Being from Tennessee, I had never really experienced what true snowy winters are like. I have not experienced much that comes along with snow. As a teacher in Tennessee you grow to love the tiny snowflake on the weekly forecast and pray that it’s enough to warrant a snow day!
One only dreams of a January snow day that involves sleeping in, building a snowman, staying home, drinking hot chocolate; however, that is not the case in places that experience snow (a lot of snow) regularly throughout the winter months. Nothing is put on hold and daily rhythms continue on. Rather than seeing the beauty and having excitement, I found myself waking each morning to look outside, see more snow, and sigh knowing all of the extra things you’ll have to do before leaving the house.
To be honest, I LOVE the snow. I love the way it falls, the look of the trees as it piles on the branches, the firmness of a snowball in my gloved hand. I especially love the joy it brings to Jude and Kate’s face when they wake up and see everything blanketed in snow. It’s magical.
The past couple of weeks I have found myself facing quite a bit of anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety for a few years now. It’s not something I deal with on a daily or even weekly basis, but rather in seasons when life is a bit more stressful. I find that I’m most anxious when I’m in the midst of a life change, a stressful situation or in seasons when things seem out of my control. One thing that always seems to calm my heart and ease my mind is taking deep breaths and reminding myself that God is with me and that these feelings will pass.
As everything began unfolding in Ukraine almost a month ago now, I found myself extremely anxious. However, I found that it was a strange feeling. I wasn’t particularly stressed over the situation. I was sad at the news I was reading and images I was seeing, but I realized my anxieties came from a different emotion this time. I sat with Joshua one evening after the kids were in bed and cried and began to feel overwhelmed with fear. I don’t know that I had ever been so fearful. This war is something that consumes my thoughts, my social media, the conversations with friends in Bulgaria, the conversations with family and friends back in the US. It was the topic of our monthly meeting with our region. It is something we still cannot escape.
As I shared my heart with Joshua about my reservations, my worries, fears, concerns for the well-being and safety of our family and the worry for all of those in Ukraine who seem hopeless, I remembered a scripture that I had learned as a kid.
“Fear not for I am with you.” Isaiah 43:5
In that moment I felt a sense of calm come over me. I paused and prayed for all of those in Ukraine in the midst of these terrible air strikes and days sleeping on cots in basements, bomb shelters, and on the floor of the subway station. I prayed for the fear of each mother as they try and protect their children. For the fathers, husbands, and brothers who had to watch their families try to escape for safety while they must stay behind. I prayed for the many who will travel outside of their homeland to seek refuge in a foreign place. I prayed for the elderly who choose to stay behind. For the elderly who chose to leave. I’ve prayed for the mother who is pregnant and have anxiety about having a child in the midst of these tumultuous days. I prayed for churches and their congregations to shine the light of Jesus in the midst of chaos. I’ve prayed for so many individual scenarios I’ve heard of and seen on news and social medias, but most of all I find myself praying that everyone who is still in Ukraine, everyone fleeing Ukraine, and all of those who have sought refuge in a new place that they too will cling right to the promise that God is with them and he will never leave them.
As I write this I’m looking out the window at snow lightly falling. We have enjoyed the snow this winter until recently when we had a few false Spring days. It was warm, the sun was shining, and my soul longed for longer days, more sunshine and the warmth that comes from Spring.
About a month after we arrived in Bulgaria I was lying in bed asleep. I heard the most terrible noise outside. I woke Joshua up and asked him what he thought it was. In that moment all I could relate the sound to was the howling sound the wind makes when there is a tornado. The wind was blowing so hard it had blown things around outside, our trash cans were down the street and loose toys that were outside under the porch were thrown around the yard. When daylight came we looked out the window to see the first snow of the winter.
I have come to refer to these high winds as “snow winds”. I have heard them a few times this winter and after each snow wind I wake the next morning to a blanket of snow.
I was standing outside on the back porch one day when I heard the winds howling again and I thought to myself, “ugh… not another snow… I don’t know how much more I can handle… can’t spring just come… can’t we just have warmer weather and sunshine?“
I then paused and began thinking of all the Ukrainians who hear these winds and behind them are the sounds of air strikes, crying children, fearful parents, scared grandparents, concerned community members.
Today I pray that when the “snow winds“ come in your life that you remember that when you are concerned, scared, saddened, anxious, tired and weary that the presence of the Lord will cover you like a blanket of snow.
“Fear not for I am with you.” Isaiah 43:5