Reflections From the Snow

A snow-blanketed Central Park may just be my favorite place on earth.

Not only does it look like Narnia, but it also feels more serene than any other time of the year. There’s a sense of stillness that covers the Park along with the snow. Fewer people are walking or running. Biking is nearly impossible. Even the dogs have stayed indoors. The whole Park seems suspended in a moment in time. Everything moves at a slower pace—it’s one of those rare times where you can actually hear the wind whistling through the tree branches. And call me crazy, but the Park even smells better with the snow. Fresh, clean, crisp.

It is truly magical.

During this weekend’s epic winter storm Jonas, I spent my Saturday morning reading and writing in bed while watching the snow fall outside my window. As I sipped on my coffee, I kept hearing the words:

Be still and know that I am God.

The snow forces me to stop.

To just be.  

To know that I am not in charge.

That is really hard for me to do. I had three different activities planned for Saturday, and I had no choice but to cancel all of them. Being able to do nothing for an entire day in New York City is truly a practice, one I’m only just starting to get the hang of.

Resting is the opposite of the world's current favorite mantra: hustle. Take a look at Etsy, and you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.

"Good things happen to those who hustle."
"Hustle today. Enjoy tomorrow."

And my personal favorite:

"Pray, hustle, repeat."

I looked up hustle in the dictionary—“to quickly move or push someone often in a rough way.” Also see, “to make strenuous efforts to obtain (money or business).” That actually doesn’t sound fun at all.

We're told to work harder, and even to play harder. We have apps that satisfy our every needs: from dry-cleaned underwear on-demand to people who will wait in line for Cronuts for you. We’re busy, and we have more important items to cross of our lists than undergarments and pastries. We're generally expected to get stuff done and to be aggressive if that will make us more efficient. Being busy is something to strive for; being busy is an accomplishment.

We wear busy like a badge of honor.  

Maybe I’m just preaching to myself here. Maybe you are able to set aside all the invitations, goals, and tasks to simply be still. Maybe you have a backyard with a hammock where you spend quiet time every day. In that case, I salute you. I hope to be more like you. Feel free to skip over the rest of this article.

But if you’re like me, you can easily get caught up in the allure of busyness. It’s a constant cycle of more, more, more.

So I have to ask, at what point is life simply enough? When we can we finally stop to take a breath?

After three years in New York City, I can tell you that the hustle will never truly satisfy.

Rest is ultimately so much better. Thankfully, we can find rest wherever we are—even in the city that never sleeps. We always have the choice to lift our heads and look to Him for true restoration.

The snowstorm reminded me of that this week. It was a gift. Whenever I see snow, it feels as though a bit of heaven has floated down for all God’s creation. We get to appreciate it and enjoy it until it melts away. We’re left with the comfort of knowing it is just a glimpse of the beauty that is to come one day.

We’re given a season of hibernation and quiet during the winter months— an opportunity to do less with the shorter daylight hours. It’s yet another way God cares for us, so much so that he naturally provides periods of rest like this one.

Not every day will be a snow day—I’m working on cultivating more stillness in my everyday. Fewer events on my social calendar, fewer freelance projects, fewer Instagram posts. I’m figuring out what my life looks like when there are moments to simply be.

I’ve started taking a slightly longer commute. By taking a different train than usual and spending 10 more minutes travelling, I am able to almost always find a seat. That means I can read, listen to a sermon, or close my eyes. I used to use those 45 minutes to catch up on emails and start the work day before I had reached my desk. Now I make a point to leave my phone in my bag until I am in the office.

In the same vein, I’ve gone back to using a real alarm clock. My body was so accustomed to waking up to the iPhone “marimba”—the sound of a mallet hitting wooden keys that we all know so well—that it took a little time to get used to the classic alarm clock beep again. I set my work phone and my personal phone on “do not disturb” mode (total game changer) and tuck them in my purse around 9 or 10 p.m. The hope is that’s where they’ll stay until 9 a.m. the following day.

Separating from my phone gives my hard-working thumbs a break; it also allows my brain to actually focus on the here and now. I noticed that while I’m excellent at multitasking, my comprehension level has gone way down. I miss the things that are right in front of me. If I’m reading or writing but continually glancing at the light or the vibration of my phone, then I’m only half-tuned in to what I’m reading and writing. For me, fostering rest often comes with setting boundaries and saying no. I’m still learning how to do that, but the times when I have, I’m refreshed.

This January, I began a Bible in a year plan. Mornings look like waking up a bit earlier so I can read and reflect on the passage for the day as I eat breakfast. I’ll be honest: Sometimes I am scrambling to get out the door and don’t read until I hit my bed that night. Sometimes it’s the next day. And that’s okay. When I’m digging into the Word, though, I feel more at ease for the day ahead.

I’m rooted in the reality that peace comes from Him alone.

I see how I’m much more content when I build real rest throughout my week. I can catch my breath and think clearly. It’s good for my body, mind, and soul.

This weekend, I’m heading back to Central Park to take in the snowy scene while I still can. I want to breathe in that cold, fresh air and listen to the peaceful sounds of nature, completely insulated from the rushing city streets just a short distance away. Who knows, I may even take off my watch, turn off my cell phone, and walk for as long as my feet can carry me.

Less hustle. More stillness. More grace.