The simplicity of humanity really hits home today with today’s guest post by Julie Desjardines who blogs at Does Dependent. Degrees, ambient and geographical, Julie and I are distant, but every time I read stop by her blog, I feel like I’ve found my soul sister. Julie’s articles show her process of living out her faith in Jesus Christ wholeheartedly in life’s nitty-gritty. I could list many posts that encouraged my heart or refocused my mind, but I especially enjoyed Julie’s recent post “I Am Peter”, because if you’ve been reading Peacequility, you know I relate to Christ’s disciple Peter! Enjoy Julie’s words today and stop by her site for blessing upon blessing!
Joy can be unexpected. And sometimes, joy can be unwanted.
In the fall of 2009 our little family moved from our comfortable and familiar suburban home into the unknown. We arrived in the middle of the night, driving along a gravel road paved with potholes and lit only by the moon, traversing a highway flanked by an endless sentry of evergreens. There were no gas stations or rest stops, no souvenir shops selling useless trinkets. There was nothing but trees, literally. A road sign as we drove past the last town read: warning, winter survival equipment is recommended.
We believed we were following God’s leading when we moved to northern Manitoba with our one year old son. It was an adventure. We were excited to discover why God was calling us here, what great things He had in store for us. I gotta tell you though, I struggled, boy did I struggle. There were a number of different things about our new situation that I found challenging. Some of them are behind me now but there was one thing that just kept circling back like a dog to his vomit. Winter.
Oh how I hated the winter. Though I had never actually hated it in the past, I did not particularly enjoy the grey slushiness of southern Canadian winters. Truth be told it was not the cold temperatures that made me despise winter in the north, biting though the wind can be at minus 50 celsius. It was the amount of time spent ensconced in winter and how it seemed to drag on … and on … and on.
In the north, winter comes early and stays late. By mid-October things are starting to freeze up and children wear their Halloween costumes over snowsuits. While others are deliriously counting down the days to spring and daffodils we’re still watching the forecast for snowstorms. Camping season in the north opens on the May long weekend and last year people parked their RVs amid piles of snow.
Up here the September long weekend heralds the abrupt end of summer and a short autumnal season before the snow flies once again. In many ways it seems to me that there are only two true seasons up here: A long winter and a decidedly short summer; spring and fall are more like rapid transition periods than seasons. So although winter wasn’t my favourite season when living in southern Ontario, the brevity of its course made it easy to romanticize while curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and the hope that spring was soon around the corner.
The other thing I hoped was around the corner was moving back home. When we packed up and moved to the north I thought we had a deal with God: we would be gone for two to three years. Of course I always had this sneaking suspicion that it might not turn out that way; it just didn’t make sense to me that God would call us out on some big faith-filled adventure only to return us to our former lives in southern Ontario.
The thought of not returning to Ontario didn’t really bother me because I was excited by all the possibilities; after all God could call us to go anywhere! What I had not banked on was that anywhere just might be here, where we already were, in northern Manitoba. Arghhhhh!! Seriously God? I did not take to this change in my plans very kindly. I am the girl who just last summer sobbed in the refrigerator after her sister left, the girl who slammed her hand repeatedly on the bedroom dresser while demanding that her husband agree to move as soon as possible. There are many other such ugly moments but thankfully I’m writing an article not a book so I will leave it at that.
Joy can be unexpected. And sometimes finding joy in the unexpected can interrupt the pursuit of joy elsewhere. In that sense joy can seem like a dream crusher because accepting joy in the unexpected sometimes means you need to let go of pursuing joy elsewhere. If I wanted to find joy where I was, I knew I needed to stop looking back. Still, I never expected to find joy in the winter.
Then one day, not too long ago, as I walked to work across hard packed snow glistening in the bright winter sun and breathing in the crisp northern air I realized my heart had changed. I loved living in the north and I loved living in this northern winter. How could this be? I had not looked to love winter but I had looked to love God, to love Him right where I was for as long as He chose it.
It didn’t come easily and it didn’t come quickly but joy came. It came slowly and started small, like a green shoot budding in the spring soil, delicate and still sensitive to the cold winds of discontent. At first I didn’t know what was being nurtured in my heart, I only knew that I needed to keep choosing whatever God wanted for me. And so as I worked on dying to self, joy grew. And that, my friends, was unexpected.