One of the simple pleasures I’ve been able to enjoy over Christmas break is going out for a run around nine or ten o’clock most nights. My dad got me this nifty glow band that wraps around my upper arm and shines green, but the beautiful thing about winter is that the fresh white snow and the blanketing clouds make the light reflect and dance all night, so it isn’t real dark at all.
After being cooped up for most the day the cold air sucked into my lungs and the stiff breeze sliding across my cheeks heightens the senses and reminds me how good it feels to be human. It only takes a couple minutes for the blood to rush all through my veins and arteries, starting up that beloved God-given internal heating.
I eventually meander my way to the park I played at so often as a child, and there I take my first rest. The park lamps make the gentle nighttime snow flurries glow like stars come down to earth. The pond, completely frozen over with a small layer of snow, melds with the white rolling hills in the center of the park. Everything is quiet. So peaceful and quiet.
The cold starts to creep in through the thin lining of my soccer pants so I reluctantly jog on. I can’t help but keep looking left, there’s so much history – my history – in that wintry landscape. I turn a couple corners and hop through the powder like an artic fox, and then run until I make it to the burned out lamp post.
There, in the darkness, I look up. The clouds break off like great icebergs in the night sky, leaving bare the deep blue ocean of atmosphere, with those far off celestial lights winking my way as if to say You’re welcome with a knowing smile. And here I stand – ten, maybe twenty minutes. I take my beanie off and let the northern wind cool and calm my racing thoughts. And here I listen.
I listen because that’s what I’ve been taught to do this year. All this winter wonderland is really my great Christmas present after a year of being told to stop, look around some, and listen to my life a little. Listen to the new life of spring and the deep green of summer and the rich coolness of fall. Listen to what’s real in your soul – all of it – the horrendous pain and the longing for old things and the sweetest, tiniest joy. Listen to your safe ones, your brother’s stories and your friends jokes and your parents love.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Sometimes we wonder why we can’t hear God and blame him for not talking loud enough. But maybe it’s we who are deaf. Maybe the ear splitting noise of our worries and screens and desires deafens us to the voice of God. Think about the things we could hear: the stars in the night whisper creator and beauty, the friend right in front of your face speaks laughter and acceptance, the breath you take each morning says you are sustained and cared for. Like an author I’ve come to love once wrote,
All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
So this last year I’ve called these little moments of awareness grace and I’ve tried to listen through thankfulness.
Thank you for the arctic air filling me with life.
Thank you for my silly roommates who slay me with laughter.
Thank you for being gentle when I’m hurting.
Thank you for the trust and safety I find in my brother.
Thank you for letting me shout and be honest.
Thank you for cake.
Thank you for waking me up one more day.
Thank you for being here for so long.
And what God’s given me is more grace and more thankfulness. Or maybe I’ve just begun to hear faint whispers of that great northern wind that’s been blowing over my head so long.
In any case, I’m listening more, and I’m starting to like more of what I hear.