You know Jennifer Dukes Lee, right? She’s one of my favorite people and I’m not kidding when I say it took approximately thirty-five seconds to land on her newest book, Growing Slow, as the first All The Things book (more on that below). This is the message we need after all the January words about goals and success. This is the book we need when winter is dragging on. I’m delighted to welcome her to the blog today . . .
I don’t know a single person who describes herself as a “winter person.”
Everything feels harder in winter: getting out of bed, driving, eating healthy, motivating myself to accomplish something, washing my hair, changing out of pajamas. In winter, my neighbors post memes on social media that say things like, “Why do I live where the air hurts my face?”
And oh, the darkness.
Spring is celebrated for its perennial hope. Summer, for its warmth and brightness, long days, and firefly nights. Autumn, for its blazing beauty and its harvests.
Then comes winter with its icy fingers. It can feel like an assault on our bodies and our psyches. On the coldest days of winter, it’s hard for me to embrace the season. Even on the regular days, winter can feel dreary, even a bit pointless, as the farm fields hibernate. By February, our addiction to productivity is an itch that begs to be scratched.
But in my Growing Slow journey, I began to wonder: what if winter isn’t a season to be escaped, but one to be embraced?
To be sure, the harsh-ness of winter makes spring that much sweeter. But what if winter is more than a season to be tolerated until we arrive somewhere better? What if winter is more than a required passageway to reach the prize of spring? Winter is not just a doorway; it is a room all its own, with treasures to be discovered.
Looking back, I can see that the winter seasons of my life grew me in ways I didn’t know I needed at the time. In my heart’s coldest winters, I learned about perseverance, patience, and endurance, traits that would serve me well in the summers of my heart.
During life’s winter seasons, it appeared as though nothing was happening, and that nothing I did mattered. There were years of exhaustion, seasons of loneliness, long hospital stays, funerals, financial strain, disappointments in ministry, and much more. I am certain your list of wintry trials is lengthy as well.
During one winter season of my heart, my oldest sister gave me a piece of paper on which she had written the words, “Give me enough grace for today.”
God didn’t always move the mountain, but day by day, he provided me with enough grace to climb it. Strength for today; hope for tomorrow. Each day, I added to the muscle and spiritual insight that I would not have gained any other way.
Winter seasons of the heart can reveal themselves not only in times of great trial but in the mundane moments—when the days feel long and boring, when the tractors are in hibernation.
As a mom of young children, I sometimes wondered, What if this is as good as it gets? What if my ordinary life—returning library books, folding clothes, running errands, doing life with the same people, eating the same Crock-Pot meals on rotation—is as good as it gets? What if the tangled mess of muddy shoes at the back door is as good as it gets? What if the fingerprints on the windows are as good as it gets? What if the size of my waist is the smallest it will ever be, despite my best efforts? What if the bank account has already reached its largest sum ever, and it’s all downhill from here?
What if this is all as good as it gets? Because it might be true. This could be as good as it gets, and it also could be more spectacular than I ever realized.
Now I see in hindsight what I couldn’t see in real time: The fingerprints, shoes, laundry, my quirky bunch of friends, my flawed family, my skin, the just-enough grace for every single day—together, they become the sum of a beautiful story that stretches across my little time in history, on my little patch of land. All those moments, though seemingly small at the time, were building a foundation for who I would become.
Maybe these winter moments of life are “as good as it gets,” and if we look a little closer, it’s not only “as good as it gets” it’s greater than we knew. Everything that looks mundane and difficult and boring and regular and barren is actually holy and sacred, gilded with the grace of God and “thy kingdom come.”
We could be so eager for some other season to arrive that we miss the ordinary miracle of this moment, right now.
As we un-hurry our hearts, let’s not rush through the seasons. Let’s see the winter not as something that must be endured, but something that must be treasured. God will use winter seasons to grow us.
The land teaches us the truth of the winter blessing. We think that nothing is happening in the fields, but that’s not true at all. There is a lot of work going on in the dark, below the surface, that will greatly impact the growth of the coming year.
There is so much that is happening even now, in places you can’t see. The land is alive, breathing, preparing itself for the season to come. The same is true of us. Spring will come. But it can wait. Let’s not rush to get there. A little winter in your heart beckons you to stay, to ponder, to savor.
Come, let us grow slow.
This article is partially excerpted from Growing Slow: Lessons on Unhurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl. Growing Slow is more about digging deep than dreaming big. It’s more about resting well than chasing success. It’s more about savoring than striving. And it’s the exact right first book to read together and discuss on the first All The Things author call!
Think of Good Things as an umbrella with Thursday Things + All The Things underneath. Everyone receives blog posts and Thursday Things (totally free), but if you want more, there’s also a paid portion with even more of the good stuff—surprise gifts in the mail, giveaways, digital prints and lock screens, private Zoom calls with authors and friends, access to a private All The Things Instagram account, and first-word news about writing/life updates.
My hope is that today’s excerpt from Growing Slow encourages you right where you are (especially if you’re in a winter season). And I hope you’ll pick up a copy or listen to JDL narrate the audiobook! But also: know that we have a seat saved for you in All The Things (click here to learn more) and would love to see you on our February author call with Jennifer!