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Rejoicing in the middle – Noreen Secret

The snow gently falls around me as I take a walk on the brick sidewalk in my city, leaving snowy footprints behind for someone else to walk through. I feel the cold air on my cheeks on this evening shortly before Christmas, stopping to look in storefronts with all the pretty things in the windows. Every store on Market Street is decorated for Christmas, and there are twinkling lights in every window I pass. The trees beside the sidewalks are covered with an array of white lights, lighting my way through the darkness of the evening. Feeling filled with delight in these quiet moments, I have walked these streets every Christmas for many years now and know just which stores I like to linger longer in front of. I reach my favorite store. Whenever I walk in its doors, the beauty on display captivates me. Rejoicing in the middle of the store, I find nostalgia here; home décor items, homemade chocolates, jewelry, cards, books, and simple pretty things to buy as a gift for that someone special on my gift list. I also like how they wrap the gifts I buy with pretty packaging so they are ready to put under the Christmas tree when I get home!

Walk in the snow

On my way home, I visit another store up the street that has been here for decades, a local pizza shop where I meet up with my husband for a pizza and soda while the snow continues to fall outside. We enjoy the noise of being in this busy crowded space, yet alone together in a booth where we talk about our moments, our memories, and savor the pepperoni and cheese pizza before us.

With many seasons behind me and my walk a little bit slower than it used to be, on the way out I find my heart filled with memories, making me smile as I feel the warmth of the mittens in my pocket and a reminder of the friend of mine who made them. The longing of these moments have a way of winding their way into my heart to stay for a long time once the snow begins to fall in the winter season! 

rejoicing in friends gifts
Processed with Rookie Cam

Even after Christmas is over, I find a walk in the snow to be something that brings me comfort and joy in anticipation of the New Year ahead of me. The lights on Market Street stay lit long after all the presents are unwrapped and the Christmas trees are taken down. They light up the way for snowy evening walks for a long time after the holidays are over.

The longing in my heart that comes with the season of snow falling is reminiscent of years past, going all the way back to my childhood, back to the days of my marriage and young love, the times when my son was little and seeing snow for the first time, walking hand in hand with my husband on cold snowy nights, and times when I felt closer to God in the snowdrift times of my soul. There also comes a longing of sadness and often loneliness that accompanies the snowy season, wishing for “long ago times” and re-visiting times of loss from past winter snows. They both have a place within my heart as the snow collects on the ground outside like the memories have collected in my heart. 

Intentional list of rejoicing

On a snowy evening walk in the beginning of the season, I lift my head upwards and see the darkness of the sky and the tiny lights on the nearby trees. I find a tug deep within me longing for much more of the season’s warmth and delight than for traveling the path down the lonely road of loss and sadness that can come on dark winter days. What helps me get through lonely times of the soul in winter, when the days are short and I come home from work in the dark, is my intentional list of “rejoycing“. I know, I am spelling it differently. That’s intentional to keep me remembering the reasons behind it! I have determined to pile a snowbank inside my heart — built with wonder and rejoicing in the winter season, as I walk with the quietness of snowflakes falling on my face. In reflecting on before, during, and after the holidays, this is how I have found and keep “joy” in the middle of rejoicing in the middle of it all:

1. Remembering good times
Being intentional in remembering times of gladness helps to embrace ordinary moments. 

2. Realising blessings
Making a list of things to be thankful for and writing them down on a regular basis helps the heart remain grateful. One year I bought a tiny journal I kept with me throughout the day. It allowed me to add to it when otherwise I may have forgotten to write in it.

3. Reaching out
Encouraging others and bringing comfort and cheer to someone else who is hurting helps take the focus off my post-holiday blahs and my own difficulty of getting through the middle of winter.

4. Refreshing my heart
Reading God’s Word refreshes and renews the inside of the heart. In return, the Word gives strength to endure and helps thankfulness rise. It helps me walk through seasons where “snowdrifts in life” are deeper than what I think I can walk through.  I glance through the Amplified Bible to Romans 15:13, which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”

5. Resting in quiet moments  Learning to rest in quiet moments is much like walking on a quiet evening in the snow. Rest takes ordinary moments and puts a zip of extraordinary in them, falling quiet around me and covering the inside of me. I find a snowy evening synonymous with needed rest on a regular basis, giving me a much needed pause. It fills me up inside, giving me a space I need to dwell in. Rest gives treasured moments in time and a peace that no one can take away.

6. Restoring my soul
My soul is restored when I let God lead me beside still and quiet waters [Psalm 23 is my favorite]. Like I restore an old broken piece of furniture, God restores the “old” parts of me that have become broken. He restores me as I walk through ordinary moments. I am restored when I walk in places where I feel His presence and surrender to His leading. Looking for something beautiful in each of my days helps my heart feel restored when I see evidence of God in that place of beauty.

Mother and daughter rejoicing in the middle of the snow

So, when the first snow starts to fall each winter season, I pull out my re“joy”cing list and keep looking at it from time to time. I need it at the beginning of wintertime when the first snow falls and in the middle of the season when wrapping paper from the gifts under the Christmas tree are scattered all over the floor on Christmas Day.
I need its reminders as the season of snow continues, here in upstate New York, long after the New Year when I really need inspiration and hope for those post-Christmas blues and weariness that often catches hold of me. I surely need it when I wish the snow would simply go away after months and months of it falling everywhere. I find the re“joy”cing list to be something that helps keep my heart wondering of God’s goodness and gifts, instead of wandering where my emotions try to pull me. 

I find myself sitting on the couch writing tonight, yet again, on another snowy evening. The hot cup of French vanilla cappuccino on the table next to me, topped off with a generous portion of whipped cream, helps me to embrace the ordinary winter evening moments of snow falling and to delight in the beauty of it covering the sidewalk outside my window. I glance at my journal and the words written there from my heart, and find comfort in my view from where I sit, which includes my husband and our son’s dog sitting near each other over by the window. Blessings abound in this snowy season called winter as I am tucked away here in this warm place I call home.  

Journaling Prompts for the Winter Season

  • Write about how you embrace ordinary moments and how God meets you there. What ordinary moment became extraordinary for you?
  • Start a list of things to be thankful for. Keep it going in the new year. Share it with your family or a friend. Take it with you throughout the day so you can add to it when thankfulness rises inside.
  • Write about a time when you reached out to someone else who was hurting. How did it change you? 
  • Write about a season when the “snowdrifts in life” were too deep for you to walk in and how you made it through with God’s help.
  • Write about how you have experienced rest and/or how you yearn to experience rest in your life.
  • Write about ways God has restored you. If you are waiting for that restoration, write about what you would like to experience.
  • Think about “One Word” you feel God leading you to for the New Year to experience in a new way and to walk in throughout the year. Do a word study on this “One Word” — looking up meanings, synonyms, word origins, etc. Find this “One Word” in the Bible and study the verses it is mentioned in.
  • What would you like to change in the New Year? Write your thoughts about it and how it will help you grow personally? Write down a prayer to God about it. 
  • In your writing, find a scripture verse that goes along with what you are journaling about. If you don’t know where to find one, googling “verses about ______” will help you find some options to look up.

To go deeper, find a group of friends to journal with and share your writings with each other. Gathering around a table with a group of women will break down walls as you each share about your life. You will find that you are not alone.

Noreen Sevret lives on a picturesque river in Upstate New York with her husband and their son. She has a passion for finding beauty in unexpected places from behind the lens of her camera and writing about how God speaks to her heart through that picture. She facilitates journaling classes at her church. Noreen enjoys spending time with family, writing worship songs, playing the piano, reading, participating on book launch teams, going out for coffee with friends, and going to beautiful places in NYS and beaches in NJ with her husband. She also works as an office manager for a local funeral home. IG: @writerbytheriver.

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