I didn’t get out to walk as much as I normally like to this winter. And for the first time in years, I didn’t even touch my skis, because by the time I got through postpartum recovery and felt up to getting on them again, the snow drifts were being measured in feet, not inches. Even you avid skiers know how daunting breaking a trail through that is!
This is all the fault, of course, of a certain cute snuggly little guy who likes to hang out with (onto) me a lot lately. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have hard feelings about it. If you’ve ever had the privilege of being graced by one of his ready smiles, or gotten to rest your cheek on his downy head, well, then you know what I’m talking about. He was worth it, and hey, running up and down the stairs to wash extra loads of baby laundry is exercise, too, right? But it did mean that I didn’t take as many nature pictures.
Winter photography isn’t easy. The days are shorter, the light dimmer and fleeting. With so many of the living, moving things in hibernation, hidden beneath the snow, finding interesting subjects requires extra effort. That being said, I truly enjoy the way winter photography challenges and stretches my creativity, and this year, I missed the way it always renews my appreciation for the quiet beauty of the season.But circumstances are never an excuse for failing to find joy.
So when I was looking wistfully at my untouched ski boots, or watching the light fall across the fields in a photogenic way that I wouldn’t be running out to capture as I have in the past, instead of giving into impatience or frustration, I learned to intentionally shift my mindset in two ways.
The first was to gain a deeper appreciation for what I was restricted from doing, realizing how often I have taken freedoms, hobbies and privileges for granted. When you’re missing something, it’s not okay to complain and give in to discontentment, but it IS okay to remember it with pleasure, acknowledge it’s value, and be grateful for it in a way you probably haven’t been before.
And the second? To be fully appreciative of and present in the fleeting circumstances that created this restriction, because babies don’t keep. To relish the snuggles instead of wishing away the nighttime feedings. Winter will come again, but my son will never be this little again. The dimpled fists clinging to my shirt are going to stretch out into the strong lean hands of a man, the chubby round cheeks I love to kiss are going to turn to manly stubble, the coos are going to turn into sentences, the giggles to guffaws. The days of him squealing when I peek over the edge of his cradle in the morning, or his downy little head nodding to sleep on my shoulder are numbered.And I learned to really savor few opportunities I did have to snap a photo. These were taken while…
Hauling the camera along to the chicken coop to get a shot of the beautifully frosted windows while collecting eggs.
Rolling down the car window on the way to town to grab a shot of frosted pine branches.
Pausing for a quick photograph of the icicles above my head while airing my tires at the gas station.
On a rare walk, spotting the tracks of the multiple coyotes who had yapped in the field the night before.There are a lot of parallels here to the strange times we’re living in right now. A pandemic is weird, strange and scary, and we’re all feeling the effects of it one way or another. We’re chafing because we can’t go places when we want to. We’re missing people and faces and fellowship. We’re disappointed at cancellations and postponements. We miss the days when you didn’t feel like you were hazarding your life and everyone else’s every time you walk into the grocery store. We’d really like to have a normal conversation again that didn’t contain the words mask, CDC or quarantine.
But circumstances are never an excuse for failing to find joy.
I hope that, instead of giving way to impatience and frustration at the unusual out-of-our-control limitations put on us this year, we can look for the good when it all seems bad. That we can be more grateful for the freedom we had before, and not take it for granted when it returns. That we can be intentional about using all that extra time at home. That we can more creative, less apathetic. That we can appreciate the opportunity to build stronger relationships with immediate family members, and the blessed simplicity of being forced to slow down. That we can learn to value the right things, and put less value on the things that don’t really matter.Normal life will return eventually, but while you’re waiting, don’t miss the unique gifts and blessings that God may have for you during this pandemic. When we look back on 2020 in years to come, let’s be grateful that we learned new good lessons and lived this strange and memorable year well, instead of regretful that we spent it chafing for it to end.
“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)