I live in Virginia, where the weather is often quite unpredictable. This past March, I was just positive spring had begun. Sweaters and boots were shoved back into the recesses of my closet, and shorts and t-shirts started to make an appearance. Then one day, I walked out the door and an unexpected icy blast hit my face. Back in I went—frustrated and angry that I had to pull out the warm clothes I’d already put away.
Spiritual seasons can change just as unexpectedly. Last year I was sure I was heading into a season of new life and growth. I felt like it was finally time to start walking in the calling God gave me years ago. But just when I thought I saw the darling buds of spring forming and began eagerly anticipated the heat of summer, winter smacked me square in the face.
God knew I wasn’t ready for the next season; there were some things in my heart that needed work first.
DISCOVERING DISCONTENTMENT AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6a).
Through a conversation with my husband, I realized I had a problem with discontentment as a wife and homeschooling mom of seven. As much as I love my family, I didn’t feel as good at taking care of my family as I did at writing and speaking. I don’t care for housekeeping, and it seems much easier to teach grown women to love and walk with God than it is to nurture and train whining toddlers or volcanic teenagers.
But God is faithful to correct our missteps, and in His mercy, He sent me the correction I needed. I spoke with a mentor, and she reminded me that my first call to ministry was not public, but in my home. The Proverbs 31 wife served her family first and foremost, and in Titus 2, the instruction for older women to teach the younger how to love their people and manage their lives and homes, was a call for the experienced to lead the novice. You cannot teach selfless service without first becoming a joyful servant.
Without realizing it, I had cloaked my discontentment beneath my pursuit of purpose. I desperately sought significance outside of my family, my home, but, most importantly, my God. I wanted to move forward in my God-given calling to ministry without trusting that same God to get me there. My mentor helped me see that I was walking in pride and self-sufficiency. I wanted to make things happen on my own, with nothing but my wits and wants. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” My heart had been planning my way, but now God brought me to a screeching halt.
As winter hit Virginia last year, so too did it hit my soul. God ushered me into a cold, lonely season—a hidden season. He led me to stop writing, working, and performing. All the things I had been doing to seek approval and status were stripped from me.
Here are a few things God taught me during this hidden season:
DEEPENING MY DEPENDENCE
“…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
There is no paycheck or yearly review for a stay-at-home mom. There are no raises or Christmas bonuses. But there is so much treasure in the hidden parts of parenting. I’m not even talking about the smiles and hugs and dances and belly laughter. Those are great perks of motherhood—the share-worthy parts. No, I’m talking about the value of the colder, darker places: the prayer and dependence it takes to get through the truly hard days; the heartfelt pouring out of tears and supplication for an errant teen; the moment-by-moment surrender in the midst of handling puke-a-palooza in the middle of the night; the humility it takes to apologize for losing your temper and ask forgiveness of the stubborn little one or the defiant older one, who may very well use your humility against you later.
All of these moments add up to a life of incalculable value, growing in and serving our Lord. The suffering brings endurance which produces hope. His grace is indeed sufficient, and through my winter season, I gained a new understanding of how His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
FINDING SATISFACTION IN GOD
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).
Our joy and worth cannot be determined by the volume of the applause we receive. I was discontented in my life and ministry at home because, often, it is an unnoticed and thankless pursuit. Most of the time—if you’re doing it well—you get more boos than accolades. Children and teenagers don’t like discipline any more than we do, and they’re pretty vocal about it. Housework, schooling, cooking—all of it feels like it’s never done, and no one really notices that you do it unless you don’t (and I haven’t, far more often than I’d like to admit).
Instead, I wanted to pursue something that would give me the affirmation I desperately desired in my heart. With each blog post I wrote and shared, I yearned to be noticed. Each time I spoke, I waited for the positive feedback. I craved it, but it was like living on junk food—it was never enough. I never felt nourished. The thing about God-sized holes is that there’s only one thing that can possibly fill them—God Himself. I was ravenous, and He filled me.
Slowly, He showed me that my value and joy should be tied only to Him. I had known those things for a long time, but He worked in and through me until they became more than words I knew intellectually. They became tenets I now truly believe and stand on.
LETTING THE VINE KEEPER PRUNE ME
My mentor told me that in this season I would need to revisit many old wounds. I didn’t really know what she was talking about, though; self-analysis and inward reflection come as naturally to me as walking or talking. She had to be wrong.
Nevertheless, she insisted I was still having issues from my past. I had walked through the experiences cognitively, but had never allowed myself to feel the emotions. I’d sealed the wounds with my intellect, but underneath, the untouched trauma was festering and holding me back.
Having walked through similar seasons, she gave me sage advice. She told me I needed to harness myself to the grace and mercy of Christ and dive deep into my past. I needed to remember the things that happened to me that had caused pain and scarring, ask God to help me feel them, and then ask Him to show me where He was in each circumstance. Finally, I had to ask Him to heal me.
I did what my mentor suggested. In the early morning hours while my family slept, I dove into my pain, praying and sobbing in the living room. While my family watched TV at night, I cried out to God on my face.
Jesus said, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). While we stay connected to the vine (Jesus), He still has to cut off what’s unnecessary in order to allow the vital branches to flourish so fruit will grow.
In this season, God pruned me in ways I thought might be the end of me. But in the end, though tears flowed like the Jordan River, He healed me and increased my fruit.
LEARNING TO EMBRACE EACH SEASON
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Even after God freed me from seeking approval and value outside of Him, there were times—moments or even days—when I felt myself picking my chains back up. I would catch myself becoming discouraged by lack of engagement on something I’d written, or I’d once again get frustrated with the “hidden” portions of my life. Fear would cover me, and I felt terrified that I was right back where I started. I braced myself for another icy blast of winter.
But God is so kind and gentle, merciful and wise. Over time (and through more conversations), He showed me that this is a process; learning to walk closer to Him and see myself through His eyes is a life-long endeavor.
I have never been disappointed that my babies couldn’t walk when they were born, nor angry with my teen that she’s not self-sufficient. I teach my toddlers to read through tireless repetition and teach my teenage daughter to use the turn signal the same way. I don’t always get it right—but thankfully, God does. He is the perfect Father who gives us perfect love. He is proud of each new step I take and holds my hand throughout my walk.
Beyond that, He taught me not to fear the next winter. I will not be complete until the day I die and join Him in Heaven. Until then, each season—physically or spiritually—will come in its turn, and in His timing. Fretting about the coming winter will not stall its approach.
Instead, He is teaching me to fully live in the season I’m in, without worrying about those to come. If I am connected to Him, I have nothing to fear.
WHAT SEASON ARE YOU IN?
My God didn’t hide me in my winter season because He was ashamed of me, but because He loves me. He hid me to strengthen me and teach me to rest in His timing and provision. The work in the deep places of my soul was not only necessary, but enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have known otherwise.
He taught me to be content in the hiddenness of my home, taking care of my family. I do not enjoy (and probably never will) mopping floors, changing diapers, or cleaning toilets. However, while I dislike these tasks, I can find joy in the service of my family and my King.
Winter is when the vines get pruned. Winter is when roots grow deep. On the outside, everything looks dead and lifeless, but the Vineyard Keeper knows the work in winter keeps the vine healthy through the spring rains and summer heat, and ultimately, leads to a plentiful harvest.
Friend, maybe you’re like me, trying to run your course bravely, but badly in need of His rest and healing. Perhaps you’re walking through winter in your soul right now, and it feels barren and lonely and you fear life may never come again. Or maybe you’re in the full swing of summer, but sensing a drop in pressure and dreading the oncoming chill.
No matter your season, be assured of these things: you are loved and valued. You are never alone. He is always with you and is enough to sustain you—on every path, through every season.
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