Now that the calendar has turned to March, I am starting to realize that our first experience of winter in this new place will soon be drawing to a close.
Which is funny because our "winter" has felt an awful lot more like early spring (minus the violent wind), than winter. I'm not complaining though.
I just keep thinking of the voices of doom that tried to warn us "Oh, if you move there you'll be snowed in all winter!".
Maybe some years that could be true. But this year it seems laughable.
We had one big snow back in December to get us into the Christmas spirit.
And then the barely there dusting in early February that you see pictured above.
Hardly a drop of rain until this past weekend when a whole season's worth came dumping down on us.
Definitely a fair share of cold and gloomy overcast days, but they were so broken up by long stretches of full sun and coat-less weather that they really seemed insignificant.
All that to say our first experience of winter in the forest has been exceptionally mild.
(And before you feel compelled to comment, I refuse to think about what such a dry winter means for summer, so please don't try to tell me. I'm just taking things in one season at a time!)
I have discovered that though I am still not fond of the gray days, they are a little less dreary with all of the green giants we are surrounded by.
At least there's some contrast when you look outside.
And the thing I have decided I absolutely love is what winter condensation looks like when it rests on pine needles.
The trees look like they are laden with delicate little jewels that shimmer beautifully if the sun peeks out.
As spring is creeping up right around the corner, I find myself thrilled to discover that the season I was dreading the most in this new place we've called home has not been bad at all.
In fact it's been quite wonderful.
A couple of years ago we dropped off our girls with their Grammy and went out for a leisurely evening of dinner and dessert with another couple.
We were meeting at a popular little Italian restaurant on the outer edge of the city.
My husband and I arrived a bit early, so we went for a short walk into the forest that the restaurant was surrounded by.
While walking through the tall trees, surrounded by the whisper of the breeze blowing through them and engulfed in the sent of pine, my husband expressed an often spoken thought. That he would love to someday live in the forest.
He spent many of his childhood years smack in the middle of the forest and has always longed to return.
My response every time this would come up, including that night, was always the same: NEVER.
I didn't want to live in the forest. I didn't like the noise of the trees, or the smell of pine that always managed to make me feel nauseous since for most of my life I only associated it with long car rides.
I didn't like not having an open horizon to gaze across.
The trees felt oppressive and suffocating, and no, never. Never, never, never.
That was that and that was the end of it.
My kind husband would always somewhat sorrowfully but graciously concede that he would never want to inflict such torment on his wife.
Of course this is all laughable now, given where we live.
But there is so much more to the irony of our current residence.
This house that I've embraced as home, surrounded by forest that I've fallen in love with…. it's less than half a mile down the road from that little spot where walked that evening.
I didn't notice the spot or remember that conversation until after we'd already moved in.
Now every time we drive past it, it stirs feelings of thankfulness.
Us living where we do now was not the result of my husband pursuing his dream location.
Rather it was the result of a desperate search for a place to live and the frightening discovery that options were extremely limited. It was a last resort, "I guess we should check it out", we're-running-out-of-time-and-don't-know-what-to-do giving in to considering something that was absolutely outside of what we had in mind in almost every way.
And it has turned out to be an amazing gift.
There was much discussion between my husband and I in the weeks leading up to finding a place to move to. Me emphatically declaring areas I did not want to live and that I didn't want him to push me to live somewhere that I didn't want to be when I was already having to leave a house I'd loved for over a decade.
He reassured and promised and pleaded with me to believe that he was not pursuing anything other than a home for our family. That my happiness was his top priority.
And as we browsed options online and started driving around to more closely inspect different areas, he stayed true to what he said.
So I'm sure you can imagine his surprise when not once, but twice his wife emailed links to a property and said I think we should look at this house in the forest. Like he had somehow fallen down a hole into an alternate universe.
And now, I imagine as he reads his wife's writing over and over about how much she is loving the forest he must just laugh.
Because it just makes no sense.
I share this story for two reasons.
One: because I want to always remember it. A sweet, funny episode in the story of us.
Two: because I feel compelled to encourage some of the husbands out there. The ones with a not always so accommodating wife.
My husband did not always give such consideration or care to my feelings.
In certain areas of our life, things that he didn't feel too strongly one way or another about, he's always been very sweet to give me "my way".
But in those areas that mattered to him and where we didn't see eye to eye….. he hasn't always chosen the route of self-sacrifice.
We can both be quite stubborn and set on what we see as best, and that makes for a lot of hard and draining discussion over any decision.
Our marriage is full of plenty of such times when my husband felt the need to make way for what he wanted regardless of my feelings about it.
And let me tell you: this wife who politely smiled and put on the face of "submission" when needed…. her heart was being bruised one time after another until finally the slightest push felt like a beating.
I have a friend who always says her favorite phrase throughout the Bible is "But God…". That phrase seems fitting at this point in the story.
But God… He was at work. Working at my husband. Changing him in ways I thought impossible.
God can work in the heart of a man and change him in a way that a nagging (for valid reasons or not) wife never will.
He has changed my husband in so many ways over the last few years. Like any change there's been times where it's rough, but a gracious gift nonetheless.
And now, being on the side of things where I know what it's like to have a husband who asks and considers and goes out of his way to try to accommodate my feelings…. I feel able to say something with absolute certainty:
A pushy husband will never change the heart of his wife.
She might comply, and maybe even pretend to be happy to do so, but inside there might be a wall of sorrow and bitterness that will build and grow stronger and taller with each passing year.
But a patient husband … he might have the privilege of being witness to one of God's most miraculous works: the changing of a woman's heart.
This out of nowhere all consuming infatuation with the forest, it is not the first time we've experienced such a mind-boggling flip from my side of things.
There have been many times in recent years where I've said "no" and "never", and my husband who in years prior would have said "yes" and "too bad", instead said "okay" and "I understand". What we often miss during those conversations is the quiet whisper of God saying "Wait and see…".
From little things like what to do over the weekend or for a vacation, to big things like SELLING OUR HOUSE, or actively pursuing moving to another state. (Which is another story for another time, but thankfully in the end the shared consensus was no)
Over these last years as my husband has changed (and I'm sure I have as well), important decisions have gone from being "ours" but feeling like "HIS", to truly being "OURS".
As far as all those years of struggle and battle…. God works ALL things for good. I really have seen that. All things.
And on the days when his old habits seep forth or old hurts taint my view, as they often will because though changed we will never be perfect… I know that God is STILL working all things for good. That He's not finished and we're not finished and that even the most frustrating parts of marriage can be treasured.
Because it really is a precious gift to live out "for better and for worse".
For really helpful and wise perspective on marriage I highly recommend The Meaning of Marriage and This Momentary Marriage.
And of course the disclaimer: this story is shared with the approval of my husband.