Fall brings about a gorgeous display as trees erupt into brilliant shades of orange and gold. It seems God uses this time of year to display His glory and transforming power once more before the leaves turn crunchy and trees become barren in winter.

While we know the trees haven’t died, and in just a few months grass will once again sprout and flowers will bloom, winter can seem to us as a time of dormancy...both in nature and in our lives.

I’ve rarely come across an adult who embraces winter’s cold and snow as much as children do. As youngsters plan snow forts and pray for school cancellations, most of us dread the layers of coats, hats and mittens that must be gathered, and kept track of,  in the coming months. And don’t even get me started on icy driving conditions and wet snow to shovel!

Yes, we adults rarely see the joy in God’s season called “winter.”  But as we mentally prepare for this climate change that is sure to arrive in the coming weeks, I’d like you to also ponder a different “dormancy” that may be present in our lives...and how God uses this time for healing and hope.

November is upon us, and with that comes the holidays. Regardless of how well-adjusted your family is, Thanksgiving and Christmas can bring out both the best and worst in everyone. These coming weeks can also be especially difficult when your “ideal” holiday is drastically different than reality.

Loved ones who are no longer alive, broken marriages, financial struggles, loneliness...the list can go on and on. In each case, we may feel dormant, and distant, from God. I remember seven years ago when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from my children as my husband and I were navigating divorce. We had married on my parent’s anniversary 16 years earlier...and in 2008 both Thanksgiving and my anniversary fell on the same day. Not only did I ache to be with my children, I grieved for the loss of my marriage, and the reality that Thanksgiving may never be the same.

But the story doesn’t end there, my friend. Just as the winter season forces us to slow down...on the roads, and even in our frenetic pace, a tough season in life forces us to slow down, as well. It is at this point that God’s transforming power can work in amazing ways.  I’m not suggesting God NEEDS us to be fully present to work on us, but I do believe He wants our attention and willingness to bring us through our dormancy.

How did God transform me...and bring me through that winter season? Over time, I learned to embrace being alone, and in those quiet, dark, solitary nights, the Holy Spirit made Himself known. A friend of mine gave me the book, Jesus Calling, and as I started each day with the short devotional, I slowly become fully present in each moment.

I could neither find comfort in the regrets of the past or in the uncertainty of the future. Instead, God repeatedly reminded me to be calm, focused, and with Him each day. He would carry me across “icy paths”; He would clear the “snow-laden roads.”  It was no longer up to me to fix what I had no control over...and that’s exactly how He transformed my life, and continues to do so today.

I know there are women reading this who may be facing a harsh winter ahead. I simply want to offer the following words of hope and encouragement...

First...you are not alone! Countless verses in the Bible share this promise, but one of my favorite passages is in Jeremiah 29:
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you         and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me         and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me         when you seek Me with all of your heart. I will be found by you.” (vs 11-14)

Your future is not without hope, dear sister. Just as God longs to be there for you, here is another promise...there are women in your life, your neighborhood, your church, who will come alongside you in your dormant season. We are called to be a community of believers who are the hands and feet of Christ. Do not trudge through winter alone. God will carry you through any season of life. Reach out to Him...reach out to others. I can promise you Spring will arrive as you trust in His love and grace.

Are you looking to connect with other Valley Gals? Women’s Ministry invites you to join with women from Valley Church this Saturday, October 31st for coffee, tea and connection.  Come anytime and stay as short or as long as you can: 9:30-11:30. We are meeting at Shari Hudson’s home,  954 Glen Oaks Terrace, West Des Moines 50266.  RSVP: sharih9@gmail.com

Laine Mendenhal.jpg

Laine is a Des Moines native, and works at Grand View University as the Director of Alumni Relations. She started attending Valley Church in the late 1990s. Over the years she's volunteered with Route 56, and is actively involved in other volunteerism throughout Des Moines. She and her second husband, Tom, married in 2012, and between them have five daughters ranging from 10-18. Laine also enjoys distance running and is training for her first full marathon.