Winter on my mind

I love October. The temperatures aren't quite so hot, but the sun still shines warm. The trees are ablaze with color, and the swirling wind carries stowaway leaves from the highest branches to the ground. The woods are carpeted with pine needles. And the air is clean and light.

And, I hate October. The days are growing shorter and colder. Mornings are raw and wet. And the neighboorhood streets are empty in the evenings. Everyone is inside. The heat kicks on at night. And even when the sun and warmth return for a day or two, it is clear that summer is in retreat and winter is advancing.

I think I hate the winter just a little more each year. That means that by the end of October, I feel a sense of doom about the blizzards and freezing temperatures I expect will arrive all too soon. Sure, snow is pretty to look at. But it isn't pretty to shovel or drive through or slip on. I wonder how bad this winter will be. Who knows how much snow we'll get this year and how many days will see temperatures in the single digits.

So even though today it's warm enough for just a windbreaker, in my mind, winter is in the air. I'm not sure why, but I find it hard to keep sight of the fact that it doesn't have to be that way. The choice is mine. I can enjoy today for what it is, in all its October glory. Or I can allow what I think is coming to spoil what is.

Of course, winter does come to New England every year, it's just an unavoidable part of living here. Shaking my fist won't make it go away. But when I get all bent out of shape about what's coming and how bad it might be, winter arrives way before December and lasts considerably beyond March. I can romanticize warm Florida Januarys, but I live here.

The truth is that I can't choose the struggles I'll face in life any more than I can choose the weather. None of us can. But we can and do choose how we face them -- if we face them -- and who we face them with.

God is always here, in October and February just like he is in May and in August. His blessings are always available. The most difficult challenges, the greatest losses, the deepest sorrows are not beyond the power of God to use as vehicles of his glory. There are no obstacles to his grace, except for the ones we allow.

So let the snow fall and the winter winds blow! Let the daily disappointments and failures wash over me. Bring the frustration and uncertainty on. But Lord, be there with me and for me. Save me, more from myself than from anyone or anything else. Teach me to be patient; to wait for the seasons to change without losing hope that they will, in fact, change. Help me to be present in the here and now; to discover the grace in each moment and breath. Reassure me when I lose myself in fear and worry. And show me how to play in the winter again: to make angels and build snowmen and duck as the snowballs fly by.

I love October. No day is like the one before or after it. The sky can be blue and clear or full of dramatic gray storm clouds. The leaves glow in every warm shade of gold and orange and red, while cool breezes bring sweaters and blankets out of closets once again. God is good. In every season, time, and place, God is good.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.