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?

5 Ways to Survive Until Spring

This one’s for all my poor, cold readers here in southern Manitoba. I have something to say in response to all of the complaints I’ve heard about snow and winter and ice and cold:

It is almost spring!!!

For real. Go look at your calendar if you don’t believe me. I know it feels as though this will never end, but we have never, EVER had snow last all through summer. It’s true.

So although I can’t say when spring is coming, I can say with utmost certainty that it IS coming, and you ARE going to make it.

And here are a few things to encourage you in the meantime:

1) You live here for a reason. 

As much as you might ask yourself, “WHY would anyone choose to live here in this horrible land of almost perpetual winter???!”, the fact of the matter is that you DO live here. You HAVEN’T moved.

Why not?

Family? Friends? This is just home for you? You like your job? Moving is hard and huge and not actually something you want to do?

Ben and I seriously considered moving away a few years ago, and thank God, He prevented us from doing it. I’ve never complained about Manitoba since, because as we actually began to look at what life might be like somewhere else, I realized that I don’t actually want to be far away from the people I love.

When winter drags on, and balmy temperatures start to look pretty good, I make myself remember why we CHOOSE to live here. Nobody’s forcing us to. So I have no reason to complain.

2) Summer is going to feel sooooo good.

I truly believe we appreciate summer more than people who have warm temperatures all year round. That is just how hardship works. It makes you appreciate things more. When summer finally arrives, we will most definitely know how good we’ve got it, because we’re reminded every single year.

3) Snow is prettier when you’re smiling.:)

There is a ton of snow outside whether we are happy about it or not! I see two choices here: I can complain about the cold to every person I meet, which will make me and them feel negative about it, OR I can choose to be positive. And if there’s nothing positive to say about the weather, then maybe I just won’t talk about the weather!

4) Let’s be realistic.

Everyone living in Manitoba KNOWS there will be snow for all of February. Most likely, for all of March as well. Yet everyone seemed to be super surprised about how much snow we’ve gotten recently. Expect snow for now, keep smiling, and look at your calendar regularly. Better things are just around the corner!! But don’t be surprised if there’s a snowstorm in March. It’s Manitoba. And you’re here for a reason! See #1.

5) Things can only get better.

This is apparently the coldest winter we’ve had in 50 years, or something like that. Chances are pretty good that next winter will be better. And maybe… we’ll have the BEST summer we’ve had in 50 years! Who knows! Let’s hope for the best. As the saying goes, “When you’re lying flat on your back, the only direction to look is up.” We are moving on to bigger and better things, everybody.

See this?

boots

That was me last April. That will be me again this April. I will frolic in the mud and puddles, and there will be much joy and gladness in my heart.

It’s coming, people. Just hang in there a little bit longer…

Weekend Favorites

I knew it was time to get outside and take some pictures this weekend, because I was starting to forget that winter is pretty.

My original plan was to go for a drive, because I was doubtful that I could find anything interesting in the backyard, but then when I saw how much fun my family was having, playing in the snow, I didn’t feel like going anywhere on my own, and missing out on the fun.

Turns out, I didn’t need to go far to find something pretty.

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Kay(Once again, Kaylia posed for me, but Anika was off doing her own thing. Sometimes I wonder if it looks like I have a favorite child!! In reality, I have a daughter who is growing in her independence, and a daughter who sticks close! Funny how this is reflected in my photography…)

winterWhat a wonderful reminder that beauty can be found anywhere!

Love Covers Over

This morning, I was sitting on my couch and looking out the window at the trees. Everything was sparkling, white, and beautiful. Everything was covered with crystals.

trees

Suddenly, the verse popped into my mind: Love covers over a multitude of wrongs.

These last few days, I feel like I’ve been needing some extra covering. When patience runs short, and things get a bit bumpy at our house, I love the idea of my wrongs being covered.

frosty branch

But as I sat there looking out the window at the world transformed in white, it suddenly hit me:

God’s love doesn’t just cover me – it transforms me.

branches

He doesn’t just cover over my mistakes so that I look like Kendra-who-doesn’t-do-anything-wrong.

He transforms me into something completely new and different.

On a morning like this, everything looks different.

frosty grass

Let His love make me different, too.

Winter Favorites

I’ve decided this is my last week of winter.

We leave for Florida on Friday, and by the time we get back, it will be the middle of March, which means things will be getting all drippy and melty, and the sun will be getting warmer, and the air will smell like spring is coming. It is soooo easy to be happy at the end of March.

So, because this is my last week of winter, I wanted to share my winter favorites – all the stuff I’ve been enjoying which have helped pass the cold, dark months of the year. Maybe you can quickly try them, and get a little enjoyment out of them, too, because you probably have about two weeks left of winter.

Plenty of time to discover some new favorites.

Here we go:

1) Healthy Hot Chocolate.

Yes, it is possible. Who knew. No longer must I feel guilty about bribing the girls to stay outside for half an hour longer with the promise of hot chocolate. You can find that recipe here. It tastes just as good as the regular stuff, I promise. (The only sweetener we use is honey, and it’s plenty sweet enough.)

hot chocolate

2) Humongous Scarves.

The girls bought me this pink scarf for Christmas, and the first time I put it on, it almost swallowed my head, so I had serious doubts about how often I’d wear it.

scarf

photo credit: Morgan Braun

But oh, my word. It is the warmest thing ever. I love it so much, it almost makes me like the freezing cold, because I get to wear my scarf. I have used it all the time.

3) Soup.

Oh, how I love soup. I eat massive amounts of soup in winter. I’ve written before about my great love for green smoothies in the morning, but this winter, all I want is soup. So, I’ve decided to give the smoothies a break until warmer weather comes, and just keep going strong with good, hot soup.

I made this recipe for Potato Pea Soup yesterday, and it was quite fantastic. Oh, just writing about it makes me hungry for it right now…

It’s not much to look at, but trust me, the taste makes up for it’s lack of beauty!

soup

4) My Bible Study Group.

A group of ladies from my church have been doing the Beth Moore Bible study on the book of James, and it has been amazing. I never feel like going out on a cold winter night, but once I get there, the warmth of those ladies is more than enough to make up for the effort of going out in the cold.

If you ever get a chance to do this study, you should jump at it. Beth Moore is always a good idea.

James

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And that has been my winter. It’s been quite enjoyable. I would even say it’s gone by fairly quickly. It helps to keep going away on vacation. Good grief. One of these days we’ll need to stay home. But we decided not to turn down any free vacations, so we’re off again!

What are your winter survival secrets? Help us get through the last few weeks of cold weather!

Different Kinds of Good Weather

There are cold days in winter when getting outside is about the very last thing on my list of stuff I want to do.

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And yet, on those frosty days when we force ourselves outside, and come back in with rosy cheeks and cold, stiff toes, I never, ever say to myself, “I wish we had NOT gone outside!”

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It always feels better to get fresh, cold air in the lungs.

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It feels better to remember that winter can be beautiful.

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It feels better to play a little bit, and to be brave about the cold.

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“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” (John Ruskin)

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I hope your week includes some exhilarating moments of “good” weather!

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And I have a book winner to announce on this lovely Monday morning. The Resolution For Women goes to my dear friend Sarah, who lives just a few doors down from me, so delivering it should be very easy!:)

Thanks to everyone who contributed a comment. I loved reading about all the amazing women of faith out there!