I spent way too much time and money grocery shopping at a specialty store today. It was fun! Taking my time, buying fancy ingredients like lemongrass and ginger for homemade curry, sampling wine. It’s usually one of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon, but this time my mind kept wandering toward a picture of what today should have looked like.
I should have sprinted to the store during my baby’s naptime. Instead, I casually strolled the aisles – nothing else to do, nowhere to be. I should have cooked something quick and easy while feeding my little boy. Instead, I stood in a quiet kitchen alone, learning a new recipe, sipping a glass of wine. This season might appear carefree and peaceful… ideal even. And in many ways it is. I can do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. Total freedom. A daydream to moms knee deep in dirty diapers, I know. But make no mistake this is my winter.
In the past year I have been pregnant three times, and I’ve lost three babies.
Excitement, loss, grief. Excitement, loss, grief. Excitement, loss, grief.
Winter of course began last November when we discovered, at 17 weeks, our little boy’s heart had stopped beating. And with each positive pregnancy test that followed, I readied myself mistakenly for spring’s arrival.
This is a long and frustrating winter. You know the type. With those surprisingly warm, sunny days that trick you into thinking spring is right around the corner. It’s the kind of winter that wears you down. It’s brutal. But it’s more than just that. It has simultaneously been a productive season for my soul, and that’s the part I find more challenging to articulate.
I listened to a podcast recently that finally put words to feelings – it gave me a vocabulary to describe the change burgeoning inside my heart. If you haven’t listened to Amanda Lindsey Cook’s conversation with Annie F. Downs on the “That Sounds Fun Podcast”, please do. They discuss a book by Parker J. Palmer called “Let Your Life Speak.” Amanda reads from the book and describes her experience in a very different, yet similar season of life, which she calls an “essential winter”.
Winter is an essential season of life. In wintertime, leaves fall from trees, animals burrow away, and nature enters into a state of dormancy and rest. It’s a necessary segment of nature’s life cycle however brutal, barren, or harsh it may be. Palmer says winter’s gift happens when nature is completely barren and summer’s lush growth has disappeared. It is the gift of clarity – the ability to see the trees themselves and the ground in which they are rooted. The ability to see what’s normally obscured amid the greenery of happier months.
For the soul, winter has a similar power. It provides clarity, provokes critical thinking and self-reflection. It requires open eyes. Winter is critical for life in nature and critical for the growth a soul.
Wintertime has supplied me the vulnerability to ask questions of a God I’ve largely known in summertime and for whom I’ve always had all the answers. This, like a cold winter, is both tough and necessary. But I trust this season will give way to a spring that bears fruit of authenticity and greater depth in my understanding of His nature.
Palmer gives advice for abiding in winter in the upper Midwest where he was raised: “The winters will drive you crazy unless you learn how to get out into them. Here, people spend good money on warm clothing so they can get outdoors and avoid the cabin fever that comes from huddling fearfully by the fire during the hard, frozen months. If you live here long, you learn that a daily walk into the winter world will fortify your spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear.”
This is not the season I want. But I choose to be present here – not huddled inside by the fire waiting out the cold, begging for spring – though I remain anxious for its arrival. I’ll “boldly venture into the cold” to learn everything this season has for me, however long it lasts.
So with joy, sorrow, contentment, restlessness, and hope in my heart – I’ll pour myself a glass of wine and grate some fresh ginger. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for whatever winter has yet to teach, because ‘tis the season.