Embracing the Cold

January brought us a variety of weather, and February is following suit already. Behind me is our dining room window looking out onto a bright white scene. Rain is coming tomorrow, sure to blot out the white and replace it with brown, but looking ahead, even more snow is to follow. This new year has brought and bitterly cold nights that froze any pond or lake around, and they have continued to stay frozen; this is good news for Shane.

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He lives to fish, and in the winter, he lives to ice fish. Now, I love the cold weather, in particular, snowy, cold weather. But, due to my autoimmune issues, I don’t spend much time out in the snow and cold unless I am guaranteed to stay warm. Fortunately, my husband is beyond well equipped when it comes to gadgets, gizmos, and clothes to keep you warm. So it was especially exciting that this year, I got to try ice fishing for the first time and share in something that Shane loves so much.

He went out a few times this year with his friend and his brother and dad before we went out. The days I went, it was a unique combination of actually being warmer out, so more bearable for me, and the ice still being thick.

The first time I went, I caught a single bluegill at Lake Author. As it grew darker, I was having fun experimenting with my low light lens. In my family, it isn’t unusual to have cameras out, snapping away, at all times. In fact my cousins and I joke around about our mom’s being worse than paparazzi, and laugh at our instinct to smile and almost pose as soon as a lens goes up. So while Shane and his dad were avoiding looking at the camera, not yet use to this paparazzi, I still managed able to get some good ones of them together.

I said before how I do love snowy weather. Even taking a short walk in it does feel good, add in the man I love, an activity we both enjoy, and enjoying this January weather was easier this year. Now this may sound crazy, but we got an extra dose of happiness by adventuring out in the snow because your body is working harder in the cold, your endorphin levels rise even more, causing an even happier state of mind. No wonder Shane loves ice fishing so much!

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Almost every day he can, Shane will venture out into the cold to fish. I think there is a sort of urgency to it, because once it warms up, there will be no more ice, no more walking on water, no more pulling a prize out of the dark depths. The new shores that the ice brings will be gone. Fishing can continue, but the kind of mystery the snow and ice bring with it will be gone.

There’s always new places to go fishing. For any fisherman, there’s always a new place, always a new horizon. -Jack Nicklaus

Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Just a Pinch of Salt

How many recipes do we look at that say “Add a pinch of salt” or “Season to taste with salt”? Other recipes are far more direct, a half a teaspoon here a fourth there. Salt is definitely a staple in the kitchen.

Lately I have heard it more than once out of that context. I’ve heard the verse and I have heard many people say how as christians we are to be the salt in the world, but I was reading a page or two from a book titled “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas that really gave an urgency to the need to be salt in this world. He actually brought it up after speaking about the ten men who lived on the outskirts of town because of their leprosy.

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The author takes note on how Luke recorded the path that Jesus was taking to Jerusalem, the border between Samaria and Galilee. It is here that the ten cry out for pity, or eleison and as the author points out, it is translated mercy. The challenge is then given to the reader, are we aware of those in need of mercy? With so much bad in the world, there are many outlets where we can reach out, but do we? This is where Robert Gelinas makes the poignant point that salt slows down decay only when in contact with the meat. Salt is useless unless it is in contact with the meat.

I had just read those words when my sister in law suggested a podcast to me, Family Talk. Eager to switch up my routine while driving of just music, I enjoy a good podcast, so I downloaded a few random episodes of Family Talk. One of them titled “Fight for Freedom in a Godless Society” had the great speaker Dr Robert Jeffress on it, and wouldn’t you know it, he brought up that same idea of being the salt in this world. Honestly, some of the facts he gave about our country were just so disheartening, and I know we are familiar with them, but the idea that we as the salt can help slow down the decay of our decrepit world was encouraging.

Honestly, sometimes messages like the one on that particular episode by Dr Robert Jeffress can make things seem hopeless. It makes it easier to ignore the big issues if we settle for that hopelessness too. He said something to the affect of the only reason we are pushing back against the evil is to give our world a little bit longer to hear the truth and be saved, which makes me take it back to the image of the salt, we slow the decay. He ended with this great quote though, “If you think it is too dark out there to do it, remember this, the light shines brightest in the darkness… Ladies and gentleman, if your goal in life, like so many christians, is peace, prosperity-the absence of any kind of pain, then these are truly terrifying, depressing days in which we’re living. But if your goal, like the apostle Paul, is to share Jesus Christ with as many people as possible, there has never been a better time to be alive than right now! Because the darker and darker this world becomes, the brighter the hope of the gospel shines.”

I think that when we hear something repeated, in various contexts, that it is God whispering to us. This time of the year, it is easier to be the salt as we naturally enter a season of giving. I pray that this was an encouragement to you to be aware of moments where you can live on the border like Jesus Christ, be the salt, and have a goal like Paul.

The Pace of Nature

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This weekend was one where Shane and I could sit back and adopt that pace. Back before the wedding bells, during our counseling and through books and conversations I had, it was made pretty clear that Shane and I should carve out time for just us. Knowing we both find relaxation in nature, I gave Shane as a Christmas present a packet of information I had gathered on state parks and sites neither of us had been to. This was the weekend that I would get to work out my planning skills and Shane and I could get away together.

Our spring has been hectic, but not by any fault of our own. It just seems that the pace of life really took off on us. Before we got married, things seemed to drag on as I planned what centerpieces should look like, he picked out our honeymoon location, and we figured out groomsmen outfits. Then we said “I do” and time has gotten away from us. This spring has really been a time of learning for us, and there isn’t a pause button on life to help us get our bearings, just each others hand to hold as we keep moving forward.

Even the week leading up to our little getaway was jam packed. Leah came down for a visit getting in on Tuesday, a day I was still working, then Wednesday she and I started our morning with a Bible study, a craft store stop, then off we went to the zoo followed by a concert that had been meant for her and Scott. The next day was a slow morning that included the gym, grocery shopping for the camping trip, then an evening of just enjoying everyones company and some ice cream. Friday was some last minute packing, a few more business calls for Shane, then it was off to Ricketts Glen State Park to get in a hike before Leah had to head back to Connecticut.

Back at home, thinking back to the weekend, part of me wishes we could’ve been there longer, but looking around, I know I can’t suspend reality for forever. There is so much to do at our little homestead, but being out in nature is a good reminder that great things take time. Trees don’t touch the sky in one morning, rocks carved out by water don’t happen overnight, even a good breakfast burrito cooked by the campfire need not be rushed.

“Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12