How To Stay Alive In the Dead of Winter

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Queen Elsa may be able to wear a dress and prance around in the snow–but I for one, cannot. In fact, I actually hate the winter. Where I live, it snows for days on end. And bitter temperatures actually make your face hurt. (If you’re not a cartoon.)

In the last few weeks, I’ve started to feel crazy. Like, I need to get out of my house crazy. I need to go somewhere. I need to feel the sun on my skin, and warm wind blow through my hair. I need an adventure, I need something to look forward to. But when I look at the calendar…January, February, and March look about as exciting as an empty parking lot. There’s just not much going on. (And let’s just face it, the holidays in February and March are like the “B-movie” version of holidays. I mean, green beer, chocolate hearts, Groundhog Day? …Tell me if someone with cabin fever didn’t come up with this stuff?)

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m just sort of waiting for these next few months to be over.

I think a lot of people feel this way. Because “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is real. And those serotonin levels and depression are real. But there’s something else that’s real.

Your spirit.

As human beings made in the image of God, we have been given a spirit part of us. And you won’t see much about this on WebMD. But open the Scriptures, and it’s real. And we were made to fellowship with God. And we were made to experience excitement, and mystery, and desire in His presence.

So instead of just “cabin fever” and “chemical imbalances”–could it also be that our spirit is groaning for intimacy with God? And that the Spirit of God is also calling out wildly to us?

If you have been feeling restless, and bored, and longing for something more—be encouraged! The Spirit is drawing you. He longs to woo you this winter. To draw you out of yourself and into Him, to explore His depths.

Pretty much everyone loves the song “Oceans” by Hillsong. (If you want to listen, click here.) But why do you think this song is loved by so many different people, of so many different denominations, and levels of spiritual maturity? I think it is because this song is wooing to that spirit part of us. The part of us that was made to commune and fellowship with God. We all have it. We all have a spirit–and we all want the Spirit of God to call us out. And the good news is: He is.

He does.

“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail.”

God woos in the winter. If we’re quiet enough, to hear Him.

If you are restless, or bored, or depressed–it may be that you are actually hungering and thirsting for God.

And no one can satisfy, or soothe, or thrill like Him. Perhaps our “restlessness” is the prelude to the greatest awakening we’ve yet to experience. For as St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until we find rest in You.”

Let Him woo you this winter. And He will call your spirit to life. Because that’s what He does. He makes dead things come alive. He makes smoldering wicks burst into flame. And makes stagnant pools flow again.

For as David said, “You make known to me the paths of life, in Your presence there is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

This is how you stay alive in the dead of winter. You stay in the presence of God. And enjoy Him.

Who knows? You may even want to run outside without your coat on. And spin around singing.

About My Barrenness

Discovering Barrenness

“At least 2 years!” Is what I begged of my husband. At least two years where we could have sanity. Build our relationship. Discover who we were as a couple. Then the little munchkins could come. When I was ready.

So…we did the infamous Pill. No dreaded “honeymoon baby” for us. That’s what happened to people who didn’t think. Who didn’t plan. And I was determined that would not be us.

Two years came…and I started to “feel ready.” Something just changed in me. I knew I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t want life to be all about me, or my husband. I wanted a baby to love too.

“Trust me, we won’t have any trouble!” I assured my husband with a wink, as I threw that final round disk of 28 pills like a frisbee into the trash can. My mom and older sister both got pregnant in their first year of marriage, and I was sure I would be of the “Fertile Myrtle,” just-look-my-way and I’ll be pregnant “type.”

But that first month “we tried,” I remember so vividly, so naively (looking back), taking that first pregnancy test. Waiting those two minutes. And the shock when it read: NEGATIVE.

If you have experienced this, at least once, you will know the strange sorrow that subtly fills your heart. I cried before I left for work, and my husband hugged me, and assured me everything was alright. It might just take a few months.

Months Waning On & Why God?

The next month came, and so did my period. And the next, and the next. It was just taking a little “longer than expected.”

I charted my periods, fluids, temperature, and anger. I went to the doctor. My husband went to the doctor. I read books, and blogs. And cried. A lot.

Most of my friends were on baby #2 or #3. But I was barren. And no one knew why. It seemed so easy for everyone else. (Especially those teenage girls pushing their strollers down the street.) But not for me, not for us. It felt as if we stood still; frozen, and the whole world kept rushing past us.

It was about two years of this. It doesn’t seem that long now..but it did then. The climax of every 28 days waiting to find out if “this month is different.” Only to be disappointed by the regular flow of blood, or a negative pregnancy test (that doesn’t magically turn to positive after it’s tossed in the trash can.) Trust me..I always checked. Just in case.

Some months I was full of faith. “In faith..” I’d declare, “I am NOT buying tampons..because I am trusting this month I won’t need them!” (Only later to go out and have to buy the overpriced ones at the gas station down the road.) Darn.

The Day I Stopped Being Barren

Then it happened. All this time God was trying to lasso my heart, and I remember the day He did. Sometimes that happens. You’re not even looking for it, like swimming with your eyes closed and smacking your forehead off the side of the swimming pool.

I was listening to an online episode of “Adventures in Odyssey” with my 5th grade students. While they finished coloring their homemade storybooks, I sat and listened to a story about a woman who had become blind by an accident. She said for years she “tolerated” what God had allowed in her life, but she never was thankful for it. But over the years, she learned how to actually thank God for what He allowed in her life. This is what He determined was for her greatest good. So she embraced it with both arms, and thanked Him.

For so long “tolerating,” but never “thanking” God for what He was doing. At last, so convicted. Cut to the heart. If God decided it was not time, who was I to say His plan was not good? I ducked behind my monitor and wiped away tears and bitterness. Who was I to quarrel with my Maker?

That was the day, this very small seed began to grow in me. Instead of fighting Him tooth and nail over his plan, I began to thank Him. Begrudgingly at first, but then genuinely. Praying things like: Thank You that You know my body better than I do, and maybe you’re protecting me from something my body cannot handle. Thank you I don’t have to go through morning sickness. Or weight gain. Or (the dreaded) labor. Thank You for no stretch marks. Or a flabby stomach. Or flabby arms. (Ok..maybe my list was slightly vain and trivial..but it was sincere.)

I began to realize maybe God had a different purpose for me, for my husband. Began to think of the extra time we would have together. What this might allow us to do. It was the working of a real miracle in me: I stopped envying all my friends who were moms. Stopped wanting other women’s lives. And I started thanking God that He had a unique calling on me. I kept my focus on the few things He had entrusted me with, (like loving my husband, and taking care of our home, and my job) and tried to do those well.

That seed was growing in me. Life was beginning to fill me.  I stopped seeing all the EMPTY in my life. Started seeing how full it was. Overflowing. Joyful. Unique. And God became close, intimate, and sovereign over this. For the first time: I stopped demanding with clenched fists–and started worshiping with open hands.

As I was leaving my job one day, this song came into my mind. I remember jotting it down on pink post-it notes…and finishing it the moment I walked in the door and crashed down at my piano. It was like this cry coming out of me, that I had to get out on paper, had to sing:

Barren, barren for all to see

Barren, but He’s still beautiful to me

 

I prayed for a baby

For the start of new life

Though I barely know how to be a good wife

 

The doctor’s say

They don’t know what to do

I know in Your sovereign will You’ll choose

To give me life

 

And You say,

“There’s Someone living inside you,

Though not a child, tucked inside your womb,

But my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,

Hear Him roar!

And you’re alive, you’re alive

More than ever before.

 

Do you trust me, Honey?

In My time, In My way

When your womb is barren,

And your hands are empty?”

 

Tears fell over the keys. And a new chord was struck that day, within me. One that had not been played before. I was waiting for a baby to fulfill what only God could. The Life I was longing for.

And I was no longer barren. My soul was full, brimming, overflowing with joy. Gratitude. I was thankful, fruitful. Surrendered. Connected to the Vine. No longer dying..but living. And for the first time…in a very long time: content.

The Baby Blessing

We had rented “The Shadowlands,” and I was scarfing down a bowl of Oreo Birthday Cake ice cream, when I realized I finally had to pee. I had picked up a pregnancy test like I had many other times, and this was nothing new. My period was late..but that didn’t mean anything. This had happened before..to no avail. “Do you want me to pause it?” My husband called as I darted up the stairs. “Noo!” I shouted down. I wasn’t going to let myself be excited. I was just going to be content to “not be pregnant.” No expectations. I peed on the stick and waited, refusing to look at it. Furiously praying as I always did, “Lord. Please let me be at peace with whatever the result is!” (I don’t think there’s ever been a girl in history whose heart hasn’t skipped a beat while waiting those FOREVER two minutes.) I took a deep breath.

Opened my eyes. And to my shock read, “Pregnant.” I shook my head as if to clear it. “Pregnant?” Pregnant. My mind started racing a million miles per hour. “Brandon!!!” I shouted for my husband to come upstairs. I had no words. I just shoved the pee soaked stick into his hands. And he read it. Speechless. Our eyes met. Locked. And we started laughing. “What?!” Hugging. Staring at it.  “Do you think it’s right?!” We’re crying. Collapsing on the bed. Locking onto one another. Could this be real?

And suddenly, the realization, the rush of warmth—God. He did this. In His time, in His way.