January thaw

January thaw

The forecast calls for rain tomorrow and after a stretch of cold/ice/snow/wind that seemed it might never end, I am grateful. I rolled the window down in the van today, and when I stepped outside without a jacket, just for a moment, I forgot the bitter chill from a week ago.

I’ve lived through too many Midwest (and now Mid-Atlantic) winters to hope that we’ll have a short winter, that by January we’ll have seen the worst of the weather for the season. The truth is there’s a lot of January left. And then February. Followed by March’s unpredictable patterns. Spring might feel closer when the calendar flips to a new year, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Still, days like these give me hope. And relief, however brief.

It was almost 60 degrees two days before Christmas when my family flew out of Baltimore, headed to Chicago to spend the holidays with family. The next day, in typical Illinois winter fashion, it snowed. And the temperature dropped. Our entire visit was the coldest I can remember experiencing in almost a decade. When we returned to Pennsylvania, we were greeted with the same stretch of cold air.

If we hadn’t believed it was winter before, then we were being given evidence to believe day after day.

Looking ahead at the weather forecast offered little hope. Until just this week when we saw the high temperatures begin to gradually increase. As the snow melts and the temperatures rise, the burden of winter lifts a bit, even if we know it is temporary.

This is often the way of my heart.

Exactly one year ago, my heart was a frozen wasteland. My husband had lost his job at Christmas and if that wasn’t enough uncertainty for our family, our van’s transmission went out and had to be replaced. (We are a one vehicle family.) I remember how hard my insides felt in those weeks. How I wept and cried out asking God why on earth He would place so much burden on us all at once. I was hard yet trying to be soft. Tender.

My husband was not out of work for long, and we were gifted money to help with the car repair and the rest of the year was uneventful by comparison. One year later, my husband and I are both employed and when our van needed a fix this month (again), it was an inexpensive one.

Today, my heart feels more like a mountain waterfall.

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

The conditions for frigidness are still present but there’s been enough warmth to begin the thaw. And a little bit of thawing leads to more thawing until there’s more than a trickle; there’s a waterfall.

I need to remember this for the next time. Because there will be a next time–when the air feels like a gusty arctic blast and my toes feel frozen and I can’t get warm enough. (This is how my soul will feel–bombarded, uncomfortable, cold.) I will doubt the changes to come, even though they come with regularity every single year where I live. (Spring arrives eventually, no matter how harsh the winter, and by summer, I’m wishing for relief from the heat and humidity.) My soul, too, will doubt. I will wonder if I can take one more thing. If any relief is on the way.

Even as my mouth confesses the unchanging nature of God, I wonder if this is the time that His faithfulness fails. Even as I read “His love endures forever,” I ask myself if I’ve exhausted the supply.

But somehow, His mercies are new every morning. And the days that seem cold and unfeeling play a role in the cycle of my heart. It is mystery.

And I will try to remember that the thaw begins long before the waterfall. The smallest trickle can be a sign: Change is on the way.

Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.


  1. Thanks for this encouragement, Lisa! Though the seasons may change, our God remains faithful and unchanging! There is comfort in this!

  2. Beautiful beautiful beautiful….. You have such a gift with words. xo

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