Finding contentment in February
Every February, without fail, I begin to question why I still live in Ohio. Days and days of gray skies, snowy roads and freezing temperatures leave me yearning for a change of scenery.
As a side note, have you ever tried explaining negative temperatures to 5-year-olds? The look on their faces as they try to understand how a number could be less than zero …
I have friends who fully embrace this time of year, attacking it with all sorts of outdoor adventures. They’ll bundle up with their kids for an afternoon of cross-country skiing, sledding or romping on a snow-covered playground.
Not this mama. If my girls want to play in the snow, they’re on their own. I’ll help them get suited up, and I’ll welcome them in with a hot cup of cocoa, but you won’t find me out in that blanket of white. I prefer blankets of the electric type, thank you very much.
By the time February rolls around, it’s been months since I’ve walked the dog. Don’t worry, Rocco’s exercise requirements are still being met by his other owner, but even our canine companion is less enthusiastic about going outside these days.
Then there are the slushy, slippery roads. The kids may get a snow day, but Mom still has to go to the office. So, I turn up some worship music and pray I don’t end up in a ditch on my way there. Meanwhile, Dad is working from home, which is nearly impossible with two kindergartners running around. And those two, who were thrilled about having a day off, are complaining they’re bored by 11 am.
Oh, February. Why must you torment us? To make matters worse, this year we also have a pandemic to contend with. That means many of the activities we'd normally depend on to beat the winter blues are now off limits. Cooped up in the house, we all come down with a bad case of cabin fever.
It’s my lack of contentment this time of year that usually leads me to start planning a beach vacation. I’ll get lost for hours on sites like Airbnb or VRBO, dreaming about life in a sunny, tropical climate. This year we’ve decided to keep travel spending to a minimum, so my wanderlust has shifted to a desire for permanent relocation. Florida, I’m looking at you.
February is the personification of discontent. It’s that season of life when you feel stuck, the outlook is bleak and brighter days seem far away. February is being single and waiting for Mr. Right. It’s trying for a baby and being faced with infertility. February is an unfulfilling job, a house that’s too small, a lack of close connections or anything else you might think you’re missing out on.
But February doesn’t last forever. In fact, it’s the shortest month of the year! The sun eventually shows its face again and melts away the snow. March arrives, making way for spring. Seasons change, and so can your perspective.
That’s not to say you can just snap your fingers and suddenly everything’s peachy. Finding contentment is a process. After the snow melts, the ground is muddy (and in our backyard, it’s also littered with dog poo). Some cleanup may be required before you can fully embrace your current circumstances. Take a good look at your desires and motivations, and ask God to reveal any sin that may be holding you back from experiencing peace and satisfaction in his perfect plan. Don’t forget that the season you’re in now may be preparing you for greater things in the future.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. - Isaiah 43:19
I work at a winery, so every morning I drive past several acres of vineyards. In February, the vines appear dormant under all the snow, but the opposite is true. There’s actually a lot of internal work going on, preparing the vines for the next growing season. They’re hoarding nutrients and limiting water to prevent freezing. Buds mature during winter and become new leaves and fruit in the spring.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. - John 15:5-7
I’ll be happy to say goodbye to February, but I’m learning that it’s not all bad. God has been teaching me that I need to be satisfied in him rather than dwelling on all the things I’d like to change. Apart from him I can do nothing. He’s working inside of me, even in the mundane moments — the Februarys — of life. As long as I remain in him, he promises a fruitful future.
Brighter days are on the way.