We’re in what I sometimes regard as “the least wonderful time of the year.” Christmas is over. Spring is far, far away. The snow is has gotten dirty and brown, and is piling up so that the whole world feels like one, big, dirty attic.
Cheer up, though! Just around the corner, we can look forward to all the pleasures of… Lent.
As someone who loves spring, summer, fall and Christmas, this is the one time of year when I find myself searching for bright spots. For an extra dose of un-fun, the football season ends just when I really, really need a reason to smile. (March Madness, people tell me. Somehow I can’t quite get into it.)
I have accordingly taken it upon myself to make up a Sunshine List. Even in a tough time of year, there are still so many good things to celebrate.
1) Your favorite book
What better time to re-read it? Or re-listen?
Or if, like me, you’re in a phase of life where cover-to-cover seems unmanageable, just allow yourself twenty minutes to peruse favorite passages. Sometimes it’s a luxury better than chocolate (and I really like chocolate).
2) Not eating pizza crusts
As a kid I used to think that eating the crust was the price you had to pay for enjoying the cheesy goodness. Because that was “the healthy part”. Guess what? It’s really not that healthy. Toss it in the box and have some more cheese.
3) Jesus loves you
My three year old reminds me all the time, because it’s one of his favorite songs. He’s changed the lyrics to “Of course Jesus loves me,” and he sings it at the top of his lungs at all hours of day. It’s adorable.
Better still, it’s true. The Bible tells me so.
4) The Wall of Seeds
You know what I mean. Right around now, stores start putting out their garden stuff, complete with those glorious walls of colored seed packets. Carrots! Tomatoes! Squash! Marigolds! Hollyhocks! All of this can be yours (just four to six months from now).
Yeah, it’s a little premature to start breaking out the fertilizer, but in the depths of winter this is like a ray of hope shining into my soul. Spring will come. Menard’s knows.
[See also: 10 Reasons Every Christian Should Have a Garden]
Winter is literally a dark time. But if that’s the darkest life ever gets for you, count yourself lucky. Fortunately, in every kind of dark hour, there is always prayer.
As C.S. Lewis observed in The Screwtape Letters, those to appeal to God in their hour of need will find that “the post is nearly always defended.” God’s 24-hour hotline is open; feel free to call anytime.
6) Really cool icicles
Despite the dirty snow, bare trees and barren fields, nature always gives us something to enjoy.
Although you shouldn’t stand directly under them, huge icicles are neat to look at, and reminds us that winter has some special of its own.
7) Closeness with people we love
Winter isn’t a great time for playing outside, but it is a very nice time for cuddling. I’m lucky enough to have a whole houseful of cuddle-able men (one husband and several small boys) to keep me warm, but if you’re not in a cuddle-happy phase of life, at least take an evening to curl up in a chair and have a cozy chat with a relative or old friend. Winter is a lovely time for enjoying the indoors.
8) Saints for all seasons
No matter the weather and no matter the mood, there’s a story out there that will speak to you.
In the Bible and the Lives of the Saints, we can find wisdom applicable to every possible situation. To start you off, let me recommend St. Sebaldus, protector against cold weather.
9) Tasting the tropics
Call me shallow, but I really enjoy giving myself little reminders that warm is still out there. If you’re feeling a little seasonally affected, maybe a pina colada or a key lime pie will cheer you up? It sometimes works for me.
Then I think how many people in the world (historically and today) have to scrape through this season on weevil-infested wheat or moldy potatoes. And I feel like a bit of whiner for complaining about late winter.
10) Ripping the tags off your pillows
You know you’ve always wanted to. I think today is the day.
11) God’s eternally available grace
When I think about it, the hardest thing about this season is the okay-what-now feeling that you get when you’re sandwiched between the awesomeness of the Advent-Christmas cycle, and the awesomeness of the Lent-Easter cycle. It can put you in the doldrums.
But really, that’s just a testament to the awesomeness of the Christian liturgical year. After the wonder of visiting Christ in the manger, God gives us a little time to collect ourselves before plunging us back into a season of intense spiritual renewal. When you think about it, it’s really quite considerate.
So, don’t whine. Go mix that drink, and put your feet up. You’ll be back in action soon enough.