My Winter Retreat

By Rachel Hinz

January 15th, 2022. It finally snowed in St. Louis! And the magic of the winter wonderland was only magnified in that it arrived on a Saturday morning. And as a mom, the true miracle was that today was the rarest of days: a day with no sports, no school activity, no birthday party to go to … the white of the snow outside matched the white of that little blank square on my calendar.

“My plan for today had been to finally take down our Christmas stuff in here,” I told my husband as I made my morning coffee.

“Oh, but I like all the decorations up after such a hard year,” he replied.

“Yeah; and now it finally looks like Christmas outside, too,” I agreed. My mind began to ponder …

Our recent Christmas break had been a lovely and quiet time back up in Michigan. While we truly treasured the chance to see family, we also experienced the sad reality that, due to COVID-related rifts on one side of the family and health issues that had progressed with a dear family member on the other side of the family, our time away had been somewhat bittersweet. We held pain and joy at the same time.

And due to how our Christmas break fell in combination with our travels, I was tired. We had a wonderful, busy time and, while we enjoyed the trip, I didn’t come back refreshed. I was specifically wanting just one day to sit and rest, and have nothing planned, and do whatever I felt the urge to do.

Maybe today is my day, I thought. And this timing would be extra perfect, too. It had been a week of continued busyness and sadly, continued hurts: words that hurt within the family; even hurtful words within the Church. Add that on top of the hurtful words and attitudes on social media and out in the world ….

Why, yes! The thought of being alone in my house while the rest of the family goes out to sled sounded quite nice; quite needed.

It would be my ideal picture of comfort, too: warm and shielded from the cold outside. It’s quiet. Comfortable. Cut off from the world (my phone happily put far away from me!).

Truth be told, this is my preference in winter. I am a warm-weather-lover through and through; and yet, I will happily take a day or two of snow purely for the excuse of retreating from it (that’s almost an absurd admission to sit with).

I will watch from my home and admire the beauty until …

“Mom, will you help me get my snow stuff on?” my oldest calls from the mud room.

As I zipped up his coat (since his gloves make this difficult), he asks, “Mom, you’ll come out, too, right?”

His question hits my insides like a snowball. In that moment I realized I cannot stay inside forever (or at least, not for too long).

That realization comes with another mix of pangs: the pain of giving up my wants and needs because I am NEEDED outside … Outside in the cold … Outside in the discomfort …

As much as I’d love to stay inside and live every day in this winter retreat, with just my dearest family and friends—as much as I wish we could cut ourselves off from the pain that lurks “out there,” I know that this isolation wouldn’t be good for any of us for too long. And, try as I might to keep us protected, pain and suffering would find its way inside, sooner rather than later.

My winter retreat reminds me of a time when some of Jesus’ friends were with Him on a mountain. The Bible says this was six days after some hard conversations about some pretty heavy things that would be happening with Jesus. Peter, one of the friends, even got into a heated exchange of words with Jesus.

So, I bet Peter and the others were filled with some much-needed awe at just the right time on that mountain. They got to experience Jesus in a way that was so close and personal. They got to be in the warmth and comfort of their Savior.

It makes sense to me that Peter wanted to hang out in that time for as long as possible. I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking, but I understand wanting to have a shelter that contains all the goodness that God gives, and keep it there, safe and protected.

Spoiler alert: they didn’t stay on that mountain. However, Jesus continued to be with them, just as He walked with them before that mountain top. And Jesus went on to do the heaviest of things: dying the worst death for the sins of everyone, everywhere. Three days later, He came out of the grave so we would never be cut off from Him.

So now, here I am: January 15th still. The house is quiet; my family is outside. I have had some time to rest. Even more, I have some time to reflect on what Christ has done for me. This is the retreat I actually needed.

I cannot stop time on this wintry Saturday or retreat into a communal of my family and friends and cut myself off from the world. While I can see the appeal, and I surely needed a day like today, I more clearly see that Jesus is my Winter Retreat. Jesus is my Rest. Jesus calls me to Himself, and walks with me into the world outside, a world often filled with cold and hurt but never cut off from the presence of my risen Savior. 

So now I will put on my twelve layers and venture into the snowy world of today and take that warmth with me. I’ll share it with those I see. Then I get to come back to a warm home that still has the Christmas decorations up.

My winter retreat is a good reminder that Jesus is with me, inside and out.

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