Overcoming the Winter Blues

I dread winter – even living in southern California. Oh, I know my situation has changed dramatically since moving from the harshness of the season in the upper Midwest, yet I still hate being cold.

How I wish I could return to the love of winter I felt as a youngster. I’d eagerly anticipate its arrival mostly because I loved ice skating on the outdoor rink created on a nearby park’s frozen football field. I’d love when fresh snow fell and the world seemed subdued, quieter, more unhurried somehow. As a child, when we drove a long distance in the car, my father always gave my sister, brother and I a blanket to snuggle under. Those things were heaven on earth when I was in grammar school.

Now when the skies turn gray and the temperatures dip, I feel everything becomes too slow and too burdensome. I don’t want rise in the morning, to free myself from the cozy cocoon under my electric blanket to launch myself into my cold bedroom. On some days, it takes all the strength I can muster to get dressed. Even here in California, I suffer with the winter blues – a general lack of motivation and direction. And I start to envy those bears that hibernate all winter.

You feel it, also, don’t you? So many of you have shared similar feelings how the dreary, chilly weather gets you down.  Trying some new things – and some older things – have helped me become more proactive when the winter blues attempt to pull me down.

Here’s a few fun ideas to put a smile back on your face despite the bone-chilling cold:

  • Select your favorite song, turn the stereo up and dance!
  • Go to youtube, download a new workout app and get your blood pumping a little faster.
  • Read an inspirational book.
  • Dust off your journal and spend some time each day writing about pleasant memories that bring you joy.
  • Take a hot shower and loudly sing your favorite worship song. Who cares if the neighbors can hear you?
  • Snuggle up to a fireplace. If you don’t have one in your home, you can find them in some restaurants, libraries and hotels.
  • Do something kind to someone else – especially if you know someone whose heart is still broken over a recent loss.
  • Visit your favorite museum or art gallery.
  • Plan your next vacation. Research the destination online or through travel books from your local library.
  • Try a new recipe. If you like it, share it with your friends.
  • Visit an indoor conservatory and marvel at the landscape under glass.
  • Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate – don’t spare the whipped cream. Then call a friend you haven’t connected with in a long time.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. If you go to God in prayer, He has ideas perfectly suited to you and your personality. If you spend some time with Him this week, I’m sure He’ll whisper several suggestions into your ear. Remember Psalm 34:17 tell us: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.”

 Did you hear that – all their troubles? Yes, that includes those nasty winter blues!

The Opera Singer

When I was growing up, my dream was to be an opera star. I had musical talent and could hit all the right notes, so my dream wasn’t that far-fetched.

These days, though, I use my creative abilities in writing. My goal is to increase the joy, peace and happiness in the world, which is probably a bigger dream than becoming an opera star!

All the lessons learned while developing my voice have helped me throughout my life. It isn’t easy putting your best out there and having your voice coach criticize it. While the goal was always excellence and becoming a little better each week, the criticism still hurt. I wish I could say the switch to writing has changed all that, but it hasn’t. It is defeating to polish a piece and then have my critique group or an editor cut it to shreds.

No matter what your dream, here are some of the things I’ve learned while pursuing mine.

Criticism is a given. To get better, you have to accept risking failure. Gather a tribe of people who support your dream and listen to them. As both a singer and a writer, I’ve had to manage my self-talk, otherwise I would have abandoned all my dreams along the way. When someone outside of my inner circle offers criticism, I have to ask, “Is it valid?” If it is, I fix it! If it isn’t, I forget it. Don’t let someone else’s opinion of yourself keep you from fulfilling your dream.

Dreaming means risking failure. There were times in my singing when the notes weren’t always on key, or I mispronounced a word while singing in a foreign language or when I just didn’t have the right breath control. But to succeed means you must look failure right in the eye and tell it, “You will not have my dream!” Don’t let the fear of failure stop you in your tracks. God gave you this dream and if you let the fear of it hold you back, you’ll miss the fabulous adventure God has created just for you.

Some dreams might not come true. The hardest part of working towards a dream is knowing it might not come true. Sometimes our lives change so radically our dream evaporates or our dreams vanish because God has a much better one in mind. I’m not saying the death of our dreams doesn’t hurt. It does! However, if you hold onto a dream when God is directing you elsewhere, you’ll miss the shining new opportunity God has in store for you.

Always remember, God has something better coming for you.

Any age is just right for a dream. It’s easy to say I’m too young or I’m too old to live my dream. But those are lies.

Esther was probably just a teenager when she became a queen. Yet, she saved her people from destruction. Joshua was approximately 70 years old when he became the leader of the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land.

No matter what your age, you are never too old or too young to pursue whatever dream God sets in your heart. Who knows – maybe this your such a time as this (Esther 4:14) moment?

If you have a God-given dream in your heart, keep going. Passionately pursue it. The journey will have times when the going isn’t easy and sometimes your dream may have to change before you reach the end of your trek.

But I promise, in the end, it is always worth it.

His Eye is On the Sparrow

I’m not much of a naturalist. I love the outdoors, though, and it is often there I hear from God – in the orange hues of a sunset, the greens of a lush forest, even in the chirping of the birds.

But a naturalist? No. This sad fact was recently drilled home while visiting friends in northern California. During a forest hike, one member of our small group, would stop and tell us, “That’s a ground iris.” Or a little further down the path, “That’s a yellow monkeyflower.” She even pointed out nice green moss. Seriously, that was its name: nice green moss. Why nice is in its name, I’ll never fathom.

When she heard a bird, she could distinguish its call from that of another variety. While my ears would never become that attuned, hearing the birds’ song comforted me. The Bible mentions birds many times, but the verses that bring joy to my heart are: Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:25-26

I kept my thoughts quiet while the gentle and imposing stature of the forest convicted me and humbled me, as I crunched atop its brush and beneath its canopy. God whispered to me while she named more calls from above, “How much more do I care for you if I care for the birds?” I felt God’s overwhelming attention to nature – the wide variety of species, the magnificent colors, the whimsical calls from the winged creatures on top of the forest floor. If he cares for the tiniest of creatures, I don’t need to worry. He knows my needs.

I don’t rely on this truth enough, since food, garments and shelter are readily available where I live. Yet, we give up so much in our rush to have them, that sometimes we forget the Provider of all our needs.

Something holy happened for me during that walk. The psalmist speaks of the heavens declaring God’s glory, and I wanted to shout out my thanks to God. I dared not to prevent my hiking group from wondering if I had temporarily lost grip on reality. The walk and the friend who pointed out nature’s diversity taught me something about dependence and prayer. By seeing the variety of God’s handiwork, it was as if the forest itself had sung its praises to God. Walking through that wilderness was, for me, like walking into the hushed reverence of a cathedral.

God was there in that forest. And his eye was on the sparrow…a little sparrow named Myra.

Dear Heavenly Father, we proclaim you as our Provider. Worry, striving and fretting are not from you, but because you care for us. Please give us the strength to trust you with all that concerns us and weighs heavily on our hearts. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, give us the peace of Christ that transcends our human understanding. Thank you for keeping your eye on us. In Jesus Name, Amen!