How The Winter Can Bloom

It's just the first weekend in February and I'm on my way to the letting-go place for the fourth time since the new year's begun.  My body, it's a little weary from all the labor, and my heart, it's a little broken from all the burying of yesterday's dreams.

But today I've left home early and the sun's breaking out and the sky's just as blue as ever it's been.  I can't resist driving a little off course and it's not long before I find my way to the secret place, that forest of beauty where God's never hidden and I'm always at home.

It might be the middle of winter, but who says there can't be beauty here, too?  Who says you can't find Him when the days are hard and the tasks are long and the heart's aching from the cold?

But there aren't any words, really, to tell the story of what I find in the secret place.  Because who can explain the way God wakes up the world with shafts of light, paints the branches with buds and blooms and life?  Who can even speak at all when the breath catches in the chest and there are tears and laughter and oh-so-much joy all at the same time?

So I click the shutter a hundred times over, try to catch glimmers of His reflection.  I bend low and I stretch high and I crane the neck every which way I can--because I can't take my eyes off all this, and who really wants to anyway?

It hurts just a bit to tear myself away from here, wander back to the everyday life where things don't make sense and there's no knowing where the road is leading, where He's really taking me.  But I'm carrying all these snapshots of Hope and Beauty and Light, and I remind myself again and again that if He can bring all this Glory right from Winter's barren womb--is there any place I won't find Him?  Is there any stretch of road, any cracking of heart, any wondering day when He won't be planting and tending and growing that future full of Hope?

There isn't and I know it and I'm leaving the secret place with the one thing I've been thirsting for in all these hard days--a heart full of Hope Himself.

Linking up a day late with Ann @ A Holy Experience

Counting Graces from the last few weeks, still taking the Joy Dare...

1174.  Whole list of chores checked off, nothing avoided or saved for later

1175.  Three hours of progress in "letting go"

1176.  Storage unit a mess but slowly coming together

1177.  Knitting mistakes that turns out to be a gift

1178.  Everyone noticing that I'm learning a new skill...

1179.  ...and encouraging me to keep going

1180.  Hours with a friend, hot drink in hand, knitting projects coming along

1181.  Plans made for overdue visit with another friend

1182.  Brown bag full of happy socks coming home to be loved

1183.  Sun making a long appearance after a whole week without

1184.  God who listens to prayers when the sleepless hours stretch long

1185.  Friend calling me a kindred spirit

1186.  Broken amaryllis bud in a vase, still growing

1187.  Another friend calling me Gift

1188.  Clear skies on a January morning

1189.  Steam rising off frozen rooftops

1190.  Casting off at last -- half of first knitting project finished

1191.  Unpacking boxes of grandmother's glassware, mom recounting stories from the past

1192.  Choosing pieces of history to carry into my future

1193.  Sun on my face in the middle of winter

1194.  Two cats sound asleep in the warm light

1195.  Long overdue catch-up session with a dear friend

1196.  Handing over the gift made with hands and hours and love

1197.  Color of the gift suited perfectly for the one who now wears it

1198.  Unexpected good news

1199.  Strength to press on in the long, hard task of letting go

1200.  God near when the grief brings me to my knees again

1201.  Him picking me up and breathing courage when I just want to turn and run

1202.  A few forgotten treasures found among the ruins of an old life

1203.  Eight gees flying in formation over the freeway

1204.  Friend who says Yes to something out of the routine

1205.  Smelling endless jars of tea, choosing an armload to bring home

1206.  Long walk by the river with a dear companion

1207.  Days of angst loosening their grip a bit

1208.  God who loves enough to break us

1209.  First morning light dappling the housetops

1210.  Salve to mend the cracked hands

1211.  Happy scent of lavender, rosemary, and eucalyptus

1212.  Amaryllis still growing in a vase, petals popping open one by one

1213.  Sunlight silhouetting blooms against purple curtain

1214.  Navy-blue horizon at day's end

1215.  February days of sun

1216.  Long-feared task tackled and finished at long last

1217.  Strength for letting go--can there be enough "thank you's" for this one thing?

1218.  First morning light landing on the Hope Bird

1219.  Cat who purrs at the sound of my voice

1220.  Twenty seagulls lined up on the grocery store roof

1221.  Me sitting in the car laughing as I count all those birds

1222.  Two trips to the arboretum in one weekend

1223.  February days feeling strangely like spring

1224.  Breathing in the scent of witch hazel, daphne, wintersweet, jasmine...

1225.  Chasing sun all over a forest

1226.  Bending low, stretching high, craning my neck to frame glimpses of His beauty

1227.  The way I'm laughing and crying all at the same time because He's near and He's beautiful and I can hardly breathe it all in

1228.  Filling up every last page of the very first gratitude journal

1229.  Choosing a new book to hold the pieces of His love

1230.  Knowing there'll never be enough pages to write down all the Grace


  1. Courtney,
    You're words to me over at made me cry. It was so kind of you to take the time to breathe such life over them. It caused me to want to know you, and now, I am crying at YOUR words. I feel so...RELIEVED... to know that there are hearts out there that beat like mine. Just to know that I am not alone in the world. You have a gift with words and pictures that speaks to my soul, and I thank you for sharing. Keep bringing light. You're doing such a great job here. I'll be following now and listening for all the life you are creating.

    1. @Bernadette: Do you know what a gift you've given here? One of my deepest joys is in reaching out to others and letting them know that they are not alone. And if my words and pictures are speaking your soul language, then we must be kindred spirits :o). I suspected as much when I stopped over to your blog and couldn't pull myself away from your poetry. I am *so* happy we've found each other in this big wide world. Pure Grace through and through. Looking forward to sharing a bit of life with you, even if only through words.

  2. Dear sister,
    This is so beautiful. If I listed all the things that resonated with my spirit or gave me joy, this comment would be too long, so let me just say yes. Yes to all your thanksgiving and yieldedness to the One who calls you to let go.

    I am in a letting go place right now, too. You are not alone in your experience of that spiritual work as a physical drain. It takes the whole person to let go of my will so that I am open to the God of hope filling me with Himself. Jesus also knows that wrestling, I think, given the accounts of the Garden of Gethsemane prayers. He will strengthen you to surrender. He is worth the letting go.

    Brava on the knitting progress!! Good for you! Those marks of real joy in the midst of the "hard eucharisteo" on your list give me joy, as well.

    One of the plants in these photos is also the plant on your calendar gift for February, but I don't know its name. It's the one with the blood-red heart and crinkly yellow petals.

    Lord, please guard Courtney and fill her with Your peace and a strong experiential sense of Your love as she follows you in surrender and taking up Your cross. Keep healing her body, soul, and spirit and sending her loving local friends to uphold her in fellowship and prayer (and tea and yarn). Restore all the years the locusts have eaten, Father, in Jesus' name. Amen.

    Love to you, dear heart!

    1. @tinuviel: What sweet comfort in knowing that you, too, are in a season of letting go, that we don't walk our journeys alone. Sigh. I should have known--well, I guess I really *did* know this was coming but somehow the knowing didn't make it any easier to let go. And your words here--"He will strengthen you to surrender"--what truth. You'd think it would take more strength to fight than to surrender, but somehow it's just the opposite. Thank you for the reminder that even the ability to surrender comes straight from Him.

      And that flower you are referring to? It's a branch of witch hazel blooms (I believe this particular specimen is Hamamelis mollis). Witch hazels are one of my favorite plants--small trees that bloom out in the middle of winter with gloriously fragrant blooms in yellow, red, or orange. And then they have the most gorgeous color to their leaves in the fall. Someday I shall have a garden full of them, I think.

      And your prayer here? I have shed a few tears for the sweet love and kindness you have offered. May you, too, feel Him near and strong and sustaining in your own letting go. Because whatever He's preparing us for, it will be beautiful and full of Him--and *that* is the kind of Hope to hold onto with all our might.

      Sending love right back to you, Dear Friend!

  3. Replies
    1. @Berndette: This makes me smile :o). Thank you!

  4. hi Courtney,

    the words, the pictures, the way the words and pictures fit together--i loved all of this.

    because the archipelago that is Venice is quite a ways from just about all building materials, venetians constructed new buildings from the bits of old ones that had been abandoned or ruined: the marble columns or paving stones in a church built in the 1600s would come from an abandoned church on another islet built centuries earlier. that's what came to my mind when you expressed gratitude for "a few forgotten treasures found among the ruins of an old life". we're told that all things work together for the good of those who love God. so my prayer is that He will give you the blessed assurance that someday (looking back) you will be able to see *all* the things that (once were) the ruins of your old life have now become treasure in your new one. but also count me in on Tinuviel's wonderful prayer for you: i love the idea of God upholding you in fellowship and prayer and tea and yarn!

    all blessings,


    1. @Chris: What a beautiful idea, using pieces of the old to build something new. Thank you for this imagery--I think this is what I hoped to accomplish when I began this particular "letting go" task, but I've lost some of that focus in the midst of all the grieving. Thank you for reminding me of His promise to rebuild the ruins of a life into something beautiful.

      And I, too, love the idea of being upheld in fellowship and prayer and tea and yarn. In fact, just thinking about the idea, I feel "upheld" a bit. God is good, and He has been upholding and I'm so grateful for your prayers.

      Thank you, especially, for loving my humble offering of words and images here. Sometimes what I have to give seems small and insignificant but God always manages to turn it into something that speaks of Him.

      Blessings back to you, Friend!


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