Four Tips to Avoid the Winter Blues

Wrestling a toddler into a car seat is not fun. Doing it when the icy wind is whipping around me, freezing my extremities in seconds, is a level of torture I never dreamed of as a pregnant mother. When I combine this reality with living in the country, the snow drifts across our driveway blocking me in, and nowhere we had to go when the kids were little, I spent a lot of their winters as little kids at home. It might sound nice and cozy to be in the warm house, it was easy to get depressed stuck in the same four walls with no view of anything (our old frosted windows kept me from seeing anything outside during the cold months).

I began to dread winter long before it came to pass in those years. With the first sight of a leaf changing color or the chill in the air, great fear hit my heart as I anticipated months stuck inside the house with little kids. I loved fall for years, but it quickly turned to a season that just signaled the beginning of winter to me. And winter was as dead for my heart as it was for the lilacs in my front yard.

I worked at home for a couple of years when Isabella was little. Then when Jack was born, I knew I could not do that job with two little ones, so we worked to pay off our vehicle loan and be able to live on one income. It would be a few years before Isabella started preschool, so we didn’t have a lot of activity filling our lives. I tend to be a homebody anyway, so the idea of staying home in the winter and not dragging the kids out of the house definitely appealed to me. I failed to recognize the toll it was taking on my mental health, unfortunately.

I did not learn this lesson as early as I wish I did, but I hope I can help some moms to keep this in mind when the kids are little. These are my four tips to help moms avoid the winter blues.

1. Leave the house! I know it’s hard, but even putting the kids in car seats for a nap or a movie while I drive around and drink a coffee gives you a little break from the norm, some sunshine (hopefully), and the opportunity to look at something other than the same four walls.

2. Have a play date. It doesn’t sound fun to bundle up the kids just to listen to them whine at someone else’s house. I get it. But the chance to get together with another mom friend is worth the effort. You can even read a chapter of the Bible or a book together and talk about it. We have a gym that opens to parents and kids with some fun activities and just space to run around, and we met there a few times as well.

3. Serve someone else. Sometimes you can’t take on one more thing without losing your mind, but other times you might be wondering what a mom with little kids can do when she’s stuck at home. Make a meal for someone who is sick or in a tough stage of life. Write cards. Help the kids draw pictures and write cards to mail. Visit an older person who doesn’t get out much.

4. Take a break! This is much easier said than done. However, any time I make the effort to arrange child care so I could do something that feeds my soul, I have never regretted it once. It can be a couple hours or a couple nights, but taking the time to get away in the winter months is a great reminder that life is short, the season will not last forever, and you will be refreshed and ready to keep going.

The older my kids get, the less daunting the winter season feels to me. They can put on their own coats and boots, buckle their seat belts, and play in the snow without my help to bundle up. It is hard to believe in the little years, but they do grow up. It gets easier and harder all at the same time.

Joyful in Hope, Patient in Affliction, Faithful in Prayer

This sign hangs in my hallway. Romans 12:12 challenges me all the time, and this current season is no exception.

The past few months have been full of highs and lows for our family. I remember sitting in the hospital with Matt and asking the physical therapist about what he would need to do once he was released to go home. She said he would have no physical therapy required, and I was amazed. A few friends in the medical field and another who personally experienced sepsis herself had warned me that physical therapy could last for a while. I thought he was so lucky to get through this ordeal with none required.

That wasn’t the end of the struggle, though. The follow-up appointments with a variety of doctors were the new norm, and every time it seemed something new arose. We learned within a week or two of his release that he had developed blood clots in his chest and leg. That was an unexpected complication. A week or two after hearing those words, I sat at a lunch where someone had just attended the funeral of a young man who died from a blood clot in his chest. Matt was eventually seen at Mayo, where he visited three or four weeks in a row, once for two and a half days of appointments, tests, scans, consults. It was hard to stay home, but with three kids in school and no one working to pay the bills, I didn’t have much of a choice. I learned about each appointment afterwards, but Matt did a great job keeping track of the details, the medications, and the schedule.

Almost two weeks ago, he was at Mayo for another day of appointments, and he texted from there saying that he was being checked into the hospital for observation for two nights. He was not expecting an overnight stay, his phone battery was almost dead so I couldn’t call him, and all I knew was that they were worried about his heart. It is not exactly the thing you want to read as you pull up for school pickup! I shot a quick text to my Bible study group, and my dear friend Steph hopped out of her van in the pickup line and ran over to pray with me. I sure needed that hug and prayer in that moment.

As I got ready to drive up to Mayo to be with Matt on Saturday morning, he texted that they were releasing him to drive home a day early. He finally got a phone charger and called me on the drive home. They believed the inflammation in his heart was due to the septic shock, and it would return to normal.

Unfortunately, one of our kids had been exposed to COVID that week as well, and we learned on Monday that he was positive. He had almost no symptoms. Somehow the rest of us all tested negative, which was a great blessing considering we did not want Matt to contract COVID with the current lung and heart issues he is facing.

Patient in affliction. I would hesitate to ever describe myself as patient, but it has been a good reminder in this season that I must trust God as I patiently wait for the resolution to Matt’s health issues. I have some experience with this patience in affliction through other seasons of life, but I can see the Lord continuing to work in my heart the deep and abiding peace that comes from patiently waiting on Him.

Joyful in hope. I know it seems counterintuitive, but God has chosen to also send many blessings our way in this season of suffering. The people who have blessed us with phone calls, prayers, meals, money, yard work, child care, lunches for the kids…sometimes I just sit and cry when I think of all the generous people who have lavished love upon us. These blessings have given us much joy, and they have also served to remind us of the hope we have in Christ. If He thinks so much of us to send a group of hard-working men to take care of the yard work we are unable to do right now, how could I not also trust that He is working out His plans for our future, our family, our ministry even when I cannot see it?

Faithful in prayer. Praying for others is a passion of mine. In this season, I have relied greatly on the prayers of others. I know that on the darkest days, those prayers have held me up and kept me from falling into despair. I have felt like our family is the man on the stretcher whose friends carry him to Jesus. He can’t get there without help, and his friends gladly do whatever it takes to get him an audience with Jesus. I believe God has used this season of relying on the prayers of others to further kindle my desire to be the stretcher-carrying friend as often as possible.

I know we are not the only ones in a hard season. If you are facing struggles and looking around for your stretcher-carrying friends, please look here. I would love to pray with you, to help you find support wherever you are, and to see you find the ways God wants to bless you even through this unexpected struggle.

I have never been left alone to navigate this season, not by God or by my family, friends or church family. He is faithful.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Know Him

Thursday mornings are my favorite. I joined a small group Bible study a few years ago, and I have grown to deeply love Thursday mornings with my friends. Some of us talk a lot more than others, but we learn a lot about God as we study His Word and a lot about each other as we cultivate an authenticity that knits our hearts together.

We shared this week as part of our icebreaker question about something that made us nervous recently. As I drove away afterwards, I was struck by how many of us are facing heavy things. We are so different in our situations, our experiences, and our personalities. Yet we are so alike in our humanity, our pain, our need for community, for each other.

I am a helper (Enneagram 2 if that means something to you), so when I hear someone else express a struggle or pain, my mind starts whirring and searching for resources I can offer to help their situation. I have learned this year very clearly that, more than answers to my questions or problems, I need God. I need to be close to Him. I need to know Him. I need to praise Him. I need to ask for His wisdom and help.

My drama ministry team in college had a theme verse. I still remember it well, and I find it applies to my life as wife, mother, minister, friend, all of it.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We didn’t want to minister at a church or youth event and have people look at us for what we could do or how well we could do it. We wanted them to see Him, to see Jesus as the only thing we had to offer, the only thing they needed.

I was reminded once again yesterday that each friend in my Sisterhood group needs to know God. We need to see Him, to learn more about who He is through His Word. I may not find the answers to my specific situation when I read my Bible, but an answer is not truly what I need. I need Him, and I need to be reminded that in knowing Him, I have everything I need. In Him, all wisdom and knowledge are found. He can lead me in the right direction, point me to the right path, whisper words of wisdom to my heart. I need Him.

I know you need Him, too. If we seek Him, He will be found.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬