If you’re active in social media, I don’t have to tell you how young mothers feel about daylight savings time. If you’re not, I’ll just summarize: all it means is that the clock reads one hour earlier when we wake up and that our kids’ nap schedules are destroyed. We know that our children will be up at their same 6:00 waking time—which is now 5:00. And we know that we need to be up an hour and a half earlier than they are, on average, if we want to shower, dress, and have any time at all to ourselves in the day (before late evening, when we’re too exhausted to do anything with it)—so we find ourselves setting alarms for 3:30 until we can finally get their schedules “reset” by forcing them to stay up in the evening with the hope that they will sleep later into the morning. As hard as this is (I just sent my 4-year-old back to bed at 4:45, telling her “It’s the middle of the night!”—fifteen minutes prior to her normal 6-now-5 waking time, because I NEED that time to myself), those of you who have had a few more years of experience as parents assure me that it gets better, and that this day that turns sweet babies’ schedules on their heads is actually looked forward to by all during the teen years. So I’ll push through it, through these two little ones and hopefully a couple more later on. But for today, I’m not thrilled about it.
I have another reason. I don’t mind dark mornings, because I love that I can usually have them to myself. As soon as the faintest light from the sun streams into my kids’ bedrooms, they greet the day enthusiastically. Dark mornings always, always break to light. I enjoy feeling that I’ve been productive before the light comes, as if I got a head start on the day. Evenings are different. When the darkness settles in like a bruise, my productivity is limited to what I can do indoors. My body responds to rapidly-reduced light with rapidly-increased need for sleep. And this time of year, when darkness comes at what feels to me like late afternoon, I get this panicky sensation that the day ended before I was finished with it. The darkness will come before the evening meal—before I even leave work sometimes—and it comes to stay for a while. It signifies an ending, a permanence—light will not come again on this day once the darkness smothers it.
Why does this matter to me? I can’t really explain it, but I just get kind of sad in the winter. Maybe it has something to do with the actual reduction in hours of light, or maybe it is more about my change in activities due to the absence of the light—I can’t run outside after dark. Whatever the reason, my faith has always helped me through it. When I couldn’t run outside, I would read or write in journals or pray inside. And the joy surrounding Christmas certainly helped until January. The winter of 2012-2013 wasn’t as bad—I had plenty of mid-day free time, I had the most precious friends, and I was seeking Jesus ardently and talked myself into believing that I was finding him. Last winter was the worst it has ever been—so terrible that I genuinely fear this winter. I was confined to my house with a newborn, and friends were too busy with work to be available. I had no reason to believe that God was there walking with me through it, and without Jesus I found it hard to care about Christmas. It was dark and lonely, and I couldn’t tell anyone–I had to keep up the super-mom front. I did love my baby and always found happiness in meeting her needs—but I felt so much guilt for time taken from my older daughter for the sake of the new one. I couldn’t sleep, even though my children did. I couldn’t focus on work I needed to do. I didn’t do things I loved to do, because I just didn’t care enough to do them. And I was deeply sad. Looking back, I can’t tell if this was all related to childbirth, my baby’s early critical illness, the winter season, or just plain depression that I would have had anyway. Whatever the reason, I got over it some time around March without any kind of intervention.
But here I am in November again, and the calendar has just committed itself to early evening darkness. And I feel what I can only describe as dread. Can I get through this again? Will I have to? Will I ever stop wondering if this is just what life without Jesus is like for me? I fear the winter. I fear feeling lonely in a crowded room. I fear the guilt and the apathy and losing the perfect focus that I’ve had lately. I fear not being able to return my daughters’ smiles or my husband’s affection. I fear sleepless nights and drowsy days, and I fear feeling like I should just snap out of it—but being powerless to do so. Don’t worry—I feel none of this now. Today I’m okay. But I’m not sure I can do again what I did last winter, and I’m really hoping I don’t have to.
There are verses in scripture that have brought me through the winter months for so many years. They are found in Proverbs 31, verses 21 and 25:
“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet…She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
In my mind, the scarlet clothes were the blood of Christ—the blood that covered hopelessness and depression, the blood that reconciled me to God so I would never be alone, the blood that overcomes the stains of sin and guilt. Darkness fell on the day that blood was shed, but because it was shed I can live in light. My thoughts sound so odd now, but these words and my meditation on what I believed Christ accomplished really did get me through the winter.
Can I find another way to have strength and dignity, and laugh at the winter days to come? I guess I’ll keep you posted—I think writing helps. For now, I’m going to refill my coffee and be alone with my thoughts and watch the sunrise—the darkness always, always breaks to light.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons attribution 2.0 generic license. “Rock Creek, Winter Snow Storm” provided by Denali National Park and Preserve)