On Winter, Fishing and Life

Ella on the ice. Fishing!
So we went ice fishing a few Sundays ago. The whole family did. This is not a first for many in our family, except for me and the baby. (Yes, the baby went ice fishing too. And yes, all of my children had experienced getting fish from their previous fishing trips. Except for me and the baby.) So this was somehow our initiation into winter fishing. Fishing on ice is very new to me.

My son asked me tonight, "Mom, did you eat snow when you were little?" They've been told not to eat snow and, trying to be honest, they just mentioned over dinner that they've eaten a little bit of it. What child can resist white, resplendent, cold snow? To my son's question, I  replied that I haven't even seen snow until I was 23 years old.

The cold wasn't enjoyable back then and also, there wasn't much snow. But as it was my first, I had to dress up in at least three layers of clothes, that after I was done putting them on, I had worked myself up to so much sweat that I had to take them off again. Most of the time, though, I would waddle myself out of the door and into the cold welcoming air. Then I had to get on the bus. Whoa! So much bundled-up people! I wondered then how the bus could move with all that heavy load.

Being in Russia, however, has made winter with all its snow, ice, and cold so much fun. I never thought it could be this fun. Winter clothes in Russia are light, fashionable and just right for its cold and frosty climate. Even putting them on and wearing them around is a pleasure that we don't hesitate to go out even in a snowstorm to interact with the elements. As the winds howl, we huddle warmly. As the snow falls, we cavort around. As the ground freezes, we slide.

As for my husband, he goes fishing. The only way to spend time with him is to go where he goes.

Everyone was excited, even me with my misgivings. The girls right away went to their designated fishing holes and poles and so did Misha, my oldest. I tried to put the baby in her pram but she didn't like missing all the action. She fussed around until I took her in my arm. I fished with the pole in one hand and the baby in the other arm. Right away, a fish was biting. But I can't say it was me who caught it as my husband was still preparing the pole for me. I was excited seeing that and thought it was going to be as easy as that first catch of the day. I was imagining myself catching one fish after another with only one hand while juggling the baby on the other arm, well, much like I do when I am cooking... working... teaching... writing... doing bathroom stuffs.

Wishful thinking! Hours passed. We had lunch and I didn't get even one, single fish on my own. Nada! Kids were getting quite a number of them, with Misha shouting once, "Shark!" when a big fish bit on his hook and bait. My son is currently excited over learning all about sharks, hence, everything big and wiggly is a shark.

My feet was getting frozen as the sun was setting down. So finally, I had to give up. We went home a few minutes later, with several fish in our sack, fresh and ready to be cooked for dinner. It was one, great dinner! For we didn't we all fish for it? Never mind that I didn't catch any.

Though I got zero fish, here's what I got on that ice fishing trip:

1. God blesses even in the harshest, coldest, unfriendliest place or circumstance.

Before knowing Russia, and with people I meet curious about Russia, I can say that we often think of Russia as all snow, frigid, barren of life and activity. This is, well, ignorance. There is no other place I have been to that is so rich of natural resources. Even in winter, when everything is frozen we get fish while ice fishing. Under those hardpacked ice is food. God provides. He has His way of blessing everyone who are in need.

Meeting opposition and isolation? Experiencing a winter season in life? You will see God's hand blessing you even in whatever circumstance you are in. His heart is good and He wants to give what is good for you.

This takes me to Ruth's time. Ruth was willing to go all the way to a foreign land with her mother-in-law despite the latter's insistence that she go back to her own people (Ruth 1:16, 17, 18). It wasn't the best time for both of them. Ruth had just lost her husband, while the other woman had lost not only her husband but also her two sons in the land of Moab. Now they were returning back to Judah bereft and not expecting much from their present circumstances. But still, hoping for a better future. Isn't that what we do in life? We don't stop when the going gets tough, we keep going, we fish, hoping, looking forward to a better tomorrow.

God doesn't disappoint. The Great Provider had much in store for Ruth and her mother-in-law. They stayed and lived in Judah well-provided and blessed even during their winter season in life (Ruth 4:13-17). He gave them even much more than they expected. God blesses!

2. We need both hands to receive what God has in store for us.

With the baby in one arm and only one hand to hold the pole, it wasn't much of fishing that I did. As a result, I didn't get any fish. My husband promised that I will have both hands to use in fishing next time we go. He'll probably hold the baby. But I doubt it. Not him. He'll be fishing. So the baby will probably be fishing too! I'm excited!

When it comes to fishing, one needs both hands to fish. And when it comes to God, half-hearted attempts will never do. The whole heart and being needs to be reconciled in reaching the same goal.

Ruth was single-minded, unswerving in her decision to follow Naomi and the God she serves. Hear her say, "Wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people. And your God, my God." With determination she added, "Where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16, 17).

When I read this, I was shamed to my toes. Do I have the same unswerving loyalty to my God? If the going gets tough, do I leave Him or cling to Him? Do I have the same commitment to do His will, wherever and whatever it is? Like, stay committed to the husband I swore to love 'till death part us? Or keep showing His love to those who need to know Him, even when I get nothing in return or even be scorned?

Only when we are ready to open both hands to Him will we experience God wholly, fully. He is willing to free us from anything that keeps us tight-fisted from following Him--- wholly, fully, freely. "Christ has set us free..." (Galatians 5:1).

3. To be open to new experiences is to learn, to grow.

I didn't believe my husband when he passionately told me how fun ice fishing is. I couldn't imagine in my mind how an activity done in the cold, with lots of waiting, be any fun than yawning. Until the day I actually went ice fishing. And I tell you, it's fun. I can now understand why my husband loves it. There's something about being in the open, frigid air, the cold packed ice underfoot, a pole and a hole, and a yearning for a fish to bite that makes it all exciting. Don't forget when you do catch one fish, and then another, and another, it's just pure bliss!

Now I can add ice fishing to my growing list of new skills. But seriously, Proverbs 18:15 says, "Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them." Yes, it's easier to just be comfortable or just follow what everybody else is doing; but to be different, be brave, and grow is to have one amazing life.

What is worse than being afraid? Being stuck? Probably, staying afraid, remaining stuck. Forever.

The Bible is full of men and women willing to take risks, go on adventures with God, and as a result live extraordinary, amazing lives. Ruth is one of them. She could have stayed in Moab, her hometown, with her family. But she willingly took a risk in trying something new, go in a foreign land, and be identified with God and His people. She did right. And we can't go wrong as long as we go with God.

Ruth gave all of herself, her life into following her godly mother-in-law, Naomi, and her God. And God gave her all that she needed and more--- a husband, a family, a secured future, and an enviable position in Jesus' lineage.

Ruth is in Jesus' genealogy, a part of His family, with her name listed out in Matthew 1 (verse 5). Are you a part of Jesus' family? I hope you are. Through Jesus we have been adopted into God's great family (see Ephesians 1:5). Our names may not be in the Bible, but if we choose to be identified with Him, our names will be written in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5).

What is there to lose to give all to God? We lose much more in staying in our ruts. Old habits, familiar way of thinking and living is not the way to live. Yes, we may encounter rejection just like Ruth did at first. Uncertainties may force us to go into hiding. But trusting God, going out of our comfort zones, will seem so small compared to what He has in store for us--- where He wants us to be and what we will become in Him.

I went home with my family that day with zero fish, but I got what I needed to know, to learn. Others may think us a failure for following Jesus and rejecting what the world offers. But every experience with God is not for naught. Every promise He has uttered will be fulfilled. He has said: "My word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

Let God fulfill His promises in you. Even in the harshest environment, He will do it. He just needs you to believe in Him, allowing Him to do His work in you.

And you don't have to go ice fishing to know that! But if you do, please invite me.

You may also like to read...

On Fishing, Fire and Breakfast
Speak Love
When Fire Makes Steel


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