It was a cold, gray, wintry day on the farm. The vast cornfields that stretched up toward the trees rimming the valley were white now, only the leftover stubble from last fall’s crop was poking through the snow. After a blustery night, the wind had finally died down, and the shivering bushes and trees around the farm were hanging low with their icy load.

I looked out the window. February’s dreariness greeted me. Overcast skies, snow swept ground, and chilly winds reflected a sorrow that I could not describe. It felt like my life was about to change somehow, like something terrible and deep was trying to grip my heart, and the cold February day knew it.

At the beginning, my husband and I knew our life as a married couple would be sweet even though we had walked away from our first marriages. Divorce didn’t seem to be such a bad thing at the time, but we hurt a lot of people along the way, and I had deep regrets. We ignored God’s principles and commands, and it weighed heavily on my heart. Yet I was convinced that this marriage would be alright.

Moving to the farm seemed like a good idea. There would be plenty of room for the children to run and play, plenty of room for a large garden, and lots of fresh sunshine for us all to enjoy. We bought the house for very little back then and started to settle in. Our second baby was born, and now we had six children together. Happy family!

After a few years, however, the dark and cold started creeping in. I feared things between my husband and I were changing and his love for me was slipping away.

A knock came at my door. I put down the laundry and went to see who had come by for a chat. It had to be a friend since our farmhouse sat far out in the countryside, and it took some doing to even get here, especially in the winter.

“Sandy, what a nice surprise!” I said. Happy to see my friend from church, I invited her in. She timidly stepped over the threshold and said we had to talk.

The February cold started creeping in even though I had shut the door. I had not told anyone of my suspicions about my husband yet, or that I was concerned about his late nights at work, or about the faint smell of perfume on his clothing. Now this. I knew she came to tell me something, and by the look on her face, I knew it wasn’t good.

Inviting her into my little kitchen, I put on the tea kettle and pulled down some cups and saucers from the cupboard. Sweeping away the morning dishes from the table, we sat down. After a few minutes of friendly chatting, she took a deep breath and started in. She had news. I stepped up to place the dishes in the sink, unable to look at her while she spoke.

With sadness in her voice, she said my husband had been seen at a local restaurant with the new coworker from his office. They were smiling and laughing across the table as they had dinner together. Alone.

My heart dropped. Sitting down at the table, I let her words sink in.

As she told me the rest of the details, I listened in dismay. Between the tears and sips of hot tea, we talked and cried together. I realized everything was going to change. February was right. It was going to get very, very cold around here.

Although Sandy’s care and concern for me and the kids brought some comfort, I was sure I would not survive this news. I thanked her for coming when the children were in school so they would not witness my tears. Oh dear—what would happen to them?

Fear slowly tightened its grip.

She left with a prayer and a hug, and I closed the door. Now I knew our marriage and our life together was, as I had suspected, crumbling. I was cold—as cold as the winter scenery outside of my kitchen window.

Just down the gravel road from our old farmhouse was a little creek. Nobody really knew its name. To us, it was just the creek. It was a small stream running through the fields where the kids often played in the summer sun, catching small fish and crawdads in the water. When our boys disappeared outside, I would call from the kitchen porch, and usually they came running from the creek, shoes off, with their feet and the edges of their jeans all wet and muddy. Telling me of their adventures, we would share moments of wonder about that little spot. We all loved it.

Over the years, it has been my place of wonder and refuge too. When I was feeling lonely or sad, I would walk down there to sit on the banks and listen to the gentle sound of the water bubbling over the rocks or watch the insects and birds as they sipped the cool water on a hot day.

It was not much of a creek, just a small stream, but it seemed like the critters depended on it. It was their home and brought life to them through its abundant shelter and flowing, cool water. That creek had a purpose—to bring life to those who found it. And now on this cold day, I needed the creek too.

With a heavy heart, I put on my old coat and scarf and headed through the door. But what could the creek tell me on this cold, gray, wintry day? Not much, I was sure. But it was where I headed anyway, feet heavy, tears ready to spill out and make little icicles on my scarf.

Where was God? Hadn’t I believed in Him? Hadn’t I prayed to Him every day? Hadn’t I given my heart to Him and loved Him since I was a little child sitting in Vacation Bible School? So where was He now when I needed Him the most?

As I walked down the gravel country road, I could barely see the way through the tears. When I reached the creek, I stood on the little bridge that spanned the water. Yep, I was right. The creek was cold—frozen actually. Just as I suspected.

That creek was just like my life. Cold, hard, nothing but ice and snow all around. But wasn’t God supposed to make everything warm and rosy for me in my new life with this new man? As the cold crept through my overcoat, I stood there staring at the frozen water.

“It’s just like me, Lord,” I said. “It is just like my life. Nothing is moving, I have no future. I am frozen just like my creek. Just cold and dead.”

But then I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit saying, “Look again.”

I moved a bit closer to the edge of the bridge and looked down. That’s when I saw it. The water wasn’t all hard and frozen after all; underneath the ice, there was still some movement.

Underneath, the creek was still alive. Underneath, the creek was still stirring, still bringing life to those who needed it.

My heart leaped with joy! “Oh God, how good You are to me,” I said. “Just when my marriage, my faith, my very life feels cold and dead, You’ve reminded me that You are still alive and working out Your plan for me. Your Spirit is still moving under the ice of my despair and bringing life to me, even though I cannot see it. You still love me and care so deeply for me that You brought me to this place to show me Your love.”

As I lifted my eyes, I realized how empty the valley was on that cold, cold day. I could see my old farmhouse across the vast cornfield and the gravel road that stretched off into the distance past it, but all was quiet. There was no one else in the valley, not a car on the road or a person to be seen, yet I felt warm and surrounded in that spot by the love of God.

My heart and spirit lifted as I crunched back through the snow. God’s warm arms around me brought icy tears that spilled over with joy. As I stepped back into the warmth of the old farmhouse, I knew that with His love lifting and sustaining me, I would be okay, come what may.

***

Many years have passed since that February day when my heart was dead and cold, but I know now God was telling me that life—my life—was not over yet. Not even close. He was still at work in me and working for me. The bubbling, running, living water under the ice was exactly what I needed to see. God wanted me to know that He still loved me and was still moving in my life, even if I could not see it or feel it that day. And even though more trouble may yet come, and I am not out of the woods yet, I can cling confidently to the truth that I am covered in His love. The frozen creek taught me that.

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