It is WINTER here in North Dakota.
It is long, dark, cold and tends to have a deep impact on the social fabric and very soul of individuals and the community as a whole. Especially after the excitement of Christmas, people here in the upper Midwest know that winter has only just begun. We have many snowfalls and days of below-zero temperatures ahead of us.
This winter, I have been reflecting on the concept of the presence of God. Jesus promises us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. This promise is fulfilled in the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is an amazing truth that goes unrecognized by us all too often. Sometimes, we need reminders
In times of pain, heartache, and stress especially, the presence of God is a difficult thing to grasp or even, believe. It simply does not “feel” like God is present.
Practicing the Presence of God
I have been encouraged to consistently remind myself of this truth, that in this present moment, God is here and he loves me. This truth is one I need reminding of constantly. As a spiritual practice, I have recognized subtle little “reminders” of God’s presence in my life. For me, there is something holy about slowing down long enough to drink a cup of tea and reflect on God’s presence. In fact, there is a specific type of tea that the flavor and smell of prompt me to seek connection with God. Sometimes I place a small post-it note on my mirror in my bathroom or dashboard of my car to remind me of God’s presence and immediate love. For others, there may be different little practices that work for them.
One reminder of God’s presence in my life is found in nature. There is something holy about feeling connected to the creation covered in God’s beauty.
For me, there is something familiar and recognizable and holy in the simple call of a chickadee. The Chickadee is an incredibly tiny bird with a loud voice- something I have also been accused of, so maybe I feel a personal connection there. They are one of the few birds that do not migrate south in the winter but manage to bear the freezing temperatures of northern winters. Maybe it is this resilience in the face of trials that appeals so much to me. If one listens to the sound the Chickadee makes, it sounds like a high-pitched “dee-dee”.
In college, I was dealing with the worst anxiety symptoms of my life. I felt overwhelmed and not good enough for any area of my life. I was depressed and numb. I wasn’t eating well or taking care of myself.
Managing to get out of bed and walk to class one morning, I was prompted to pray, to ask God if he was present or if he even cared about my current situation. The next thing heard was a Chickadee’s call, which at that moment, sounded much more like:
“I’m here. I’m here.”
Immense peace and joy washed over me. There was hope. I truly believe that God speaks in nature, and in other subtle ways, through both his creation and the people he has placed in our lives. We only have to slow down enough to listen and pay attention. I believe he will make his love for us known.
Now, I want to be clear that one bird call was not enough to fix my struggle with anxiety. It took much more than that. In fact, anxiety is a battle I continue to fight. But that sound, repetitive in nature as playful Chickadees call to one another, become a reminder of God’s presence and love and hope for me to hold on to when I needed something, anything to hold on to. It remains, to me, an icon of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.
A couple of years ago, my family entered a time of both grief and frenzied activity when my Grandmother passed away. Preparing for a funeral involves quite a bit of logistics beyond simply clearing numerous people’s schedules in order to make time for healthy grieving. On the clear, crisp morning when I found out that she had passed away moments before, in the midst of the tasks that needed to be done and all the pain I felt, there came, outside my house, the sound of a Chickadee. Peace. Perfect timing. In pain, even, God was present and his desire was to comfort.
Now, every time I hear a Chickadee’s call, even this cold morning as I sit drinking tea in my quiet, sun-filled living room, typing away, I hear the call of this tiny bird outside my window. I am reminded of the presence of God.
Hope is born in my heart again. God is present.
At this moment, God is present and he loves me. And he loves you. With a love that defies all human logic. I must remind myself, quite regularly, that I need to seize that moment, to bask in his love, simply enjoying his nearness. What reminders of God’s presence and love do you have in your life? Feel free to comment and share with all of us!
P.S. If I am ever brave enough to get a tattoo, it will be a Chickadee on my wrist!