The Long Winter

The long winter.

Besides being a beloved, dog-eared title from my childhood (yay for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romanticized accounts of prairie life!), this is what many of us in the U.S. are experiencing this year.

The cold and snow and drifting snow and wind chills and ice and all that fun stuff we associate with winter have been relentless.  Groundhog Day, I’m pretty sure Punxsutawney Phil just laughed when citizens hopefully awaited his prediction for the end of winter.  “Are you kidding? You think this mess is actually going to be over soon?”  No way.

More than any other year, I’ve been so thankful that my husband doesn’t really trust me to use the snowblower, so he gets to clear our driveway and the neighbor’s every time we get blasted by yet more of the stuff.

No matter where you live, it seems like all of us have toughened up this winter.  Whatever we were used to before, this has been so much worse.  It’s all relative, of course.  I remember chuckling in college when my roommate thought we would get out of school due to an inch of snow.  After all, that’s how it was for her in Chattanooga.  She said they even used to share one snowplow with a neighboring town, so roads were never cleared very promptly.  What a disappointment Wheaton must have been weather-wise for her…

Where I live in northern Illinois, we experienced wind chills as low as -40 to -50 several times this year.  After those days, a temp of ten degrees Fahrenheit seemed like a heat wave.  You find yourself adjusting what you consider to be “normal”.  Even -10 didn’t feel so terrible compared to those frigid and lonely days.

Many of us have been saying for weeks now, enough is enough!  Give it a rest, winter!  We can hardly wait for spring’s arrival, with its warm sunshine and the ability to go outdoors without a hat and gloves again.  Parents of young children are dying to just send the kids out to play in the yard to burn off some of their endless supply of energy.

It isn’t the only time in our lives we’ve anxiously awaited a season’s end.  We’ve all been through seasons that seem interminable. It’s not the good times that ever feel like they last forever, though.  No, it’s the trials, the illnesses, the times of unemployment and fear and grief and loneliness that always hang on so much longer than we ever imagined they could.

We think, it isn’t fair.  I’ve been through enough heartache already, so I deserve a break by now.

Maybe you’ve been single for so many years despite fervent prayers and efforts to “find the right person” and to “be the right person”.

Maybe the cancer treatments just aren’t working.  The pain, exhaustion, fear, and financial strain are pushing you far beyond your limits.

Maybe you’ve been out of a job for months and still can’t find anything.  Regardless of your valuable skills, the job hunt is leading you nowhere.

Every one of us could name dozens of times in our lives when the difficulties felt as though they might never end.  I think of friends with multi-year engagements.  Friends wading through years of bureaucratic red tape before the adoption can be finalized.  Friends having no luck in the job market.  Friends waiting to meet the person they’ll marry.  Friends beaten down by discouragement, frustration, and heartache.

I think the hardest part of any waiting season is not knowing exactly when it’ll be over.  I remember being single all through college and most of my twenties and thinking it would be so much easier to enjoy singlehood if I knew how long it would last.  Sure, there were tons of benefits to being single, but at the time, it was hard to appreciate them because I was too worried about if and when I would ever get married.

In terms of our literal winter, obviously we know that spring is eventually coming.  It just might seem a bit later than usual because of the unusually ferocious nature of this winter.

Perhaps not all of our trials and waiting periods are destined to have a wonderful ending.  Some of us will never see our hoped-for outcome.  Perhaps that’s okay.

The writer of Hebrews put it so eloquently:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.  We have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that he loves us through it all.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3. Winter has wearied us, that’s for sure.

Don’t give up.  Persevere through whatever difficult season you’re facing today.  Know that there is hope.  Spring will come again.

Zombies and Waiting

I’m so excited about the upcoming return to The Walking Dead!  Less than one more week to wait!  Four long months after the mid-season finale (wait, I mean two months, but it feels like longer), I am beyond ready to find out what’s going to happen next with this little band of survivors that have become like family to me.

Oh, so many questions beg to be answered:

How long will the smaller subgroups of the prison exiles remain splintered apart? Which groups will find each other?  When and how will Carol show up again? What sort of shelter will they be able to find, in a land where supplies and security grow sparser by the day?   How will those remaining mourn their recently departed loved ones? Who amongst them will be plagued by memories, particularly the final standoff between the governor at the prison?  Which relationships will endure?  Whose integrity will be further eroded by life and circumstance?

With the show’s return, my fellow fans and I will experience the high of getting back into the plot, but we may also suffer from disappointment.  Every episode may not meet our expectations, and even if they do, we are still left wanting more.  Whether an episode is low-key (always a sign the next one will likely be a humdinger) or the most terrifying and gripping thus far, we always want more!

Dissatisfaction can be found everywhere else in my life.  It’s probably true for you, too.  You anticipate something great, maybe you plan and work for it, and eventually, you get it.  You achieve the promotion you’ve wanted for years.  You move to the mountains where you’ve always dreamed of living.  You get married, have a child, buy a house, go on an incredible vacation…whatever the “big future idea” is in your mind.

Even with little things, we have this buildup followed by the pinnacle, then the letdown.  Remember Christmas as a little kid?  Waiting and waiting and making your lists and trying to be good and watching for Santa…then twenty minutes of frantic gift-opening and you were back to plain old boring everyday life.

What fills you with excited anticipation?  (I hope it wasn’t this year’s Super Bowl, unless you’re a Seahawks fan!)

For every event you eagerly anticipated, when you reached the end of the waiting game, how did you feel?  Satisfied?  Complete?

My guess is no.  Maybe we find temporary joy and satisfaction in these things, but of course it never lasts.  We move on to the “next big thing”.  There is always something else on the horizon.

Disappointments are inevitable.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the high points, and the anticipation leading up to them.  The Walking Dead is still my favorite show.  The waiting makes each scene and episode that much better.

May your waiting, whatever the end point may be, make your sweetest moments that much sweeter.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  -Micah 7:7