Winter Goals- Surviving and Thriving

3 Things To Do from January - March

1. Put up a new door wreath – A beautiful wreath signals a change in seasons and invites a new feel to your home. It ushers in a new energy. Yes, Christmas was joyous and, in my opinion the most wonderful time of the year, but there is something so hopeful and rewarding about a new year. The crowds have died down and the rush of the past season can leave you exhausted. But as the year turns, what so often goes unnoticed is the new birth of the earth that is unfolding right before your eyes. Winter has set in but that does not mean that everything is dead or begging for a return to summer. Not even. Instead, if you pay close attention, you might find there is an awakening of the spirit, the mind – all in the stillness of winter. What did the poet, Max Ehrmann say about stillness - “remember what peace that is in silence.” Look at any bare tree, for example. At first glance, there may appear to be a loneliness, a longingness about it. As if its waiting on something. But look further and you’ll see that it is still home to very active squirrels, hawks, blue jays, cardinals and soon robins. It is full of life. It is grounded, resting, preparing, waiting in perfect connection with the earth. Even with the shed of its luscious green robe, it is still the most beautiful thing, I’ve ever seen. So, getting back to the wreath on your door. Let it represent that new beginning. The new energy, the exciting promise of a new year.

2. Prepare yourself each day to watch the sunset. For years, I worked downtown and during the winter months, I’d often be leaving the office just as the sun was setting. In the summer, of course, I would be home before the sun set, but not this time of year. But, what a glorious moment to exit my building and come face to face with the most stunning sunset. It was always something like I’d never seen before. The colors of the winter sky, would on certain days trend from a pale pink to a dark velvety red -tussled into a string of baby blue lined cirrus clouds. The colors were always magnificent. There’s nothing like a sunset to connect you to a higher order, a more divined existence. One of my favorite readings, especially during the winter months, is “Life’s Extras” by Archibald Rutledge. He writes that the whole matter of color in the earth seems to be extras from God. That such color in the sky for all to see is by no means the result of mere chance. Even though it can be explained as the operation of certain laws, forces and conditions; behind it all, is the mighty intelligence of the Creator. As the Psalms says,

“He wraps himself in light as with a garment;

he stretches out the heavens like a tent

and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

It thrills my soul to ponder the incredible, thoughtful, wonderous creations of God.

3. Take a walk outside – Yes, even in winter with its short and, at times, sunless days, find some time to be outside. It’s easy to rush from one place to the next under a bleak, sterile sky and ignore nature’s beauty all around you. Somedays I used my walk from my office building to the garage as time to stop and admire God’s divine creations -made for me. I cannot come close to understanding what God had in mind when he created things like flowers that bloom in winter or birds perched in a tree serenading the earth. I would like to think that somewhere within that design he had us in mind. That he knew just how much these small things – life’s extra’s -- would brighten our days and remind us of his presence. God is so amazing like that. He always gives us such unexpected pleasant surprises because he loves us so deeply. He honors us in that way. Sharing his creations with his creations. It just makes you smile.

4. Experience the Gift of Giving I know I said 3 - but think of this as the Baker's Bonus: - I've heard it said that

'you make a living by what you get,

but you make a life by what you give.'

I am a strong believer in that and in the fact that there's always more for the giver than the receiver. It's something about the act of giving that eases burdens and restores order. It's a must. I was recently reading a passage from the book, Stillmeadow (anothervery old book I found in my church's library) and the writer relayed that her mother would send small gifts surreptitiously, pick flowers and place them at a stranger's door, or write notes to friends with expressions of gratitude. She wrote that nowadays (this was in the 1950s-no doubt) people seemed to have built walls around themselves and rarely did anyone speak from the heart. For example, she said that instead of telling a good friend, 'I hope you have a nice birthday,' what she really wanted to say was,

"I want to tell you that all my life you have been an inspiration to me.

You have borne heavy burdens with gaiety and good will,

you have accepted loss with humor and fortitude.

And you have cared about the small successes of your friends.

There is my dear friend, a glowing warmth in your spirit."

That makes me laugh so loud. What a difference it would make if we poured those sentiments out on each other. It would be like hanging small suns everywhere we go. If you haven't already, make giving a part of your life in 2019. No matter how small, share a thought, trade a glance, write a note, offer a thumbs up, share a compliment, find some time. Give. Don't think about it too much because there is always a reason to talk yourself out of it. Just do it. The thing is - you'll never regret it, your own reward will be immeasurable, and it may end up carrying someone for weeks, if not months, at a time.

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