A Winter Thaw

Hope for the Journey:



A Winter Thaw is an excerpt from my book An Upside-Down Heart.  This is a chapter of hope and transformation. I looked up the word transformation on my dictionary to get a more complete overview of its meaning. A qualitative change, the conversion of one, complete change in character or condition, and the act of changing in form or shape or appearance. Let me hear your journey of transformation. I can be reached at: mzigan2442@gmail.com.


Chapter 20 – A Winter Thaw

By Mary Zigan

Out of the blue one day Don said, “Hon, what do you think.  Should we scale down?”

We had been empty-nesters for quite some time and were ready for a townhome.  We enjoyed going to open houses on Sunday afternoons, checking out the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, but it didn’t take long to see that the homes were totally out of our price range.  One day my son, Randy, now back working in the area said, “Ma, find a lot and I’ll build a house for you and Don.”

My sister Sharon, who lives in Cambridge, sold real estate at the time, and found us a lot within the city limits of that small town of 5,000 residents.  Randy came to look at the lot and gave his approval.  He and Jill were expecting our granddaughter at the time, and with construction in the dead of winter being slow-to-nothing, Randy was happy to have the work.

As a designer, I was excited to think about executing the plans for a brand-new home.  My mind danced with creative possibilities, yet there was reservation.

Randy and his father, Waldo, worked together in construction.  If we hired Randy, we knew his father would be a part of the building project.  This would be the first time since our divorce that I would be working close-range with him.

When I saw Waldo at gatherings for birthdays and events relating to our kids, I would be courteous.  But was I ready for this much togetherness?  The day our divorce was final, Waldo and I had met for coffee.  I told him I didn’t believe in divorce, but we both agreed the relationship was over. Yet twenty years later we would be working together.

I wanted to manage the day-to-day decisions on our home both inside and out, and I did.  Construction began in November of 1993 and was completed in January of 1994.   The winter became historic as the fifth coldest on record in Minnesota.  The temperatures remained bitterly cold during the entire building project. Waldo, Randy, Don, and I would typically go to town for lunch during the three month process of building and have soup together.  It became clear that it was more than soup for the body; the fellowship was warming our souls, and especially my soul. Old resentments, like icicles in a winter thaw, were melting away.  To my surprise, our working relationship had become amicable.

Move-in day on South Vine Street the thermometer dipped to 38 degrees below zero.  There was no standing around.

As the months rolled along, I loved purchasing furnishings for the interior of our brand-new home, but was wrestling with the question of whether this was really a place where I belonged.  Could I survive in this small town with no Kohls, no Target, no Walmart?   Not even a Goodwill store.

Don and I kept one foot in the City for a while by driving to Arden Hills every Sunday morning to the church we had attended for ten years.  We were both reluctant to sever all ties to the Twin Cities.

It took me a while to find my niche in Cambridge.  I’m not the coffee-klatch-ing type, and I’m not good at small talk.  I longed for conversations with the locals, where I would get to know my new community and what mattered to the people who lived there. However, bondage from my past continued to nag at me. As much as I longed for new relationships, the lie that I was defective often hampered that from happening.

Bondage does not respond to common sense, logic, or clear thinking.  AA would call this “insanity,” which they define as “continuing to do the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

I knew the pattern of running back to my closest friend, food, just reinforced the lie ‘See how defective you are’ and would keep me from really engaging in life.

I was in a new town, but could I start new?

Release came one night in my restlessness.  I clearly heard in my spirit, “You have the characteristics, training, and availability I need to touch others.  There is a place for you in the world that only you can fill.  Accept this truth by faith, Mary.  You are not forgotten or left behind.” 

I could hardly believe what I was hearing, because I had been feeling so displaced.  Yet I was profoundly encouraged by this message and tucked the treasured promise deep within my heart.

Matt and Julie Woodley had just moved into our neighborhood.  Matt was the pastor of Cambridge United Methodist Church (CUMC) and wanted to get to know his neighbors.   After a couple of visits to our home, he invited us to visit CUMC, and we did.   We were encouraged when he said, “I don’t know if CUMC is for you, but what I do know is that you could be a catalyst for worship renewal if you came.”

This excited me!  The drive to the City for church every Sunday was getting old.  So we became members, and we realized it was a good fit for us.

Another unexpected surprise about living in Cambridge sneaked up on me when I learned that pastors and lay leaders in various churches in the community were embracing the Freedom in Christ material.  Dr. Neil T. Anderson had written two books called Victory over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, both of which I had read with great eagerness.  I had a yearning to be part of a ministry that could help me gain my freedom as a Christian.

Freedom is an interesting word.  There are freedoms from.  I wanted freedom from anger and bitterness.  And there are freedoms to.  I wanted freedom to love and forgive.

Going through “The Seven Steps of Freedom in Christ” in an appointment with two kind women was something I looked forward to. I went through the material twice, because deception and negative thoughts kept going through my mind.  I would ask myself, “How can I get free by just saying these words?  I was to learn that these were not just words, they were declarations of Truth. I learned that my identity is not based on what has happened to me in the past, or what other people think of me, or what will happen to me in the future.

Most changes in perception are gradual, as they were for Don and me. Most of us grow to embrace an idea, a person, or new concept over a period of time. But Don and I were diligent and kept reading the Freedom in Christ materials, particularly the step on forgiveness.  Neither of us wanted to hold onto bitterness and un-forgiveness from our past. My heart was turning, and Cambridge became a marking place for both Don and me. We once and for all claimed our new identity in Christ and laid down our regrets and past pain.

Freedom to forgive is a wonderful thing!

An excerpt from Dr. Neil T. Anderson’s book, Helping Others Find Freedom in Christ makes this truth very clear:

Because human life is lived according to what we believe, this essential truth of who we are in Christ is tremendously important. Our attitudes, responses and reactions to the circumstances of life are determined by our conscious or subconscious self-perceptions. No one can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself to be.

This truth was beginning to turn my heart right-side up.