Winning Winter

I’m a burgeoning cold-weather convert. (Which is a good thing, since it’s flurrying as I type.)

Snow in my southern childhood seemed magical—because it disappeared so quickly. When Riley and I moved to New England ten years ago to join the “frozen chosen,” the magic was back. But then the magic wouldn’t leave, and it became… less magical. And then dull. And then draining.

As time went on, the long (looooooooooooong) months of suffocating gray clouds and barren trees began to wear on the edges of my soul. I remember asking a friend to pray for me one afternoon because autumn was ending, and the prospect of what followed was already making me moody. Fast-forward a few years, and you find me searching the skies once more with the hope of snow. Winter has transformed into a season I genuinely treasure.

If you’re in need of a little frosty cheer, grab a hot mug of something delicious, wrap up in your comfiest blanket, and scoot close. Here are all of my tips and resources for turning winter into a time that helps your heart sing.* Don’t feel pressured to try everything; decide on one or two ideas that particularly resonate with you and go from there.

One of the best pieces of hyggelig advice I’ve ever received came from my mother-in-law, who knew well the emotional and spiritual dangers of heading into the bleak Minnesota winter without the anticipation of a just-for-me activity. Pointing to the survival instincts of her Danish relations who curate many winter-only diversions for themselves, she encouraged me to find a seasonal hobby that would nurture my mind and heart during the months when everything would undoubtedly be swathed in snow and monotony. A hyggelig hobby, she said, would not only help me survive the winter, but it would also help reshape my feelings about the season even before it arrives … In the same way that the fleeting nature of Christmas traditions like singing carols, baking cookies, and decorating a tree forces you to fully appreciate them because you know they can only be enjoyed during a short span of time, hygge hobbies, when purposefully pinned to certain months or seasons, can help you anticipate those days.

  • Infuse your life with warmth. If you have a fireplace, use it! If not, watch a fireplace video (like this one) from YouTube on your TV. Scatter a few flickering candles, string up some twinkle lights, or plug in a salt lamp for a rosy glow. Chilly weather is also an excellent opportunity to pull out those big fluffy socks. They were created for such a time as this. (You’d be amazed at what a difference warm toes can make in one’s overall disposition.)
  • Crack open a fresh journal and pour your heart out to the Lord. Collect gospel questions and write through them. Here are my current favorites:
    • What truth/beauty would help me in a difficult situation I’m processing?
    • Where have I forgotten I have nothing to hide? nothing to lose? nothing to fear? nothing to prove?
    • How has God been pursuing me lately?
    • What have I been longing for desperately? Why?
    • Which places in my story feel especially raw and tender to me right now?
  • Get crafty. Unearth that creative idea you saved on Pinterest forever ago and actually make it, or hunt down a new project. If you have no clue where to start, try this easy microwavable rice bag.
  • Rather than fighting against nature’s slower rhythm this time of year, embrace it. Take an afternoon nap or get some extra sleep while the sun sets a bit earlier. Focus on rest, as un-flashy as that may seem from the outside.
  • Find a fresh website designed to help you grow. Look for depth, beauty, and the desire to glorify Jesus. (I’d recommend checking out the Gospel Resources tab for starters.)
  • Compile a winter bucket list. Include activities, foods, events—go crazy! (Maybe throw in some of these ideas just for the heck of it.)
  • Try a new hot drink to warm you from the inside out. London fog latte, anyone? Perhaps some sipping chocolate? Whatever your choice, make sure you use both hands while enjoying it. (This simple practice helps me slow down and savor the moment.)
  • Put that oven to use! I had no idea how easy fresh bread is to make at home (for real, people—I’m a disaster waiting to happen in the kitchen, and even I couldn’t screw up this no-knead recipe; it’s restored some of my dignity). Craving something sweet instead? Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies for the win!
  • Set aside an afternoon to assemble the perfect winter board on Pinterest, unabashedly delving into the glory of the season. Browse other users’ boards if you’re seriously lacking inspiration.
  • Schedule something really fun at least once a week. Being able to look forward to a game night with friends or fondue in front of the fire might be just what you need to see you through a tedious time.
  • Jumpstart your spiritual life. Peruse Tim Keller’s free sermon library, launch into a prayer challenge, or begin a Scripture writing journal.
  • Plan a winter wellness day when things are feeling especially bleak. Take off from work and enjoy your mini vacation. Arrange to get a massage, visit a friend’s hot tub, or stroll through your local greenhouse for an instant mood lift.
  • Poll your people and note the ones who appreciate cold weather. Pick their brains to find an idea you could adapt.
  • Choose a few specific scents that you only bring out on snowy or rainy winter days. It could be a citrusy candle or a cube of hazelnut wax or an essential oil blend of vanilla, cinnamon, and clove—whatever wraps you in comfort and reminds you that this moment matters.
  • Get motivated for gospel movement in your life. The harsh months lend themselves nicely to resetting personal habits. Evaluate where you’re thriving and where you feel stuck. Then prayerfully consider simple ways you might prompt some intentional activity. No clue where to start? These guides from Cultivate What Matters are brimming with examples.
  • Build a bigger perspective. While it’s natural to simply survive winter, ask God what He’s up to in and around you, work that can only happen in this season.
  • Beauty is everywhere, on even the grayest of days. Train your eyes to find it. Write it down, snap a photo, paint it. (If you’ve never read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, grab a copy, along with a fresh notebook to fill up before spring.)
  • Go on a kindness spree. Enlist your kids or a kindred spirit (it’s always more fun together), and map out a handful of practical ways you could spread some love around town this winter.
  • Bring in the outdoors! Whether it’s a tiny bunch of evergreen clippings, a new potted plant, or a bouquet of happy daisies from the store, little bits of nature in surprising spots can invigorate your home. (I’m all for realistic fake greenery that I couldn’t kill even if I wanted to. Low maintenance but still perky.)
  • Print and frame beautiful winter Bible verses. I especially love Job 37:9-10, Psalm 147:16-17, Isaiah 55:10-11, Proverbs 31:21, Psalm 51:7, and Job 38:22.

*I chose a long time ago to not monetize The Dwelling Place (for a few reasons). Nobody’s paying me to recommend these resources, and I don’t get any kickback if you want to try them for yourself. Just thought I’d offer some suggestions that I’ve personally enjoyed over the years, no strings attached.

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