Winter Joy

I’ve been contemplating the theme of unexpected joy for a couple of weeks now, and I really wanted to write about something profound, something beautiful. I kept my eyes peeled for a magical moment in nature, noticing the one tree left in our neighbourhood with brilliant red leaves amidst all the gray dreariness that has come with the onset of winter. I tried to notice particularly special moments with my kids, like my daughter asking to kiss me on both cheeks before bed. I kept my spiritual joy radar attuned as much as possible amidst busy days and late nights. When I paid attention, I did notice many simple, yet profound things that brought me joy. Yet, though truly enjoyable, none of these things seemed wholly unexpected.

If I am to be completely honest, the one little thing that has brought me the most joy in the past few weeks, which has also been completely unexpected, is not beautiful, nor profound. On the contrary, it is utterly practical and mundane.

It is fleece-lined leggings.

For those who may not know, I live in Edmonton, Alberta. The winters here are long, and they are very cold.

I do not like the cold.

Of course, I always make do, managing to keep pretty warm using the many methods I’ve learned over the course of the fourteen winters I’ve now spent here. Layers are a must, slippers are always on my feet, and I can often be found sitting directly in front of the fireplace-shaped space heater in our living room on a winter’s evening. I’m blessed to have warm winter outerwear and a furnace to keep our house pleasant. Most of the time, it’s enough.

But there are those days. Those ultra-freezing, -40 degrees Celsius days, when any inch of exposed skin almost hurts, and even the smallest breeze makes it feel doubly cold. On those days, every extra effort toward warmth is required when I am stepping outside the house (or even staying in). Simply wearing my regular pants with a long winter coat and tall winter boots is not enough to keep my legs sufficiently warm. In the past, I would wear tights under my pants, or sometimes even the old yoga-style pants someone passed on to me years ago. My legs were usually warm enough, but it wasn’t always the most comfortable feeling.

This year, though we seemed to have a longer fall than usual, somehow winter also seemed to come upon us suddenly. The temperature is dropping and the snow is falling. At first, I was dismayed, but before my self-pitying thoughts began spiraling, I stopped myself short. No. If this is the beginning of six long months of winter, I cannot afford to be miserable about it. I am homeschooling, I have young kids, and I want us to be active and spend time outdoors, particularly during this time of pandemic. Beyond that, I want to be joyful and spread joy to those around me, winter or no winter.

So, I’m upping my winter game. I made sure my mom’s old ski suit she gave me years ago still fits. I’m getting good snow gloves for myself, not just for the kids. And the last time I was at Costco, I finally picked up some leggings for a more comfortable extra layer of warmth. Fleece-lined leggings, to be precise. Not having been a legging-wearer previously, I tried them on as soon as I got home to see how they fit. As soon as I slid them on, all I could think was, “Fleece-lined leggings, where have you been all my life?” They were warm, they were ever so soft, they were the most comfortable pants I’d ever worn – they felt like a second skin. Not only do I love to be warm, but I also like to be cozy, so for me this was utter textile bliss. I found myself wanting to wear them so much, I almost wished it would be colder out! Sure, I had expected the leggings to keep me warmer, but the absolute perfection I experienced was completely unexpected, and it made my day – my week!

We’ll see if my new seasonal measures lead to as many winter adventures as I’m hoping or not, and I’m sure I’ll still complain about the cold at least once or twice… or more. But I do know that my unassuming Costco purchase on a grey October afternoon has brought me some surprising winter happiness, and will continue to spark joy for me throughout the coming months. When the cold seems to last forever, I’ll have a little something positive to look forward to. Because sometimes the unexpected, simple things in life that bring joy are also the most ordinary. Sometimes all it takes is a pair of leggings.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Unexpected Joy”.


Every Good Gift

I sit in the window seat in my living room, and let the afternoon sunshine wash over me. I close my eyes and feel the warmth sink into my skin. I open them, and simply stare outside, taking in the blue sky, the white clouds, the last shivering yellow leaves still clinging to the trees – all of it brought to life by the glorious sunshine. In turn, my soul is filled with life. I could sit here like this forever.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I imagined my dream house, it always included a window seat. I never had one in my home when growing up, but on sunny afternoons I could often be found sitting in front of the sliding glass doors to the porch, soaking in the sun with a book in hand. After I left home and moved from place to place, my choices of dwelling were determined by finances more than anything, so I continued to just find whatever patch of indoor sunshine I could get. The years passed, and as our children arrived and we made lifestyle choices that continued to limit our budget, a house with a built-in window seat seemed more and more like a pie in the sky.

Then, two years ago, we decided to move our growing family out of our two-bedroom condo and into a house. As we searched for one that would accommodate our modest funds, a window seat was not even on my radar. By this time, though I still loved sitting in the sunshine, I had all but forgotten my dream of having a window seat one day. Even as things started falling into place, and God led us to a unique home that fit our tiny budget and still checked most of our other boxes, it was all about the size of the house, the yard, the neighbourhood, and the proximity to our church.

It wasn’t until we had moved in and had started unpacking boxes and arranging furniture that it happened. We had just moved the piano to a new spot in the living room, and as we stood back to assess the effect, I noticed the windows on either side of it with fresh eyes. These were not typically-shaped windows. They were taller and skinnier than average, and, as a result, the bottom of the window rested only about a foot and a half above the floor. With the piano framing the window on one side, and the corner wall of the house on the other, I suddenly saw it – I could have a window seat! I excitedly told my husband my idea, and he obligingly went and extracted our black ottoman storage bench from the piles of stuff still surrounding us. We slid it into the space between piano and wall, and it fit perfectly, just below the window sill. I finally had my window seat.

I love how God sometimes works like that. He gives us good gifts, often when it’s least expected. And He cares not just about our needs, but our wants, too. I certainly didn’t need a window seat, and I still don’t. I had become quite content without one. Yet, for whatever reason, He chose to surprise me with it. Maybe He saw that I was satisfied, not ungratefully yearning for something I didn’t have. Maybe He knew how often I would sit here and spend precious time with Him. Maybe He simply knew that it would delight my heart, over and over again.

Whatever the reason, I am grateful. I’ll never tire of sitting in my window seat, basking in the sunshine, enjoying an unexpected blessing from my loving Lord.

Here We Go!

Well, this is it. The moment we’ve been contemplating and planning for a few years now. We have officially started homeschooling!

Yep — that was the intro to this post that I’d typed… over a month ago. Proof of the fact that the homeschooling life is a busy one! But I truly am enjoying it. Since we were already planning to homeschool pre-pandemic, I was not suddenly thrown into this role as I know many have been this year. Instead, I have intentionally chosen to walk this road: I can explore a brand new way of applying my love of teaching and my love of French (not to mention my love of planning!), while simultaneously sharing my time and myself with my children.

Now, I fully admit that my positive attitude right now is probably partly influenced by the fact that we took the last week “off” from some of the things we’ve routinely been doing and had some fun with Thanksgiving-themed educational activities instead. But that’s the beauty of homeschooling! We CAN take a break if we need to. I’m not sure if I’d go right to saying we needed it this time, but Mr. J had started grumbling a little more about doing some of the things I was asking him to do, so I figured I’d head things off before they got too, well, grumbly.

This whole notion of routine (or not!) and breaks is just one of the many things I’m still figuring out, and will likely be regularly adjusting as our homeschooling journey advances. Part of the busyness that is homeschooling, for me, at least, is the mental space it takes up. I feel like I’m constantly analyzing myself and the things I’m doing with the kids, wondering if we should do more, or less, or something completely different… Not to mention frequently going down homeschooling resource rabbit holes when I see another new and shiny idea pass by. So besides adjusting my homeschooling techniques, I’m also learning to adjust my time management skills!

What exactly are we doing in our home school, then? Well, the short answer is… French! Yes, as I’ve hinted at above and in previous posts, just to make this journey a little crazier, I am doing my best to provide my children with a bilingual education at home. Why is this crazy? Well, maybe it’s not, but sometimes I feel like it is. I have been passionate about the French language for a long time, but I am not a native speaker, and I didn’t speak French to my kids from birth. Therefore, trying to provide an immersion-type learning environment at home, in my second language, one which my husband doesn’t speak, seems daunting at times. It certainly was when we first began discussing homeschooling. But I was determined, so I made a plan, and started doing little things (see more details here and here), and… it’s working! Without using any kind of specific barometer to measure Mr. J’s French skills, the simple fact that in the last week or two he has frequently been initiating basic French conversation with me has been so exciting and encouraging! If that is already happening after only one month of officially homeschooling… I think we can do this! 

There have certainly been some ups and downs to our homeschooling life, and there will likely be many more. But the advantages of more family time, schedule flexibility, and program individualization are only some of the many reasons I’m glad we’ve made this decision. I feel like God has been preparing us to take on this new challenge for a long time now, and I am confident He will continue to equip us. Learning adventures await — here we go!