I grew up in Michigan, but spent twenty-eight years of my adult life in Philadelphia, where the winters are relatively mild.
I remember one winter, maybe 1986, when a January blizzard blanketed us with three feet of snow. I bought snow boots. Within a couple of weeks, the snow had melted and I put away my boots. Eight years passed before I looked for them again and by then, my boots were dried up and disintegrating. I decided to get by without snow boots.
Before moving back to Michigan last year, though, I bought new snow boots.
Last winter in Michigan was a record-setter in terms of cold and snow. We had more snow in one Michigan winter than I had seen in twenty-eight Philadelphia winters. I shoveled snow more times in one Michigan winter than I had in all twenty-eight Philadelphia winters combined.
And I learned a few things about shoveling snow.
Before last winter, the only method of snow-shoveling I knew was to fill the shovel, lift it up and dump the snow onto a pile. Here, I learned of the “snow-plow” method where the shovel is used like a plow, pushing the snow out of the way. It is much easier to push snow than to lift it!
For the first two-thirds of last winter, I actually enjoyed shoveling. It was good exercise—and about the only exercise I was getting. It was too icy, cold, windy, snowy to walk the dog very far, so the shoveling helped keep up my daily step count. Plus, I liked the peace and quiet that accompanied snowfalls.
By the middle of February, though, I had run out of places to push the snow and ended up having to lift the shovelfuls of snow over the existing piles, some of which were three feet high.
Lesson two was that late winter snow tended to be heavier than early winter snow (or maybe there was just more of it and I was just getting tired of it).
“Next year,” I said to myself, “I will make wider paths in the beginning of winter.”
We had our first snowfall the other day, a few inches of light, powdery flakes. As I shoveled, I remembered last winter’s lessons and pushed the snow an extra foot or so onto the grass. Shovel wide, I kept reminding myself. I felt like I was working with the snow, accepting its inevitability and creating more space for it.
My walk with God is so often about creating space and being open to how God acts in my life, even when those actions may at first seem like annoyances or even hardships. Shovel wide is a good reminder, and my snow-covered yard—with its wide margins—is a great visual about creating space and being open.
Hopefully, we won’t have another record-breaking winter, but even if we do, I have already started to create a bigger space to accommodate whatever comes.