February 14, 2015

Surviving Winter and Keeping My Heart Warm

On February 13, 2014 I received an email that essentially changed my life--my acceptance to Marquette's Nursing Program. It wasn't an immediate "YES!" from me (I had to first look up which state Milwaukee was in and where that state was located in the US) as I was still waiting to hear from my first choice school, but it made the last 365 days an incredible, unfathomably amazing adventure. 

Ever since the moment I first arrived in Wisconsin last May, I was anticipating Winter and all of the beautiful glory that comes with it. The first two things I really ever "learned" about Wisconsin was beer and Winter. In the beginning when I would meet people for the first time, once finding out I'm from the west coast their immediate responses would go something like, "Oh, just wait for winter. You'll be fine, but it's all about layers." or "Why did you move here? Be sure to invest in some layers." or "Why the hell would someone leave California to be in Wisconsin? You're going to die in the winter."

It's all relative, people. On the left is a plowed sidewalk from SuperBowl Sunday--my first "real" blizzard, about 18 inches of snow. On the right is this exact time last year during my final semester in San Diego. Look at me wearing long sleeves...fool. It was at least 70 degrees. And below is last weekend after I fell through a frozen lake. It's relative--I'm finding joy in things I've never experienced as most people do in new environments! I'm SURE if I grabbed someone from Wisconsin and moved them to San Diego, they'd spend every day at the beach. Especially December through March. I'm tellin' ya: relative :)

Still to this day people continue checking on me, from home and from here. "Are you surviving, Alex?" or "This winter hasn't been nearly as bad as last year; it's very mild." or "It's all about layers." That last one has stuck with me. It makes me smile because although I feel like I've handled winter pretty well (even if this is considered mild) and have learned to find anything above 25 degrees a warm day (that is, without windchill), I've learned so many more life lessons from Winter than ever imaginable.

Before I get to the main point, I must say one thing: I have learned to appreciate the sunshine so much more. When the sun shines on Milwaukee (approximately every three days), I don't miss a moment to shout, "THE SUN IS OUT!!!! I SEE THE SUN!" and it's immediately a beautiful day. The other day on my walk to school, the sun was shining and it was 9 degrees, but it felt blissful. In San Diego if it was ever over 75 degrees and I didn't have to be outside, I probably wasn't. I'm embarrassed in myself.

Anyhow, I want to direct this next note to most ladies, but I'm sure it actually applies to everyone. In the midst of all your Winter layers, have you ever "hidden" something? Perhaps, no t-shirt. Or maybe you're actually wearing three pairs of pants. Or your leggings might have a hole on the booty but it doesn't matter because you won't be taking off your long coat (but be careful of that draft!). I have found myself skipping showers because I can just hide my greasy hair in a beanie. I have found that no one will actually know if I'm wearing my pajama shirt under my coat because even if I take it off, I have a sweatshirt to protect me.

The other day I was walking home from water polo practice and I had forgotten to bring a hat or anything for my head to prevent my hair from freezing. Luckily it's only like, three blocks from my front door to the gym, but my little bun still managed a few haircicles. Regardless, it got me thinking about how vulnerable my hair was to the cold and how throughout Winter, we layer up and end up protecting ourselves from not only the snow and bone-chilling wind, but from everything else around us. Those Winter layers build up and draw us closer to ourselves. They allow us to hide underneath so much down and fleece that our hearts somehow get hidden, despite being very warm.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

On this Valentine's, I wanted to send a little reminder to all of my dear friends about how VASTLY we are loved. Not only by each other, but from our Great Creator. He loves us with an unwavering faith, more than myself or any friends could offer, although sometimes I do think that highly of myself. Being loved is one of the most mystical, magical feelings, but we often get caught up finding that love from another human. Another person who still has the capability to let us down, not always on purpose. Once we are fully able to comprehend the love that Jesus has for us, it is infinitely easier to shed those layers and wear our hearts on our sleeves. This doesn't protect us from heartbreak or heartache, but it protects our hearts and allows our Savior to heal it whenever necessary.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5

I pray that this day finds you encouraged and overwhelmed with love. Valentine's Day often tows behind it a negative connotation, especially for people who hold bitterness and betrayal in their hearts. It doesn't have to be like that! We are LOVED, ADORED, CHERISHED, and BELOVED. So, in conclusion, Happy Valentine's Day, my dearly loved friends! May you find an authentic joy in your hearts today...sending my biggest hugs and warmest blessings your way today!

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who lived us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39 

PS: Cats are also great companions if you were to ever need a tangible reminder that you're sincerely loved and cared for. Rocky sends his warmest greetings for a paw-some day! :) xoxoxoxoxo

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