The Magic of Late Winter, Part VII: Guest Post by Elizabeth Giger

When the wheel of the year turned towards March, I expected storms, sleet, slush, and long gray days that seemed to last centuries. Instead, I received warm, golden days, cool rain and bright snow, and a global storm that made the month spin by like a pinwheel. When Elizabeth Giger first presented this beautiful contribution to my Magic of Late Winter series in late February, neither of us knew how perfectly it would fit these strange, turbulent times.

Elizabeth Giger is another writer-friend from The Habit community whose writing style has the sweet, profound clarity of a church bell ringing. Her work reminds me that in Christ, joy, hope, and truth are all one reality. Enjoy!

The Reality of Spring

Text and pictures by Elizabeth Giger

Reality.

All of creation conspires to teach us what is real. When God created, He carefully crafted the laws of nature to point toward reality.

Every growing seed points to the reality that we must die in order to bear fruit. Every autumn leaf points to the reality that in dying to ourselves, our true colors burst forth. Every new birth points to the reality that new life comes only after great labor pains.

All of creation shouts out God’s beautiful reality.

Today, as I look out the window on a day at the end of March and see this:

I am considering the reality that when the calendar says it is spring, when the crocus first peeps up from the ground, it is truly spring, even when it still feels like winter.

It still feels like winter in my own little world. The snows still hush the sounds outside my window. The skies still hold that steely winter-gray. There is even a certain smell that comes with the cold and the stilling of growth.

It still feels like winter in our larger world. As refugees stream out of war-torn countries, as friends fight deadly diseases, as families continue to grieve beloved ones who have died, it still feels like winter to me.

And yet.

I sit here on a Monday in March, contemplating the Holy Week that is coming soon:

The road into Jerusalem which led to the giving of bread and wine, a desperate prayer in a garden, the cross. The ghastliness of Holy Saturday and the knowledge that God was dead.

And then.

A weighty boulder moved easy like a feather. An angel wondering at anyone presuming to find Jesus in a tomb. A familiar voice: Mary.

Jesus.

Alive.

Resurrection.

And suddenly I understand what I am truly seeing out of my window on this day at the end of March, when the crocuses have peeped out their heads and yet snow lays heavy on the ground.

Spring is here.

It requires that I open my eyes to see what is really there. It requires stooping low to the earth. It requires being still.

It is the same reality that we see all around us in our larger world when we open our eyes, stoop low, and be still. The reality that the tide has turned, that despite the battle raging all around, the war has ended and God’s Spirit is little by little warming the air and thawing our hearts.

How can we be sure that God’s kingdom truly has come? How can we be sure that God has won the war and decisively defeated sin and death when we still see sin and death raging all around us?

The resurrection is our confirmation.

Yes, it may still feel like winter all around,

but the resurrection is our crocus.

Spring is really here.

Picture of Elizabeth Giger

Elizabeth Giger

Elizabeth is a writer and musician, writing weekly at MadeSacred.com. She holds a Certificate of Spiritual Formation from Lincoln Christian University. She also loves photography and art and enjoys weaving together words with visual art on her blog to create something new. She is a wife to her logical, programmer husband, a mother to four intense, warrior girls, a homeschooler, and a midwest girl who loves the sight of golden fields stretching to the horizon. She neglects housework in favor of reading as many books as she can get her hands on and loves to travel the world. 

The Magic of Late Winter, Part VI: Guest Post by Hope Henchey

Pictures by Hope Henchey

Friends, the natural world is changing from gray to green, chilly to warm, frozen to refreshed, but it feels like the human world has gone mad. This pandemic has reshuffled the cards of our lives. I pray for those who are sick, grieving, afraid, jobless, homebound, or lonely.

In the midst of grief and fear, I remember an ancient truth: the God who sits above the circle of the earth and inhabits eternity is our refuge – in pandemics or prosperity, peace or war.

The LORD God is our stronghold. I hope to honor Him by seeking joy in dark places and pursuing beauty through these gray days. Therefore, I am going ahead with the next installment of my Magic of Late Winter series, a guest post by Hope Henchey about late winter in Florida.

Hope’s meditation on the beauty and transience of this season in Florida stirred me like a dream of summer in the midst of winter. I love how she captures this season’s precious, fierce, fragile joy. Enjoy!

March in Florida: The Last Days of the Shire

Text and pictures by Hope Henchey

I’m a season snob, I’ll admit it.

If you ask my opinion of living in Florida for 22 years, the answer you get will vary widely depending on what month it is. You should ask in a month like March.

Those who live in colder climates might look to March with hopefulness of sunny days and fresh air. As a Floridian, however, I’ve already been enjoying sunny days and fresh air for the past few months, so I cling to March tightly as I watch the last specks of sand drizzle through the hourglass, signaling the season when my Shire will transform into Mordor.

March is so, so lovely. It’s the tail-end of strawberry season, which means those delicious berries are cheap, plenteous, and ruby-red ripe. Since we live only five minutes from strawberry fields, we actually eat strawberries at every meal. To continue with Lord of the Rings imagery, I devour strawberries in the same way the steward of Gondor murderously eats tomatoes. The juice drips from my chin like blood, but I don’t even care. It’s glorious.

March is a month when mosquitoes (“our state bird”, as we say) are still mostly gone, and the air is cool enough to enjoy all the local rivers, trees, and beaches. My favorite beach is Siesta Key, where the sand truly looks and feels like powdered sugar. Nearby is the gorgeous John and Mable Ringling Museum and Estate (yes, the circus guy) where my daughters enjoy savoring aromas in Florida’s oldest rose garden. On the way home, we like to stop by a delightful orange grove that sells soft-serve frozen orange juice. March days are full of such adventures.

Though we still might get sunburned if we’re outside more than ten minutes, the big ol’ Star seems more like friend than foe in months like these.

There is, of course, an uneasiness that pulls at my sleeve in March. I know that the hot half of the year is hurtling toward us, with its bugs and crowds and threats of heatstroke. Especially since I’m entering my fifth pregnant summer in nine years, I know that I have months of difficult breathing ahead since my organs get all squished up, yet the fourth-most humid city in America doesn’t seem to care. Even walking to my car feels like I’m underwater in a 100-degree pool. I dread that feeling so much.

But that’s the thing with seasons, isn’t it? We don’t get to control them. Unless we have the flexibility to chase around good weather, we don’t get to pick what season we’re in. I wish strawberries were always cheap and ripe, but the plants must die and be replanted and grow from seeds again. I wish the air could always feel fresh and delightful, but heat and humidity must come.

If I could customize seasons of life by sheer will, I would cut out a lot of the things going on in my life right now, issues that are heavier than hot weather or lack of berries. But the world is broken, and God has given me limits. I can receive each season as the blessing it is, given by God for His glory and my good.

There’s beauty in every season. Even summer holds things I love such as mighty yet calming lightning storms, Vacation Bible School, and lower prices on grapes. But while it’s still March, I’ll enjoy every last moment of blowing bubbles in our yard and gator-watching at Lettuce Lake Park and meandering downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk.

I thank Him for this season and trust Him for the next.

Bio picture of Hope Henchey

Hope Henchey

Hope Henchey lives in the suburbs of Tampa, Florida with her husband and four kids (fifth on the way!) She writes on her blog and microblogs on Instagram about homeschooling, RV living, theology, childbirth, and more @called.beloved.kept and @lightingfireshomeschool. She has written for Christianity Today and Daughter of Delight.

The Magic of Late Winter, Part V: Mist Maker

Mist on a pond
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

After a few weeks of delightful guest posts by Kimberly Margaret Miller, Loren Warnemuende, Reagan Dregge and Kristen Kopp, and Bethany J. Melton, here is my late winter story. I wrote it for the weather I dread the most – cold rain falling on melting snow, leafless trees, gray skies, and slushy streets – not knowing how golden and warm this March would be.

I rewrote the story to match this year’s milder weather. I post this in the middle of a pandemic that is shuttering gatherings and separating communities, scaring parents and (I hope) thrilling at least a few kids who suddenly have two free weeks to hunt purple crocuses and golden daffodils in the woods.

I post this now knowing that in fear or gloominess, boredom or grief, gray winter days or slushy spring mornings, the same God who spoke light out of darkness can speak joy and courage into us.

Mist Maker

On the quiet street, cold rain speckled the pale lawns and ran down the gutters of the shingled houses. Mist hung between the bare gray branches of oaks and thick robes of evergreens.

Inside a white house with black shutters in the middle of the street, Mae sat in the family room downstairs, leaning over her laptop. She wore a dark blue sorority sweatshirt. Her curly blond hair was tied up in a messy bun, and she wore a gold necklace hung with small pink beads.

On her laptop screen, Mae clicked on the field next to YEARS OF RELATED WORK EXPERIENCE and entered a “0.”

Her email inbox lit up. She opened the email from a company she’d applied to three weeks ago: 

Dear Ms. Newman,

Thank you for your interest in the Project Manager position. We have decided to pursue a candidate whose qualifications are more suited to our requirements.

Sincerely,

Hiring Manager
New England Design Co.

Mae stared at the email for a moment, and then opened an Excel spreadsheet labeled “Jobs” and colored row #19 in gray.

Upstairs, a baby wailed. A door opened, and Mae heard her sister’s low, soothing tones. A moment later, a light set of footsteps pattered down the stairs, and her niece, Rachel, came in. She wore a red sweater with a picture of a brown bear, and her ash-blond hair was half-braided.

“Sammy’s crying,” she announced. “Mommy said to come ask you to watch me.” 

Mae put down her laptop. “Poor little guy,” she said. She looked down at her laptop, and then outside. “Wanna come on a walk with me?” 

Rachel looked out the window and wrinkled her nose. “It’s gross out,” she said.

“Nah, this is one of the best times of the year,” said Mae, getting up and setting her laptop on the coffee table. “I’ll show you.” 

After bundling up, they left the garage and squelched through the backyard, through the back gate and into the woods.

Mae let her big hood slip off so the rain fell freely on her hair and face. “Your mom and I used to pretend we were mermaids when we got our hair wet,” she told Rachel, who giggled. 

The woods had barely changed since Mae left for college: the ashes of autumnal bonfires in center of the clearing, the stump full of woodpecker holes, and the leaning fir they called Old Giant. Sticks and golden-brown pine needles littered the ground. 

Mae took Rachel on the old path through the thicket of leafless thorn and blueberry bushes, green and gray, spreading like waves across the peaks and gullies of the forest floor. She pointed out memory-haunts: “We used to hunt for letter boxes with the Flame-wings under those logs. We built a fort around that tree. Here’s where we played bows and arrows with the Green Singers…”

Rachel asked a few questions, but mostly chattered as they neared the pond. They turned right into the opening in the trees and braced their feet against tree roots to get safely down the hill.

The spruces and oak trees were shades of brown, light green, and gray around the still surface of the pond. The water was dark, half-covered with a thin layer of ice melted into slush. 

“Come see,” Mae said, gesturing to Rachel. She led her niece to the pond’s edge, where tree roots stuck out from the eroded earth and disappeared into the water. 

From this angle, they could see a misty shape above the ice: a castle with spiked towers like the tops of pine trees.

“Oh,” said Rachel. 

“It’s a reverse reflection,” said Mae. “The real castle is underneath. The Lily Queen let us swim down there sometimes to see it.” 

“Can we…?” Rachel asked, looking from Mae to the pond.

“No, sweetheart, it’s too cold to swim,” said Mae. “But if we’re quiet, the Mist Maker will put on a show for us.” 

Rachel took in a low, excited breath and held it. Mae squeezed her hand as new shapes formed above the pond: two girls chasing creatures like winged foxes, a fir tree transforming into a tower, a boy riding a sea serpent.

They watched things remembered or longed for rising from the warming air, the melting ice, the thawing soil, the waking earth.

The Magic of Late Winter, Part IV: Guest Post by Bethany J. Melton

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Late winter here in New England has been much milder than past years – dry and golden, with some warm days that bring hints of spring. Until the vernal equinox, however (I love the sound of those words together!) I don’t want to let myself celebrate yet. I want to soak in the beauty of chilly nights and bare trees while it lasts.

This post is by Bethany J. Melton, a writer from the Midwest whose words have the quiet, meditative beauty of morning mist on a lake. Bethany reminds me to cherish the time we have now, as the tiniest leaf-buds begin to swell on the trees and the last snow-mountains dwindle.

Thank You, Winter Woods

by Bethany J. Melton

I walked fast enough that the March rain didn’t seep deep into my skin; slow enough that I didn’t miss the beads on every winter limb. I’d said, “Only up the hill and back,” but the neighborhood was asleep in the mist this afternoon and I smiled into its silence.

I took Edgewood to its end—the circle turn-around encircled by forest. The woods breathed in the rain and I breathed in the woods. Wet leaves and sweet bark. I stopped when a bubble slipped from a limb and ran down my finger. I rubbed the water into my palm—a bit of March to carry home.

It’s me and the trees at Edgewood’s end and they lean in, their limbs entangled overhead. They’re naked and they know it. Like a rude onlooker, I’m gawking. I can see every knot, every crook, every vine. Some limbs are black and blunt against the white sky. Others are spindly.

All are motionless, waiting for me to pass.

I do, finally, and leave them their privacy—the privacy of the wood and a dripping creek and staring squirrels. It’s a privacy I sometimes crave, too.

Thank you, March trees.

We can tell every tree in winter without reference to foliage by its mode of growth. So study them, in some spare moments… They will repay—they are in the right place as beautiful as rocks. They have a nobility of growth which is usually entirely overlooked.
– Beatrix Potter

Bethany J. Melton

To read more of Bethany’s writing, visit her blog, Bethany J’s Journal.