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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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What can we find on the other side of change? – Noreen Sevret

I listen to the crackle of the campfire in front of me as my husband and I sit and watch the logs slowly burn and sparks fly high into the sky. Fall evenings by the river are ones to slow down in and appreciate together. The nostalgia of past memories are caught inside me as I think back to years when the feet of a little boy sat next to me watching the campfire and roasting marshmallows, anxious to put the toasted marshmallow and Hershey’s chocolate on the Graham cracker, top it off with another Graham, and then take that first bite. That oh-so delicious taste I can taste as the sun descends in the sky across the river from where I sit on this evening. There is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change.

campfire change

Many years later the same feet of the little boy, but all grown now, were taking him off in a different direction as I sat by the warmth of the fire. I reminisced about the campfires of long ago and enjoyed the memories as they tugged quietly within my heart. I sit on my camp chair, look down at the grass and see one small, yellow leaf near my feet, resting from its journey from a nearby tree. I pick it up and hold it in my hand. I think to myself how this is simply the beginning of a new season of vibrancy. It has always felt too soon for me; the change of seasons, that is. I always find myself unready for the season that comes with the falling of the leaves, yet I knew I had to adjust to the redesign in how it colored my world.  

change yellow leaf

Lingering beside the campfire for a few minutes longer, I found myself lost again in the nostalgia of the days when picnics with my 5-year old son were often held by the river and when he would say, “Come swing with me, Mama”, running out the back door for the swing set and wanting me to follow him. Those precious days of carefree life, picnics, and walks by the river to explore and see what we could find are now a distant memory. My walks by the river this year did not include a little boy anymore, but they did include the grown up boy’s dog, Cookie, and his childhood Australian Shepherd dog, Sophie, as they wandered through the edges of their home here and found places to explore. In walking with them I found beauty tucked along the edges of the woods where the wildflowers grew tall by the river’s edge. 

I know I am not in control of the seasons as they come and go and realize I am not always ready for, or even want, the eventuality that comes when the leaves begin their falling from the trees in my yard or from the places in my heart. The one small yellow leaf I found is but a reminder of the fall season that is here, bringing with it much more change than just the coloring and falling of the leaves. It has brought with it a different world with the impact of COVID-19 and the reshaping of my life within its reality. The colors of life became different within its realm, and my attitude has had to shift with every day, every news report I read, every uncertain moment, as well as every place of beauty I have intentionally walked toward to fight against a pull of discouragement.

I know there is beauty to be found in every season, even this one. I have experienced three incredible things on the other side of change ~ hope, a heart closer to God, and healing: 

Hope on the other side of change

In looking at the beauty of a flower or a sunset and knowing the creation of God was evident in what I set my eyes upon, because God could create this beauty, I knew He would also walk with me through uncertain seasons. I have found the way I walk through the stretching and ever changing times makes a big difference in how I find and hold on to hope. 

In the last six years, I have found hope while learning how to live as an empty nester and pray continuously for my son who grew up and left home early. Hope was found in the time of selling the business my husband and I owned for 21 years without knowing all the next steps ahead, including new career changes for both of us. I held on to hope as I sat in a hospital room from time to time in the past year and a half while I watched my husband suffer physical pain and continued to ask God for his healing. I have found hope while living life in the middle of the ongoing pandemic where I have experienced God’s provision for my family. When my husband got sick, our son returned home to live, the unexpected gift of his being here for another season or more is one of the blessings I’m grateful for. I’m also grateful for the good days my husband has and the decrease in his daily pain level throughout this year. Oh, how I have fought against the seasons that came when the leaves would fall and also against the falling pieces left inside my heart! Each time, however, I felt God was saying to me, “I will get you through. Just trust Me. Put your hope in who I am and not in your circumstances.” I did, even when it was hard. I put my hope in Him. “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Heart drawn closer to God

A heart drawn closer to God ~ What made the difference for me was choosing to embrace a closer walk with God in the middle of each season. No matter what the situation, when I sat myself down in the middle of His love for me, I drew closer to Him and adjusted my attitude to look to Him for my strength and my hope. “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you…” James 4:8 NLT

Healing on the other side of change

I began to find healing in seasons where change was rampant and I felt like I was blowing away like the one small yellow leaf held in my hand by the campfire. I started looking for God in something beautiful each day. My heart began to heal as I depended on the Word of God, which says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:8 NLT.

I let the one small yellow leaf fall to the ground and bring my heart’s attention back to my warm place by the fire. On this side of change, yes, life is different, but I walk with hope, a heart drawn closer to God, and healing inside where God has met me as I wrestle with difficult things. As the transformation of color happens again on the New York hills I set my eyes on, I trust God, knowing there is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change. 

Noreen Sevret

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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Meander with me – Noreen Sevret

As the early evening sun made it’s way through my back yard by the river, I took a deep breath as I slowly walked with my husband and our two dogs. The day had been full, and my mind was tired. As we walked, I listened to the evening sounds and felt a covering of rest within.

The sounds of the birds drew my eyes upwards toward the blue cloudless sky, and I simply stood there with my face lifted up, glimpsing the blue beyond the treetops above me. I asked God, “Is this what it feels like to rest, Lord? I surrender to the rest this brings to my soul; what I feel inside as I notice what You have made.”

I look out a bit further and see the river flowing gently past the land I have called home for the past 27 years. It is a place of rest I find here under these trees and beside this river. I crouch deeper to get a better view of the many wildflowers growing between the lens of my camera and the large tree that has broken off in the distance.

We found a swarm of honeybees tonight way up in one of the trees and stood watching them work away; probably honeybees from our neighbor’s bee hives. I heard the voices of children playing together in the neighbor’s yard next door, their laughter sweet music to my ears, and the sound of a lawnmower in the distance up river.

The rest I feel in this place gives me a fresh perspective on what it means to find rest. I feel it when I walk away from the work and the many things that tug at the corners of my mind. In my tiredness, I find God is waiting for me. He knows that what He made will refresh me and give me rest that I need. It’s a rest that is a gift for the weariness of my heart. A time to let Him speak to me in the way I need Him to now. It’s a time to surrender the reality of the rush and walk into refreshing rest for my mind.

It is here that my strength is renewed, much like King David refers to in Psalm 23:1-3, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” NLT

I find a refreshment here by the river and in the early evening sun. I know I walk not only with my husband but with God as well. As we meander back toward our home, the evening sounds are restful and are like a sweet hush to quiet the noise of the day and provide strength and rest for my soul.

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 and writes content for her companies FB page., IG: @writerbytheriver.