Where I live, you know spring has arrived when the snow is almost melted off the picnic tables, the footbridges, the trails.
I don’t like being cold, but I love all the simple, blissful pleasures ushered in by wintertime.
I love snow falling and fireplaces crackling.
The smell of pumpkin scones coming out of the oven and homemade soups bubbling on the back burner.
Hand-knit vests and scarves and mittens and hats.
Getting outdoors and snowshoeing in the briskness.
But winter can represent those long, dark days of our distress and loss, of adversity hitting us painfully in the face like a sloppy snowball.
And spring can represent the days lighting up earlier, the color and new life forcing its way out of the ground, the hopefulness forcing its way out of our sorrow.
My husband, Gary, and I knew a long, dark Winter where frigid news piled up in high drifts.
Yet, in the middle of the dark, Spring showed up.
I don’t think she showed up on her own, though. I think we ushered her in by choosing how we wanted to view the hard and holy things.
And how we wanted to view them was in this way: as life-changing, as a strengthening of our faith, a deepening of our love and appreciation for each other and for life, while we still had each other, while we still had breath.
We wanted to make sure that Spring knew she was invited into the middle of our cold, hard place. And she came.
But Old Man Winter, in anger and frustration at the hopefulness of Spring, blew long and hard, and he rained and hailed and thundered all around us.
But Spring won out.
If Spring is gratitude in the middle of the dark and cold, if Spring is recognizing the good that still showers down all around us while the most precious things are being taken from us, then Spring always wins.
Spring always follows Winter, always chases Winter away.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor said this:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Even though there are places in town where snow is still piled up, sunshine has warmed several of the afternoons this past week-and-a-half since the calendar indicated it is, indeed, spring.
And then four days ago, this.
(And of course I was delighted, but I think most central Oregonians are done).
It’s how life is, isn’t it? Spring arrives, and then Winter sometimes collides back into the sunshine and the blooms and the hope.
But if we’ve learned that we have the freedom to choose how we respond in any situation—that our captors cannot take that from us—then Old Man Winter loses some of his ability to discourage and dishearten and dismay and disappoint, doesn’t he?
I’ve found that the best way to change my attitude, to govern my response to the hard things that drop in from time to time is to speak gratitude, to write gratitude.
I keep a journal and, inspired by Ann Voskamp, have numbered my way to one thousand things I’m grateful for.
And not I’m working on the second thousand.
#296. Snow-shoeing against backdrop of blue skies with cotton-ball clouds
#325. The completion of a major re-write
#387. Safe flight to the land of kids and grandkids
#402. Lavender tulips from a friend as a gift to me on her birthday
#434. Friends in town—in the absence of family—who have done so much for me, who I can call for anything, anytime
So, what to do when Old Man Winter collides into our Spring?
Add to our gratitude lists and see if that doesn’t adjust our attitudes.
And then repeat after me: Bring it.