We are in the dead of winter here in the Northeast. It’s cold, and the skies are gray most days, and there is not much joy in being outside UNLESS you look closely. When you search for beauty in the barren landscape, you can usually find it, but it doesn’t necessarily catch your attention as it does in the spring or summer when the colors are eye-catching.In spring and summer, beauty is natural to find with the vibrant colors tied to those seasons. On a recent winter walk on a wetlands trail, I saw myself prompted by God to look for beauty instead of looking at everything that was dead. When I forced myself to look for beauty in the winter landscape, I found it in the shapes of intricate weeds, winter berries, rocks, streams and a myriad of tree shapes. This is a perfect analogy of what is happening during dark seasons of your life. You can choose to look at the death of the season and/or you can also choose to look for beauty. I am not suggesting that we operate in fantasy regarding our reality ( which is another blog); however, I am suggesting that when you look for beauty, you tend to have a greater awareness of the creator. All of us have the need to have a greater knowledge of the creator’s presence when we go through dark phases of life otherwise we will feel more hopeless and powerless. Our challenge as we move through the dark season is to look for beauty. We need to look for points of light because even when a room is entirely dark a single flame of a candle can change your perspective of the darkness and give you the vision to move through the night. It’s cold and dark out there. Choose to look for beauty and light.
The holiday blues are authentic for many people. When people sing the phrase, “ it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people the words could be changed to “it’s the most triggering time of year,” or “it’s the most depressing time of the year.” In climates where the weather becomes cold, and the sky is more overcast, depression symptoms increase because of the lack of sunlight and less time outdoors. November is typically the month I begin to see more cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.); which is depression symptoms tied to less sunlight exposure in our part of the United States. In some parts of the world, overexposure to sunlight can also result in the same symptomology. In addition to an increase in seasonal depression, many people are triggered by losses that surface during the holidays. When we do not have loving family members with which to spend the holidays or have abusive family members, family conflicts, the death of a loved one, divorce, separation, addiction, infertility, or unhappy feelings about any of our current life situations, depression can arise. The holidays stir things up because of the expectations and images we have been told represent what an ideal holiday looks like. Thank you Hallmark Channel! So how does one deal with all the losses and depression stirred to the surface at once? Many people push it all down during the holidays because they feel too busy to process their emotions, but this creates issues for the physical body which experiences sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, lowered immunity, and a plethora of other physical issues. In this podcast, counselors Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler begin to discuss “Coping with the Holiday Blues” with strategies for dealing with the stress the holiday blues create for your body. This podcast is part one in the “Coping with the Holiday Blues” series.
January happened and is still happening. It’s been a month of snow and ice and sickness in my house, which always makes things a little more unpredictable. However, I find that I clean out more drawers and closets in January than any other month of the year because I tend to be inside and have more available downtime. And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to do during this winter season. It’s time to do what winter in the natural was designed to do: allow the season to expose the things that are choking out life. Here in the Northeast, we have had an excessively cold winter and we need to celebrate what that will do for the forthcoming growing seasons on farms. The cold kills the hibernating insects and bacteria that will affect the summer harvests if not killed off. And for many fruit growers, they know that the excessive cold will benefit fruit production because it will cause the trees to rest and reserve their energy for spring and a more bountiful production. We come to see that what happens in the physical world is representative of what happens in the emotional and spiritual world in the winter if we allow it to happen. Just because you are more aware of negative thoughts, weak spots or just feeling like you are going backward does not mean that you are what you are currently experiencing. It may be that these things are exposed so that you can purposefully move toward the removal of them to increase your productivity in the future. It’s been a rough month for many, but it is necessary for one to recognize the issues of the heart that are being exposed to the “cold”. The issues of the heart are always exposed to a cold harsh reality for the intention of removal, not for harm. God desires you to prosper and abound in much good fruit, but that often means that the issues of the heart will be exposed so that you can understand the faulty beliefs that keep you unproductive.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (ISV)
3 There is a season for everything,
and a time for every event under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
Here in the Northeast, we start dreaming about tropical climates and Island getaways by the beginning of January. By the end of February, we are pretty sure we will buy a beach home, and by the end of March, well, we won’t go there.
For most of us, it is hard for us to embrace winter, both in the natural and in the emotional and spiritual. Spring and summer are easy to embrace because everything is new. New growth, fresh fruit, and new beauty. We need winter in the physical and in the emotional and spiritual because in winter the pests die. It is in the winter that we are forced to deal with the conditions on the inside. So, for all those who are in a “winter” season in their lives, be reminded that winter is only a season. Thank God it doesn’t last forever!
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (NIV) There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.
This morning, I got up early and walked the dog as I always do before I came to work. I savored my alone time on the walk, and then on my drive into work as it was the first quiet, non-stimulating alone time in five days. The holidays are exciting because we spend time with people, and have special foods, specials concerts, and stimulation of all shapes, sizes, and textures. However, my walk this morning told me I desired the structure of my alone time more than I realized. This year I have valued my solo pre-dawn walks of the dog so much that I went out of my way to ask for a Christmas gift of a unique, heavy-duty coat for walking in the extreme cold. It’s long, heavy, and it has this fantastic, all-encompassing hood that kind of makes me look like the grim reaper; however, it gives me the coverage to continue below zero walks of the dog. When I take the time to be in the quiet, I organize my thoughts, perceptions, needs, and desires in a manner that makes me feel empowered in my life. When I fail to take the time to be in the quiet, I am more disorganized, forgetful, less spiritually focused and I put aside the things that I need without taking the time to recognize what I need to pursue. I am a more focused and happier version of myself when I include daily periods of silence.
In my line of work, I hear all the reasons why people cannot have the alone time they need, but not all the ways they are working to make it happen. Many people desire the quiet at the same time they fear it. We need calm. We were designed to value quiet so that we would pursue that which impacts our body, soul, and spirit. However, many people fear the quiet and the alone because their tormenting thoughts invade the space of the quiet. Tormenting thoughts are the signal you need to process your thoughts on paper with God or with someone like a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. If you ignore the feelings that come in the silence, they will grow louder and will begin to be heard by you in your interactions with people, your work, and your family relationships. The holidays are winding down; I look joyfully to the reboot of peace and structure of the new year. How about you? Are you dreading the silence of January? Do you have tormenting thoughts to be processed so that you can embrace peace? Isaiah 30:15 b says this about quiet, “In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength, but you refused.” It’s important to understand that many of the individuals that achieved much take the time to retreat into the quiet to build their strength instead of running harder to get to their goals. If you are training to be stronger spiritually and emotionally, it’s essential that you begin to incorporate quiet into your day. Make the decision to face down the elements that prevent you from entering the quiet and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and boundaries that make quiet possible.
Start asking yourself and God why you prevent yourself from being in the quiet and make a plan to move toward it.