Monday, October 14, 2013

On contentment (and the changing weather)


The rooftops today look like ridged waffles sprinkled with powdered sugar and my phone says it is 36 degrees. Our wiener dog walks in hurried circles when he needs to go outside. Two nights ago, as I picked up a little friend while her dad played in a hockey tournament, the icy wind introduced my body to a new level of cold. Today my phone also tells me that back in my California town, it is sunny, with a high of 80.

It was about a year ago that my husband started talking about leaving his job. I wasn't at all scared for what the future would hold. But we had no idea God had such a dramatic change in mind for our family as moving to Montana. When it grew increasingly clear that He was communicating to both my husband and I that this was "it," Montana was where we were supposed to go, we started to share the news with others.

I thought it was so strange how we would tell others what God had put on our hearts, and many times the response would be something like, "But it's so cold there!" When I weighed the matter in my own two hands, God's call was in one, and The Weather was in another. Again, I found it so strange. Did some people really believe that those two things were close contenders for making the decision to move? This was the point at which I started thinking a lot about weather and the effect it has on us.

Certainly some people have had terrifying or tragic experiences related to weather. Bad car accidents. Being stranded. Things like that. I've never had any of those, so I can't speak to how that may affect a person's decision making based on the outdoor conditions. But most people, I think, myself included, just want to feel comfortable. And cozy. We are comfort addicts, really. That's why we have such a problem with the cold (or the heat, whichever you detest more). We even call all sorts of weather "bad."

But after living in Montana for six months now, and after experiencing more days of cold and snow than I ever have in my prior 37 years combined, I'm learning that there really is no such thing as bad weather. It's all just weather. We call it bad only because it interferes with our agendas. I wonder if God thinks there is any weather that is bad.

Aside from tsunamis, tornados, and destructive natural disasters, I'm deciding that no weather is bad. I mean, if it were the olden days and I could stay indoors by a fire, teaching my own children and making all my own food from scratch, it wouldn't be a problem. But because we have to get to school and go to dance lessons and swing by Target and pick up a Starbucks coffee, any sort of hindrance to our agendas seems bad. Well, I'm becoming less and less a fan of that egocentric attitude in myself.

I have had at least three people ask me if I hate the snow yet. I'm serious. It's clear that some have very impassioned feelings about winter and all that it brings. And that particular question makes me want to dig my heels in and be as far away from hating it as possible. Creation reveals the creativity of my Maker. And I don't want to have a grumbling or complaining spirit about His appointed changes to the scenery. If I did, I feel I'd be shutting my eyes and ears to something He is trying to say.

A wise friend back in California once told me that they used to live in the northern part of the country, where the weather was very different from that of Orange County. She said when they moved down south to our town, they were baffled by the busyness and the unrelenting pressure to be productive every day of the week, every week of the year, simply due to the warm climate. If one COULD be outdoors working on the yard, playing tennis, making money, or teaching your kid a new sport, then one should be. She noticed something I never had: that the lack of change in seasons yielded a culture that didn't know how to rest.

Winter reminds us that nature pulls in, draw together, and rests. Fall is the counselor telling us to calm down, extinguish the activity of the summer, and begin to store up resources for a season of pruning and deepening roots and staying closer to those we love.

Maturity means we too change with the seasons, not fighting to maintain comfort and sameness, not feeling entitled to year round productivity, but listening to God's signals, submitting to His rhythm. And His rhythm is never the same for too long. He is so gracious to show us what we need.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

As the seasons change around your home, listen to what God may be saying through creation. And if you live in a place where the seasons don't really change, like I did most of my life, then God is speaking through creation there too. All around us, everywhere, He has something to reveal about Himself.

Right now, I'm reading a book called Calm My Anxious Heart because I told a friend I would read it with her. I don't feel I particularly struggle with anxiety. But there is always room to grow in the area of contentment. The author speaks of an overseas missionary of over 50 years whom she knew, and who had five secrets of contentment. They are so practical, I wanted to share them. I will certainly be applying these this winter.

1. Never allow yourself to complain about anything, not even the weather.
2. Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
3. Never compare your lot with another's.
4. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
5. Never dwell on tomorrow - remember that is God's, not ours.

Imagine if we could all do this perfectly. I think of the verse that says "Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Tim 6:6)," and I want both of those things. Godliness and contentment.

Much, much more than I want it to be 75 degrees every day.



  1. Thank you for this great reminder! I live in Saskatchewan where it can get extremely cold and dangerous out. I want to work on what you said about weather not being bad just different. I don't want to be a complainer anymore!

  2. Leslie, I love this. Born and raised in Texas, I've been here 31 of 31 years, and people always mention how much I must hate the heat. While I don't love it, by any means, I have bigger issues in life to worry about than heat. Maybe Texas summers are God's way of forcing us to slow down, the same way the northern winters do for you. Life doesn't stop when the weather gets "bad;" it just alters my way of going about the day. There's a Relient K song I sing during not-so-awesome weather days called "High of 75." As much as I'd love to have mild temps more often, the song is so perfect: "It's funny how you find you enjoy your life when you're happy to be alive!" That song got me through a terrential downpour on my drive to work this morning, and now, as I sweat in my rainboots, it's playing in my office headphones. A great gain, indeed.

  3. Love this! I live in Northern Maine (after living in PA for most of my life), but I LOVE the snow and the winter. And honestly, once you get a high quality winter coat, it's not so bad. And it's stinkin' beautiful!! :)

  4. there is so much about this article I love- the talks about being content with the weather, the connections to what God is teaching us with the seasons, the 5 secrets of contentment. So good- thanks for always encouraging :)

  5. Beautiful perspective! And I do love the snow-I think you'll be getting a bit more than we do though ;)

    I also thoroughly enjoy the change in the seasons, because of the change in our routine that it normally brings. And that's a good thing. We need rest, and I'm glad the weather reminds us of that!

    Enjoy that snow! It's so beautiful!

  6. This is absolutely brilliant!

  7. Great blog Leslie! When we moved from CA to WY the first epiphany my husband and I had with winter was that it gave us permission to sit by the fire and read a book without feeling guilty!
    After 5 full years full time here our pace of life is much more healthy and we have learned to stop and smell the fresh air and appreciate all the seasons and the exciting changes they bring. And remember there is no such thing as weather that is too cold, just a girl who is under-dressed. :) Blessings to you!

  8. You know I'm loving this, Leslie! We are speaking the same language and walking a similar (albeit slightly less snowy) path of adjustment. Thanks for all the good reminders. Oh, and PS- Calm My Anxious Heart is one of my favs. Such a gem of a book!

  9. Oh boy can I relate, MINNESOTA anyone?! LOL but it's true. Even when it comes to weather, we just have to have thankful hearts, and check our hearts position. That's what it's all about. My sister complains about the weather daily I swear, but it's about contentment regardless, just like other circumstances in life--finding that peace despite the situation, even though it's uncomfortable and painful and annoying and hard.
    I love how you used weather in this case!