Building Resilience

by Christine Sine
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by Christine Sine

Today is my 72nd birthday and as many of you know I spent much of the last couple of weeks looking back over my life. I have so much to  be grateful for.My life has been a series of adventures. First when I moved to New Zealand to start my medical practice and spent wonderful weekends hiking, climbing and visiting beautiful places. The my twelve years with Mercy Ships experiencing the privilege of starting the medical ministry, working in refugee camps and visiting over 50 countries around the world . Then my marriage to Tom.  We shared wonderful adventures as we explored special places around the world,  delighted in the rich experience of ministering together, and of offering hospitality in our home to people near and far. There have been challenging times too, such as when Tom’s sons Clint and Wes died and when our property on Camano was vandalized. Through it all, we have grown in our love and appreciation of each other, and in our love for God.

The word that stands out for me as I reflect back is resilience. So many people I know try to avoid the struggling times and wall off their pain. Yet it is these that build our resilience and strengthen our faith.

As I reminisce, I sit in my office looking out at a huge maple tree that I call my sentinel tree because it is always the first to herald the seasons. At the moment it is barren and stark. The beautiful skeletal pattern of its branches is all that I can see. I know however that hidden within those branches is the promise of new life. In a couple of months it will be covered in green leaves. The garden too looks barren. The daffodils are just beginning to emerge, but the trees are still devoid of leaves. Winter is a time for building resilience and the garden teaches me much about how I can build accomplish this in my life.

Frozen leaves Photo by Izzy Park on Unsplash

Winter is a Time for Pruning

This is the season when we prune the fruit trees and roses. Why in winter you might wonder? Partly because when everything is devoid of leaves it is easy to tell what needs to be cut away. The dead wood, the misshapen and scraggly branches that will not bear fruit well are exposed. It is a little like that in our lives too. When we pass through the winters of doubt and depression, through the struggles with illness and loss that we become aware of the dead wood in us that needs to be pruned.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit; (John 15: 1,2 The Voice)

Pruning is done by God the master gardener. All it requires of us is that we stay close to Christ through regular times of prayer, meditation and scripture reading. It is primarily the strength of our spiritual disciplines that build resilience.

We need deep roots to anchor us

Winter is a Time to Send Down Roots.

Most of our fruit trees and berry bushes were planted in the autumn. Why you might wonder? Won’t they die over the winter. No, but when there is no growth above ground all the energy goes into sending down roots that can go deep searching for water and anchoring the plant.

He is like a tree planted by water,
        sending out its roots beside the stream.
    It does not fear the heat or even drought.
        Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces. (Jeremiah 17:8 The Voice)

Resilience requires deep spiritual roots that protect us during all seasons from floods and droughts and chaos. And a tree with deep roots bears more fruit. It is not just our scripture reading and prayer that send down roots. The practice of gratitude is one that has deepened my roots and revolutionized my life over the last few years. Noticing and thanking God for the good things God has done is at the heart of a resilient faith.

Maple Syrup Harvesting photo Jason Aki

Winter Intensifies the Sweetness

Have you ever wondered why maple syrup is harvested in winter? Evidently, as the weather cools, the concentration of sugar in each cell increases dramatically and the plasma membrane becomes more flexible. It’s as though it produces its own sugary antifreeze that embraces the precious cell contents and stops it freezing, keeping it safe until spring. This mechanism doesn’t just operate in maple trees, it is an adaption that most winter hardy trees have. Without it their sap would freezes and branches would die.

In our lives too during the hard winter seasons we often feel all that is sweet within us has withdrawn to some inner hidden place. We want it to flow and fill us again, without realizing that its very retraction is what keeps the goodness within us alive. If we let it flow too soon, we will not be able to withstand the winter blasts.

Resilience grows in us as we slow down and enjoy the sweet sugary embrace of God’s protective presence.

icy tree

In Winter Buds And Fruit Wait Patiently.

Deciduous trees, which includes many fruit trees like apples and pears, and berries like blueberries, set buds that contain next year’s leaves and flowers, in the autumn. They then go into a dormancy to await the warm spring weather to stir them into growth. An early warm spell followed by a sudden freeze can decimate a fruit crop because the leaves and flowers unfurl too soon and then freeze.

How often I wonder do we force buds into bloom before their time? How often are we impatient to see growth when God is saying wait, there is another icy blast on the way? Yet resilience means accepting the season in which we find ourselves, even the icy winters when nothing seems to grow.

In Winter Trees Look After Themselves.

As I reflect on how trees adapt to the icy blast of winter, I realize that more than anything they are used to taking care of themselves. They know the signs that winter is approaching and they do what they need to in order to survive. They are pretty good at self care and because of that are indeed resilient.

It makes me aware however that we often ignore the signs of the changing seasons in our lives. We don’t build the inner resources we need to adapt and we don’t grow the resilience that will see us through. We want to keep growing and producing fruit all he time.

So my question for you today is: What do you do for self care? How do you grow resilience in your life? 

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