A February Dare

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On Monday I took the longer way home, bypassing the street that leads to my door and looping one block over. I traipsed heavy-footed in my industrial boots across snow that had been packed down to thick patches of ice. Salty cars soldiered bleary-eyed to work and the occasional semi-truck heaved its way north. At twenty minutes to eight, I told myself no one cared that I was basically still in my PJs, with yesterday’s stubborn eyeliner still smudged around my eyes and settling into the lines I’d  rather ignore. I took a swig of my morning cup of denial and swallowed it down. I’m basically invisible right now.

Crouching down to sidewalk level, I tried to find something beautiful between the brittle skeletons of last year’s glory and the snow, snow, snow.

I did my best to strong-arm February into a more manageable, classic kind of lovely, but everything seemed a bit grubby and sad. It was years ago that I learned to truly see my world through the lens of a camera. The revelation left me wondering how I’d managed to live more than than thirty years with 20/20 vision, yet half-blind.

I might see more clearly now, but when both the life and the landscape look empty I tend to feel stuck. I walked the rest of the way home with my phone zipped inside my pocket. There’s no story here. My optimistic edges receded back to a dusky blue.

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Christmas is over, spring still feels like a hoax, and, I’m sorry, Valentine’s Day is only so helpful some years. February tends to be a bit of a downer for me, but it wasn’t until I was two houses away from home that I realized what might be the truest reason — I get lonely. The cold has its way of grinding us down to our bleakest selves. We’ve all been in hiding for a solid three months.

My loneliest February was spent four years ago, living in a squat rental with, among a husband and other small people, a three-year-old who raged his way through most of our days. My isolation seemed to take up physical space in those beige, boxy rooms — the most defeating companion. Beyond our walls, I was surrounded by people who knew me but weren’t with me, and my best efforts to regroup often felt like the joke was on me.

I convinced myself it would be all right, beating back doubt and insecurity, dodging blame that wasn’t mine (and some that was). I sought diversion. Cooking. Writing. Obsessing about the curtains that would hang in the windows of our soon-to-be home. Be warned, attempting to whip frustration into a meringue isn’t advised when the kitchen is carpeted and the search for affordable curtains bears its own capacity for grief.

Leaving was a unique salvation, in the end. The freshest fresh start. I was both surprised by the welcome we received in our new community, and not surprised at all. We had finally found our fit.

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And yet, here I am, wondering why my neighbors feel so far away, very sure I’m contributing in small ways to their own melancholy.

Remember back in October when we were all so excited to hunker down and simmer a pot of potato soup? Remember when we dreamed of glowing things, woolen stitches, layers of comfort tucking us in for a good, long while? Well, maybe we’re over it. Maybe we’re ready to shed. To bare. Or maybe it’s just me.

Last week I enjoyed a chance encounter with a local woman I’d never met. We sat for a few moments, strangers stirring quiet insecurities into our mugs. “I’ve been lonely since I got here. It’s hard to break through.” This woman, a generation older than me, so similar, so different, began to unravel the first length of her story. I sat there, winding the yarn around my heart, holding on. We are all missing out because of our efforts to keep the snap of winter at bay. Our desire to self-protect only ends up sheltering us from the hope that surrounds us. How do we outrun this narrative, where we’re all feeling the same things behind separate closed doors?

Why do some of us endure an entire year of Februaries? How on earth can we be warm again?

I know it’s not snowing where all of you live. Places like Texas and Louisiana and even Oregon feel like terrible injustices to this Midwesterner’s heart right about now. But I’m certain many of you know this winter of the soul I speak of. I’m afraid it’s universal, and I’m here to make a plea for its end.

The times we’re feeling most alone are often when we most assuredly hold the key to unlocking someone else’s pain.

What if, instead of suffering through until Spring, we pulled on our ugly boots and walked together through our winter?

Let’s say yes to that meeting when we’d rather say no. Let’s linger over tea and lean in to the story. Let’s finally start believing it’s our weak, messy, jiggly places that unite us.

I February-dare us.

Are you lonely today? Hungry for a safe companion? Could you use a virtual loaf of banana bread — a reminder of God’s goodness in the land of our living sisterhood? Reach out in the comments. I’ll be there reaching back, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

“Share each other’s burdens, and  in this way obey the law of Christ.” {Galatians 6:2}

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Instead of suffering until spring, let’s pull on our boots and walk together through winter. {Tweet This!}

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  • kaytenz

    The honesty in your article is encouraging. Loneliness does creep into all of us and the dark winter of the soul does linger on. But there is hope yet for those of us who find ourselves in this lonely place, our good Lord Jesus is our comforter and companion. May we feel His love ever deeper and may His light shine ever brighter. Blessings to you…

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Thank you for sharing and understanding. It helps so much to know we’re not alone!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Shannan,
    Even here in the South where winters can still be chilly but usually sunny, we’ve had an unusual amount of rain. Perpetual rain and dreariness can contribute to my melancholy mood sometimes. Just like I yearn for the sunshine, my heart also yearns for Sonshine. When I get like this…it’s time to turn it over to Jesus and also to pick up the phone and make a date with someone I haven’t seen in awhile. Like you said…we’re all suffering, to some degree, behind our individual doors. I’m with you!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Penny

      Bev,

      Your weather sounds a lot like where I live. It can feel like a cave at times. I agree with you, phone time and Him time helps.

      Blessings to you,
      Penny

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        If I didn’t know differently, I would have thought I was living in the northwest. Rain, rain, and more rain…
        Blessings Penny,
        B xx

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Love knowing you’re always with me, Bev!

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        xx

  • MillennialMom

    This was so timely for me. I’ve been lonely for longer than I can remember. I’ve had “friends” and people who care, but aren’t really friends, etc. And last night after Zumba class, I came home with a crushing weight on my shoulders. The nagging small voice in my conscience kept whispering heinous things about my self-worth and likability after someone (a regular who is close with the instructor and other “Zumba Girls”) returned to class and took the spot I had been using right up front. Everyone kept making a big deal about her and her spot, and I felt edged out and threatened–again. It’s like no matter where I go, I’m too awkward, too quiet, too weird to have friends. My spirit was very heavy.

    So thank you for this devotion. It was exactly what I needed.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Friend, I identify with this so much and I feel like we all do. “That” weight is such a hard, lonely one to bear. I can tell from your honesty and your heart that you’re such a beautiful soul! And I know there’s someone near you praying for a YOU to turn up in her life. Praying today you find each other!

      • MillennialMom

        Thank you so much. <3

    • Beth Williams

      MillenialMom,
      Prayers for you sweet one! May God show you that you do matter! You are special and beautiful! Prayers that God will make it known to you that He and us love you for who you are no matter what@
      Blessings :)

  • Sarah Sue

    I love winter. You just described how I feel 8 months of the year here in Florida. More so this year. Every year I sink deeper into the dark hole. Even now, when we are having a cool morning (for us) I feel depressed every time someone mentions Spring. Summer scares me. I barely made it through the last few years.
    Hugs

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      So, apparently this is totally universal. Or at least continental. :) Thanks for sharing a new perspective on our February drears. Praying for a breeze to blow through your heart!

  • Lynn Piontek Schroeder

    I think this may be one of my favorite blog entries I’ve read in a long time. Probably because it sums me up quite well. To go from one activity to the next without stopping to “take it all in”…mentally crossing the days of the month off and anticipating April or the next best thing. It’s time for me to stop, breathe, dissect what’s happening now….thank you for your transparency.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I so completely get this! I really struggle when I’m too rushed to “feel” my life. Thanks for YOUR transparency!

  • Tracy Biel

    Oh my goodness! This encompasses exactly how I feel right now. Gray, dreary, yucky and relentless. Add in awkward and unloved. I’m firmly planted in a long winter season. I’m desperate for it to end, and desperate for some Sun and Son.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      We’re almost there, sister!

  • Karmen

    Wow. THIS. This is so dead on. The part about self-protecting keeping us from Hope articulated a frustration I’ve been witness to for about a year. Now it’s Double-dog February ON! Thank you.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Your comment made me smile so big! I’m with you.

  • Melanie Costello

    I thought you were writing about me. I’m scared. February has made me believe I have little that is worthwhile to offer. I don’t know if I believe you. I believe your words. But to act on them and expect a positive result is a leap of faith. An apathetic response or no response at all seems more realistic to me, in February. Pessimism has seeped into every cell of my being like the slush into my sneakers. I hope I find the courage to try. Prayers.

    • Penny

      Melanie,

      I’m sorry for how you are feeling.I pray for the brightness to enter back in to your life. And that the Lord helps you to overcome your fear.

      Take Care,
      Penny

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      It’s so true. SUCH a leap of faith! But I do believe we’re waiting on each other. Praying your efforts are met with a great sigh of relief on the other end, and a big, fat, YES!

    • Beth Williams

      Melanie,
      Prayers for God to come and put some sonshine back into your life! Prayers for you to know that you are beautiful and loved by God and us!!! Go ahead and take that leap–God is with you always and He can make miracles happen!!
      God Bless :)

  • http://thecreativemeandmymcg.blogspot.ca Cheryl Thornton

    I think the loneliness is there all year long…but in the midst of sunshine and warmer temperatures it’s harder to see…It’s the cold, dark days of February that are most akin to those kinds of feelings. I agree, that it is the hardest of days that we need to reach out the most. Because if we are feeling that way, we can be sure that many others are as well, and nothing lifts your soul more than reaching out to someone else. It’s always a pleasure to find your posts in my inbox…thanks for reaching out – you made my day!

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Cheryl, thanks for being such a good friend to me over the years! You always make me smile.

  • http://justplainbeth.com Beth Richardson

    Yes. So much of this. This was so timely and perfect. Thank you for your honesty and the braveness to put it into words.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I’m so glad this hit right in the ticker! :) Hope it’s sunny where you area today.

  • http://livingcenter.me/ Nancy Wolfe @ livingcenter.me

    February is the first month of my deep purple funk – it lasts until the end of April. Every year since Bill died I walk the long, slow path downhill. And, oddly enough, every year it takes a minute to figure out why I start having that purpley feeling. The path is less rocky every year and the memories remain bittersweet but become more gentle. Add to that a layer of introvert and weather in the Midwest and, boy, howdy, we’ve got ourselves a doozy of a season.

    I write this not to elicit sympathies, but to say “Thanks” for the reminder to keep reaching out even when it isn’t easy. I know from experience on both sides – the reacher and the reached – that sharing is the sweetest way to relief.

    Blessings my sisters…xoxox

    • Penny

      Thank-you Ruth,

      Blessings to you too.

      Penny

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Oh, Nancy. I’m so glad you shared. Yes to the introverted layer. :) Here’s to some sunshine for you to counteract the purple. I’m praying for you now that you feel reached for today.

  • Kim

    Thank you for being so transparent in this post!! Winter is my hardest season by far, as I have several chronic illnesses that are much worse with the cold temps, but it’s also very hard on my heart. I feel like I’m so isolated and alone. My heart grows weary of the fight for a better season. My season has lasted for 15 plus years, it’s like a continual hope for Spring, for something new that never comes. I know that God walks with me and he sees the desires of my heart, yet at times it feels like the winter in my soul will never come to an end, yet I cling to hope. Because I know that this life is not all there is, my eternal hope is my Spring, when he will make all things new. Even in my darkest winters, I have seen glimpses of his grace, sure they are harder to see, because of the darkness that tries to overtake them, but they are there, just like that first spring flower pushing up through the dirt after laying dormant for many months. We sometimes have to go through the hard, to see the beauty that just waits to burst through.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Glimpses of his grace. YES! xo

  • A

    Thank you Shannan for this beautifully honest message. Loneliness is so hard and yet can be a great blessing in that it is time with the Lord alone. You are so right that in these places reaching out in love and empathy can bring Christ’s love to other and us, keeping us soft hearted. So grateful and blessed to the Lord, you, and everyone here for this message and their sharing :)

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Oooh, I love the idea of praying for soft-heartedness. Thank you for being with me today.

  • Allie

    I feel this way exactly today. Sometimes, I wish someone else would reach out for once. I try to be the one, but everyone needs it sometimes.

    • Penny

      Hi Allie,

      I understand. I hope that you have a good day.

      Take Care,
      Penny

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I’ve felt this so many times! I think it’s okay to hunker down sometimes and hope to be reached FOR. In the end, as tiresome as it can be to always be the reacher, it’s way better than being alone. Thanks for understanding me and I’m praying you feel reached for today!

  • Penny

    Shannan,

    I really appreciate the honesty of your post. thank-you.

    ” In all things God makes new again.” I think of Winter as Him making things new again. Getting out in it really helps me feel that much closer to Him in what can be the loneliest Season.

    Penny

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Making things new again. I love this and will hold on to it! We’re in the “making” season right now…such a better spin than the one I usually default to. ;)

  • Kim Garbison

    At first, I thought it was because we hadn’t had any school snow days. We’ve come to depend on those surprise days off. Then I came down with the yearly bronchitis and sinus infection and found myself bursting into random tears out of exhaustion or crabbiness or whatever. It’s February. It’s just February. I forced myself out of the house for Bible Study on Monday night because I hadn’t been with people in a week. Then we got our 2 snow days. It’s just February but we’re getting to the end.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      “It’s just February”!!!!! Someone needs to put this on a shirt. I’d wear it. :)

  • CyndaP

    I’d love to “linger over tea and lean into the story,” but I’m working 80 hour weeks and it’s hard to carve out time for my husband, much less a friend. Thanks for listening to me gripe. <3

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      All gripes welcomed here!! Hoping you find a moment…or maybe someone to lean in with over lunch break. ;)

  • Bernadine Childers Daniels

    Thanks for sharing this! I live in North Carolina, so there hasn’t been a lot of snow this year, but there has been a lot of rain, and it does make for a gloomy time of year. One reason February is so hard for me is my Mom’s birthday is in February, and I lost her almost 19 years ago. She was my first best friend & I miss her more this month. But I also think of her joy for living & her “laughing to keep from crying” attitude toward life. Her life was filled with adversity, but she still loved to laugh. And doesn’t the Bible tell us that “laughter doeth good like a medicine” (in Proverbs, I think)? So, I think finding someone to talk to, to laugh with & to share your burdens with is a great idea & I accept the challenge! One way that is helping me stay positive is the Senior’s group I’m involved with. Those older ladies (I’m 58) in their 70’s & 80’s are so inspiring to me! But whatever age you are, find those who encourage & uplift you! God bless you all!

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Thank you for sharing. Your mom sounds like my kind of lady!

  • Inspired Life

    Shannan,

    I love this and I thank God for the paradigm shift. I thank Him for “EYES TO SEE” the magnificence in the mundane and to be able to bask in the beauty of the now moment. This morning as I was driving my 5 children to school, I noticed a small streak of sun in the otherwise dark, gray sky. I has been raining and cloudy here for days. I exclaim, “Whoo a glimpse of sun!” My heart was so encourage by that small sliver. Now my pessimistic 12 year old remarked, “But the whole sky is gray and ugly.” To which I replied, “But God is still shining!”. May we always remember that He shines on us.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      So amazing what a sliver can do for our souls!

  • Peggy J. Elliott Ribble

    Oh yes, I am definitely feeling this winter!! Along with some health problems that have yet to be solved! So ready to be back to normal & see more sunshine! Thanks for this article. It does feel like I’m alone in this but I can see that I’m not. God bless you & may He bless us as well <3

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      You’re not alone, Peggy! Just look at all of us here. :) Hope it’s shining wherever you are today.

  • Chris

    Loneliness wears many faces. My husband passed away eight months ago and I am struggling to find meaning in this new year.

    • Penny

      I’m sorry for your loss Chris. I pray that you find that meaning.

      Penny

      • Chris

        Thank you so much.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I’m so sorry. Praying today that you feel reached for, even in a small way, and that you see a spot of sun.

      • Chris

        Thank you for your prayers.

  • lostmama

    Oh how I could use some of that banana bread. Feeling completely alone and empty as a battle post partum depression. I have seven amazing children who only want to be loved and ask for so little. My husband has checked out both mentally and emotionally, leaving me feeling abandoned and forgotten. The enemy won’t get out of my head, I feel hopeless and although I tell my children I love them I feel numb inside because how can I love anything when my heart feels broken beyond repair?

    • Penny

      You are very brave. I pray that the Lord heals your heart and that you are comforted by him.

      blessings to you and to your family,

      Penny

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I’m so thankful you reached out here. I’m praying for you today and I know so many of our sisters have carried you with them after reading your truthful comment. If I could, I would hand deliver that bread and tell you a few dumb jokes. :) Hoping wherever you are, you see some sun today. And praying the enemy loosens his grip today, in Jesus’ name.

  • Susie

    Shannon; thank you for this. Two of your statements are “immortalized” in my journal today – “Our desire to self-protect only ends up sheltering us from the hope that surrounds us” – I needed that. The circumstances of my journey across the ocean of life are such that the desire to pull in like a hermit crab and hide from others is a true siren song right now, and I almost crave aloneness even while being lonely. Thus I also needed the reminder “The times we’re feeling most alone are often when we most assuredly hold the key to unlocking someone else’s pain.” Thank you for sharing your insights so beautifully.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      “I almost crave aloneness even while being lonely.” I understand this all too well! Thank you for reaching back today.

  • Ellen

    I posted the following on my blog in December but when February in the Midwest comes calling, I have a terrible time. So I go back and reflect on this post and it helps.

    Of all the seasons, #4 on my list as favorite is the season of winter. I find that my list of against out weighs my list of for when it comes to winter. This dislike for the winter comes as no surprise to those who know me. What is surprising is that for someone who despises winter the way I do, I live in a place that has winter almost 6 months out of the year. However, to be honest, I would say that there is one part of this snowy, extremely cold season that I do appreciate. It is that time after the first good snowfall. Now when I say good snowfall, I mean when there is enough snow on the ground that not one fraction of green (or brown in some places) can be seen. It is that moment when I look down the road where I live only to see an unbroken blanket of white. No tire tracks, no people tracks, no sled tracks, not even animal tracks….just pure white. It is the feeling of that brisk cold air that hits you in the face when you first come out from the warm house, the smell of what can only be described as a deep breath of pure fresh air, the sound of a branch cracking in the wind or under the weight of the snow covering it. It is that one moment when the world stops ever so briefly so that we may appreciate God’s handiwork without the sights and sounds of snow machines, snow plows and snow blowers. By February, I will be going thru cabin fever and complaining to any and all who will listen that I am sick of winter and why do I live in this cold unpleasant place. But for this brief moment in time, I will bundle up, stand on my front deck, smile and enjoy the beauty that God has created..

  • dwishman

    I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere Montana and I understand the loneliness. The winters are the hardest but even in the summer, I find myself very lonely.

  • Diana Minutelli

    I’m taking a break at work to read a favorite blog. :0) I also just finished replying to an email from my husband who is taking a Lay Servant class. He was assigned to write a Prayer of Lament and asked me to read it and give him feedback. It was such a powerful prayer, I am so proud of that man of mine. :) When natural disaster, sadness or sorrow cause us to question why, I am so humbled to know I can go to my savior and pray for his grace and mercy to get me though, knowing better tomorrows are promised.

  • Amy

    “The times we’re feeling most alone are often when we most assuredly hold the key to unlocking someone else’s pain.”

    Love this! Thanks for sharing and encouraging us to reach out!

  • Ruth Ellen Shattuck Arteaga

    I’m pretty sure the answer is “doing life” together in our winter and it’s a two way street – when I feel the most lonely, I find the help I need when I reach out to others and build community around me. there’s nothing betting than living in community – whether at church or my neighborhood or with other families where my kids attend school. it’s the choice to “share each other’s burdens” and not expect others to just share mine. ever

  • Rebecca Jones

    I like reaching out to encourage fellow Christian women, but we all do need that one person to talk to now and then. People friend and unfriend each other but everyone needs a couple of close friends. Better still, we have Jesus and can confide in Him.

  • https://crippledatyourtable.wordpress.com Julia

    Shannon,
    This may sound like a very stupid question, but is generation older, some one way older or a few years? This made me think of a friend who lives in Texas who’s basically let me go crazy. And shares with me. It’s a really beautiful thing to me the way God has given me friendships with moms, when I’m not. But the way I’ve seen God, even from what seems like a distance, gives me hope in February’s blah. It makes me smile like it’s Christmas from the inside :)

  • Sarah Wettstein

    We moved to San Diego from the Midwest three years ago, and believe me, it helped a lot with my winter blues but I can still feel that isolated, dreary, lonely feeling creeping in around the middle of January. I tried to be very prayerful and purposeful this year, and made goals to meet new neighbors, started walking once a week with a friend, joined the gym….it made all the difference in the world! I can honestly say I’ve never had such an amazing beginning of a new year. Our family also started saving our Friday evenings for hospitality night. The twist: inviting people into our home who aren’t in our ‘circle of friends’. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but we have had so many blessings in doing this :) :) I hope the next six weeks find you feeling hopeful and buoyant! Blessings to you.

  • Theresa B

    Shannan, you gave this February space words… Thank you.. It’s so strange, as I get older, I am so much more invisible to the world, but what’s most gripping is that I slide into accepting it, and feeling comfortable in the invisibility. Wow. A wake up call for me. Thank you.
    Now, how to strip off the loneliness and get out of my own camouflage? Jesus help me!

    • Elison Metcalf Hicks

      Just wanted to reach out and tell you I understand a little of that feeling..hugs to you and I’ll be praying God sends His love, in human form, into your life..we all need that!

  • Oblossom

    Your post echoes in my soul. The dark, jagged edges of this cold, harsh winter have dogged me for several months, no matter how I try to evade with prayer, positive action, church outreach, and a boatload of hope. You could lay your feelings and description over my life and it would fit like a glove. Thank you for our encouraging words and willingness to bare all for the healing of others. Blessings.

  • Beth Williams

    Shannan,
    I have a group of women who used to work together and now we get together once a month. Last night (2-26) we got together and shared our stories–most the ugly. It was good to get out and be with others and share in their pain. Be Jesus for them and let them know you can pray for them and be there for them! We lifted each other up and all had a good time!
    Blessings :)

  • http://TruthInWeakness.blogspot.com/ tanya @ truthinweakness

    “The times we’re feeling most alone are often when we most assuredly hold the key to unlocking someone else’s pain.” how profound, shannan. and how true. such a comforting mystery, isn’t it? thanks for sharing your heart, sweet soul.