Exhausted from the long trip, we pulled up in front of the rental we were moving into. The skies hung low and grey; the ground squished under our feet.
Bonners Ferry, Idaho is stunningly beautiful, but we landed there in late November, the bleakest season of the year.
The fiery splendor of fall had died, leaving only shriveled brown leaves to be tossed about by chill winds. Even the larches’ gold needles had turned to rust and dropped to the dull forest floor.
The landscape waited for winter’s saving grace, a pure white blanket of snow. So far, just bare limbs and cold, grey days.
In more colorful seasons, creation shouts in exaltation.
What’s not to love about the glory of autumn, the sparkle of winter, the bright colors of spring? Who doesn’t enjoy summer’s verdant warmth and fruitfulness?
Here’s the thing: In a bleak season, creation quiets to a whisper. We need to lean in to hear its message of hope.
Some of the greatest beauty I’ve ever encountered is in the lovely things I’ve discovered on nature’s “ugly” days.
Taking a walk on a dreary day allows me to hunt for beauty as though it were hidden treasure. I look for texture and subtle shadings in color.
I watch for contrast and detail.
In Bonners, I might see a sprig of bright crimson Oregon grape leaves in the dark woods, or a few tiny lavender flowers on slender stalks.
I might notice salmon-colored leaves still clinging to a wild rose bush, or dry cattails lining a dark, ice-edged lake, or bare willow branches turning gold and burgundy.
In the valley where we live now, I might look for summer’s waist-high grasses dried to palest yellow, seed pods waving in a stiff breeze.
I might find frosted red and gold leaves glittering in the early morning sun, or listen to the song of the tiny goldfinches in the birch tree.
Beauty is never absent from our lives; it’s just more challenging to find in dark seasons.
Truth is, we need beauty no matter what season we’re in.
Maybe this holiday season is a hard one for you. Maybe it’s not shaping up to be nearly as full of bright cheer as you’d like it to be.
Perhaps this Christmas will be the first you celebrate without your loved one.
Perhaps you’re weighed down with financial concerns, or suffering from poor health, or torn up over a troubled relationship.
May I encourage you?
Even if it feels like your hopes and dreams have shriveled up and blown away, there’s beauty to be found in your bleakest season.
Your heavenly Father provides gifts every day to gladden and strengthen your heart.
His love is endlessly creative. He may touch you through a grandchild’s kiss, a soothing piece of music, a cup of coffee with a friend. He may paint a glorious sunset just to lift your spirit.
When life disappoints and hurts, such treasures are all the more precious.
This world’s beauty points toward this truth:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:28,35, 38-39
Like textures, shapes and bits of color in the drab November woods, God’s special gifts draw our attention away from despair toward hope. They are signs of his forever love for us.
God was faithful to us during our ten years in Bonners Ferry, and he is still faithful to take care of us. He’s taking care of you, too.
Allow your Father’s daily grace gifts to remind you:
God is with you. He is for you. And nothing can separate you from his love.