Today as I drove home from town, I watched fog roll down the mountain behind our house.  The trees were barren and lifeless, the fields empty and brown.  I shivered as I hurried my two little ones into the house and plunked the three of us in front of the fire to warm our chilled bodies.

Winter in Arkansas is often grey and cold.  The damp air makes the cold seemingly settle right into your bones, and many times into your soul as well.  For the girl who spent most of her life in sunny Arizona, it can be incredibly depressing.  I was used to cold winters, but not to the wet cold or the endless days of grey.  Each winter here, I find myself struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Extra Vitamin D helps, but never completely.

Today, though, I actually saw beauty in those barren trees and in that cold fog.  Today, as I warmed myself by the fire, I was reminded of another fire that once warmed my bones, but this one an ocean away.  It’s been almost seven years since my friend Caris and I went on our grand adventure to England in the dead of winter.  Seven years since we sloshed through sheep fields in the rain and climbed up hills to abandoned castles together.

It was grey there, too.  It was cold, dark, and oh-so-wet.  Yet, I don’t remember anything but joy from it.  Looking back, I see a girl on the cusp of adulthood, full of fear and hope, still trying to find myself.  I realize now how crucial those two weeks were to my journey and my path.

I remember fondly the time spent by warm fires.  I remember wearing cozy sweaters and drinking gobs of tea and hot chocolate.  No thought was given to walking through soggy fields or traipsing down wet streets in the rain.  We adventured anyway.  I remember laughing and singing and dancing, and snuggling in under cozy blankets, reading books quietly.  I remember making new friends and eating pasties and flapjacks; watching movies and letting the rain soak my hair; taking a hot bath and sleeping in late; reveling in the smell of old books in a bookshop; feeling God speaking to me so very strongly, altering my course from there on out…and all in the middle of grey, dreary winter.

That shy little not-quite-woman could never have imagined where she’d be seven years later.  It’s ironic, really, that the grey winter days that changed my life and brought so much joy now eat at my happiness.  Yet, I know that they don’t have to.

Winter, whether actual or a season of our life, can be hard and isolating.  Like the leafless trees behind my house, it can leave us barren, raw, and exposed.  Some days you may feel like you just can’t get warm.  Yet, it shouldn’t stop us from pressing on.  It shouldn’t stop us from doing God’s will, adventuring, and finding joy.  Sometimes it is those quiet, dark winter moments that are exactly what we need to hear Him speaking.  The question is, will we stop to listen?      

This winter I’ve determined to choose joy and embrace each cold, grey day.  I’ve even started a Pinterest board dedicated to it.  Will you commit with me to not let Satan steal the beauty of this season from us?

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