For the last few weeks, while sitting in my living room, I kept catching a glimpse of red out of the corner of my eye. Bright enough to turn my head, but not quick enough to make out the flash of red. This game of cat and mouse continued for another week before my eyes finally landed on a brilliant red cardinal.
At the same time, winter was hanging up its hat for another year. I began the process of stretching my limbs into a new season. I am the person who slowly processes life in order to reach the place that is best for me. Keep in mind that my slow awakening is not always in line with God’s plans. But this year, winter taught me what it looks like to receive. And when I accepted this posture, I began to learn there are blessings on the other side.
The daily visits from the cardinal became an anchor as the heaviness of winter begged for a reprieve. There is so much physical darkness that fills the days of winter, but if I am honest, my life was also burdened with a weightiness of self-imposed isolation, unbelief, and a backing away from the very people I forgot I needed.
There is so much I want to tell you. The details of my story that I want to share so you can gently hold them and care for them as you all do with such love. But what you need to know right now is that winter was so very hard. My anxiety got the best of me and I struggled to recognize the work of the enemy who wanted nothing more than to have me believe his lies.
Lent was a time of diving deep into truth. I wish you had been by my side as I discovered new truth, amazing love, and hope in every moment with God. The cardinal was just a physical sign that hope is real and God is good. As the days grew longer and spring finally announced it was here to stay, restoration, renewal, and redemption worked to put together my broken pieces. Hope seemed attainable and the peace that comes with our Risen Jesus was mine to have and hold.
The walk to the cross is a daily awakening. I know I will never figure it out on my own, but can stand in the grace of God and tell you that He is willing to teach you. Do you know the resurrected Jesus and the sacrifice He made for you? Is your life better because you live a new life as a son/daughter of God?
I celebrated Easter on Sunday renewed in my faith. The heaviness of winter lifted and again I felt the sins of life wash away. I became a new creation as I sang “hallelujah” and the gift of the Risen Jesus extended life to me once again. Instead of just catching a glimpse of red or a flash of light, the darkness revealed the beautiful light of Jesus and His love for you and me.
If I had the chance to sit across the table from you, I would tell you so many things. Today that would look like:
- How the journey to the cross is yours to walk with Jesus. The potholes and wrong turns will be there as you navigate your way, but that is nothing compared to the gift of abundant life in Christ.
- Me telling you that there are seasons where you will get turned around and forget your way. Remember that in the messiness God will never stop pursuing you.
- Darkness always leads to light. I wondered in this season if I would see the light. As a believer, I was still making choices that sent me backward and I let this frustration begin to strangle me. Digging deep led me to know that I am only strong when I hold tight to the truth of God.
I did not think that as we walked to the cross together this Lent that I would come out on the other side baring my soul. I pray that by sharing my humanness you recognize how being lost is not a forever situation. Will I make mistakes again? You can count on it. Will God still love me? He will. When I turn the wrong way, will God find me? Yes!
Father God –
Today I thank you for pursuing me when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be found. The days I pushed back because I believed I was right are not ones I am proud of. In this journey to the cross, I thank you for never leaving my side, for pursuing me relentlessly and most of all for loving me in my doubt. I am so grateful that you are in my life and promise to never leave me in my messiness. I love and praise you. Amen.
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Oh Mary, I’m so sorry the winter was difficult for you. I’m grateful that God made His presence known to you on your way to the cross. That you came “out on the other side baring [your] soul” doesn’t really surprise me … God has done/is doing a work in your heart, and what better way to glorify Him and encourage others than by sharing it (as you see fit, of course). The cardinal has shown up for me in similar ways … I was touched by how God gave you such a beautiful physical sign that “hope is real and God is good.”
Mary – I am so sorry the winter has been difficult. I am pausing and praying for you right now. Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart.
The Cardinal is gorgeous. I love it when God beautifully gets our attention.
I so appreciate your prayers. You are a blessing. And God has been so good to leave little reminders like the cardinal. Hope you have a good week.
Oh, Mary … I’m so sorry that winter was so hard, that anxiety came to call. Springtime couldn’t come soon enough, could it.
I hope that warmer weather and being outdoors and feeling the sunshine on your beautiful face will strengthen you deep inside.
I am praying for you even as we speak …
You’re right! Spring couldn’t come fast enough. But in and through it all, God’s timing is always perfect. Your prayers means so much to me and knowing that you “know” me is a gift. Thank you, friend!
Thank you for your honesty about your season of darkness, Mary. If we haven’t already been through one (or many) ourselves, we surely will at some point, so it’s encouraging to know that the light will return in time.
I imagine we will all experience seasons that pull us away from where God wants us to go. What I pray is that as I face anything like this in the future, I am able to recover faster because I know the God who will lead me on the right path. Blessings!
Praise God for how He works in our dark times and renews our faith. Thank you for testifying to this. laurensparks.net
Yes and amen! I appreciate you being here and leaving encouragement every week.
The darkness is always difficult to navigate and it is sometimes almost impossible to see God in it, but He is always there and will never leave us alone. My book Shadows in My Valley is about a dark time I went through and I thought I would never see the light again, so I can relate to your experience. But the light is there, and if we don’t give up or give in to the enemy’s lies, we will walk out into the light again. I am so glad you are finding your way once again on a clear path to life. God is good. God bless you and continue to enlighten and lighten your soul and spirit and fill you with great joy in believing.
Thank you for this encouragement. It sounds like you are familiar with walking through the darkness. It is good to know I am not alone. Thank you for standing with me and believing for God’s blessings.
I believe we are meant to learn from our dark times and then to pass on what we have learned to others. I am hoping my book will help those going through their own valley; give a new perspective on the experience for those who have come through but are questioning what just happened; and to help prepare those who have not experienced the valley yet. I am not an expert, but I can share what I went through and what I learned. If I can do that, I can feel good about having persevered through the valley to come out on the mountain once again. I have had darker times since that, but they have not been as deep and certainly have not lasted as long. God bless.
You do a beautiful job of sharing and encouraging others. Thank you for doing this for me.
You are most welcome, Mary. It’s good to know that my words encourage. God bless.
To be authentic we need to share & you have done that. Thank you!
I went through a winter time in my walk a few years ago, I had never had that before, it was very unpleasant!
But He never left.
I realized that the deep seeds of faith sprout in the darkest of soils, before it reaches triumphantly for the light. Which is awaiting for it 😉
What a beautiful way to describe the pruning process–the deep seeds of faith sprout in the darkest soils, before it reaches for light. Amen. I appreciate you and your encouragement.
Oh thank you so much for your open heart. I have always appreciated that about your writing, even through the hardest of times. We all bear these weighty times, but we can feel like no one else ever faces those trials unless someone takes the step to be brave and share openly. Thank you for always encouraging us to take those brave steps, to share honestly how Jesus never gives up on us, and is always there in the middle of the hardest places. Blessings and love to you Dear Friend.
Your words mean so much to me. It’s hard to be vulnerable and I don’t always feel brave. Knowing you are cheering me on helps so much.You also inspire me to continue to step out bravely. You are a beautiful reflection of God’s love.
Mary, this is so good. May we always remember that He will never stop pursuing us. We may feel like giving up but He never gives up on us. Blessings to you!
Thank you, Gayl! I am standing in agreement with you that we know without doubt that God always pursues us. Blessings!
I wrote so much about the crucifixion and did so much research, it was exhausting and to think what He did. Carrying is a cross is hard, I know He said take it up to the disciples, and about being worthy of Him, but we were crucified with Him, I know He carries what we cannot. I love cardinals too, they are beautiful.
Thank you for sharing these words about the crucifixion. God does carry our burdens and He does it so much better than we do. Many blessings to you!
Mary, I’ve had winters like the one you just “came through,” and they are harder than hard. This winter was long even in our new place but it wasn’t anything like the long, cold winters of the Appalachian Mountains (ask Holly!). Hey, I’m always just a message away and we can offer one another hope and encouragement!
You are a dear friend and I appreciate you so much. I know about long, gray winters even in the Midwest but this was over above the usual winter blahs. Love you friend!
What a beautiful post, Mary. I loved to read about you ”’stretching your limbs” into spring. I tend to do a headlong rush into each new season. I need to learn to slow down. Glad to read about your slow awakening. God is with us, even in the dark, cold seasons. You are right, darkness always leads to light. May God’s light shine on you this spring.
Thank you, Laurie! My word this year is “receive” so God is teaching me so much about slowing down and letting Him work in me. I want to be the one leading the way, but that is not my role this year. Your words are such an encouragement to me. Blessings!
Good afternoon Mary. There are so many things Julie wants to say. God says “hush”. My arms and ears opened as I read your heart. I will keep them open if you choose to share more. Love in Christ, Julie
Your deep, caring heart means so much to me. I know you would care tenderly for my story if I choose to share more. Thank you for being here and praying for me.
To celebrate Easter renewed in your faith! Wow – what a gift! Rejoicing with the renewed strength and hope you have found and so grateful that you would share such a personal part of your journey with us. I know it will be an encouragement to many….wherever they may be in their own walk.
Side note – God has so often used a cardinal to show Himself and to speak such deep lessons to me. I just makes me smile to see how the cardinal played in your story:)
Your beautiful encouragement means so much. Thank you for sharing what the cardinal means to you. It has been a sweet time of seeing God visibly working in and around me.
I love your vulnerable, tender heart, Mary! Thank you, dear friend, for sharing the struggle as well as the answers you have found. We all face these challenging seasons in life, but God is there with us–closer than ever–when we lean into His comforting embrace. You have done that, my friend! And we rejoice with you that the chill of winter is breaking free into the beauty of spring!
Thank you for your sweet, affirming words. You are a blessings and beautiful encourager. I am blessed by this open and caring community. Thank you for being a part of it.
Thank you for sharing your story, Mary! I’m sorry the winter has been so hard but I’m glad the heaviness is lifting and you’re sensing that hope and peace again. I’m grateful that God always cares for us and pursues us no matter what, and I love how the red cardinal was a reminder of that!
Thank you, Lesley! I have been gifted with deep love and many blessings. Going through the pruning process is a journey that I will continue to go through while here on Earth. Blessings!
Thank you for being transparent and sharing when life seems hard. We’re always going to have times like that because we’re not Home yet.
Loved your line, “Remember that in the messiness God will never stop pursuing you.” It goes along with the gift of revelation God gave me for this year. He said, “What if you believed, really believed, that goodness and mercy were going to chase you down in 2019?” I’m expecting great things – not just for me, but for the Christian community. Look up!
Thank you for this beautiful response. We will face challenges while we are here on earth. I love God’s call to you for 2019. Praying that He continues to reveal what this looks like. Blessings!
Mary, thank you for sharing pieces of your story here. Thank you for being real. I’m so sorry you’ve walked through a dark season. Those are painful and sometimes isolating. I’m sending you a hug.
Thank you so, so much for the reminder that darkness leads to light. Our Father is so amazing and faithful…even when we can’t see what He’s doing in the dark, we can know He is our light.
Love you, friend.
Thank you for caring well for those pieces of my story that I share. It makes it a little easier knowing there are people like you on the other side of my screen who care so deeply. I feel you hug and love and appreciate you more than you know. Many blessings to you as you walk through this week.
I love this, how the slow awakening from winter to spring correlates to our faith!
In the midst of a thunder storm or winter season, we can trust that the Light and life is still there.
YES! Trusting the Light and life is still there. I love the thunderstorm analogy. Thank you for blessing me with this encouragement today.
Amen! His steadfast love never ceases and His mercies are new every morning. Thanks for sharing, Mary. Many blessings to you!
Thank you, Boma! I appreciate you. Blessings to you, too!
How privileged to hear you open your heart here, Mary. The enemy is cunning and knows exactly where and how to strike each one of us, but you’re right….light chases darkness even as my post theme talks about. His love pursues us no matter where we go or where we hide. He offers us grace again and again….not just for salvation, but each day afterward. I love Jerry Bridges book, The Discipline of Grace, as it reminds me of truths I can forget about the walk post salvation. Not sure is you have that book on your shelf…
Look forward to hearing from you each time I see your name in my Inbox.
Your words are so affirming, Pam. I am blessed and humbled with how you care so deeply. I appreciate the book suggestion. I will look it up. You are a dear and a sweet encourager.
Awww, I’m so sorry you’ve had a hard winter, my friend. May the God of green hope continue to bring reminders of his goodness into your life!
Thank you, Anita! I’m going to embrace your words – God of green hope. I love that!
What a gift these words are. To know I am not the only one walking through such a humbling, such an amazing discovery of the depths of His love and mercy for us. He is so so so faithful. Thank you for boasting in your weakness to God’s glory. You are a blessing to me.
You have shown me the gift of sharing so deeply. Thank you for leading the way. I appreciate you, my friend!
I’m so thankful that God’s pursuit of us doesn’t stop at salvation, but He keeps pursuing us and drawing us closer to Himself day by day, season by season. I’m thankful He brings spring forth from winter physically and spiritually.
Amen. It is unfathomable how God never gives up on us. I am blessed. Thank you for your kind words.
Mary, thank you for your open,honest, transparent sharing of your heat How good to know that with Jesus the darkness will turn to dawning and the dawning to noon day bright…as we seek Him. Many blessings to you, friend ❤️
Thank you for standing here in support. Your sweet caring words mean so much. May we all find any darkness always turns into light. Blessings!
Oh, Mary, I have sensed that there was a heaviness in your heart over this past winter, and am so grateful that the weight is lifting. Trusting along with you for newness and light to come with the advance of spring in all its fresh beauty and new beginnings!
You know me well. It warms my heart just knowing that. I am believing with you that spring and its new beginnings will be reflected in my heart and soul as I move forward. As I wrote, God never stops pursuing us and I have felt His presence all along.
I love this so much. Sometimes I second guess myself when I write honestly. I don’t think it’s something I make up in my own mind that there are a few people who wonder either why does she tell her personal stuff or why does she think we care? I know also that there are readers who relate, and we may know that they do because they thank us or we may never know. It’s worth it to be brave. Thank you for helping this reader, me…today!
Thank you for letting me know how it helped you. I’ll admit that hitting publish came with a lot of nervousness. Putting myself out there and admitting my imperfectness is scary. But when God says “write it” and promises to be with me in the process, it’s hard not to do it. I am blessed with this amazing community here at Tell His Story. I feel you all are a safe place so that helps in some of the scariness. You bless me and your encouragement means so much.
Mary, I’m so sorry that winter was hard! But I love how that little cardinal has been a beacon of hope! And I’m so glad that Lent was a renewing time for you. It was for me, too. This was the first time in many years I got to celebrate Easter in America with my home church, and it was a joyful, renewing time. I’m so grateful for the church calendar because I think it’s so good for our faith to remember Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and Pentecost. (Winters can be hard for me too; dreary weather can really affect me.) Love to you, friend.
I’m glad I am not alone in having difficulty during the dreary winters. I realize as I get older that the church calendar helps me center myself to recognize again and again the beginning and end that came with the birth and death of Jesus. I am so glad you have a home church and community that has been part of your new life back in the states. Many blessings to you.
He is such a good, good Father!
This line was so powerful: “The walk to the cross is a daily awakening.”
If I want to be awakened daily I need to allow Him to wake me up. That means I need to admit that in my soul I am turned from Him, asleep in all that life holds. But He is so good and faithful to draw us into Him!
Thank you for sharing your story. And I’m so grateful for His blessings and awakening in your life!
I love how you took my idea of awakening just bit further by processing what it looks like. Your words add to what I was trying to say in so many ways. I am standing in gratitude with you that God continues to pursue us while we let Him work in us to awaken all the parts of our life that need Him. Blessings, Becky!
Love love love this writing and you!
I’ll share it with my mom today. She loves photos like these and a good message from the heart. Happy Spring!
I always love seeing you here, Jenn! Thank you for sticking with me even in my messiness. I pray your mom is blessed by these words too.
Mary, I am so grateful for the way our God pursues us, for He alone knows exactly what we need to return to Him. I am so glad you have found renewed hope and faith in your heart. May spring and summer bear bountiful fruit in your life!
Your gentle way of encouraging and affirming my hard season means so much to me. I am receiving your words that spring and summer bear beautiful fruit. Blessings to you!
Praise that God NEVER stops pursuing us. Even when despair and anxiety weight us down, He is at work to reclaim our hearts from the grasp of the enemy. How beautiful that He gave you this fire red reminder of His love -to let you know you are not alone and never will be. Winter can pull us into isolation, but the promise of Spring renews our hope in our Lord and Savior. So glad that you have renewed hope in your heart. Always refreshing to hear how God is at work in His children.
I am praising God with you. I am blessed and a bit in awe that God never gives up on me. And isn’t it just like God to get our attention with something like a cardinal? Your encouragement and sweet words fill my heart today. Thank you for letting God speak through you.