“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;…” -Isaiah 1:18

January. The month after the excitement of the holidays and the month it’s usually cold. January. The month when the sun seems to shine a little bit less and sometimes when the snow storms begin. January. The most common month of the year that a large number of people experience the blues in one form or another, but it’s the start of a brand new year.

When I heard the phrase “January blues” years ago, I thought it was silly. I didn’t understand how anyone could feel down and depressed about snowfall, going back to school or a new year. All I knew was that as a kid it was usually a bummer when we had to put away the Christmas tree and when that excitement of the holidays seemed to fade. It reminded me of Charlie Brown feeling depressed at Christmas time. It was a real feeling for him and he didn’t understand why, but that all changed when his perspective shifted.

As I got older, I began to experience some of these blues in January. Sometimes for just a day or two, but sometimes at random times for a few moments throughout the month. Was there something about the sun shining less and holidays being over? It was intriguing to me, especially because almost everyone else around me seemed to experience it, too.

One of the things I was reminded a lot in 2023 was how much your perspective affects your current circumstances and how you move forward. That’s something that probably most of us know, but we tend to forget. I was reminded that every situation, big or small, could have a negative, and that our brains are like magnets to the negatives. We know that from basic science and biology. Our thoughts and perspectives shape the neuro-structures in our brains, leading to our behaviors and way we live. Also nothing new.

I’ve thought a lot about this concept of blues versus blessings, especially this last week. Maybe it’s my own brain gravitating toward the negative, but I seem to read so many posts online of complaints, of discontentment, of wondering why life is the way it is. Many have a negative spin. It’s snowing. People freak out about roads. Schools are cancelled. Parents have to adjust work schedules to stay home with kids. Businesses are closed. People have to stay inside and can’t do what they want. While every one of these are truly valid and real, it seems so often to be the focus. Why not look at each of these and instead put a positive twist, even though that negative is still real and inconvenient? It’s snowing. Yes, it’ll make driving tough, but look at God’s beauty in sending snowflakes to the earth. Schools are cancelled. It’s inconvenient to adjust schedules, but students, teachers, bus drivers, and anyone normally out driving can be safe inside. Businesses are closed. Bummer for the economy, but people seem to dislike the busy, frantic schedules. Now for a couple of days people can enjoy the slow and some quiet for a short time before the busy begins again.

Snow, school closings, back to work—the typical January things that happen each year, right? But what about those other life things, the ones that maybe people don’t feel as comfortable broadcasting on social media, or even to one another? The loss of a job promotion. The scary medical news. The miscarriage. The betrayal in a marriage. The loss of a friendship or of a family member. The struggle of addiction. Those aren’t the typical posts that I see, but the conversations I’ve had—the inward struggles that individuals have to hourly keep a positive perspective about. The ones who quietly rely on prayer and the Lord’s protection to get them through the day. What I found in 2023 was that I knew more than one or two dealing with just the above mentioned. I found how common and real many of those things, plus many more, were for people (including myself). What I found was something inspiring about those individuals. None of them focused on the situation itself; yes, they acknowledged it, grieved through it, and didn’t brush it away, however their perspective was not of blues. It was of blessing. The greater the blues or even tragedy, the greater the blessing or good that had already become of it. For those who got hit with something hard and maybe couldn’t yet see the sun on the horizon, they held onto was that they knew it was coming. The held fast to God’s protection through the deepest storm, and trusted his bigger picture perspective.

I was reminded of these things this past week with our snowstorm and frigid temperatures. Here are a few of my blues that I had the choice to either keep as blues or see as blessings:

Blue: Zach is out of town for 5 days and we are getting a snowstorm. I’m pregnant, watching 3 boys, and it’s a lot of work.

Blessing: Zach gets to be in a warmer place for 5 days. Doctor says I need to work out a little more, and light shoveling and a snowblower is perfect for that. Even better when 2 of the boys are at the window making faces at me! My parents and my in-laws both brought a meal for us so that I didn’t have to cook. My sister-in-law came to hang out for an evening, and we got to see friends and cousins two of the days. Fun stories for the kids to tell Dad when he got home.

Blue: I caught the stomach bug a few days after Zach got home. What if I pass this to the rest of the family?

Blessing: Thank goodness it hit when Zach was home, and for 8 hours overnight when the boys were sleeping. Glad that I got it first so that I could have more energy for if/when others got sick.

Blue: Two other family members caught this or something similar. Sickness is a bummer being stuck inside! Can’t open the windows because they are frozen shut.

Blessing: They got over it quickly. It has been over a year since our family has been sick besides occasional allergies or sniffles here and there. We are inside together, and whether we are sick or healthy, it is family time. Windows are frozen, but we can still feel the sunshine and take deep breaths of cold air outside. We have space to spread out now that we are in our new home. Zach has an office, and we have room in our bedroom for sick kids to have a spot on the floor. We didn’t have space like this in our other house.

Blue: This would have been my first week back to piano lessons and I was so excited. Now I have to cancel with families.

Blessing: They don’t have to drive in the cold this week to get here, and their kids can stay healthy too. One more week to look forward to seeing them again.

Blue: I’m halfway through pregnancy and I’m starting to feel it. Same week that my youngest is starting to walk a lot more, and my energy level feels on E.

Blessing: I went almost 20 weeks with zero symptoms except migraines. Throwing up almost 30 times in one night made me so thankful to have escaped morning sickness for all my pregnancies. Our little boy is having the time of his life walking, and he’s giving me some more steps in my day. Walking at 17 months is so much easier than walking at 7 months! The energy gained from seeing happy kids far outweighs energy lost in a day.

Blue: It’s January, cold, and the sun isn’t out today, but that’s ok.

Blessing: I’m alive! My parents are alive. I have a family, a heated home, and friends. I have a God who never leaves, and who shows me the sunrise in all situations, even if in the moment I miss it. The snow is beautiful. A chirping bird reminds me that he doesn’t have boots or a coat, but that God gives him the warmth he needs.

January may always have its blues. We all feel them to some extent, however the blessings that we can see from them can be incredible when we focus on even a few. God is good in rain or shine, warmth or snowstorm. For me, when I see the snow pile up, it reminds me of Isaiah 1:18. That snow pile should be red—stained with my countless sins, but it’s not. It’s white. I’m forgiven and every snowflake is my delicate, beautiful reminder of God’s love for me.