Winter has never been my favorite season, but this year I'm discovering its gifts...and the invitation. Feeling a bit weary? Worn down by the winter season? What would a season of embracing the gifts of winter do for your heart, body, and soul?
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Discover the Gifts of the Winter Season

02/06/2024 22:42:32 +0000
Last Sunday, I ventured out of my cozy, "hobbit hole" studio apartment. The ice had melted, allegedly, and my legs and mind needed a stretch.

The sidewalks were dry and water and ice free, a good sign. I ran towards Central Park, looking forward to being on the gravel paths, among the trees and away from the feeling of the city. The morning cold pierced. My face and ears began to tingle. I mentally kicked myself for not wearing my hat. But I pressed on, eager to get to the park.

Once I got to the park, disappointment hit hard.
The gravel path I normally ran was iced over.


It was a blend of packed down snow that was kind of icy. The snow hadn't melted and there was no reason to put down salt, so the snow hardened plus been stomped on my lots of other people who had the same idea I did. I stopped running and walked out onto the icy snow.

And that's when I saw the beauty of the snow laden park.
Many parts of the grassy areas and walk away were untouched by humans and animals. The rising sun glistened off the skyscrapers overlooking the west side and reflecting onto the lake.
The trees lay bare, clothed only in light layers of snow that hadn't yet fallen off.

While I slowly inched my way across a particular sketchy piece of ice, waddling a bit like a penguin, I noticed the wild joy of the dogs.

The dogs were not cautious about the snow and ice. They chased each other and circled the trees, collapsing on the snow for a few seconds, then exploding up to run again.

One dog used the ice to his advantage. His floppy ears and curl hair (I think it was a doodle) bounced with him as he chased a ball over the clearing.
As if he knew the ice was there for his benefit, he slid across the ice on all four paws.
As he squatted down, he picked up speed, grabbed the ball in his mouth and turned to launch back to the woman caring for him.

For a few minutes, I stopped and stared, watching their wild abandonment. These pups knew how to handle the winter season.

Dive into it.
Discovering 7 Gifts of Winter
I love all the seasons, but wintertime was previously my least favorite of the four. Mostly, it is the bitter bite winter brings.

In recent years, I've started embracing the unique treasures of winter. Slowly, I've turned from dreading the season to embracing it.

Here are a few of winter's treasures and gifts I've discovered.

First, the winter season is a time to rest, renew and restore ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
In our modern world, we have the ability (most of the time) to keep going as fast as we do in other seasons. But winter is a reminder that all growing, living things need a time of recovery, rest, and hibernation, a time to stop doing and just be.

The second invitation to embrace winter and see its gifts is to get out into it and notice the unique gifts and beauty.
Not to do or be productive, but to see the wonder of the starkness and stillness.
There is nothing "productive" to do with the snow (unless one has to shovel it away to get the car out of the garage!).
Just like the dogs, the ice and snow can be an opportunity for a new discovery or leveraging a gift (in their case, the gift of sliding over the terrain to catch the ball)

I won't be attempting any such Herculean feats, but the bright starkness of the ice and snow against the bare trees and bright water is stunningly beautiful. I can see through the trees in ways the other seasons don't allow me.
What beauty, usually hidden and covered, lies exposed for you to see in your winter season?

Third, winter provides time for deep renewal. It's easy to allow evening times to be lost in mere distraction, but the invitation of the cold weather and dark evenings is to come inside and participate in restorative activities.

What would restore the "roots" of your life during this winter season? Would it be returning to a study of some sort, returning to reading thought provoking literature, picking up a sewing or writing project?

I'm writing this article in the middle of January, the seasonal middle of winter.
However, our interior winter seasons may come at any stage of the calendar.
We all face winter seasons in our lives. Personal times of loss, discouragement, heartache and suffering can thrust us into a winter season and demand that we pay attention to our tired and weary hearts, souls, and bodies.
Nature's winter perhaps is an invitation, a gift - if I will accept it - to intentionally receive the gift of rest and quiet.
This leads into the fourth gift of the winter season, discovering the gift of stopping the activity and the gift of simply sitting and absorbing the beauty of winter.

I think of this like a tea bag. It doesn't "do" anything when it is dropped into a hot cup of steaming water. The water does all the work.
Likewise, sitting in the winter and taking in nature's beauty allows things to come out of us. What might "seep" out of you and I if we would stop being such busy bees?
What might come out in the future seasons if we allowed our minds, hearts, and bodies some "seeping" time this winter? To sit and think and be. Perhaps inside. Perhaps in a book store, library, coffee shop. Perhaps by ourselves or perhaps with a small child who needs to be held, a grandparent or someone sick. The gift of being.

The gift of being is to relax into the season, to let off the pressure of trying to produce, to act, to figure things out, to do.
{Re}Discovering the Gifts of Thinking, Play
A fifth gift of winter is the time and space for intentional thinking.

How many of us do this anymore? One evening, I was scheduled for some late evening work. I had about three hours between dinner and finishing work for a client. Sipping a hot cup of coffee, I sat and realized, I just needed to be still and think.
To allow some of the ruminations of my heart, soul, and mind to come up and say what they needed to say. I jotted a few notes down, but I wasn't trying to problem solve. Instead, I knew the most important thing to do was to be still and sit with the questions.

Along with that, another similar gift is the gift of extended prayer, the kind where there are lots of long pauses where I say what is on my mind and heart, worship, love, extend concerns and then...
Sit in the silence.

Alone with the quiet.

At first this is disarming! I want to do something, but soon, with a bit of patience and practice, it turns into the most precious times.

Our winter seasons, the cold weather, less activities, quieter evenings, these times of quiet prayer and praise not only become beautiful times, but we find they strengthen us in ways nothing else can.

Sixth, winter invites us to play. Play with paint, with paper, with textiles, thread, yarn, clay, recipes, all sorts of things. The joy of playing, if only for an hour or two a week is such a gift. We don't do enough with our hands and hearts anymore and we are the poorer for it. I too, am disciplining myself to simply play.

And finally, a seventh gift winter invites us to embrace is the gift of sleep, rest, naps, simply watching the world go by.

Some of the surprising beauties and treasures of the winter season are found when we get out into the elements and see what is out there.

How about you? What treasures and gifts do you notice in our current winter season?
Jot them down in your journal, calendar or planner. Perhaps this week, you might set aside time to be, to listen, to look out the window for a while, to pick up a creative project.
May this winter season bring rest, renewal and peace to your heart, mind, body, and soul.
Melissa AuClair
I've been playing with paint and paper for the last several years and love teaching others easy techniques for creating gorgeous floral and seasonal art. Flowers, seasons, and holidays are some of my favorite themes to paint and play with.
Recently, I walked through some of the lessons I learned in a personal winter as I painted through the prayers and promises of Psalm 143. You can read more about painting through a psalm and sample the course here.

Paint with me on YouTube, find more in-depth courses on the website, and shop all the art, stationery & stickers in the online store.

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