Winter Beauty

by Susannah Baker

The winter season isn’t usually my favorite. It seems to be covered in a long dreariness where everything is colored in grey. Even school seems to take longer during the winter months of the year.

Winter isn’t usually other people’s favorite season either. When asked what their favorite season of the year is, “spring” or “fall” are the more common answers.

I think that’s because while spring represents new growth, and fall represents harvest, winter represents no growth at all.

At least, that’s what I thought until I visited Yellowstone National Park several weeks ago.

Jason’s youngest brother, his wife, and their two darling daughters live on a cattle ranch in Montana. Breathtaking mountains are the backdrop to their backyard, feeding chickens and collecting eggs are part of their normal everyday routine, and words like “hurry up,” “go faster,” and “we’re going to be late,” don’t seem to exist in their everyday vocabulary. And to top it off, the northern entrance to Yellowstone is just a forty-five minute drive from their front door.

Lucky.

My brother-in-law Josh had the idea that we should rent snow mobiles and take a winter tour through the park. I signed us up as quickly as I could, and then realized – wait. Montana, in January, has the potential to be COLD.

And let me tell you – it was. By the time we made it to the entrance to the park, the thermometer in the car measured -14 degrees Farenheit.

NEGATIVE FOURTEEN DEGREES. I thought I was going to die that day in Yellowstone.

But miraculously, not all did we all survive, but we all thrived and marveled at the park’s winter beauty.

In fact, I might even go so far as to say, winter might be my new favorite season.

That’s because I had mistakenly thought that winter seasons were barren seasons without growth. But winter in Yellowstone proved me wrong. Winter is bare, but it’s not barren. The season simply fosters underground growth.

While a white blanket of ice and snow covers summer’s abundance and fall’s brilliance, growth doesn’t disappear; it just hibernates under the surface where no one can see. And the outer bareness prepares the trees and landscape for the weight of summer’s abundance once again.

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In her book, Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole observes the tree outside her window, and writes,

Through the window I watch as birds pick her branches clean. Cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, finches, and chickadees…strip away whatever remains of summer’s bountiful memory from the silver maple. Bare, her lean limbs can support the coming snow and ice. But that weight would be too much for her frame in all its fullness. Lighter is better for the deep work of winter.

So she bows. She bends. She surrenders to thinning and in doing so thickens her foundation for an even more glorious summer to come.

In the same way, submission to God’s seasons will be our saving strength. To resist thinning is to risk collapse. The future is weighty, capable of crushing the unprepared.

What she is saying is this: To resist the thinning of winter is to hurt no one but ourselves. The tree’s “submission to the season is her saving strength.” We must learn that when bare seasons come, they are not meant for our punishment. Instead, they push us into underground growth and prepare for abundance that is ahead.

Many of us are emerging or are still knee-deep in a winter season. God has stripped so much from us this past year. Some of the stripping has been in the visible realm, but much of it has been invisible, in the hidden ground of the heart.

Can I ask you something? Have you submitted to the rhythm of the winter season in your life? Have you allowed God to strip summer’s abundance from you with a willing heart? Or have you fought back, clinging tightly to what you cannot keep, your heart weighed down with anger, bitterness, weariness, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt?

Friend, I have a few simple words for you learned from the beauty of Yellowstone: surrender to the season. Surrender to the stripping of winter, knowing it is so that you can be prepared for whatever season of summer and abundance and fall and harvest is up ahead. And as you submit, I think you might be surprised at the beauty that comes with the covering of winter.

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For God never strips away without covering us as well. It might be a covering of snow or white or cold we are not used to, but it is beautiful nonetheless. It is a covering that strips away everything that is unnecessary except for Him.

Winter does not last forever. No season ever does. So if you are still wading through winter, rejoice. Rejoice that there will be an end to the stripping. To the bareness. To the cold. And rejoice that although winter is bare, it is not barren. Deep, underground work is taking place in the hearts of those who are fully surrendered and fully trusting in Him. He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – even in the dead of winter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.