Despite the extra hour of sleep, I have always preferred spring-forward to fall-back. Here at the top of the Sacramento River Valley, autumn does its best to ease us into the depths of winter, making palatable the shorter days and colder nights with its spectacular display of golden light shining through amber trees. But the fiery leaves fall and the days get even shorter, and the nights get even colder, and I can feel it coming. There’s something cold and dark about the cold and dark, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Aside from the underlying ache of impending winter that began with the oh-so-annual end of daylight savings, November is #winning ! My parents came to stay for ten days, and I delighted in what every-day life would be, if only we lived in the same town instead of on opposite coasts. Having mom and dad here left me feeling strengthened and motivated to march on in my wife/mom duties! For I could do all things now, having read “A More Effective Way to Hard-Boil an Egg and Other Priceless Lessons Mom Teaches You When She Visits.”
After my parents left, I travelled to Nashville to visit two of my best friends! We spent four days together, the three of us sipping coffee and reminding each other that we’re still cool like we were in college, and even more cool for having survived real life for seven years! We even attended a women’s conference together where the theme was “Discovering Calling,” and so as it’s only the fourteenth day of the month, I’d say November is off to a great start!
Yet in the “back to life, back to reality-ness” of this week, the familiar and slightly anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach reminds me that winter is coming.
A few nights ago, my husband and I were driving home after running a quick errand. It was six o’clock and pitch black. If it were summertime, we discussed, we’d still be out by his parents’ pool watching the kids argue over floaties. If it were summertime we’d still be sitting on the back porch, spitting watermelon seeds into the garden and waiting for our steak to come off the grill while our youngest shared stories of the day’s sweaty adventures.
Instead, we were headed home to finish the school-night routine. I was headed home to clean dishes and give homework instructions and make sure the youngest took a bath… hopefully all before eight o’clock so I could have a few minutes of alone time before I got too tired to watch that episode of Parenthood that I had missed last week. As we drove home in the dark, I envisioned the fluorescent-lighted kitchen of our rental home. I could see the crumby countertops and mail strewn about and the pots left to be cleaned under those lights. I wanted to avoid it all. I wished we had different lights in the kitchen… something warmer. Then I wouldn’t mind the crumbs and the mail. If only it was warmer in there.
I said to my husband as we drove, “If God created these colder months, surely there’s a way to enjoy this season as much as we love summertime.” And then I began to think…
No matter how uninspiring it is to me at the moment, I cannot avoid the coming season of winter. Not only is it unavoidable, but my core belief is that God actually has good things for me in ALL seasons of life, so why can’t I just embrace it? What’s my problem? Why the knot in my stomach as the sun fades and the air turns crisp? After all, winter means holidays and family and peppermint-mocha syrup in my coffee and crowds at the mall (I actually like crowds at the mall during the holidays). Why do I feel so unsettled?
Just thinking about the summertime gives me that warm, fulfilling feeling of fun and freedom. Yokes are easy and burdens are light… in the summertime. Creativity comes easily and perspective is clear… in the summertime. Hopeful expectation is my normal… in the summertime. Where’s my sense of adventure now? Why do the burdens feel heavier, and why is hope so easy to let go?
Perhaps it’s because, unlike summer, winter calls me home. “Real” life seems to bow to the heat of summer and you let go of what’s going on inside to be out! Swimming and farmer’s-marketing and vacationing and… then the cold sets in. The days of playful distraction and outside-til-late nights are over for a while. If I don’t like “home,” these winter months will leave me feeling trapped and restless for change. And the truth tonight is, despite how I feel about my fluorescent-lighted kitchen on a chilly night, the only place I have to go right now is home! And I think I’m on to something… I think the key to enjoying the winter season is embracing home.
Don’t get me started on the list of things I’d do around here if we owned this house. As you can probably guess by now, those seizure-inducing kitchen lights would be the first to go. Painting the 80’s-oak kitchen cabinets and ripping out every square foot of carpet would happen seconds later. But I do actually love our house. How we landed here is a testimony of God’s provision in and of itself. I’m more than grateful for this house. In fact, if we could, I’d buy it and stay awhile! So when I say “embracing” home, I mean more than covering the awful traffic-stained carpet with a cozy area rug and lighting a few pumpkin pie candles. Because I’ve done that. And still, the uneasiness of the season.
Sometimes I’m uneasy about these dark cold months because they draw me into a space where I have to be at home with… myself. It has little to do with lighting and the color of my cabinets and much more to do with me. The evenings are long and full of real-life, often-mundane, tasks and to-do lists. Homework and laundry and cooking and cleaning. Lots! And we’re all here in this little space… all five of us! And they’re getting so big and taking up so much room with their voices, alone! A hot shower is my sanctuary. And it doesn’t feel like I’m living in the prophetic words and promises spoken over my life – the ones I was reminded of last week at that conference. And we have yet to receive that breakthrough I have felt is coming! Surely it will come in the spring when new growth takes place and new life is born. We’ll experience freedom and longer days full of LIGHT! Why, winter, whyyyyy… [Insert dramatic, open-mouth-crying emoticon here.]
Why winter? Because “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJ). Winter needs to be embraced for what it is. An invitation home. An invitation to rest in the simplicity of who God is, who you are, and who He has put within the reach of your throw blanket that’s made for sharing. Why winter? Because we need time to build up our inner man who requires rest and quiet and times of shelter. It’s the season in which roots grow deep, deep, under the soil, even when there’s no evidence of growth on top. And when we spend the winter seasons wishing for spring, we are devaluing an essential part of the process that is our life.
When I fear the dark, cold months, it’s because there’s no escaping the reality of what’s inside. Any truly satisfying warmth I can find comes from within, and unless I’ve been stoking that fire and caring for my heart, home is dark and cold. Taking ownership of my heart and allowing my “home” to be loved and tended to is to set myself up for the coming season of promise-fulfilled. To embrace home is to stoke a fire, to find The Comforter in the long, quiet nights…
And to light a pumpkin pie candle.
Photography by Lucas Sankey Photography