Something dramatic just happened in the garden. On the last day of November, I was tidying up the perennials, known to gardeners as “putting the garden to bed”. Beneath the dried up vegetation I uncovered a few geranium leaves hiding, clinging to the last warmth of autumn. These unexpected multi-colored leaves were a delightful find in an otherwise dreary chore, a hidden beauty waiting to be discovered and enjoyed before they too faded from the cold.
That evening as if on cue, it began to snow, the season changing in earnest. Sunrise December first revealed that any lingering color would be hidden in black and white until spring. Actually that’s not so dramatic. It’s expected, predicted, and a necessary interlude in nature between the exhilarating season of harvest and the hope of new spring growth.
The rhythmic movement of winter is one of recovery and restoration. It’s a time for recovering from the recent activity and restoring energy for the coming growing season. The more plants slow down to rest and silence under the snow, the more strength and nourishment for future seasons. For many plants, when the sap ceases to flow it’s safe to prune out the dead wood. At any other time, pruning would cause damage from “bleeding out”. Pruning prepares plants for future growth, as well as bringing shape and balance to its form. Winter is a vital phase in the cycle of life.
Nature doesn’t resist winter. Why do we? Humans tend to ignore, fight, or flee from winter. We pretend or hope it won’t come again this year. We layer clothing, shovel the driveway, and salt the sidewalk refusing to allow winter to slow us down. Or we migrate to any location south like many of our feathered friends. Something within us doesn’t want to succumb to winter’s invitation to rest.
Many times, the seasons of one’s soul don’t align with the calendar. However, similar seasons do exist and are quite necessary for a life lived with vitality. Upon life’s journey there will be winter seasons, often signaled by endings. The completions of a school year, an exhausting long-term project, or a ministry season are a few of these endings. Another is any goodbye in a significant relationship.
At that time, embrace the lessons from nature. Surrender to rest through personal retreats of soul care, extended time with nurturing people, and lingering listening moments with God. Allow the gifts of silence and listening to nourish and inspire something new. In addition, listen to what might need to be pruned in order to bring greater beauty, health, and future productivity from life. By surrendering to the rhythmic invitation to rest, we actually prevent destructive burnout.
“A healthy vine rests while a starved vine withers, and the distinction between these two, though not always evident in winter, will be obvious next spring.
No, winter is not burnout, but God drawing us to the quiet, where he does his deepest work…the colder the winter, the better the crop next year. Mild winters lead to average yields. It seems the further the sap is driven into the vine, the richer its return.
The more we let God slow us down, and the more we let him put us on the sidelines, the more empowered we become for the days ahead.
We need to welcome the stillness, for only then can we hear the depths of God’s heart and find his true leading.”~ In My Father’s Vineyard, Wayne Jacobsen
This December as the snow gets deeper, the days shorter, and the temperature colder assess if it’s a necessary winter season for you. Don’t ignore, fight, or flee. Accept winter’s invitation…
Be still, and know that I am god