I am greeted by a whirlwind as I step outside. A cyclone of tiny flakes clouds my view and slaps my face bringing me fully awake instantly. It makes me chuckle since I was the one who chose to get a ‘breath of fresh air’ on this snowy morning. I got more than I bargained for, but stretching my legs and getting my heart pumping, while taking in the glory of the snow, make me glad for my mid-morning hike. The crackle of ice crunching under my feet cues my ears to pay attention. My feet find their way to the side of the road where the sound goes from walking on broken glass to a crunch of quiet compression of snow. Each footfall takes me deeper and soon there are only muffled puffs as I slowly make my way up the hill.
The wind is my companion and it is a boisterous one today. Rambunctiously dipping and whirling, it is trying to take my hat from me…but I am too quick for that game. I pull my hat down and my scarf up until all that shows is my eyes. They are busy taking in the woods, and how the snow is brushed against the sides of the trees creating the stark black-white contrast I so love in the winter. The rhododendrons are bent low under the weight of the snow, bowing their heads in prayer, no doubt requesting an early spring. My mountain is shrouded in cloud and appears to still be getting more snow. The trees upon it look like a lace overlay draped across the barren gray silhouette. Once again the contrast is stark and beautiful as only shades and hues of a monochrome can be.
Contrasts. The landscape is filled with them. The wind settles down as my mind wanders to places long since past, to days when snow on the ground was the equivalent of Santa Clause coming. When the kids were up with the sun, layering up for adventure…and I was trying to find 4 pairs of matching long johns, gloves, and snow boots. They were piling outside faster than I could dress them. My snow angels were making snow angels…followed by snowmen, and sledding, and having snow ball fights. Soon we were piling back inside to warm hands in front of the fire with snow gear spread on the fireplace screen and beyond in an attempt to dry it for round 2, or 3, or 4. Cocoa, soup and grilled cheese were always on the snow-day menu along with toasted marshmallows, and homemade snow ice cream. People would regularly say, “I don’t know how you do it with four kids.” I would smile and say, “Grace.”
I had the grace for it. Grace-the empowering presence of God, to do that which I was called to. Mothering that many little ones was hard no doubt, but the burden was not heavy, it was light. It was a joy to be with my little ones and I never once regretted or resented it. It was a season of grace. That’s what I call these times in my life where I can feel the ability, which is not from myself, to do that which is in front of me to do. I felt it for parenting. I feel it for teaching. I felt it for working with different charities. I feel it for hiking mountains. I even felt it when I had cancer…not that it was a joy…but I had this ability to keep going, keep hanging on, and live life in the midst of feeling horrible. I felt it when Bill had his accident, the ability to put one foot in front of the other.
The thing about seasons of grace is that they are seasons. That may sound kind of obvious, but I am one who needs to state the obvious sometimes so I can hear it. Things cannot stay the same all the time. I am one who resists change. I prefer my comfort zone thank you very much. And when there has been a season of grace and it has been light and easy, it is difficult for me to give it up. I want light and easy. Yet, God wants me to grow and so sometimes to get me to move forward he lifts the grace. Suddenly, tasks become heavy and hard. I find myself striving under my own power trying to keep the season alive. It usually takes me a while to figure out why things are so trying, but over a lifetime I am getting better at recognizing when the grace has lifted.
Moving on from a season of grace usually requires some grieving on my part, and the recognition that I can hold fond memories without holding on past my time. Parenting young ones is one such season. It was my life’s work to raise these children and they will always be my babies, but I cannot treat them like babies. The grace has lifted for that season. They are out making their own way now, and I am moving into a new season of grace in other areas. It is hard to recognize this truth, but I am so very grateful that grace is a fluid thing and that God is generous in allotting it to me for each new task he puts before me.
All of this takes some pondering as I walk this snow walk. The wind is stirring again, reminding me to move a bit faster as I recognize that this quiet hike is a stark contrast to the noisy snow days gone past. I remember that contrast makes ordinary things into beautiful ones. My footprints are visible behind me and I play with making different patterns with them on my way down the hill, because new patterns can be fun. I come across a heart in the snow reminding me that he loves me still. It is his way of whispering to me while I walk that I am never alone in my seasons of grace.