HOW TO MAKE IT THROUGH A LONG WINTER:
Battling depression, spiritual slumps, and the plain-old winter doldrums is part of every snowy, cold season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…but this year, it has been a mini ice age almost everywhere in the top half of the country! HOPEFULLY, the snow will be melting next week and, by mid-April, we will actually remember what grass looks like and speak the word “Spring” in a non-sarcastic tone.
Through this consternating and arduous winter we have been going through, I have seen believers and non-believers alike struggling, feeling cabin fever terribly, getting sick, feeling cooped up and a host of other “snow prison” emotions. In my nine winters in the far north regions of this country, I have learned a few things about making it through long winters spiritually, mentally, and physically…and I’d like to share those with you: (AND YES, I WILL REPOST THIS AT THE END OF NOVEMBER GOING INTO NEXT WINTER)
1. Read a book, or books (see the Tribe of Judah 100 Christian Books blog)
2. Pray regularly, practice. We all need more time to “practice the Presence of God.” Maybe those of us God has called to live in colder climes are meant to get alone with Him when all else is frozen and difficult. Yeah…maybe.
3. SERVE…find some body to pour into. I learned early on in Bible College, that one of the best ways to get out from under my own, selfish problems or hang-ups was to go find somebody to serve. He will take care of us…and it is easier to remember that when you are spending your time on someone else’s needs.
4. Find a handy hobby: sewing, carving, crafting, woodwork, leatherwork, painting, knitting, etc. Good craftsmanship and artwork often falls from the hands of the seriously bored. Find something you have always wanted to learn how to do, challenge yourself, go on Pinterest or Instructables, take a class, get a book out from the library…and go create something cool.
5. Move around, ie change location often. Find at least a couple other places to just go…even if they are close or boring. When your four walls are closing in on you, go sit inside—or even stand—in another set of four walls. A change of scenery is mental and otherwise comforting and stimulating. Go to the local coffee shop, a friend’s house, your parents’ house, a public lobby with Internet…just SOMEWHERE ELSE!
6. Game night, code name: Fellowship. Whether it be Apples to Apples, Qwelf, Monopoly, SkipBo, or a rousing game of Rummy with good friends or your wife and kids…have some coffee, eat some sweets or chips and enjoy pure fellowship and silliness.
7. Video games, also codenamed “Fellowship.” NOW, be very clear on this. I am very aware that marriages, jobs, health and even lives have been lost in the name of MMORPGs or video game addiction. However, my friends and I, even our church, use a few bloody video game battles amongst each other in good fun to spend some quality time when our brains and bodies are mush through ministry.
8. Invite somebody over for dinner. Simple enough. Just change up your evening routine (don’t you love how complacent those can be in winter) and invite someone over for some hot food. Heck, maybe even invite a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone from church you don’t know real well…just to get to know them better. Have fun.
9. Learn an instrument, even if it is tambourine. Music, worship, just jamming or fooling around on an instrument you love or would love to learn is plain old good times! Find someone who knows how to play music or guitar or drums or piano that may be interested in helping you get going. Read a book. Watch YouTube tutorials. I know very few people who can’t learn how to play bass, djembe or tambourine at the simplest level. Or maybe even the ukulele….
10. Worship often, sing praises! What a mood lifter and a healthy spiritual practice to boot. Worship has combatted the winter doldrums many, many times in my nine U.P. seasons I have weathered. Again, this may take a little diligence to step into, and you may not “feel like it” at first, but it will pay off in the end. This can be as simple as downloading a new worship album or putting in a tried and true worship CD.
11. Watch a good movie. Some I would recommend are: Most, The Sea In Between, Defiance, We Were Soldiers, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Amazing Grace, Book of Eli, Prince of Egypt, City of Ember, Ushpizin, Fiddler on the Roof, Band of Brothers, and the list could go on. NOTE: I said watch “a” movie, not 14 hours of Netflix in a row or four DVD’s!
12. Blog. There are some things in my life that only writing can fix. Something about the processing of thoughts and the thoughtful communicating through well-chosen words. I love it.
13. Journal: see statement made above. But here is where I also write down things The Lord is showing me. I also record Scriptures, prayers, and general questions in life.
14. Push yourself! Whatever we try to do when it is hard to try to do anything, we are gonna need some serious discipline and drive. Some days, going outside is almost completely out of the question. Then you can’t focus reading, or you break a tool or project you are working on, or the Internet goes out while you are trying to work on editing photos or post a blog. There are those really, super rough days where you just have to push yourself to do something. Prayer and reading the Bible help much, as well as asking for help from the Holy Spirit. Keep going! The righteousness man or woman will try seven times and fail or fall, but ya gotta get up every time! Trust me, it does work.
15. Don’t sleep too much. Too much sleep can be an enemy of an active or productive winter. Even when it is cold, dark and/or ugly outside, this area of life demands the utmost of vigilance to maintain. Here’s a tip: even as the days get shorter try to keep waking up at the exact same you did during the fall or long days of summer. That extra hour or two in the morning, and not staying up seriously late, will help continue in a good sleep pattern (6-8 hrs.).
16. GO OUTSIDE! Even if it is a five minute walk, bundled up…. Most people can walk. One of my friends UP here in the Upper Peninsula who recently moved to Calvary Chapel Hoth (hehe) has made it part of his daily routine, to get acclimatized to our weather, just by going for a ten or fifteen minute walk every evening with as much winter clothes on as possible.
17. Find a winter sport: snowshoeing, ice fishing, dog sledding, fatbiking, cross country skiing, snowboarding, walking the dog for ten minutes…sledding! Activity will make you feel alive. Get some blood pumping. Burn some calories. Breathe some, albeit chilly air, but fresh oxygen nonetheless! THIS WILL DEFINITELY HELP YOU HAVE A BETTER WINTER…and not feel so lethargic.
18. Build an igloo, snowman, or ice castle. Sounds like child’s play, but—especially if you have kids—you would be surprised what some good old winter fun will do for morale.
19. Go on a retreat. Even if it is three miles away. A change of geographic location in a long, hard winter that can eat up four or five months of the year, is almost paramount to survival. If you can afford it, get around some extended family, friends in another (maybe warmer) town. Go. Breath. Go shopping. Even if it for a new toilet brush. Even a Wal-Mart trip or decent drive can help in this way.
20. Listen to good music. Some music I recommend is: Josh Garrels, Liz Vice, Rend Collective, All Sons & Daughters, Ascend the Hill, Hands, My Epic, Phil Wickham, The Ember Days, the Psalters, anything the Interpose Productions produces, Justin St. Thomas & The Funky Fresh Fellowship, Overcome, Extol, the Star Wars soundtrack…. And many, many more.
There, I really hope that helps! Print this off, and tape it up inside your locker for next winter.