I stepped onto my porch Saturday morning, my winter coat wrapped tightly around me, ready to face sharp winds and cold temps, but was instead pleasantly surprised by the temperature. To my left, two red breasted robins (since my youth a guaranteed sign that spring is coming) flitted in our golden front yard and from somewhere above me a song bird sang. I smiled. I exhaled. Spring is on the way.
Of course in Nebraska that one day really predicts nothing at all. We can see unseasonably high temps one day and be slammed by a winter storm the next. But it doesn’t matter to me. That one morning, that one exhale, that one song bird’s song was enough promise of spring for me to hold on to. Spring always starts in my spirit long before it manifests itself in the natural, and already in my spirit flowers are blooming.
I don’t know that I’d love spring as much if it didn’t follow winter. Indeed it is just as unpredictable as the winter it gently pulls us out of. Warm temps one day, a raging thunderstorm the next, often more clouds than blue sky and always this peculiar feeling that it can turn on you any moment and drop freezing rain or snow. (I remember two years ago when it snowed in May and I almost did.not.make it.) But the timing of spring makes it that much more endearing. We’ve just endured the longest nights and coldest days of the year, but with the drawing near of spring, the days again stretch themselves out and we get sprinkles of warmer temps. The landscape that has long been gray and black, the colors most neglected in my children’s crayon boxes, now slowly yet confidently boasts bright pinks and greens, oranges and purples. It is spring’s stark contrast from the season it follows that makes me love it so much more. It is the promise of newness and growth after so much stale stillness that aligns my hopes with spring.
Conversely, however, I’ve also learned that I appreciate winter more because of the season it precedes. Could it be that each season needs the others to be fully appreciated, and for it’s gifts to be fully realized?
My friend Janalynn is Canada born and winter loving. On winter days when snow is falling in huge clumps from the sky, I am snuggling on the couch in my pjs with a long book, and she is adding sledding or winter walk pictures to her to Instagram page, all smiles and wonder. She is is adventurous in many ways I am not and she sees the true beauty of my least favorite season. This year I’ve challenged myself to try to see winter the way she does: full of opportunity and delight. It was not as difficult as I assumed it would be. With just a little effort I was able to conjure some of the winter wonder I delighted in as a child.
A Wisconsin native, I loved the winter when I was younger. The crunch of the newly fallen snow or frost underfoot, brand new boots, catching snowflakes on my tongue, the delight of “seeing my breath!” for the first time of the season. I never saw winter as inconvenient or debilitating. It meant hot chocolate and more popcorn filled movie nights. It meant visits to Grandmas for holidays and standing near her radiators to warm my toes and hands- a different kind of heat that was comforting and cozy. Winter was snow angels and snow ball fights and winter forts. It was wonder.
Now, as an adult, if I’m not careful, I can see only the difficulties winter brings. Winter can be reduced to scraping my van’s windshields, icy roads, rushing around for the kids lost hats and mittens when we are already running late, fatigue inducing darkness at 5:00 pm and a general grumpiness towards a season that forces me to spend more time indoors than I would prefer. Though it has its challenges, winter is not only the sum of it’s challenges, it is all the fun and wonder Janalynn sees, too. I have learned to quietly respect winter, perhaps in a way close friends “agree to disagree” on important matters. I don’t like winter, I don’t think I will ever truly embrace it, but I have learned to see the value of the season. And? It makes spring so much more wonderful for me. As I set my heart to spring, I am hoping I won’t forget what winter has given me: intentional time to reflect, time to be still, and time to see delight in a challenging season- if I look for it.
Just as we live through natural seasons on earth, we grow and change through personal seasons as well. Some are more challenging than others and in some it is hard not to only see the difficulties. We’ve recently been in a challenging season regarding one of our children’s behaviors. In the past we’ve endured difficult health-related seasons, seasons of extreme grief, and sleepless seasons as we adjusted to being new parents. I have learned to quietly respect difficult personal seasons as well. I don’t like them, I don’t think I will every truly embrace them, but just I am now convinced that there is wonder in every natural season, I also believe there is something to behold in all our personal seasons, too.
If you are struggling to find redemption in a difficult season you are in, perhaps you need a Janalynn in your life to open your eyes to its wonder? Spend time with people who can offer a new (albeit godly) perspective to your same old problem. Look at it through fresh lenses.
Winter is still raging outside- but I am setting my heart to spring. It’s absolutely okay to align your hope with the promise of a new personal season, too. In fact, I encourage it. In many ways, I believe this hope is what gives us the strength to keep going. But while you’re waiting for your new season, don’t miss the wonder of the one you’re in- challenges and all.