Growing up in Southern California, I didn’t get much experience with seasonal weather. We had summer droughts and gloomy June mornings, and we could visit the snowy mountains in the winter, but in our little corner of Orange County, the flora and fauna looked much the same year-round.
When I first stepped foot on Texas soil on a February afternoon in 2016, the fields of barren trees and deadened grass outside our chauffeur’s truck windows seemed like something from a different planet. Apart from destruction brought on by California wildfires, this view was entirely foreign to me, and I actually asked a handful of locals when the fire had occurred that had wrecked such havoc within the outskirts of Austin. Such was my introduction to winter in a more seasonal climate.
We made our move to Texas three weeks after that first visit, and within days of our March arrival, our new home state came to life before my very eyes. Brown grass turned green overnight. Vibrant bluebonnets and golden wildflowers overtook highway meridians and open cattle fields. The naked branches outside our front window sprouted feathery white blossoms that quickly transitioned to neon green. Where we had been surrounded by monochrome desolation just weeks before, we were now treated to a visual banquet of color and budding life. The transition was something straight out of a National Geographic time-lapse scene, and I was smitten with our new environment and its endless springtime beauty.
Spring eventually evolved into a less colorful but equally verdant summer, which held on until nearly November. In fall, we caught brief glimpses of autumn colors before the trees lost their leaves in preparation for three long, “cold” (by my SoCal standards) months of winter. Never a fan of cold weather or the sight of deadened grass (who is?), I mourned the end of our warm, green surroundings, but was able to endure winter’s barrenness and chill by remembering that another glorious spring was just around the corner.
We are now experiencing our sixth Texas spring, and the initial glimpse of March’s first bluebonnets and burgeoning pink trees still makes me giddy. This year in particular, after witnessing a much harsher winter than usual (and enduring what felt like a year-long winter in far too many ways), I have relished the emergence of this new season. And I don’t just mean the season that is visible outside my front door.
Comparisons between the seasons of the calendar and of our life experiences are as old as nature itself, but the transitioning from one literal season to another—especially from winter to spring—never ceases to evoke personal reflection on the parallels between nature’s seasons and my own figurative ones. With this particular spring, the blooms and blossoms have prompted heavy contemplation on what it means to live within the present moment. This presence is something that does not come naturally to me during seasons of any type—not the lovely ones, and especially not the seasons that are difficult.
For five years now, looking forward to spring has been my go-to strategy for enduring the less palatable winter months. I wonder, though, how this grin-and-bear-it mindset has prevented me from appreciating the gifts that can only be experienced from within winter’s trenches. Perhaps winter is not a season to be endured or overlooked, but to be appreciated. Though less ostentatious than spring’s verdancy or autumn’s cornucopia of color, winter’s barrenness carries its own unique splendor that can go unnoticed if we are distracted by our pining for other seasons. Last month, if I had been fully consumed with making it to spring, I would have missed the wonderment to be found in our spectacular February storm.
Like our literal winters, the coldest and darkest of our metaphorical seasons also carry accompanying gifts, if we have eyes willing to see them. Dark circumstances are often where God’s light shines most brightly, and they are frequently where the Lord is able to do His best work. (I have never felt closer to God than while going through infertility, or in the darkest days of my recent depression.) After all, it is only when we come to the end of our own springtime energies that we willingly accept our need for God’s dominion over our lives. This is but one of winter’s many blessings in disguise.
Sarah Young writes thoughtfully on the tendency to live outside the present season or moment: “Each day of life is a glorious gift, but so few people know how to live within the confines of today. Much of their energy for abundant living spills over the time line into tomorrow’s worries or past regrets. Their remaining energy is sufficient only for limping through each day, not for living it to the full.”
I’m saddened by how much I resonate with Young’s description of bouncing between past and future while rarely pausing to fully experience the here and now. Even from the center of a lovely season, I allow my heart and mind to be usurped by old regrets and upcoming concerns that overwhelm my mindfulness of today. Nowhere is this more true than in my experiences with my kids, where it’s often easier to dwell in nostalgia for their bygone baby days or anticipation for their future school years than it is to fully engage in and savor the stage we are in. Being present in today’s specific brand of parenthood is a challenge.
I am encouraged by Young’s concluding insights on embracing the present, told from Jesus’ perspective: “I am training you to keep your focus on My Presence in the present. This is how to receive abundant Life, which flows freely from my throne of grace.” Her words are a much-needed reminder of the wonder that can be found in every stage and season—whatever form the season may take—when I welcome God’s presence into each day.
The transition from one season to the next is an invitation to embrace new manifestations of God’s abundance. Though we must sometimes strain to see them, His gifts are never in short supply. Winter, spring, summer, or fall—He is there, offering His companionship, His wisdom, His fortitude, His guidance, and His boundless love. His presence is always in season.