Winter teaches us how to face death and say goodbye.

A cold front is hitting All Things New this week. Here, in the heart of February, the lights of Christmas are too dim to make out and the warmth of summer still out of reach. But God speaks to us in the cold. He has something to give us in it (Psalm 147:16). And much like the book of 2 Corinthians, we have to embrace the paradox and the apparent contradictions to get to the grace of it. Bundle up. It’s Cold Week.

W inter is my least favorite season. Yes, it beckons me to early nights, cozy blankets and hot drinks, all things I love. Still, I long for the warmth of spring as the earth wakes and the first blooms of color poke through. I long for days when I can peel off the layers, walk barefoot on the lawn, and sit beside my dog, simply enjoying the feel of the sun on my skin.

In my head I know and understand that we need all the seasons. We need the cold, dormant months of winter so that summer can come again in all its glory. There is good and there is purpose. In winter there is a meeting of the needs of earth and men to slow and to rest.

But I’d still rather just fast forward to March.

Sometimes life and seasons mesh. Sometimes they don’t. In the midst of warm, summer months we can be walking through a winter season in our personal life. Right now it feels like fall in my heart. I see my own personal winter looming ahead of me, not knowing exactly when it will arrive, but knowing it is coming. I feel cold winds swirl around me as I walk with my son and he asks why the doctors can’t make his grandmother well. At the age of seven he can’t grasp why the chemo won’t be enough, why the surgery can only do so much. These are questions I don’t want to have to answer, yet, they are the wonderings of his heart, and I must find a way.

This is just the beginning. There will be more questions. There will be tears, both of anger and of loss. I know my girl, who seems unaffected now, will have a day when everything will fall apart and I will hold her while she weeps. There will be days of lingering goodbyes which lead to a final one.

I don’t look forward to any of it. And yet, just as with the physical season of winter, there will be beauty. There will be moments of laughter amidst the tears. There will be a deepening of connection between my children and I as we talk through their questions and sorrow. There will be moments when I hold them and that will be more meaningful than anything else I do or say that day.

Yes, there will be long days, perhaps weeks, of gray and cold and frozen when beauty lies hidden. But then there will be days of intense beauty when God’s grace will cover us like a new-fallen snow and glisten and sparkle and bestow on us a loveliness like no other. How do I know? Because I see it in reflected in the beauty of his creation.

Recently, I drove my girl up north, and we both marveled at the frozen world around us. Away from the city, driving on dirt lanes, all the trees were frozen over, glistening sharply in the weak winter sunshine. The mountains loomed ahead of us, covered in blankets of snow. A harsh beauty but beauty nonetheless.

Last week my son and I braved the cold to take a meal to our neighbor. We walked quickly, watching our breath freeze and marveling at how the moonlight made everything sparkle. We delighted in being the first to make footprints in the newly fallen snow. A brittle beauty but beauty nonetheless.

I went for a walk a few weeks ago with the kids and the dog, and my son made a game of finding the biggest icicles possible. He ran ahead, looking on cars, mailboxes, any place those frozen spines could form. He’d pull them off and they would stick to his mittens. He’d bring them home and bury them in the snow in the backyard, wanting to see how long they would last. A fragile, impermanent beauty but beauty nonetheless.

Most beautiful of all is the stark beauty of barren trees against a winter sunrise. Only in the winter can I see the entire expanse of the sky. In spring the leaves of the trees hide the sky and I can only glimpse the colors. But in the winter the trees lift their barren limbs to the sky and weave their way through bright streamers of color. The contrast of light and dark is stunning. It’s a beauty that seeps deep, though it is fleeting.

The beauties of winter are often fragile, fleeting. They are brittle, almost glaring in their icy loveliness. Rather than leaving us warmed they leave us breathless, hearts nearly shattered by their frozen loveliness.

Perhaps Christina Rossetti penned it most beautifully:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Yet, as her words remind us, it was in the season of midwinter that Christ came to us, for us:

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

In the season when we most need reminders of hope, he came to be our living hope; to remind us that he has placed beauty in every season. I need not fear the winter when it comes. It will be hard and cold. I will feel fragile and frozen. I will weep as the brittle beauty of saying goodbye breaks my family’s heart. But that beauty can still bring with it piercing joy, the hope of heaven— moments when we are left breathless by the glory of the sunrise he brings to our hearts.