The snow in Bozeman this year has been nothing short of magical. It dances to the ground almost daily and with no wind and freezing temperatures it has settled comfortably in the valley. Hay bales have thick white blankets and bare trees sparkle like a small child dipped their branches in glue and then dunked them in glitter. Every so often a small amount will fall from a tree or rooftop and if the sun catches it just right you could mistake yourself for being inside a snow globe.
I have driven past these four trees a few times this week. The branches are heavy with something light and beautiful. They look impressive carrying so much snow, sparkling in the sun and beckoning photographers to capture their strength. Each flake was insignificant on its own as it fell to the ground, but now the arms of those mighty trees bend toward the earth with the accumulation of so much. At a certain point those branches have only two options if the wind doesn’t come: they can let the snow they hold slide to the ground or they can break under the weight of so much that is light.
It’s easy to relate to these trees this time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day always brings reflection and anticipation. Each year I identify things I need to let go of as I flip that calendar page. January always seems so fresh and light, so why do I feel heavy and overwhelmed by the end of December? What happens in between? I think it’s the piling on of light things. One more article to read, one more coffee date in the middle of the week, one more dinner to plan, one more mile to run, one more class to attend, one more “yes, I’d be happy to help with that”. These are good things and they glitter and sparkle in front of me like snowflakes. I want to reach out and grab them, so I do. What’s one more snowflake anyway?
Snowflakes can be tricky though. Individually we can appreciate their unique design, but they don’t come individually. They pile up and become something much bigger. Of course it’s fun play in the snow and enjoy its beauty, but too much snow quickly becomes a burden. You have to move slowly through it and it’s easy to get stuck. The depth of snow dictates your next step and the tracks on the road tug you from the path you want to be on.
We woke up to howling wind this morning as the thermometer dropped well below zero. Gusts swirled around and swept the snow piles off of those sturdy branches. I drove past those trees again today. Some snow remains of course. They haven’t been freed of everything they carried. But I was struck by the posture of their branches. They point upwards. They reach out. They are no longer carrying more than they can handle, but just enough so that they still glisten in the winter sun.
I’m going to write my goals for the year down on paper tomorrow. I believe in the power of putting dreams in ink and saying them out loud to a few trusted people who will encourage me to chase after them but who also know me well enough to tell me when my branches are getting too heavy. What I want to do differently this year is not grasp for everything that glitters. I do not want to be carrying so many light things that my arms become too heavy to reach out to those around me and too tired to point up to the One who deserves the glory.
I do not want to get to the place where my only options are breaking or dropping everything. Because here’s the truth. Heavy things will come. This year will not be without grief, anger, sorrow, busy days or simple bends in the plans I have laid out that require all my attention and strength at the moment. If my arms are so full of light things that I cannot carry the heaviness when required, then I am carrying too much.
So as I open my planner to that fresh sheet of paper tomorrow and reach for the array of colored pens lying beside it, I will keep the image of these trees in mind. May I not add so many light things that they weigh me down. May my goals not get in the way of my ability to reach out and look up.