Winter Lessons

It’s been a mild winter, but I’m still longing for the sun. In these last few days of winter, I’m thinking back on what I’ve learned these cold months and I’m merrily looking forward to spring.

The year’s at the spring,

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hillside’s dew pearled;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His Heaven -

All’s right with the world!
— Robert Browning

Here’s a list of what I learned this winter:

1. I dove deep into figuring out hygge, a Danish lifestyle idea that’s gained popularity around the world. I lit candles (almost burned my house down), read books with cozy socks, and I enjoyed simple. I found a book at the public library, and I read up on how to hygge. One thing I learned in the chapter about light is about the cute, modern Danish lampshades that I love to gaze at on Ikea trips. The shape and size of the shades are trying to accomplish something besides just looking cool. They are trying to create a less harsh light for a more calm living space. I had no idea.

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2. The book of Isaiah in the Bible might not have been entirely written only by the prophet Isaiah. I’ve been attending Community Bible Study since August, and this year our study is titled Return to Jerusalem. We’ve been learning all about the exile and return of God’s people in the years between 630 BC and 430 BC. Isaiah’s prophetic ministry actually predated this and began in 740 BC. So when I was listening to the audiobook The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson and he was talking about unknown prophets writing parts of Isaiah during and after the exile, my ears perked up. We had talked about Isaiah’s prophecies about the exile back in October. Maybe we didn’t know the whole picture. Peterson said that Isaiah had clearly authored chapters 1 through 39, and it is thought that an unknown prophet authored chapters 40 through 55, and another unknown prophet authored chapters 56 through 66. This idea that someone was writing this work that would be canonized into our Holy Bible during and after the exile without their name being recorded defiantly sparked my imagination. What would that be like? Isaiah chapter 40 is beloved especially since the eagle represents America and Isaiah 58 is often quoted by our current church’s renewed focus on social justice. What about the “beautiful feet” of chapter 52? What if these chapters were not written by Isaiah at all but some anonymous prophet living in Babylon? To know nothing of the man God chose to pen such inspiring, beautiful words? The Holy Spirit breathing these holy ideas through an unknown vessel? Or what if the multiple author theory is wrong and Isaiah wrote it all? What if this theory is just human nature to try to explain away the specificity of Isaiah prophecy (like knowing Cyrus’s name 200 years beforehand)? So what I learned this winter was more questions. More questions isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes having more questions means you’re getting closer to knowing something.

 

3. This January as I was making my list of goals for 2018, I realized one thing I wanted to do this year was join or start a fiction book club. It sounded like fun when I was reading the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin several months ago, and I haven’t quit thinking about it. I started remembering some things about 6th grade Jennifer. I loved to read, and my favorite thing to read during that time was Sweet Valley books. One of my Sweet Valley books came with a book club kit. It had all kinds of silly paper goods created with preteens in mind like little book club membership cards. I remember sitting at my little desk in my room dreaming of having a Sweet Valley book club. Who would I invite? What would we talk about at our meetings? Would we wear all purple like Jessica on meeting days? I never started my club. Probably because it was summer and I lived in the country at the time. I didn’t have many neighbors I could have wrangled into my club. What I learned this winter is that I am still that 6th-grade girl, and I still want a book club. I might not want to talk about my favorite fictional Cali-girl twins, but I want to talk about story, plot, narrative, symbolism, and how fiction teaches us how we feel about the real world. I have no book club plans, but I learned something I want to do and knowing what you want to do is half the battle.

 

4. I like designing calendars. I’ve made calendars for my email subscribers for January, February, and now for March. It’s fun designing these useful printables for my email friends and my own personal refrigerator. I just emailed out the link for the March calendar yesterday. If you subscribe, I’ll email it to you too.

 

5. I read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend for the first time this winter. There were so many good, healthy lessons in that book. I wish I could have gone back in time and told my twenty-year-old self to read it. It was written in 1992 so I could have! My favorite lesson was this: There’s a difference between carrying your own load and carrying a burden. Galatians 6:5 says we each have to carry our own load. This is another way of saying that we have to adult. We have to take responsibility for ourselves. Work is good. Dependance and co-dependence is a sign of bad boundaries. Sometimes life gets really hard and something comes along that is too heavy to carry, like a boulder. This is a burden. Galatians 6:2 says to, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

“Problems arise when people act as if their “boulder” are daily loads and refuse to help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”
— Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries

I’ve had my fair share of boulders to carry in the last decade, and I’m thankful for my friends who have grabbed a corner in some way. 

There are so many ways we can reach out and bear a burden, be the Church, fulfill the law of Christ! An intercessory prayer, an ear to listen, a well-timed (or God-timed) text or message to let someone know they’re not alone, a thoughtful gift or a need met out of the blue can be tangible love. It is a disgrace to sit around in buildings and talk about loving one another and never actually do something that shows love to someone who needs love.

If you are sitting here reading this trying to decide what is and isn’t a burden. My advice is to air on the side of grace. Something that seems easy to you might actually be something that feels like drowning to someone else. Most burden-bearing activities don’t cost much, do they? Call that hurting friend. Send that text. Pray for those who pop-up in your mind.

Galatians 6:2-3 ESV says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” And I love how The Message version translated Galatians 6:3. It says, “If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

If letting someone know you care sounds like too much to you, you might have a different boundary problem, the opposite of co-dependancy. You might have a fence with no gate. You might not have a mechanism to let in and let out love. 

“Sometimes, we have bad on the inside and good on the outside. In these instances, we need to be able to open up our boundaries to let the good in and the bad out. In other words, our fences need gates in them.”
— Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries

This winter had a lot of good lessons.

Have you learned something this winter, you want to share? Comment below!

If you want to share what you've learned this winter, check out Emily P. Freeman's What We Learned Link-up.