What I love about winter in the north is the way the backdrop of snow and cold highlights every hidden beauty. Visiting my parents’ house, I took a walk in the woods I grew up playing in and stopped at everything that caught my eye – berries, bright red like the world’s own Christmas ornaments, thorn bushes with green and purple branches branches bound together, rich brown stripes on mushrooms growing like shelves on fallen trees. Even in the cold, dead winter, there is enough small grace to take the breath away.
In 2017, I want to learn devotion. It’s the word I’ve chosen to live into as part of the One Word Challenge, where participants choose a word as the defining theme of their year, rather than writing many soon-forgotten resolutions.
I thought about discipline, but to me, discipline sounds more like dogged obedience, whereas devotion includes love. May I be hopelessly devoted to my savior this year, in prayer and scripture-reading, in responding with love to the people he has placed in my life, and perhaps most of all in simply being cognizant of his grace, noticing all the glory he has showered down upon me.
In Mary Oliver’s beautiful essay Upstream, she writes, ‘Attention is the beginning of devotion.’
In much of the last year, I stopped paying attention. I’ve been wary of making meaning out of anything, because once or twice before, everything in my life seemed coated in glory, glowing and bursting with grace. Then it all went away.
When something you thought was a gift from God is uprooted, what do you make of it? And what’s the point in recognizing God’s hand in something that won’t last, that maybe has nothing to do with him at all?
I don’t have any answers to that.
All I know is that I’ve come to the ocean at night and heard the gentle surf wash in, coming to tuck in the shore and kiss the sand goodnight.
All I know is the red berries in the woods at my parents’ house and the shining stars above the trees at night declared the birth of our Lord, perhaps more articulately than any sermon.
And perhaps my move to Florida that I’ve at times questioned and even resented a bit at the start , is the Lord’s way of kissing my face with sunshine, embodying eternity in the endless days of warmth, washing away past pains with the chill tug of the waves pulling it all out to sea.
Like our Lord, the waters of the earth are deep and wide enough to bear all our burdens, sin and hurt.
So I want to wake up this year to these moments, to see the Lord in all his glory through the world around me and through my life and heart where he is working despite my blindness and apathy.
As Saint Paul quotes from Isaiah,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5.14)