Today especially it feels like winter, still. It is cold and we work outside wrapped up against the elements and inside are blessed by our new and very effective biomass heating system!
Even so, as we walk around the grounds of Letton Hall the damp decay and bare winter dress of the woodland is giving way to new signs of life, defiant pointers to the Spring to come! Snowdrops, those most encouraging harbingers of warmer days ahead, are springing up in the woods, around the prayer house, in our gardens and along the driveways; daffodils are not far behind, with flower heads beginning to plump up and slender leaves reaching for any low winter sun that manages to sneak past the grey clothed guards of the skies. Some of our non-resident feathered friends are already putting in an appearance, jostling for space at our bird feeders and, just this week we heard the sound of our woodpeckers drumming. Last year we may have had three nesting pairs, along with several nuthatches and tree-creepers. Squirrels are active and lively, searching out the hidden treasures they tucked away just a few weeks ago and getting ready for the new season.
We see this pattern of life from death unfold every year as the hardness and gloom of winter gives way to the joy of spring. No wonder this has become such a profound a vital spiritual image and parable in our faith, revealing perennial truths, that only by dying to self can we truly live; only as a seed falls into the ground and dies can it bear fruit; suffering is transformed by grace into growth in character – and so on.
Here’s a tip though… While it still feels and looks like winter all around it can be hard to hold out in faith for a Spring. You have to look carefully and search in unlikely places to see the signs of new life; you need to be still and listen carefully to hear the surprising sounds of hope. You may be going through a winter right now, a hard season, a time of loss or dying, but look around for the buds, the early shoots appearing; listen for the sound of something new and wait in faith for it to break through!