winter’s white

Like the advent of new-fallen snow, so arrives the freshness of God’s Word to my soul.

A picture really, just as clear and crisp and breathtaking as the pristine white that my northern neighbors are experiencing this day. When I hear them speak of winter’s gift, a bit of envy creeps over me. I love seasonal shifts and their accumulations therein. Unfortunately, where I live doesn’t accommodate the four seasons in their fullness, especially winter. We just pretend down here in the south; bump up the thermostat and pull out the sweaters when the temps plummet below sixty degrees, thinking white might come at any moment but never really experiencing its arrival… at least not in the way that we had hoped.

So I was surprised today to receive a first snowfall… to look up and feel the flakes as they gently touched my cheeks and tendered my soul; not literally, but spiritually speaking. No forecaster predicted it; even I was skeptical of its arrival, but it came despite my being ill-prepared. Not from a cloud as some might imagine, but rather from the pen of a friend. Her words stirred my longing for a further look into God’s Word, and the deeper I dug into Scripture and subsequent thought, the greater the accumulation of white around my feet.

Tonight, I’m knee deep into Jesus, and I can’t think of a better way to honor my friend’s work (a.k.a. Leah Adams) than by telling you about the snapshot I’m holding in my heart because of her obedience to write her first Bible study, From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest: Creating a Godly Legacy.  

It’s a picture I’ve skimmed over a few times before, but never quite in the detail as I’ve witnessed it in the last twenty-four hours. A portrait from the third chapter of Joshua where the Israelites are crossing the Jordan River in order to take possession of the land promised to them by God. Prior to their marching across on dry land, the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them. The ark represented the presence of the living God. It preceded the faith of God’s people, always “going before” them to mark their path and to lead their way. As the ark moved, so did the Israelites. And so it was on this day in biblical history. The ark took the lead; the people followed behind.

But then, the ark stopped… midstream. It stood still as the people passed it by, a fact most of us know and carry as truth. However, there is a lesser known understanding that comes with this truth… one I hadn’t considered before. When the Israelites caught up with the ark and stood parallel to God’s tangible presence, they had a choice to make. To stand still and wait for the ark to lead them forward or to move beyond it without the benefit of its visible leadership. This, my friends, is the fresh-fallen white I hold in my heart tonight. A portrait of faith from a people who walked the Jordan through—not with God at their lead, but with God at their backs. Not a go before God this time around, but rather a come behind God after faith took its first steps toward promised freedom.

Certainly, God pointed them in the right direction. Faith always initiates with God; it ends with him as well, but in the middle of the Jordan—when faith arrives at what Leah calls a “hinge moment”—we have the unbelievable privilege of walking resolutely forward, all the while knowing that behind us are a set of eyes keeping watch to make sure that our backs are covered. To follow in our shadows and to protect us from a rear vantage point.

So often in our faith journeys, we focus on the forward aspect of the road—our “up ahead” and what might be coming. So often our prayers are directed accordingly. But do we ever take the time to consider our “over the shoulders”—the backward actions that accompany our forward steps? I know I certainly haven’t thought about it very much… about all the ways that God is backing me up to ensure my safe landing on the other side. In fact, if I were really honest, it’s those backward shadows that sometimes trip me up the most. I’ve always seen God in the lead, but rarely do I consider his faithfulness from behind.

In the wake of my cancer diagnosis and treatment therein, I’m tempted to keep God at the lead in all things, even though some days I strain to see his discerning movements on my behalf. But as I progress, as I move forward through the Jordan (a river that seems to be perpetually at “flood stage” status), I feel the weightiness of my movement… of what it has cost me, and I sometimes feel left to my own devices to recover from its effects. Almost as if God is out in front, but as it pertains to my behind, I’m all alone. And I know it’s not truth; still and yet, knowing isn’t always enough fuel for my believing.

So God graciously sends me a picture—a fresh-fallen white as pristine and clear as I’ve ever experienced. A seasonal shift for my understanding. A portrait of a faithful Presence who stands mid-stream, not to abandon my forward progression but to buoy my backward angle. To make sure that everything left in the wake of my tentative steps of forward faith are covered by his grace and mercy and watchful care.  

And this helps me understand God a little more. Helps me see his covenantal love from another angle. Helps me formulate a better perspective regarding the behind that inevitably follows my forward. Helps me know that he’s got me covered from every angle and that no matter the consequential results of my stepping through the Jordan, the waters will remain stacked on my behalf until I’ve made it through to the other side. Only then will God release those waters to cover up and cleanse every last remnant of my left behind that isn’t in keeping with his perfect conclusion.

It’s a portrait worth holding onto in this season, friends, and as I made my way outside this afternoon for a walk, there came a moment when I looked back over my shoulder, literally. I could almost see God there… faithfully gazing in my direction, waving me on and nodding his approval. And even though the temperature read fifty degrees and the skies were cloudless, I could have sworn I felt a snowflake on my face… wet and pristine, with a heart accumulation beyond measure.

A winter’s gift of white. I’ll make sure and carry this picture with me in the coming week, believing that my up ahead will arrive with a guarantee of God’s come behind.

Thank you, Leah, for leading me to deep waters and for obeying God’s prompt to pen this study. He is using it mightily in my heart, and I feel so privileged to be walking my winter season with your thoughts at the lead and with God’s Word at my side. Keep to it, mighty woman of faith. May the Lord bless you, keep you, and watch over you as you walk forward to the Promised Land. I join you, alongside all of my readers, on the road. Until next time…  

Peace for the journey,

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29 Responses to winter’s white

  1. I love those first snowfalls. Really miss them here in California. Thanks for sharing the beauty!

  2. no snowfall here my friend, but a little sleet that lasted 15 minutes.

    as always, your writing leaves me breathless with awe. such eloquence that just speaks the presence of our Lord so loudly.

    thank you –

  3. I can't tell you again how much this blessed me. What a way you have with words. And the thoughts here are VERY different from what I have thought about before in reference to those scriptures, in fact they are in general really. What a wonderful, wonderful, thought that the Almighty God Himself has my back. Praying for a good week for you. HUGS, Debbie

  4. Elaine,
    I do love a bible study too and so miss "ours". God is so good to us! While I am o.k. with no snow in our neck of the woods(I am a beach girl) would be nice for some of the white stuff for Christmas. Love you guys! Lynn

  5. GOd directs me to your blog when I need it most. I've never thought of looking behind, only hoping and praying He is leading me. Your faith and walk encourages me to keep on as I wait on the Lord for direction and peace.

  6. Precious Elaine, I love the way the Lord is speaking to you. I am so blessed that you have chosen to work my study at this season in your life and I pray so very much that He continues to speak to you through what He gave me.

    I love that He goes before us, stands beside us and is our rear guard. Blessings to you, my friend.


    Oh, FYI, I think I may host an online Bible study using From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest starting in January for anyone who would like to do it.

  7. Wow…I thought you said you weren't able to write right now! This is a powerful post, friend. I heard a sermon this morning about God going before us, being with us, and being our rear guard. How neat is it that you would also write about that?!

    Love you dearly…

  8. Oh, Elaine – this absolutely spoke to my heart. Beautiful, my friend. I would LOVE this study. It sounds like a fabulous one – and I'm heading to Leah's site right now.
    Praying for you, my friend.

  9. I love this… "So often our prayers are directed accordingly. But do we ever take the time to consider our “over the shoulders”—the backward actions that accompany our forward steps?"

    So true, so true!!!! Thanks for this post. Much to think about!!! And I would LOVE to receive Leah's book. I have received emails regarding her new study and have visited her site several times.

    Thanks again for the wonderful post, and for LOVING to study. It encourages me to do the same!

    Much love,

  10. I've always been one to look forward; never contemplated looking back, I guess because of my "gloomy" past. I've always loved the snow in this season of the year. Born and raised in Illinois, the snow was always plentiful! Oh, how I've missed Bible study! We could always count on you for them.
    Your words of sharing, has prompted me to pray even more for someone to begin a study in January 2011. Will you continue to pray for us, that we can start 2011 off with a study? Love you and miss you dearly.

  11. Elaine, I love the thought that God's got us covered from every direction, every angle. It reminded me of Psalm 139:5 — "You hem me in behind and before…"

    Blessings to you this week, dear sister!

  12. Hello my sweet southern friend…thinking of you today and praying your journey in solitude is full of Jesus today.

    I do hope your Thanksgiving was pain-free and pleasure-full.

    Praying for you today Elaine.

    p.s. Your comment about Jotham cracked me up. But, I do think there are quite a few stories and Jotham isn't the only one out there. It's just the one we were reccommended. As long as you didn't purchase "Jethro's Journey" we're all good. You can watch him and Ellie May on Nick at Nite. ;O)

  13. How this has made me ponder the fact that there are certain things we cannot understand unless we experience them ourselves… and there are certain spiritual truths that come more alive because we have a frame of reference to understand them… Thank you for sharing these truths from your vantage point today.

    Much love and prayers.

  14. oh, Elaine, beautiful words. Thank you for sharing the treasures the Lord is revealing to you through Leah's study. She is such a sweet encourager and blessing to me, too. I cannot wait to get the chance to do her study. It is on my Christmas wish list!! 🙂

  15. I relish long, deep ponderings in God's word so I enjoyed each and every word you penned here.

    Many an early morning hour is dotted with studies; then dotted some more by quiet waits. It IS like snowfall, in so many ways. With snow, the acoustics are amazing. Loud noises are softened. Soft noises morph into melodies. God's voice is best heard in such conditions. All is well with my soul.

    This is truly touching, Elaine.

  16. Elaine,
    I love how you expressed that you are in a solitude with the Lord right now…can I use that phrase too? It sounds much better than what I have been saying–"I keep getting sent to the couch!" This last episode of couch sitting has been much closer to what you expressed…simply sitting with the Lord and waiting. Thank you for sharing Leah's bible study information and her blog.
    Praying for you as you continue to walk this journey!

  17. Thanks for sharing your precious thoughts. I remind you cancer is a season. And God is Faithful in ALL seasons.
    Love you bunches and praying all the time.

  18. No full seasons here in lower Alabama either; but the 'white' of which you wrote, THAT I welcome!

    Love and hugs!

  19. Oh that my words could flow like yours. I too am in a spiritual journey that holds heavenly excitement and calls for me to be alone with my Master and His Word. It allows me to feel His arms around me, stabilizing me, covering me with His protection. He is good like that isn't He? Especially when we are at our weakness, when times are their toughest.

    As always, you have blessed me with your God-inspired words my friend.

    Believing Him~Pamela

  20. I haven't stopped thinking about this for the last 24 hours. I totally trust that God leads me even though His paths are beyond tracing out. But to remember that He has my back has added a new dimension to my awe of His everlasting goodness, kindness, mercy, and the guardianship of my soul. He is nothing but FOR me…and nothing but FOR you, Elaine. Thank you for these wondeful words.

  21. Elaine,
    You are precious to all of us! We are so blessed by your thoughts and so grateful that you share them with us. Just you and God. I like that. Praying for you.


  22. thank God He's got our backs! just last week we had a discussion about this in my Genesis Bible study. in 17:1 God says to Abraham, "I am God Almighty (El Shaddai), walk before me and be blameless." it seemed to me (at least in this reference) that one who walks before the Lord is in a position of leadership – people are looking at that person to see how they will live. i can't help but think of you, elaine, as you walk before Him and go through this winter season of life.

    love and prayers.

  23. With the Shepherd leading and Goodness and Mercy following behind us, God's got us ALL covered, Yet another picture of our place of security!

  24. What a wonderful post! I love your writing Elaine–even more so, I love your heart!

    Would love to win a copy of this study!

    Prayers and blessings,

  25. I found you on Kim's blog. Thank you for being such a strong voice for Jesus and the Father. My faith, my family and my church are my constants in life.

    Know you're embarking on Taxol. I had the same course of chemo as you did and am here to tell you, "You will be fine."

    Wishing you all God's blessings,

  26. wifeforthejourney:

    Thanks to Leah for her generosity in sending you a copy of her Bible study.

    Though it is unlikely for us to see any snow here in eastern NC, it is good to see God's hand at work in the world around us. The Lord continues to grace us with a fresh blanket of His mercy each day!

    Love you,


  27. Wow! It's such a wonderful reminder to know that "God has my back." In the ministry, such a reminder encourages me to press on.

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