Well, February isn’t really known around these parts as being my season of joy…but I am doing my best. My nine, nearly ten, year old keeps reminding me that February can’t be that bad because she was born! And we all agree whole heartedly. If there is ever a good reason to love February it is this. February is, from this day forth, a favourite month of mine ❤️
I am sitting in bed writing this, a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee by my side. Tiny snowflakes are falling outside, dressing everything in a veil of white. I feel at Peace. Over the past year, Peace has been rare. But today, in this minute, it has settled gently over me.
This week I have seen God move. I always know when God is trying to get through to me because of His still, quiet, and very very persistent, voice.
I can be a bit slow sometimes.
Mid week, I did a leadership study on Ernest Shackleton with the girls. We are apparently related to Shackleton on my mum’s side, and so the children love learning anything about him, trying to see parallels in their own lives. I had not had time to read the leadership study. To be honest, I found it on a sort of ‘How to be a man’ website, read the first paragraph, thought it sounded thorough and well written, photocopied it and put it to one side until I needed it. I meant to pre-read it but simply hadn’t had the time to do so. When I read it out to the girls then, it was the first time any of us had heard it. The article was eight pages long. I read fast, thinking the girls might get bored, and why on earth had I found and photocopied such a looooong article – I mean, Becca’s only nine for goodness sake!
I needn’t have worried. The girls were captivated from the first page. As I read, I felt there was one very important take away fact, which applied to our lives during this lockdown.
Shackleton led the Endurance expedition to be the first team to make the journey across the Antarctic. He did not even make it to land. As one disaster after another foiled all their attempts, from the breaking in half of their ship, the Endurance, to living for months on floes, to desperately trying to reach land of any sort, their’s was a journey of numerous troubles. Shackleton left his team on Elephant Island, and made the arduous boat ride to South Georgia for help, ending with a 36 hour trek to the walking station the other side of the island. From there he made three attempts to reach his men on Elephant Island, eventually reaching them. Not one of his men died, even though their situation was so very dire. He did not become famous for crossing the Antarctic. No, in the end, he is known for being an incredible leader and a courageous man, who was loved and deeply respected by his team.
F A Worsley said of him, “Shackleton’s spirits were wonderfully irrepressible considering the heart breaking reverses he has had to put up with and the frustration of all his hopes for this year at least. One would think he never had a care on his mind and he is the life and soul of half the skylarking and fooling in the ship…”
“…How did Shackleton maintain his resilience amidst trials that would have made other men crumble? He concentrated not on the things that couldn’t be altered and weren’t under his control, but on what he could do”
As I read this out to girls, I kept it in my mind to use it as a teaching moment later on. The girls have both found the Covid shutdown rules hard. They miss their friend Evie Mae terribly, and have often cried to me. I encouraged them to try to only think about the things they do have control over, and relinquish the control of the rest. We chatted about how a change in attitude could make their days more bearable – and we bounced ideas off each other of very tangible ways we could do this.
It felt like a good learning opportunity, and I felt pleased with how the lesson had gone.
The next day, whilst watching Grey’s Anatomy with Gary, a scene came on with an ex-alcoholic reaching the end of her life. Two of the doctors had an impromptu AA meeting with the lady. They held hands in a circle and quoted the well known prayer:
“God grant us the serenity to accept what we can not change, courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference”
Huh. I smiled, thinking of the lesson previously, and what a great learning opportunity it had been for the girls. Yes, you know where this is going, right? As I said, I can be a bit slow.
And God can be a bit persistent.
Fast forward to a day or so later. I am sitting in my bed, snow gently falling outside my window, a steaming hot freshly brewed cup of coffee by my side. I read my devotions. It talks about the spirit of thanksgiving, and how in that moment of Praise and Thankfulness, one’s gaze is turned Heavenward instead of earthward. And when one turns towards God, one sees life’s blessings instead of life’s drudgery.
Me no likey February. Everyone knows me no likey February. But I am turning my eyes towards Jesus, and suddenly everything in February seems clean, new and undiscovered.
Y’know, February through Jesus tinted glasses does not look like February through Claire tinted glasses. Darn it! I’ve been wearing the wrong spectacles all this time.
Shackleton was able to look at life and see it for its opportunities and adventures. He knew when to let go of dreams and to focus on the matter in hand. He chose his attitude to each and every disaster. He chose Serenity, Courage and Wisdom and this choice gave him Joy right back.
The Serenity prayer is all about asking God for Serenity, Courage and Wisdom, because that is where true joy is to be found.
And Claire – you need to choose Serenity, Courage and Wisdom this February. Because it is there you will find Pure Joy.
This February is different. Not because it is different. But because I am. Today, I choose JOY.
Thank you God for being persistent; thank you for having that still, quiet voice which is so recognisable to me through the cacophony of modern day noise; thank you for not giving up on me when I am being stubbornly slow; and thank you for February. Thank you for 28 days of loving and being loved. Thank you for 28 days that you, my Lord, has made and I will be truly thankful for them.
From this day on, February will be my Season of Joy ❤️