After our first full winter in northern Michigan, I’m enjoying the warm spring days that remind me that summer is really coming to Michigan, and that soon I will tan up, be enjoying late night walks in the warm summer air with my wife and be soaking up the fun at the lake we are privileged to live on. I am, without a doubt, a warm-weather kind of a guy.
But when God opens the doors and leads you some place that experiences six months of winter, you buckle up your snow pants and follow Him!
So now that winter is officially over (it only took until May 15th for me to feel confident enough to say that), I thought I’d share three lessons I’ve learned about the weather while living with 225” of snow!
Everyone seems to complain about the weather...but I don’t have to: Have you ever noticed that anywhere you travel, people will find something about the weather that they don’t like? I remember a few years back, Traci and I were in Hawaii in January. We had just left Portland after a significant snowfall (ok...significant by NW standards; now that I live in Michigan, I would barely call anything less than ten inches in ten hours “significant!”), and landed in Salt Lake City, Utah where temps were several degrees below zero! You can probably guess at how thrilled we were to be in Maui where the skies were sunny and blue, and the temps were in the high 70s.
Imagine our shock when we heard people complaining about “the unseasonably high
temperatures” and how ready they were for some normal “cooler” temps. Seriously?! If they had just come from the West Coast, they would not be complaining about warmer temps, but because they lived locally, the temps were somehow bothersome. (As a warm weather guy, I’m still struggling with this concept overall, but I’m trying to practice being gracious...it’s not working!)
In the same way, Traci and I found ourselves laughing repeatedly at how often people here griped about the snow, really beginning after the New Year. Yes, it snowed a lot this year, but it’s NORTHERN MICHIGAN! It’s going to snow here, and some winters (like the one we just had) are going to be really bad. That’s the way it is in NORTHERN MICHIGAN! If it was snowing for days on end in Miami, you might have something to complain about (and something to be very worried about), but in NORTHERN MICHIGAN, you can anticipate the possibility of snow from October to early May.
Part way through winter I realized I was starting to develop the same whiney attitude. That’s when I made a choice -- I chose not to complain about the weather. If people in Hawaii complain about the winter warmth, if people in Oregon complain about the spring rains, people in Arizona about the oppressive summer heat wave, if people in the Midwest complain about the humidity and people in Colorado complain about the psychotic temperature changes, the reality is that there is no perfect weather system or location. No matter where you live, at some point or another, the weather will give you something to complain about. I made a choice not to gripe. I didn’t always love the weather, but I refused to gripe.
Griping about the weather affects everything else: The reason that choice was so important was because starting my day in the dull drums about the weather had significant influence on how I approached the rest of my day. You know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever rolled out of bed and heard the rain falling outside, seen the new layer of snow on your freshly plowed driveway or felt the oven-like heat already coming through the window into your non air-conditioned house, you started your day with a big bucket of “Blahhhhh!” You’re already grumpy and nothing has actually happened.
When I made the choice to accept the day’s weather as simply a backdrop to my day instead of the primary influencer on how I would start (or end!) my day, I had a much better day. Attitude is always a choice, and when I start my day chirping about the weather, I’m giving my choice away to one of life’s many facets that I can’t control!
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to, “be joyful always.” What a statement! It’s such a simple, yet profound, command, and it implies that I actually have control over my joy. When I gripe about the weather, the rest of my day tends to follow suit. When I choose joy regardless of the weather, my day tends to follow suit. Are you sure you want the course of your day to be directed by a climate you can’t control and one which, in most cases, will never be “perfect” regardless of where you live?
Opportunities are lost when we live grumpy: The ultimate reason this attitude change is so important, is that opportunities to live the Overboard Life are lost, when we’re living grumpy! Think about it, when you’re living ticked off about the weather (or about your boss, fellow employees, debt payments, parents, children or broken down car) you are focused primarily on you. You thoughts are focused on how you’d like your day to change, on what you think you need to be happy instead of looking up at the opportunities that are all around you.
We end up being like the people riding the New York subway a few years back. You’ve probably seen the video of a world-renown concert violinist playing the most beautiful music in one of New York’s subway tunnels. He set up his instrument, opened his case as if he were a street musician asking for money, then played his entire concert for those scurrying from stop-to-stop in New York. Few people paid any attention. Hours later, that same violinist was commanding hundreds of dollars per ticket as he performed in one of New York’s famed concert halls in front of thousands of admiring fans.
The chance to enjoy the beauty of music, to hear a world-class musician, was lost because most people were too focused on their own schedules, deadlines, meetings, hunger or the day’s early frustrations to take time to notice the opportunity that was right in front of them. When we live grumpy, we miss chances that are right in front of us. We miss God’s beauty in our lives, we miss an open window to serve others or the joy of being served by others. Being grumpy drastically affects our outlook on life.
So if we get a chance to spend some time together, and you happen to catch me grumbling about the weather, remind me of this blog. Remind me that I can choose not to complain, remind me that according tot he Bible, a joyful attitude is my choice and remind me of what I’m missing when I live grumpy. You might also mention that I’m really not that fun to be around when my attitude is stinkin’ it up.
Go ahead and take the plunge, your attitude is better on the water!