while singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. It is where I go on long prayerful walks down the gravel drive or meander beside the creek contemplating life’s greatest mysteries. On the farm, my dad and I walk often and have meaningful conversations that would bore most but fill my heart with the deepest level of satisfaction. The farm is where we work hard by day and rest well at night. And my Daddy’s farm is the first place I ever really noticed the trees. Yes, the trees.
My dad has always mesmerized me with his knowledge and love of nature which he has passed down to me along with his constant curiosity. I’m happily reminded of collecting leaves with him for science projects and how he always seemed to know each tree or fallen leaf by name. Trees are a majestic thing and have certainly taught me a lot, as I have taken the time to notice them over the past few years. I quietly recall the trees of spring with the budding hope of a bountiful season, the summer trees full of life and far stretching arms of cool shade, trees of autumn revealing their hidden beauty that is only on display for a short time, and frost covered winter trees with bare branches and the patience to wait for the promise of a fresh start. Trees are on an endless journey through the seasons of the year and are beautifully intricate at each and every stage. They are strong enough to stay their course despite the whirling wind, chilling rain, blazing sun, and roller coaster temperatures; all while executing the unique expectations of each varying season.
This makes me wonder if I am dually capable of such diversity and consistency. Am I capable of staying the course regardless of what comes my way? Can I shake off all of last years leaves and wait patiently through the coldest season for the promise of a fruitful future? Am I capable of allowing hope to bloom in my life as God fulfills His promise for a bountiful harvest? Is it possible for me to grow continuously as I stretch out my arms to provide others with shade? Will I allow myself to display my hidden inner beauty even if only for a short time? Can I change and adapt with each new season while remaining consistently grounded in my identity in Christ? Am I capable of such diversity and consistency? Are you?
I believe the answer is YES. In Ephesians 2:10 Scripture tells us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” and this confirms to me that I am capable of diversity and consistency. God created me and took His time crafting me as His handiwork and He intends for me to survive through changing seasons to carry out the plans He has already made for my life. He crafted you too. He took His time on you and purposed you with longevity in mind to complete the tasks He has laid out ahead of you. If we can observe trees and see their wonder then certainly we can gaze at ourselves with similar awe. Each tree has a name, a distinct leaf, a unique shape and size, and a radiant color put on brief display to reveal what has been on the inside all along. You too have a name, a distinct purpose, unique talents and abilities, and a radiant light that God desires to put on display to reveal the beauty and wonder inside of you….all purposefully placed and carefully crafted by a lovingly intentional Creator. But…will you allow your branches to be shaken bare of your past in order for the promise of radiant beauty to be brought to the surface in your future?