Caught by Surprise
Caught by Surprise
Have I not lived in the Cascades mountain range for 34 years? Do I not know that winter follow autumn? When I see the brilliant leaves and breathe the crisp air, do I not remember that winter will soon come?
We had an exquisite Indian Summer: 60-degree days of sunshine and blue skies. My husband brought up the subject of getting our studded tires put on. He ordered more wood, as the old-timers said we could be in for a long winter (what winter is not long?). And then overnight, winter descended, with two and a half feet of snow and zero degree temperatures. Our lovely stack of wood looks like one of the Three Sisters, a mini-mountain of snow. My studded tires are in Sisters in our storage unit, which remains un-plowed and inaccessible.
I feel a little silly being caught off guard by winter, remembering the story of the grasshopper and the ant. I could definitely play the part of the grasshopper, who frolicked while the sun was shining as the wise ant got ready for winter.
But to be gracious and forgiving to my procrastinating self, seasons can be confusing. Sometimes it does not seem as if our own season is changing and we aren’t prepared for what’s around the corner. We ignore the signs. My birthday is this week, and as much as I’d like to pretend I’m not getting older, I am. Getting older is the price for staying alive. So how do I enjoy the present season, yet plan for the next?
I think it starts with knowing that each season offers something to us; and each season requires something of us. In spring, we plant. In summer, we cultivate and enjoy the fruit of the planting. In autumn, we harvest. And in winter, we wait. Winter gives us the opportunity to stop—and think.
Fighting cabin fever and bummed at missing Macy’s Biggest Sale of the Year (could that be true?) and bored with mind-numbing television, I went to my “thoughtful” library, and dug out a book by Tilden Edwards, who writes about contemplative prayer. He nailed what I was feeling: “Something deep inside is moving. Sometimes we may feel it as a certain restlessness, hunger, or emptiness…We can respond in different ways. We mistake the hunger as a need for more sensual, ego, or superego gratification of some kind. Then we turn our energies to various material, relational, work, or educational pursuits that aim at such gratification. In such ways we strive to fill the hole we feel within us.”
Tilden Edwards goes on to write about the call to come back to our deepest hope—and be still, to remember our liberating connectedness to God—to understand where we are, and what matters most. He writes, “Authentic prayer is opening to God’s gracious presence with all that we are, with what Scripture summarizes as our whole heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37).”
As fabulous as summer is, and as stimulating and bracing as autumn can be, winter offers perhaps the most powerful gift of all the seasons. It is a time to be honest; to listen, deeply. God persistently calls to us, his much-loved children: ‘‘Be still. Know that I am God.”
Winter can get our attention to deal with what matters. And respond accordingly.
O God my Father, I have no words, no words by which I dare express the things that stir within me. I lay bare myself, my world, before you in the quietness. Brood over my spirit with your great tenderness and understanding and judgment, so that I will find, in some strange new way, strength for my weakness, health for my illness, guidance for my journey. This is the stirring of my heart, O God, my Father. Amen.
–Howard Thurman in The Growing Edge
* Think about your life, and where you are now. What is God is saying to you in this season?
* What can you do to prepare for the next season of your life?
 Yes, I have a “thoughtful” library downstairs in the back bedroom, with books that I cherish; books that are annotated, written in, dog-eared…and never given away.
 Edwards, Tilden. Living in the Presence. HarperSanFranciso, 1995.