What Is Saving Your Life This Winter?

At the end of each podcast episode, Jen Hatmaker asks her guests the same question: “What is saving your life right now?” And even though I know that coffee or good books are not literally saving anybody’s life, and I want to accuse her of being too dramatic with the way that question is worded, I have to acknowledge that something inside us can be saved, a little at a time, with small comforts and pleasures. That is nothing to be taken lightly.

I was thinking about this as I went for a walk the other day. It was late afternoon, the air was crisp and cold, and the sky was pink. As I walked along in that winter sunset, I saw a row of trees, their leafless branches silhouetted against the sky. And I thought to myself, “Winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.”

I felt overly dramatic myself, for a moment, and then I remembered all those winters I struggled with Seasonal Affected Disorder, and how horrible, dark, and heavy those winters felt. I looked at those trees against the pink sky, and felt the thrill of beauty and joy shoot right through me, and I decided to stick with my original thought – it is not too dramatic to say winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.

There are many ways to feel fully alive, and many ways to be saved from darkness, and I learned a long time ago that the secret often lies in learning to pay attention to the little things.

So I started to make a list of all the little things brightening up my winter – saving my life right now, if we want to lean into the drama. Here’s what I came up with:

Getting outside every day that I can. This can feel very hard on the extra cold days, but it is always, always worth it.

Good, warm, comfy boots. I used my birthday money to splurge on these boots, and we are living happily ever after. They are wonderful. I have foot issues, and these boots are incredibly comfortable. They keep my feet so toasty warm, my daily walks are so much more pleasurable with these boots in my life. I wish I had learned years ago that warm feet in winter make everything better.

Tea, in cute mugs. Both are important. I bought myself a mug I love, and it makes hot drinks even better. So we bought our kids their own special mugs too, and now they beg for tea every time they’ve been playing outside. Chocolate chai is their favourite.

Fiction. It’s been years since I’ve let myself read fiction, because I don’t have much self-control in that area. Reading fiction makes me want to avoid housework, cooking, parenting, sleeping at night – all the things I’m supposed to be doing, and it makes me grumpy when people disturb me. But I’ve found this winter that if I choose very carefully when to start a new book, and don’t read fiction very often, I can get away with enjoying one here and there. And it is so enjoyable.

Plants. I used to have a whole houseful of plants, but when we moved to camp, our house was so dark, they all died. It’s always felt like a frivolous expense to buy new plants, but when I thought about how much joy green, living things give me, I decided I needed to get some plants. We visited a greenhouse on Boxing Day, and all the plants were 50% off, so I got two – a China Doll and a Shady Lady, the choice based 90% on their names, and 10% on them being the prettiest plants I could find in my price range. They make me smile.

Twinkle lights around my kitchen window. I wanted lights that stayed up after Christmas, because it’s so empty and dark when all the decorations are put away. Turning these lights on every dark winter morning makes me feel warm inside.

Our new bird feeder. Kaylia is studying birds for science this year, and her science book recommended getting a bird feeder. I have never understood the thrill of birdwatching before, but I’m changing my mind this winter. It’s extremely interesting to see who shows up at our feeder, and how many birds stick around during the winter. I’ve never paid attention before! Now I’m seeing and hearing birds all over the place, and it is lovely.

These are little things, but each little thing makes this winter feel a little bit nicer, and a little bit brighter.

What is saving your life this winter?

Weekend Favorites

Oh, my word, I think winter is coming.

The geese have stopped flying back and forth above our house, and are now heading south. And yesterday was COLD!

geeseI hadn’t been outside to take pictures in such a long time, I persuaded my family to go on a photo adventure. We thought we dressed warmly, but when we got to the park, the wind almost blew us away. We were able to have a bit of fun before we ran for the car…

KayliaAnikaI wish this one wasn’t blurry! I wasn’t ready for her when she zoomed by, but her smile made me happy…


sunsetI’m officially ready for snow! There was great excitement at our house with each snowflake spotting over the weekend, but it never amounted to anything. We will keep eagerly anticipating it…

What did you do this weekend?

Weekend Favorites

I’m sitting down to write this post on a quiet Sunday evening. Kaylia has finally stopped having a tantrum about her nightlight being plugged into the wrong outlet, and our house is peaceful and still.

We had a beautiful weekend – weather-wise, and people-wise, too!

HeartlandOn Saturday, a fellow homeschooling family invited a large group of us to their cabin in St. Malo, and it was a great evening of sitting by the fire, playing games, and crunching through the leaves.


My other favorite weekend adventure was going for a sunset walk/scoot/trike as a family.

family walk

I can always count on Kaylia to give me the most forced, awkward expressions possible.


Anika, on the other hand, is forever ready with her reliable smile.


Kaylia got tired and ditched the trike, so we headed for home…

going homegoing homeBasically, I’ve learned many times over that if we mix up a little bit of socializing with some awesome people, and some fun adventures outside, together with lots of relaxing and family time, I feel refreshed and ready to face Monday morning. My favorite kind of weekend…

What did you do this weekend?

One Last Evening in Pictures

We are home from our beautiful Florida vacation. I will not write anything about the weather here at home, because I think that topic has been covered quite thoroughly.

However. I do have two things to say:

1) To everyone on Facebook: Post about the muffins you’re baking, or about your favorite shoes, or anything other than the weather. Facebook needs you to be strong. Resist the urge to write about the weather.

2) To the lady at the mall who said the snow today is her worst nightmare: It’s time to get out more, and experience new things. I could think of some pain and suffering in the world that might be more difficult to bear than a snowstorm.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten those two important thoughts off my chest, I will share some pictures from our last evening in Florida. Maybe they will comfort you in your suffering.

If not, then maybe you should not look at them. I promise this will be my last Florida post. After this, my pictures will all look white and wintery again, if that makes you feel any better.

But not for long. Because it’s almost spring.

golf cart ride

On our last evening in Florida, we went for a “family golf cart ride”. Kaylia still fits in the basket in the back, so there’s still room for the four of us!

We headed off for the `jungle`, which really isn`t technically a jungle, but rather a strip of uncleared land beside the retirement village.




It was a beautiful evening, but I’m so happy to be home. Vacations are nice, but ordinary life is quite wonderful, too.


Been Missing Sunsets

Oh my goodness – have all these sunsets seriously been happening here for five years, and I’ve missed them all?? It was lovely being in the middle of the forest, but it was so hard to see the setting sun.

And it turns out I’m still a prairie girl at heart. Something happens inside of me when I’m surrounded by big, open spaces. Add a sunset to that wide open space, and I’m set.

I could not count how many thousands of sunsets I’ve walked into with my mom, or biked into with my dad. I grew up in the country, and on those warm summer evenings, we would always head west. We’d walk or bike until the colors had all faded, and then we’d reluctantly turn around and head home.

I miss the lake, but seeing the sunset from our living room window is definitely helping to ease the pain.

I’m sure there’s a limit as to how many sunset pictures I can take, but I find it fascinating how they’re always changing, always unique.

Also? Clouds make a sunset more beautiful. Life is perhaps the same way?

Making a Scene

I read something yesterday that I really liked:

When we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out. (p. 208-209, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life. (p. 212, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Have you ever had moments that were so good and beautiful and perfect, it felt like all you needed was music swelling in the background, and it would feel like a movie-moment? Just one of those magical moments you want to hang on to forever.

Most of the time, I fall into thinking those moments just happen – that it’s my awareness of the joy of life that will bring those moments into being.

I don’t really think about the value of making them happen on purpose.

When Ben and I were dating, we made them happen on purpose all the time. Dating is one big wonderful time of being creative and romantic and making life feel like a movie. We put so much effort into making our relationship full of “memorable scenes”.

Sometimes I’ve done that for our girls, and with our family. But I’ve never thought about doing it on a regular basis, as a way of intentionally building the story of our family.

It does take effort, but the great thing is it doesn’t need to be anything all that big.

I have this really special memory from college. I had a friend who was super thoughtful and creative, and about as high-stress as I was. During exam week one year, she told me that anytime I needed a study break, she wanted me to run down to her room, and we would do something fun together.

I had no idea what she had in mind, but I took her up on her offer one evening. She excitedly welcomed me into her room, and went straight to a drawer in her desk, from which she pulled out two plastic spoons, and two containers of chocolate pudding.

Then, she led me outside, and kept walking, and walking, until we were in the middle of a soccer field.

We sat there in that empty field, eating chocolate pudding and watching the sunset.

And then we ran back inside, back to our books and studying, with renewed energy, and a memory that’s one of my favorites from those college years.

And what did it take? Some plastic spoons and some pudding cups.

It took some planning on her part – a little bit of effort, and some creativity, but it was a huge gift she gave me that night.

We have to force ourselves to create these scenes. We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river. We have to write the poem and deliver it in person. We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill… (p.213-214, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

This was the scene we enjoyed tonight:

Ben’s parents came over for the evening, with supper, and a special treat for dessert – gluten-free ice cream cones and coconut ice cream.

Ice cream is always a treat, but cones make it magical. 🙂

It wasn’t a huge, dramatic moment, but it was a special treat enjoyed with much happiness, and it was a moment that makes you want to press “pause”. My happy girls covered with ice cream, loving their grandparents, the sun streaming in, everybody smiling.

Making a scene.

I love those moments. And I love the idea of making them happen with intention.

It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be memorable.

I Want to Remember

A few nights ago, I went for a bike ride that ended by the lake. It was the most beautiful evening.

I could not begin to count the number of times I’ve run down to the lake to catch the sunset.

There have been so many different things I’ve wrestled through with God while sitting down there on the dock. I have cried and prayed and rejoiced and marveled at His creation, again and again.

This last time, I drank in that view one more time, and soaked in all that peace and quiet. The waves were lapping at the shore, and I tried to take it all in to the very depths of my being.

I want to take it all with me wherever I go.

What frightens me about moving is that our family might forget – forget what it’s like to live this weird, wonderful, peaceful (but hectic in the summer!) life out here in the woods.

I’m scared we’ll forget what it’s like to go at a slower pace, and what it’s like to breathe in the smell of pine trees, or to walk outside on a snowy day so peaceful and silent, you can almost hear the snowflakes falling.

I wonder how quickly we’ll slip back into “normal” life, and I wonder if we’ll forever be changed by all that has happened.

Right now it feels like I will always remember, but I wonder if it’s kind of like being on vacation – you have an amazing time, but when you come back, normal life sets in so quick, it almost seems like that vacation never happened.

I don’t want the last five years to feel that way. I want our family to adjust well, and I want to love living in Niverville again. But I also want to have changed so much that we can’t ever go back to living the way we did before we came here.

Not that life was so bad back then. It was just very busy, full, noisy, and crazy. Because Ben worked for a church, we were always rushing off to events and meetings and programs. Those were all very good things, but we had no time for some really important things.

Being at camp has taught me to breathe and go slow, to enjoy the view, and to have time for people.

I’ve learned that a quiet half hour down by the lake can do wonders for the soul, and leave me feeling like I’ve been feasting on heavenly things.

Fortunately, the sun still sets in Niverville, too. May the feasting continue!

Some Enchanted Evening

Two amazing things happened last night.

The first was that Anika asked me to stop beside the road on our way home from the city, so that we could watch the sun setting over the lake together.

The second amazing thing was that I did it.

Anyone who knows me should know that I am all for stopping to enjoy the sunset. But not usually after a loooong day in the city, and a looooong drive home, without Ben. It was past the girls’ bedtime, and Kaylia and I were eager to get home, but….Anika wanted to watch the sunset.

So we did, and I’m so glad that we did. Suddenly, instead of the evening seeming long and tiring, it seemed enchanting. Once we tore ourselves away from the incredible view, we slowly drove past a whole bunch of deer. Anika was beside herself with excitement, because she saw her “first real live man-deer!” And after that, Kaylia talked about a “man-deer” all the way home.

Moral of the Story: Stop to enjoy the sunset and the man-deer every chance you get!

Last Night’s Sunset

Have you ever noticed that the best sunsets happen when there are clouds in the sky? I think life is like that, too. We see God’s goodness shining through the most when things are hard.

We still see it when the skies are clear, but the colors and the light show more dramatically when there are some clouds in the way.

I like that.