Read: “Listening to Winter, Rhythms of Growth: 365 Meditations for Nurturing the Soul, pp. 9-42.

Hi, I’m Linda Douty Mischke, author of Rhythms of Growth: 365 Meditations to Nurture the Soul. What better way to kick off this new year than by answering the question posed by centuries of spiritual teachers: “How is it with your soul?”

There’s something exciting about the opening days of a brand-new year, don’t you think? We learn to write a new year on our checks, and we wonder what will fill those blank calendar pages. We have twelve fresh months spread out before us like a grand buffet of potential.

If you’re like me, you look at all that open time, and you can’t wait to fill it. As human beings, we’re eager to plan, set goals—get something DONE, for goodness sake—and get ourselves in gear! So, we usually run ahead of any reflective process—trying to figure it out, make to-do lists, and join the call of our culture, which, of course, is to plan, produce, and possess. To be honest, society rewards that kind of get-up-and-go, doesn’t it?

Sadly, even our spiritual lives can get caught up in that “hurry-up” energy. We want to grow our spirits, so we sign up for another group study, read another big book of someone else’s ideas, organize a project to do some good in this hurting world—all worthwhile goals, to be sure. But what about taking some time to wonder where God might be leading us before we rush headlong into our agenda? After all, there’s a difference in seeing what needs to be done and being called to do it.

What I’m suggesting for this month’s Quiet Spaces is quite the opposite of revving up for the new year. Instead, I suggest slowing down and letting nature be our teacher. It’s often been said that nature is our first Bible—the creative power of God that was active before the first written words of scripture were ever available to us. It’s no wonder the parables of Jesus were full of metaphors about the crops and harvests and the soil and sparrows—even the beautiful lilies of the field! Remember those famous words of scripture? “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” And how do the lilies grow? They turned their faces to the Light and became what they were created to be—not tomatoes, marigolds, or oak trees but themselves. Beautiful lilies. Maybe we can follow their lead.

Speaking of nature, we can also get in tune with the natural cycles of the seasons. This month, we will be listening to winter. I encourage you to use winter as your guide. Slow down, carve out some quiet time to become more aware of how you are wired, what your natural interests and talents are, and where the Spirit might be inviting you. The cycles of nature can shape us in some of the same ways that those lilies are formed. After all, we’re part of that grand web of creation too!

Genuine transformation through the work of the Spirit is not about checking something off our to-do list. It’s about being guided by the One who created these cycles of change in the first place and then living into our own rhythms of growth. When we tune in to that holy process, we can love God, ourselves, and others with the love we were born to give. Believe me, it can be a rich and rewarding journey. I hope you’ll join me.

For more about Linda Douty Mischke, click here.