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Spiritual Practice

The Winter Season

Mary Beth Vanlue, 18

Spiritual winter doesn’t mean that I have lost my faith. It means my faith is changing and growing.

 

Times when I am communicating with God and I know that God is listening are the springtimes in my life. For me, spiritual springtime is usually in the summer, when being with spiritually strong people at conferences or camps and on mission trips gives me an opportunity for renewal. I remember old ways and learn new ways of talking to God. I feel comfortable talking about my doubts and about what helps to strengthen my faith. I find myself again, so that when I return home, springtime continues. I take time to write in my journal, to read the Bible, to light a candle, to pray. I find ways to be with God wherever I am. I use my prayer beads to guide my prayer and reflection when I have five or ten minutes to spend with God. I listen to music that reassures me of God’s presence.

 

Then school starts again, and I get wrapped up in schoolwork and activities. Spiritually, I begin to slip. Finding time for God becomes more difficult and less of a priority. Questions pop into my head, followed by confusion. Where is God? Why don’t I feel God’s presence? Am I doing something wrong?

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At the same time, I realize that spiritual winter does not last forever. In youth group, when we were asked to describe this season of winter, most people responded with words like lonely, dark, scary, quiet, stressful, and heavy. I see it differently. Winter is peaceful and safe. I am so far down that I can’t fall any farther; I find solid ground because I’m sitting on it! I’m not saying that I enjoy the winter or that it feels good; but spiritual winter doesn’t mean that I have lost my faith. It means my faith is changing and growing. Spiritual winter is a part of life. I pray that I will be able to listen for God in all the seasons of my life.

 

DIG DEEPER

When you experience spiritual winter, try one of these ways to become more aware of God’s presence:

>> EXAMINE YOUR DAY: Think about the last 24 hours. Ask God to accompany you in your reflection. When did you feel most open to God’s presence? When did you feel that God was not with you? What do you notice about these times? You may want to create a timeline marking your experience of God’s presence during the last week, month, semester, or year. Look for a pattern or for seasons of faith.

 

>> MAKE PRAYER BEADS: String together 6–12 large beads of different sizes and textures. Designate a short prayer, a breath prayer, or a favorite scripture verse for each bead. When you have a few minutes, roll each prayer bead between your fingers as you pray or reflect on scripture. Take as much or as little time as you need for each prayer. These are my prayers:

  • devozine prayer beadsBead 1 – “God, thank you that I am your beloved and that you take great delight in me.”
  • Bead 2 – Psalm 23
  • Bead 3 – Philippians 4:13
  • Bead 4 – A breath prayer: “Peace, be still. Peace, be still. The storm rages. Peace, be still.”
  • Beads 5–8 – The Jesus Prayer, a breath prayer that I compose, the ACTS prayer, or prayers of intercession
  • Bead 9 – Romans 8:38–39
  • Bead 10 – The Lord’s Prayer
  • Bead 11 – John 14:27


>> CREATE A SACRED SPACE: Fill the sacred space with reminders of God’s presence in your life: a shell you saved from a trip to the beach with a friend, a picture from a mission trip, a candle from worship, a poem you wrote in youth group. Add other items as you continue to experience God’s presence. And in times of spiritual winter, come to this place to remember that God is with you always.

Mary Beth Vanlue, 18 , lives in Eugene, Oregon.

—from Devo’Zine (July/August 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

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