Sunshine for the Soul

For the second day in a row, I woke this morning to rays of sunshine streaming through the blinds in our room, dancing on our bed and forcing our eyes to open to their beauty.  To say we've been missing the daily greeting of the sun around here is a massive understatement.  Since our return from "paradise" we came home to a literal dark cloud that has been hanging over Minnesota for weeks and months on end.  It's not been good and I don't think we've ever had a winter quite like this one, for several reasons.  
First of all, we've never enjoyed a 5 week escape from the daily grind, not to mention 3 weeks in warm and sunny Florida.  While that was an incredible gift that we will treasure for a long time, it was also a startling break from reality that made coming home again, tough.  We got so acclimated and accustomed to warmth and sunshine again, and we loved it!  It brought back sweet memories of living in Florida and North Carolina and planted thoughts like "You don't HAVE to live this way" in our heads.  We truly missed our "life" and friends and family in Minnesota, but I'd be lying if I said we didn't seriously second guess the weather we willingly endure every year.  

Secondly, when we left Minnesota on March 1st we drove away from snowfalls and ice-storms, anticipating a return 5 weeks later with the end of winter behind us. (Note-That was probably a big mistake on our part!) While we were away there were indeed storms and snowfalls, one after another, and we rejoiced in our great luck, thankful that we weren't there to live through it!  But as we began the great trek north, the temperatures weren't nearly as warm as we hoped and suddenly the storms we hoped were behind us became a threat again.  We literally left the sunshine in Florida and arrived just in time for the snowiest month of the year and days and days in a row with no sunshine to speak of, let alone even a glimpse at a blue sky.  Had we never left, we still wouldn't have loved it, but we would have endured it because we were used to it and knew an end would eventually come.  However, we did leave and we knew the joy of warmth again and the way vitamin D speaks to the soul. These gray, gloomy and cold days have been brutal to our once sunkissed souls!  

Finally, we have now endured the challenge of keeping growing, busy children happy and entertained through an endless winter in a small space.  When I say "endured" I mean something more like "barely limped through without killing one another."  It's not been easy around here.  Just like their parents, they miss the beach, miss Disney World and miss being outside.  In fact when I pulled their winter coats back out after a month of not wearing them, Carter looked at me and said, "What's this thing, Mama??"  

It's not been a great month!  I have never let the weather dictate my mood quite like it has this year, but I honestly think I've really been affected by some seasonal depression for the last few weeks.  Add another flu bug of some sort and our dog suddenly dying and it's been a real recipe for the blues.  But lest you think I'm only writing to complain and over dramatize everything, here is the crux of this post.  You may think my answer to this dilemna is simply that it's finally getting warm again and the sun is shining in Minnesota. Although both of those things are happening again, they aren't the reason for this fog to be lifting over my soul.  I'm just as susceptible to defeat as anyone else and even when I know the remedy for my sorrow, it doesn't always mean that I choose it.  I left a mountaintop month of spending uninterrupted, sweet time with my husband and kids, praising the Lord for each day, and basking in His incredible faithfulness to me.  I read the Word at leisure and delighted in it.  But when we came home and I grappled with the weather and a return to the responsibilities of daily life, I wasn't quite so quick to praise the Lord.  And I wasn't so willing to choose joy when it seemed easier to drown in complaints.  

In the last week or so, when I knew I had to grab hold of God and let Him shine some light on this darkness, I found myself in Ezekiel 37 remembering another time of dryness.  In the valley of dry bones, when death had set in and it seemed quite hopeless, the Lord gave Ezekiel the remedy for life.  He told him to "hear the word of the Lord" and in that hearing He, the living God, would put His very breath into those bones until they literally came to life again, tendon to tendon and bone to bone. It's an amazing account of a miraculous event, but it's as true today as it was in Ezekiel's day.  Happiness comes and goes; the weather is as predictable as a toddler's mood; and our circumstances are often beyond our control.  We can die to all of those things, enslaved to their power over us, or we can base our choice to remain joyful not in what happens or doesn't happen to us, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ.  We can look to the unchanging character of God, to the truth of His every word, and to His power over sin and death, knowing that He is our solid rock, certain and sure.  And doesn't that bring such hope to a weary soul? 

But the truth is, even in knowing the truth, until you make a deliberate choice to walk in it you are in essence rejecting it.  My years of enduring winter are not over.  There will be more winters to come, some that are long and icy, some that are refreshingly mild and some that have nothing to do with the weather but everything to do with the storms of the soul.  The truth of who God is will never change, but my choice to trust Him and rest in Him and look to HIM for my joy will always be mine.  I've always found it so comforting to read of King David's many emotions throughout the book of Psalms.  In a touching and real way, we find Him praising God, thanking God, questioning God, wrestling with God, begging God, trusting God, clinging to God, confessing to God, and delighting in God.  His poetic expressions are so true of the human experience.  Our circumstances can leave us wanting and unsettled, but when we look to God we find our bearing there, absolute truth and all manner of wisdom.     My dear friend shared with me and several other friends that the Psalms are essentially "how to command souls or how to bring our souls under God's authority."  I love that.  Sometimes we just need to set our feelings aside and remember that they are just that, feelings. They are a a healthy expression but they should not get a place of authority that they do not deserve.  

I had to reconcile that this Narnia state we seem to live in is exactly where God wants us and frankly, a place we love to call home.  Winter will come and winter will go, but my joy must remain in the Lord. And thankfully, that's not a feel-good, just "dig in and figure it out" kind of choice.  I don't have to sugar coat an April snowfall and pretend it isn't a serious bummer.  I simply have to come before the Lord and recognize that I am needy and He is God...and then let His Word breathe life into my dry bones.  He does it and I get to receive it.  Amazing, isn't it?  He is so gracious in all His ways, so faithful to His children in and out of winter.  

The sun is shining again in Minnesota, almost all of our snow is gone and the forecast for days to come begins with the number 7. Yes and Amen!!  It's long overdue and it's VERY welcomed!  But with or without blue skies, there is sunshine in my soul and it's the lasting kind that doesn't disappear at the end of the day.  As this week wraps up and April comes to a close in the next few days, I pray that you too will bask in the Son and if your bones feel dry, that you'll turn to the One who can breathe life into you again...He will do it and you can receive it. 

Blessings on your Thursday and greetings from warm(er) and sunny Minnesota!  
"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"  

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