A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘winter

20150526_190214

Just a couple of months until spring sports start!

Yesterday’s weather surprised me: my car’s thermometer gave the temperature as a mild 10°C and a light rain was falling as I headed home from running some errands. Today, when I was eating breakfast, I noticed fog and brownish grass poking through the snow in the park behind my house.

With the heavy snow we had not so long ago, my front and back yards are still covered, but the streets are pretty bare and we’re wearing shoes and lighter coats instead of heavy winter boots and outerwear.

Have I heard or seen robins yet? No, but milder weather is on the horizon and, as much as I enjoy winter, I’m not all that sorry to see it packing its bags and waving goodbye.

We’re quick to spot the signs of spring in nature—longer days, more sun, warmer temperatures, the return of songbirds—but how quick are we to notice them in our own lives?

When we’re going through a rough patch, it might seem as though winter will always be with us. Our worry or fear or problems may feel like a January chill settling in our hearts that the sun won’t thaw.

But that’s when we most need to ask God to show us the signs of new life in our lives: a larger and stronger support network than we had before, growth in our faith, the desire and the will to start living again and expanding our comfort zone by trying new things.

I’ve had some wintry days in my heart in the past few months, but I feel the onset of spring. I’ve started taking better care of my health and seeing positive results. Spending more time having fun with my family. Putting more effort into finding a full-time job. Reaching out to people and making stronger connections as well as new ones. Talking to God often and letting him speak to me in prayer, through his word in the Bible, and through the homilies and advice of my parish priest.

Winter may be long, but spring always comes. If we struggle to believe the end of winter is in sight, I pray that we would ask God to open our hearts to see and feel the change of season.

What a wondrous time is spring

When all the trees are budding

The birds begin to sing

The flowers start their blooming

That’s how it is with God’s love

Once you’ve experienced it

~ “Pass It On” by Kurt Kaiser

Not only has the wildlife in my neighbourhood struggled in the bitterly cold weather—some days, no birds or squirrels appeared at the feeders—but the animals and birds have seen their territory shrink. Many of the trees in the nearby park fell victim to the emerald ash borer and were removed this week. It’s a real loss to a neighbourhood short on mature trees, especially in the dead of winter.

My hope is that the city will plant trees in the spring, creating new homes for wildlife, and that area residents will keep their feeders stocked in the meantime.

Sometimes our own world seems to shrink as accidents or illness reduce our mobility, we lose friends or family to illness or death, our nest empties as children grow up and leave home, and so on. Spring might feel like a long way off.

But this can be a season to grow in our faith, trusting that God will guide us to new uses for our gifts and talents, draw us closer to our family and friends, lead us to new friendships, or bring new loved ones into the fold as our children marry and have families of their own.

If we find it hard to hold onto our faith, we can look to the words of Habbakuk 3:17-18*:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

We can find joy in our relationship with God and trust that he has good plans for us. For as we read in Sirach 34:15-17, if we trust in the Lord, he will sustain us:

Blessed is the soul of the man who fears the Lord!

To whom does he look? And who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him,

a mighty protection and strong support,

a shelter from the hot wind and a shade from noonday sun,

a guard against stumbling and a defense against falling.

He lifts up the soul and gives light to the eyes;

he grants healing, life, and blessing.

I pray that, whatever season of life we’re in, we would trust in the Lord and be open to his blessings.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

With the wintry weather lately, it was fitting that I read Sirach 43:17b-20* yesterday:

He scatters the snow like birds flying down, and its descent is like locusts alighting.

The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness, and the mind is amazed at its falling.

He pours the hoarfrost upon the earth like salt, and when it freezes, it becomes pointed thorns.

The cold north wind blows, and ice freezes over the water;

it rests upon every pool of water, and the water puts it on like a breastplate.

squirrels eating

Six squirrels eating–two at the feeders and four below them.

And today, I asked myself just what this winter would be like as I watched six squirrels—yes, six—jockeying for position at my bird feeders and just below them.

Winter can mean bitter cold and heavy snow, but the promise of hot chocolate or tea to drink or a fire to sit by when we head indoors can keep the chill from putting a damper on our spirits.

Just as I hope the hustle and bustle of the season won’t put a damper on our joy.

This time of year, the stores seem to be busy all day long. Lineups take longer, drives are stop-and-go, and everyone seems to be in a hurry—often too much of a hurry to smile and say thanks, let alone allow other drivers to squeeze into traffic. But we can and should make sure our words and actions reflect the joy this season holds for us as Christians:

  • We can take a moment to wish people “Merry Christmas,” whether in cards, online or in person.
  • If we need to run errands, we can offer a smile and thanks to store staff, especially since it may be the only time someone else notices that they, too, are under pressure and doing their best.
  • We can take part in Mass and reconciliation to refresh, restore and remind us of the reason for the season as Christmas draws closer.
  • We can be friendly and welcoming to those visiting our parish from out of town—or from in town—or even invite a friend or neighbour to attend a service with us during the holidays.

With Christmas just a week away, I pray that we would not let the busyness around us—or the desire for a  “perfect” holiday—steal our joy in preparing for and celebrating Christmas.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

 

December 12th it may be, but winter has arrived. The cold nipped at my nose when I put out the recycling this morning, and my bulldog rushed through her business to get inside for breakfast and snore in her comfy bed by the fireplace.

For some people, all this snow and cold weather deserve a “Humbug!” For winter lovers like me, it’s beginning to look and feel like Christmas.

With the shopping finally out of the way, I can relax and enjoy baking fruitcake and cookies, wrapping gifts, and of course trimming the tree (assuming my young cat, Pixie, won’t climb it and will limit her stealing to an ornament or two each day), but also lighting the candles on our Advent ring, listening to carols, and preparing my heart for Christmas.

Brass Advent ring

Candles for Advent

Recently I read in Ezekiel 11:19-20* and 36:26 about God’s plans to restore the exiled Israelites and cleanse them from their sins:

“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

At this time of year, it seems we become more aware of others’ needs and wants and not only our own; of the real needs in and beyond our community for basics like food, shelter and warm clothing; of our need for the safety, dignity and peace that so many lack. If we’re willing to let our hearts be softened, we might just let God in to work in our lives to help meet these needs. And not only during the Advent season.

My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that we would ask, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). May we not harden our hearts but keep them open to his Spirit. And whatever the weather, may we anticipate the coming of Jesus to be God-with-us.

Bless the Lord, ice and cold,

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, frosts and snows,

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

~ Daniel 3:49-50

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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