by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for January 7, 2018
What is the gift of winter? After more than a few days of fierce wind, snow measured in feet rather than inches, sputtering car batteries, and layers of ice so thick it laughs at the puny scrapers with which we threaten it, we might be tempted to utter an incredible “Gift? You call this a gift?” Understandably, our recent winter experiences here in the North might easily tempt us to name this season as more of an inconvenience, a disrupter of plans, a foe of travel, an enforcer of hibernation, and nothing more.
True, our sister, winter, brings all of these experiences to many of us. The deep freeze, the unrelenting cold, the snowy blanketing of landscapes, the slowing down or absolute halting of plans. As we experience all of these harsh realities, might we also acknowledge that winter comes bearing gifts? Sabbath time, hush and stillness, fierce beauty, rest, gestation and deepening. Winter reminds us that, no matter what appearances seem to imply, the universe is always invested in healing and growth and renewal, gifts of this season.
Winter is not a season of standstill. She often moves below the surface and the seen, ushering in a time of contemplative, expectant waiting, of dreams and inner visions. She calls us into a slowing of our steps, into mindful movement, into a hush of silence, into a rhythm of seeming to do nothing but go deeper. She offers us the grace to mine her presence, to reflect on the bareness of trees, the stillness of landscapes, the darkness of star-filled nights. She invites us into sacred rest. Most of all, she challenges us to foster and nurture a winter soul.
In “Winter Spirituality,” a guest post for the Monk in the World series, Nancy L. Agneberg reflects on her own preference for the gifts of this season and on having just such a soul.
“I value the harvest of fall, the energy of spring, the secure lingering of summer,” she notes, “but even more I covet the lairs of winter, the hidden passages, the unlit corridors, the streamlined views, the bareness of the horizon. The action coldly stopped, frozen without conscious time. I’ve done what I can all those other days and months and now it is time to leave what is undone and to unwind the sweater til once more it is yarn. It is sheep. It is essence.”
So especially during this season, may we cultivate patience to listen to the unresolved questions frozen in our hearts. May we believe in our resiliency when we are wintered. May we trust the love and mystery deep within ourselves and others. May winter reveal to us the hidden, the invisible, the heart of what really matters. May we foster a winter soul.
Take a few minutes to sit in the stillness of this season.
If you are in a wintered area, gaze out the window or walk outside if it’s safe, temperature-wise. What do you see?
What are the challenges, places where you feel frozen, stuck, or hardened in your life? Where in your life might you be dreaming of a softening or awaiting a thaw?
Invite the Holy One to winter in you.
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12 thoughts on “Nurturing a Winter Soul”
Thank you, Chris! You certainly have put a positive spin on winter as we are experiencing at the present time. It certainly is a perfect time to examine the places where I feel frozen and/or stuck in my life. I invite the Holy One to assist me in the softening of the winter that is in me. I certainly appreciate your reflection a great deal.
Sister Mary Daniel
Thank you, Sister Mary Daniel. How good to be in the company of others who are also working towards the softening and the thaw.
After reading this, I’ll never think of winter as terrible again. Thank you Chris Koellhoffer,IHM!
MarySheila, like you, I’m discovering that there are learnings in every season. Thank you.
Dear Sr. Chris, Thank you for the Nurturing a Winter Soul. I loved it. It was filled with so much of what I have been thinking and praying about. I am retiring in July and now that I made the decision, I am very anxious. I know I am doing the right thing, but worrying about how we are going to pay our bills, insurance, etc. I know that God has a plan for me, I’m not sure what it is yet. I hope that God will take away the anxiety and give me the peace of the beauty of winter(even if it is very cold!) God Bless you in all your works!
May you experience peace in your decision-making, Maureen. I’ll pray with you for openness to however God’s plan for you unfolds. I think that might be the softening and the thaw of this season. Blessings!
I love nuturing the winter because it allowed me to stop, listen , reflect and pray. If you will winter is a time I take to feed my soul with reflections on how thankful I am to be in the place I am at the moment and be able to hear the voice of my God Why because the winter season has allowed me to slow down and hear God’s whispers that feed my soul and give me energy to move on better in his pressence and shine and share his light despite the cold air. OH MY SOUL HAS BEEN FED AND NOW I KNOW MY PURPOSE!! TO FOLLOW GOD CLOSELY SO I CAN CONTINUE TO BE NURTURED WHAT A GREAT FEELING.THANK YOU GOD FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE AND GIVEN ME!!
Robbin, thank you for sharing your meditation and your deep gratitude for all the ways the Holy One is nurturing your winter soul.
WINTER’S A TIME WHEN GOD MERCIFULLY BLANKETS HIS EARTH WITH SNOW TO PROTECT HER FROM THE BITTER COLD TO FOLLOW.
Thanks for sharing this image, Bill.
The stillness of a winter walk around the neighborhood is a delight to my winter soul.
Winter is difficult and at times depressing but just getting out in it resolves so much.
Thanks for your insights.
Wishing you many winter walks, Lenore. Thank you for sharing.