I love snow. Honestly, love may not actually be a strong enough word for my feelings towards snow. As soon as the crisp air hits, I am ready for feet – yes feet – of snow. For me, November should be filled with snow storms and it really shouldn’t stop until February. Dan and I used to live in South Dakota, and I loved the winters where the snow drifts were several feet high for months.
Since moving to Missouri, winter has been different. The first winter we lived here, we had our windows open on Thanksgiving and grilled steaks on Christmas eve. Now, while this may sound lovely to some… it made me grumpy. To me, winter should be so cold and snowy that our only choice is fireplaces, cozy clothes, boots and warm drinks.
After living in Missouri for a few years, I am starting to become acclimated to the weather. While this winter has been colder, the lack of snow still annoys me. I keep hearing family members and friends who live north talk about snow. I see friends post pictures on social media of the several inches of snow they are getting, and I find myself getting more and more jealous.
Every time I go outside, I find myself thinking “This would be a lot better if it were colder” or “This would be more pretty if there were snow”. The one time it did snow this year, I found myself thinking it just wasn’t enough. I fully recognize that I am a rare breed. I understand many of you can’t relate to my deep desire for snow and many of you are probably rolling your eyes at this point. Honestly, I sat down to type about how ungrateful and ugly I have been and how God told me to “grow up”. I wanted to tell you that my heart was in a better place, and that I was embracing this season without much snow. However, the more I typed, the more I realized this isn’t the first time my perception of lack has made me ugly.
A few years ago, I was so angry that I didn’t have a baby I was completely joyless. There was one family thanksgiving, when the entire room was talking about how grateful they were and I had to leave the room because I couldn’t think of one thing I could be grateful for. I was angry at my family for being grateful. I felt like the walls were caving in on me and they didn’t even care. My desire to have a baby was so deep, it stole everything from me. Nothing was good enough. No joy was deep enough. I couldn’t be happy without a baby. I couldn’t possibly be grateful for anything when my biggest desire wasn’t fulfilled.
As I worked through these emotions, I went to Ecclesiastes (which I know sounds crazy, but stay with me)! Most of us know the scripture in Ecclesiastes 3 that talks about there being a season for everything. So, since it’s been a bit since I last read Ecclesiastes, I went to reread and see what the bible said about seasons. Friends, I was looking for a cute little bow to share with you. Something that would tie snow and my ugly feelings together. However, Ecclesiastes is such a tough book to understand. It’s considered one of the “wisdom” books of the bible, but I admit this week it felt to me like someone had combined geometry and science. I for sure didn’t feel very wise. The verses after the “season for everything” section, left my heart in turmoil. Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 says this in the message translation:
But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift. I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That’s how it always is with God.
I couldn’t wrap my head around what the author was trying to say. It felt critical and ugly. My heart wasn’t settling with the words I was reading. So I dug into the book more.
Before we take any steps forward. We need to pause, and talk about the book of Ecclesiastes. The very first verse in the book opens with “The words of the teacher…” While many believe the teacher and the author may be the same person, it’s important to understand there are two voices. It’s the author that introduces us to the teacher, and then the author summarizes everything the teacher just said. The author wants us to hear everything the teacher has to say and then he wants to help us understand what the teacher is saying.
So what is the teacher is saying? Everything is “hevel”. Hevel is a Hebrew word that means vapor or smoke. A lot of translations have translated this word to “meaningless” and while that is one meaning, I don’t think it fully captures what the teacher was trying to say. Hevel is used 38 times in the book as a metaphor to describe how life is temporary and fleeting. Think about smoke for a minute. A thick smoke can appear solid, however when you try to grab on it there is nothing there to hold on to. So the idea is one moment life is good and beautiful – seemingly solid – but then terrible things happen that seem to blow all our lives apart.
The entire book feels so critical, off putting and down right heavy. The teacher talks about how time marches on regardless of what we do. He literally says, that eventually people will forget we existed. He also describes death as the “great equalizer” because it doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor, good or bad – we are all going to die. The teacher goes on to talk about all of the things (wealth, career, status and pleasure) that we spend our lives on that ultimately just don’t matter.
At the end of the book, the author sums up the teachers thoughts and tells us that since we can’t control our lives, we really need to stop trying. The point of the book is to tell us that we need to learn how to hold things with an open hand, because ultimately the only thing we can control is our attitude. The author tells us to stop worrying about everything and to start rejoicing in the simple things. The simple things are rich gifts from God. The author doesn’t want us to lose hope, he doesn’t want us to get depressed by all “hevel” around us – He wants us to know that God is working all things together for our good. We simply need to trust Him.
So where does that leave us? How does this all fit together? I believe that Ecclesiastes 3 is very important. Just as nature has four seasons, our lives will continue to walk through seasons. Because we live in a sinful, fallen world it is inevitable that we will walk through hard seasons. However, the point to all of this, we have a choice.
Here’s the thing, Dan and I have walked through a lot of trauma since trying to start our family. We have experienced pain and loss that no one should have to walk through. Please hear me, it is okay not to be okay. (It’s ok NOT to be ok), but it’s not okay to let not being okay make us bitter. Think of it this way, if I saw a naked man walking by – noticing him isn’t a sin. It’s what I do now that I have seen him. If I begin dreaming of him and imagine being with him – I have crossed a line and have sinned. Sadness and anger are not sins, its what we do when we are sad and angry that can become sinful.
So how did I get to a place where I wasn’t so bitter? I started making a list of all I had to be grateful for. (Kid’s List). I started intentionally looking for small things. For example, I became grateful for fresh coffee in the morning, for a friend who sent a sweet text or for a few extra minutes with Dan. Those simple joys are exactly what the author of Ecclesiastics wanted us to see. He wanted us to understand that our lives are always going to take unexpected twists and turns, but God will never leave us. He will always continue to provide for us – in big and small ways.
I recognize this isn’t always easy. I remember what it was like the days following the loss of our first baby. My heart felt like it would never beat the same again. However, when I look back at those days, I see the hand of God all over those days. It breaks my heart how often I missed His goodness. Thankfully, our God isn’t spiteful. He doesn’t stop being good to us. I love what Psalm 16:8-9 says in the Passion Translation:
Because you are close to me and always available,
my confidence will never be shaken,
for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
My heart and soul explode with joy—full of glory!
Even my body will rest confident and secure.
We can walk through every season grateful, because of this promise. Our Father is always close and always available. In all things, good and bad, we have a choice. We can choose to be bitter or we can choose to be grateful and rest in confidence that God will show up! So today, no matter what your season looks like, I want to challenge you to be intentional about looking for your Father. I promise, once you start looking, you will see Him everywhere. If you are struggling to find Him, I challenge you to ask a close friend to help.
Today, I am joining you in this challenge. Instead of focusing on the lack of snow around me, I have started to make a list of all the things I can be thankful for. It’s not a list of the things I can do because there isn’t snow. This isn’t a challenge to make us grateful for what’s missing. I am simply working on my list of things to be grateful for. Taking my focus off what I lack, and focusing on what I do have (in abundance) has changed everything. Today my thankful list includes: happy mail from sweet friends and gift cards to Starbucks. What’s on yours?