LESSONS FROM WINTER: Knowing + Living from the Season You're In

 
 

It’s that time of year where Spring’s nearly sprung, but remnants of winter still linger… a frost here, a flurry there. Caught between two seasons - Winter not wanting to let go, while Spring keeps peeking it’s head up, teasing us with a warm, sunny day in between weeks of cold, rainy days. 

This is the first year I’ve ever even remotely mourned the end of Winter. Usually by this point I’m desperate for the warmth of the sun on my skin. Winter was a season I tolerated merely out of obligation - constantly wishing those cold nights and short days away. Longing for picnics in the vineyard and to finally be able to ditch those bulky clothes. 

But this year has been different. This year I’m actually a little sad that Winter is slowly fading away. This year I found the beauty and wonder of what I once thought of as a dark, dead season. 

It all started when I heard someone speak on the importance of knowing (and living from) the season you’re in. They talked about how it’s useless to try to live like you’re in a season that you’re not yet in, or even one you’re no longer in. That if you try to live in a season you’re not yet in, you aren’t going to have the tools or experience you need to walk it out well. If you’re still trying to live from a season you’re no longer in, you’re probably settling for something way less than where you could be if you actually just lived from the season you’re in. 

We all have ideas and dreams of where we’d like to be. Working towards those goals and dreams is absolutely important. Things aren’t just going to fall into your lap without investing time and energy into those dreams. However…  I think it can be really tempting to try to live like we’re in the season that we want to be in, instead of gleaning everything we possibly can from the season that we’re currently in, SO THAT we can progress and grow into the next season, and the season after that. 

We’re all on our own journeys, and no two look the same. Just because you see someone doing the thing you’d like to be doing, doesn’t mean you can do the things they do and live like they live and all of the sudden you’ll be where you want to be. They’ve had years and years of being in process (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that you’ll never see. And their process will look different than yours. The key is learning to be in process (and being okay with it). Because let’s face it - we’re always in process. That never changes. So we might as well get good at being in process. 

The key is learning to be in process (and being okay with it).

Wherever you find yourself on the journey - even if it feels like you’re stuck, even if it feels like your dreams are dead - I would venture to say that there are lessons to be learned and beauty to be found right where you are. In the midst of process. 

I’ve been in the process of finding beauty, hope, and joy in my least favorite season - a season I considered lifeless, stagnant, and bitter. My most recent series of paintings ‘Lessons from Winter’ is inspired by this process of discovery and pressing in to the season I’m in. It’s how I've spent time chewing on the lessons I've been learning. 

There are lessons to be learned and beauty to be found right where you are. In the midst of process. 

I was staring out my window one morning this past Autumn, watching the bright yellow leaves dance in the breeze and fall through the air. This tangible reminder of the changing of seasons made me think about the importance of knowing the season you’re in. I started journaling and asked God what season I was in. To my surprise (and horror), I felt like He said that I was in a Winter season. For a split second, I got really nervous. Like I mentioned, Winter has NOT been a good season for me in the past. When I think of being in a Winter season, I think of being in a really dark, stagnant, hopeless place. I immediately began wondering if I was really in that bad of a place in life. 

But as soon as my mind began to go there, God so kindly interrupted me by saying that He wanted to redefine what being in a Winter season looks like, and invited me into that process with Him. Even though a small part of me was still kicking and screaming (because if I’m honest, I loved hating on Winter), I was too intrigued to say no. I decided to say yes to His invitation, and it began a sweet journey of discovering the beauty of the Winter season, and what being in a Winter season can look like. It turned everything I thought about Winter on its head. 

Probably the most important lesson I learned was that if you’re willing to give up the thing God wants you to give to Him, he will 100% redeem it, transform it, and turn it on its head in the best way possible. He’s so kind and good, and He is so amazing at exchanges - we give him our fears or our pet habits or ways of thinking or whatever it is, and He gives us hope and freedom and life. And all it takes is a yes! It’s so simple!

I gave him what seemed to me a depressing, dark, stagnant season, and he showed me how to thrive in it. He showed me how beautiful it really is, and how full of hope and anticipation and joy it can be. 

If you’re willing to give up the thing God wants you to give to Him, he will 100% redeem it, transform it, and turn it on its head in the best way possible.

As I continued to say yes to God, and allowed Him to redefine how I saw Winter - I began to notice things I couldn’t before. (Probably because I was too busy hating the season I was in.)

Take the cold weather for example. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and you have to wear an insane amount of clothing to truly be warm. But it’s the perfect weather to huddle by the fire. It’s an invitation to hunker down and settle in. To dig deep. To sit and let the Fire warm you (from the inside out). It’s the perfect time to explore the hidden, secret place in God’s Presence. To discover and know Him intimately. 

In Nashville, if it snows - even a little - the city shuts down. We’re just not equipped for it. We don’t get much snow around here, so when it does snow, everyone and everything stops to take it all in. It’s like everyone turns into a kid again - both children and adults alike are thrilled to have a snow day.

Have you ever noticed how quiet everything gets when it’s snowing or has just snowed? It’s almost like everything is in slow motion. Everything is calm and peaceful. It’s almost otherworldly. It's an invitation to slow down and take in your surroundings.  

When it snows, all the ugliness of the dead, brown landscape is covered in pure white. Covered in snow, it looks completely new. Completely different. 

I remember God whispering to me somewhere along this process, “White as snow. Remember, I make you white as snow.” And then I remembered the verse in Isaiah 1:18 where it says, “Come now, let us settle the matter, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”

Then He began talking to me about the depth of what Jesus did on the cross. I kept hearing Him repeat the words “It is finished. It is finished. It is finished.” 

It doesn’t matter how “dirty” I get. How many times I mess up. How much I “knew better”. His promise is that He will make me white as snow. And He’s already done it. He’s already made a way for me. I just have to accept the gift He’s already given me. I can’t do anything to make him love me any more or any less. I can’t do anything to “deserve” it any more or any less. Because it’s not actually up to me. In reality, it has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with what HE did. He paid for my freedom and for my abundant life. It’s such a sweet and powerful gift. I don’t have to keep living in guilt and shame for my past or even my yesterday. He’s so happy to cover me with his righteousness and peace and love and restoration. He did it for me, and he did it for you. All we have to do is receive the gift He’s already given us. It’s an open invitation into life and freedom.  

One of the first signs of Winter is what happens to the trees. Autumn has had it’s way with them – their leaves have reached their peak, had their moment to shine vibrantly and brilliantly, and now they’ve fully surrendered to their beautiful death. The wind has shaken all the dead leaves from the trees’ branches, and now they stand bare for all to see - naked and exposed, open and vulnerable to the wind and the rain and the elements.

When we’re in a winter season – it usually means that we’ve just been in a season of surrendering things to the Lord. Whether that’s been our plans, or our dreams, or whatever else – we’ve given them up and now we are left open and vulnerable. We don’t have anything else to give, and often we feel exposed. Empty. Vulnerable. Sometimes, I think being in a winter season is an invitation into vulnerability and authenticity. To invite others into our process right where we are, even when we’re not thriving.

Being in a winter season is an invitation into vulnerability and authenticity.

The exception to the dead, brown landscape, however, is the evergreen tree. Evergreens can withstand even the most brutal of elements. They remain green and vibrant despite the season. They are able to thrive despite (and even BECAUSE of) low nutrients in the soil and harsh weather.

 
 

According to dictionary.com, evergreen trees lose their leaves individually on an ongoing basis, rather than losing all of them in a short period at the end of a growing season. Evergreens have green leaves throughout the entire year, the leaves of the past season not being shed until after the new foliage has been completely formed.

The good news is, we can actually thrive in our hardest, darkest seasons! This gives me so much hope! As we exchange the dead things, the things that are keeping us from growing, God gives us hope and peace and growth and the ability to thrive in the midst of seemingly dark seasons.

It is possible to thrive even in our hardest, darkest seasons!

Evergreen trees are constantly losing their leaves on an ongoing basis. I think sometimes there are seasons where it seems like we are giving up everything, but I think there’s also an invitation to allow God to prune and shake off the dead things along the way. Because pruning produces fruit. It’s the very thing that allows growth. 

I’ve always seen Winter as a “dead” season… because it is. Nothing’s growing, everything in nature seems to be dead (except the evergreens that we’ve already discussed). But what we don’t often consider is that in nature, things have to die before they can be fruitful. A seed has to die and be buried in the ground before it can grow into a plant. Before things can grow and blossom in Spring, they first have to die in the Winter season. This isn’t just a pruning season - it’s a full out dying season. 

I’ve found that often, God will ask us to surrender things to Him so He can kill them… only to breathe life into those same things in later seasons. In the process, He’s killing the very things that would cause those dreams, goals or passions to crumble and not succeed. Things like pride, selfishness, a false sense of identity, etc. 

I had a season a couple of years ago, where God asked me give him my art. He didn’t ask me to stop painting, but he did ask me to delete all of my artist profiles, my website, social media profiles and pages having to do with my art. He asked me to stop promoting my artwork and give it all to Him. So I did. I literally burned folders and folders and journals of plans on how to grow my business and how to make money from my paintings. It was really hard. At the time, my identity was wrapped up in Morgan the Artist. It was all about what I did, instead of who I was. Which is one of the very reasons God had to kill that in my life. Not because He didn’t want me to do the things I love and am passionate about - on the contrary, it was BECAUSE He loves the things I’m passionate about and needed to kill the things that were killing me, so that I could pursue those things in a healthy and whole way. I was trying to live like I was in a season that I wasn’t in, and definitely didn't have the tools for. 

As hard as it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Painting had become a chore - a means to an end, instead of something that brought me joy and was a place of worship for me. Now I get to just create and have fun with God when I create - whether that’s painting or whatever else I might be doing. I get to create in complete freedom, because I know that my identity isn’t wrapped up in what I do, but who I am.

I get to create in complete freedom, because I know that my identity isn’t wrapped up in what I do, but who I am.

Just because it looks like your dream or passion is dead, doesn’t mean it’s dead forever. It probably just means you’re in a refining season. Now is the time to dig deep, and ask God what He wants to show you right where you are. It’s a great time to ask what He wants to teach you in the season you’re in. 

Now, during the Winter season, things aren’t actually dead - beneath the surface, the roots are very much alive. Even though it looks like nothing’s happening or growing on the surface, the roots are living off of stored up nutrients from past seasons. 

When it seems like nothing is happening and I don’t feel like I’m growing, I often go back and reflect on what He’s taught me in the past. I look at my memory stones with the Lord - the victories I’ve had, the ways He’s come through for me in the past. I cling to previous seasons’ crops to nourish me, encourage me, and to help me press on in Winter seasons. 

Another thing that I hadn’t really considered about Winter, is that all of my favorite holidays are in the Winter! Again - I was too busy hating the season I was in to realize how special and full of celebration it was. Christmas is when we celebrate Emmanuel, God with Us. What an amazing promise in the midst of a season that often feels lonely and isolating! New Years is a time where we reflect on past seasons and reevaluate and set new goals for the future. It’s an invitation to dream big with God and a promise that your past doesn’t have to be or define your future! 

It’s an invitation to dream big with God and a promise that your past doesn’t have to be or define your future!

What an amazing season Winter is! Now hear me - I still don’t love the cold, or the short days that come with being in a Winter season, but my perspective is different now. 

Can you believe that I spent a fourth of the year - an entire season - every year wishing I was in a different season?! I couldn’t - wouldn’t - embrace the season I was in. I spent the entire winter every year just trying to make it until Spring. I couldn’t truly celebrate and appreciate the season I was in because I was too busy despising it and wishing that it was over. 

We do that don’t we?? We can’t appreciate where we are, because we’re too busy trying to get to the next season. We miss what this season has for us, and because of this, often can’t seem to get to the next season. If we’d just stop to reevaluate where we are and what season we’re in, we could start actually celebrating and appreciating where we are, and gleaning everything we possibly can right now. Only then can we grow. 

So what season are you in? What areas are you trying to live in a season that you’re not yet in? Are you holding on to past seasons with everything you’ve got, instead of embracing the season you’re in? 

I’d love to encourage you to really hone in and dig deep right where you are, and to embrace the season you’re in. If I've learned anything lately, it's that every season is filled with beauty, and is jam-packed with opportunities to grow. So surrender to the process. Step into it, and glean everything you can right where you are.

If you feel stuck or aren't quite sure how to start a conversation with God, I've included some bonus questions to journal about to get you started as well as a few helpful links below! 

 

Resources + Helpful Links:

Helpful questions to journal about / ask God: 

  • What season am I in right now?

  • What does that look like for me personally?

  • Are there any areas that you’re asking me to surrender to you?

  • What are you wanting to teach me in this season?

  • How can I partner with you and say yes to you in this season?

  • How do you want to change my perspective on this season?

  • Are there any ways that I’m trying to hold on to a season that I’m no longer in?

  • Are there any ways that I’m trying to live in a season that I’m not yet equipped for?

Hearing God’s Voice [podcast]

'Lessons from Winter' 2018 Exhibition

‘Lessons from Winter’ paintings available for purchase online