February 4, 2016

Breath of Winter

One of my long time readers and friend wrote me after reading my While It Is Still Winter post from Monday and reminded me how much beauty there is in winter. She lives up north in Minnesota and has plenty of experience to know.
So, I decided to give this winter season (although much milder here in Texas than Minnesota) a chance to redeem itself. 

I grabbed my coat and headed out for an invigorating walk with the intention of taking in some winter beauty.

How wonderful it was to take a long walk. It was the perfect intake of serenity to fill my soul after a long, busy, tiring week.

I could truly, deeply breathe. The deep cold breaths that make you pull your coat tighter around you and walk faster against the cold north wind.

Blue skies

Fresh air

This breath of winter was a cleansing renewal that I needed more than I had realized.

With each footstep I felt more in step with who I am and where I am going and where God is leading me. God gave me those moments of connection as the fresh air brushed my cheeks and the sunshine warmed my being.

You just can’t get that sitting behind a keyboard for long periods of time or working on intensive projects without ever taking a break. 

There was a little surprise on my walk. If you have been reading my posts for very long, you might remember mentions of an old cemetery that I pass while on my long walks.

On the other side of this bridge is that old cemetery. I turned one way to take the picture above. When I turned around the other direction to face the cemetery, I saw two coyotes inside. One of them meandered off into the trees at the rear of the cemetery. The other stayed where he was, warming himself in the sun on a winter afternoon. 

When I very slowly walked up to the gate to try to get a picture with my phone, (which doesn't zoom very well so he looks pretty small) he lifted his sleepy head and looked my way. 

I knew the chain link fence only ran across the front. The cemetery was lined with trees on the three remaining sides. I turned and quietly walked away and hoped that the coyote wasn’t getting up and heading my direction. How many times have I heard people say they are more afraid of us than we are of them? 

It must be true. I gave a quick glance back and he was still soaking up the sun. That winter sun must have felt really good.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying a deep breath of winter. 

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” ~Genesis 8:22

February 3, 2016

In Life's Dark Moments

I don’t know if you saw this story on the news this week, but it happened in my area. Two teenage girls from the same high school committed suicide. One was found at home and had taken an overdose of pills. The other one hung herself from a tree in the woods nearby. Details as to why are not known or have not yet been released.

But because of the nature of the subject of teen suicide, I want to re-post a story I previously shared about my own suicidal thoughts as a teenager. Teenagers are so vulnerable to feeling helpless and hopeless.  I can still remember those feelings.

I don’t remember the exact date. I do know it was January. I know I was in the eighth grade, a thirteen year old girl in junior high in 1972. I know I felt hopeless and fearful and I was tired of living in a home with an abusive father never knowing when he would quickly swing from a basically okay mood (he was never in a “good” mood) to outrageous bursts of anger that seemed to come out of nowhere.

The thought that kept repeating itself in my mind is that turning eighteen, graduating high school, and the day I could leave home was too far away. I could not imagine myself surviving and enduring the years between January 1972 and June 1976. To a thirteen year old girl who felt all alone in the world, all I could think of was ending the misery.

I collected pills from different medications in the house. And on that school day in January in 1972, right before classes started on a Monday morning, I stayed in the restroom after the bell rang, pulled the collection of pills out of my coat pocket and cupped them in my hand while trying to figure out how to swallow all of them, and I heard the door open.  I looked up and there was my best friend, who quickly knocked my handful of pills into the sink and washed them down the drain. 

I don’t remember what she said. But I remember what she did. She dragged me across the hall to our math teacher’s classroom. She told him what I was trying to do and he told her to go to the office and get a substitute teacher for him.

Mr. Snyder was a favorite teacher at our school. For a while we talked in the hall and then in a counselor’s office. Until that day, I hadn’t told anyone anything about my home environment. To make a long story short, he caused me to realize that I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to escape. He made me realize I definitely wanted to live and that I had a whole life ahead of me once I finished school. The school counselor wanted to contact my family, but I begged her not to, and in those days, it wasn’t that hard to do because policies were not in place that exist today. I did have to agree to meet with her weekly, and Mr. Snyder was always checking on me. It felt good to have people care and it felt good to finally not be totally alone in this. I know Mr. Snyder prayed for me, too.

I was in high school the next year. No more Mr. Snyder. Pam moved away in the middle of our freshman year. It was hard at home, very hard. But the days were drawing closer and freedom was in the wind.

I did make it. I even won the Creative Writing Award my senior year and yet because life had been so hard, it never entered my mind that God might have writing in my future. I had been in survival mode, and I had made it to this important date. I graduated in June 1976 and quickly moved from Ohio to Kentucky, spent the summer with my sister and her family, and started classes in the fall at a small Christian college nearby. That’s when life really started for me.

It was years later before I truly understood that God is the One who stepped into that bathroom in that junior high school on a cold January morning in 1972. It was years later before I understood, He had a plan for my life and the Enemy was not going to be allowed to destroy me at the tender age of thirteen. Mr. Snyder was God’s person He put in the gap for me. And my friend, Pam, walking in at that exact moment.

As the years pass by, I am still reminded of that dark day in my life, but most of all I am reminded that God rescued me. He knew where I was and He rescued me! Life was still hard those next several years in high school, but He helped me make it through. I praise Him for that with all my heart, even to this day! 

I am also reminded that I am glad I was born. God wanted me. And He had a plan for my life through it all.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

February 1, 2016

While It Is Still Winter

Sometimes in winter I feel a little frozen. The cold and gray days leave me with blank places where words are hard to find.

But God is always near even when I feel distant with myself.

Because I know this I forcefully struggle to wake myself up and shake myself out of this barren place.

The world around me may be brown and bare, but inside of me springs life.

Change is coming, it will not be winter forever…

I have no right to complain about winter, especially since we were treated to mild weather the last few days. But it still looks like this photo out on my walk.

My flower beds look pathetic, although I enjoy peeking through a pile of leaves under the birdbath where a cottontail rabbit is keeping warm on the cold days.

I have a geranium on my front porch that is still blooming and I haven’t even covered it on the cold nights. It is bright red and I love it. That splash of bold color gets me through the barrenness of winter.

I sat on the patio for a while yesterday dreaming of spring and growing things, of flowers blooming again and a sea of green grass instead of a brown lawn and trees that have leaves again.

So much hope comes with the change of season when winter gives way to warmer breezes and new life appears where things look pretty dead right now.

Do you watch for that first blade of green daffodil stem poking through the hard brown dirt and wonder how did it live through winter?

Do you watch for the irises to push their way above ground again and eagerly await their first blooms in the weeks to come?

We have a good chunk of winter on the calendar still to go before we can expect to see those first signs of spring. But for now we can dream about it, I know I am.

Today I am celebrating that January is over. We made it through a month of winter and our dreams of daffodils and irises are a little closer.

Yes, for now, our trees are bare and our lawns are brown.

Our hands are cold but our hearts are warm.

Our warm hearts are also full of hope because we know…the calendar pages will turn and winter will lose its grip and much to our delight - spring will come!

Psalm 74:17 You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter.