“Do you think if you hadn’t walked through this infertility journey that your faith would be as strong as it is?”
She asked sitting across the table from me at the cutest little lunch spot over plates of deli salad samplers. It’s been a long time (ahem, college) since I was posed with a simple, innocent question over a casual lunch that made me think deeply about and reflect on my faith.
The short answer may surprise you: yes.
Why? Because winter doesn’t last forever.
See, I learned a long time ago that there are seasons to our faith. There are times we’re enjoying the new blooms of spring, basking in the sun of summer, collecting the harvest of fall, and (possibly the most difficult) mourning the dormancy of winter. Sometimes I like to look at my relationship with God like it’s one of my earthly relationships (at least on the surface). There are seasons of disappointment and celebration, growing pains, laughs and tears, and countless memories shared, and it’s all built on this foundation of trust and understanding that no season lasts forever.
This infertility journey is not the first “winter” I’ve experienced in my faith. Which is why I can’t tell you that without it my faith would somehow be less strong than it is today.
When my teaching career was falling apart before my eyes in 2015, I prayed. Prayers of trust. Prayers of affirmation. Prayers for strength. Prayers for the future. Prayers for discernment. Prayers for a sign. Prayers for purpose. It’s the first real “winter” I remember walking through in my life, and I knew the Lord was the only one who could lead me through it. And lead me through it He did…on my knees, praying for His purpose for my life.
He already knew what was to come years down the road, and in June 2015 placed an opportunity in my path that allowed me to step away from teaching into business for myself. I had some great success, but I also had some serious struggles. I couldn’t understand why the thing He led me to (I thought this was “it” and expected to be sitting at the verrrrry top making a boatload of cash) wasn’t moving in the direction I thought it was supposed to. And then it hit me. That right there was it. It took me 3 years to really realize that I had all of these dreams and plans for what my business was supposed to be, and I had assumed (and we all know what that does!) that since God had led me to it, they were His dreams and plans for me too. Whoops.
What took me forever to realize was that the main purpose of that opportunity was for it to serve as the spring, summer, and fall after the winter that was the end of my teaching career. Spring as my faith bloomed, my team and customer base grew, and as I discovered new hobbies and interests. Summer as I basked in the sun of my team’s success, the creativity that flowed from me like a river, and calls from friends and family who saw me as a prayer warrior. Fall as I harvested an income that rivaled my teaching salary, hosted a women’s small group in my home, and made quality time with friends and family a main priority. Looking back, it’s that harvest that carried me through my next winter.
When we decided to move to Greenville in 2017 we had NO idea our old house would sit on the market for five months. That Jared and I would live apart Monday – Thursday for four of those five months. That our marriage would seriously suffer. When we decided to move to Greenville in 2017 we had NO idea that winter was coming. In August of that year we felt God leading us to get a house together in Greenville even though the old one hadn’t sold. Talk about a huge scary step in faith! Two mortgages, one income?! It stressed J out just to think about it, but we followed the nudge which put us on a fast-track of spring right through fall in our faith – we closed on both houses in October, and paid ZERO mortgages in November! Talk about a harvest!
And now, here we are 26 months into our next winter. A 26-month journey toward parenthood. A journey that we have very little control in, so our only choice is to have a whole lot of faith. Faith that spring is coming, because winter doesn’t last forever. Like I shared in my post about peace in the unknown, we know God already knows the plan. The when, the how, and the who of our next spring, summer, and fall. Can’t you just imagine the harvest that’s to come?!
Think back on the winters of your life. I know you’ve had them. Maybe you’re in one now. You know, that time from January to March every year when you’re not sure you’ll ever see a flower, the sun, or happiness ever again. A friend of ours cleverly calls that time of year “the dark ages.” The winters of our faith can feel much the same way – dark, dreary, dead, cold, hopeless. One of the biggest misconceptions about winter is that the trees and shrubs are dead. When in reality they’re just DORMANT. They’re lying in wait for the sun to shine and the air to thaw so they can show off all their glorious beauty. The same is true of us. We’re not dead, defeated, and hopeless when we experience a winter in our faith. We haven’t been abandoned (even though it seems like no one’s answering the phone when we ring heaven). God didn’t just pack up and head for the coast, mailing out “Weather’s beautiful, wish you were here!” postcards to all of His children. No, He’s busy pruning away up there in heaven.
Think of your grandma’s hydrangeas. All fall and winter those babies are nothing but straw-like sticks. No pretty green leaves or colorful blooms, just ugly brown stalks sticking out of the ground. It’s during this time that she grabs her little shears, carefully snips off the wilted blooms, and clips the really old canes (stalks) back to the ground, thinning the plant so sunlight can reach the roots before it blooms again. Then each spring, BAM! Big, full shrubs with giant flowers (some as big as your face!) sprout up. Friend, you’re the hydrangea bush, lying dormant in the cold dreary season, and the Lord is busy pruning you. He’s snipping back the dead, the defeat, and the wilted parts so that His light can get deep inside and nourish some magnificent blooms. Pruning hurts. Thankfully, it only lasts for a season and without it you wouldn’t bloom into your full beauty. Without pruning there’d be no harvest.
So how do we get through those long winters? I’ve relied on the following formula for the last three winters, and it has helped tremendously:
- find a devotion (let me know if you need recommendations!)
- be intentional with your quiet time every day
- listen to worship music daily (seriously…soooo good for your heart)
- pray (just talk to Him. Nothing formal or fancy. Tell Him how you’re feeling and how He can help)
- be in community with other believers
Remember – winter doesn’t last forever. When you’re in a cold, dreary season that drags on and on, draw from those previous harvests. They’re signs of the Lord’s faithfulness and proof that winter isn’t your ending. My infertility group leader said the most wonderful thing about our Heavenly Father this past Sunday:
Lord, this winter is really wearing me thin. I feel like I’m all alone and really need to feel your presence. When I’m weary from the constant battle, please give me strength. I cannot do this without you. I may not understand why this is part of my journey, but I trust you. I know you will lead me through this season, that there is a gorgeous spring coming, and I pray that I can be a light for you to others who may face a similar trial. Thank you for never abandoning me. Amen.
- Proverbs 13:12
- Luke 1:45
- Psalm 61:2
- James 4:8