On Ugly Season

You’ll want to read all the way to the bottom on this one, friend! I’m giving away tickets to an inspiring movie about hope, redemption and one of the most incredible songs I know.

Fourteen years ago this month, I interviewed for a job in a part of Canada I’d never visited, 5,000 km or so from home. I had no idea what I was in for, really, but after I was offered the job, I knew I was supposed to take it. I had just left the mission organization I was serving with, moving all my things back to Nanaimo after four years away, and this new decision meant I had to move, yet again.

I was moving to a part of Canada that, as I understood it, was basically a big city, snow and politicians. (Sorry, Ontario. I have repented of my ignorance.) Born and raised on Canada’s west coast, a true-blue Island girl, I had spent time living in Central America and Georgia, with stints in Germany and the Canadian Rockies tucked in between.

I thought I’d seen a lot, but I had mostly spent time living in countries and places with mild or very warm climates. Even my time in the snowy Rocky Mountains was spent in the summer. I was determined to survive Ontario winters, but I was completely unaware that Ontario has not four but five seasons…

In this land of long winters and snow, there is this strange “Ugly Season” falling somewhere between the dead of winter and spring. It hits right about now.

The snow melts, and a remarkable layer of dirt and grime seems to cover absolutely everything. It’s everywhere. On the grass, on my plants, on the sidewalks – and it’s even worse now that I have a kiddo walking through it in rainboots and snowboots (depending on the day’s temperature). I have no idea where all the dirt comes from, but it’s there, and it’s everywhere, and on the muddy grey landscape with a depressing lack of green signs of life, it’s flat-out ugly. (My rainforest-born & raised heart is NOT impressed with this.)

On Ugly Season quoteThe good news is, Ugly Season is typically mercifully short. Just a few weeks between the snow melt of mid-March and mid-April when trees start to bud and plant shoots start to pop out of the earth. Street cleaners roar up and down the streets, sucking up all the dirt, and we start a new season fresh. And, if you know me, you know this is when I plant pansies.

Here’s the thing: Ugly Season is a reality. We all know it. Our lives, not just our climates or ecosystems, seem to have Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, and here and there a season of Ugly that feels like it doesn’t belong. A joy-killer. A hope-sucker. A bad joke. The unexpected dirt that just seems to appear.

And yet, there is hope.

Outside our office, right beside where I park my car, there is a tiny, faithful patch of snowdrops that bursts through dirt crusted grass every single year. They are randomly placed – unintentionally planted, like they just happened to land there. Bravely blooming in the ugly. The first year, they were a total surprise. A gift. Now, I look for them every year as a sign of grace & hope. Grace that I need to remind me of the hope of Spring.

There are other beautiful things in any Ugly Season, if you look deep enough to find them. 

In Ontario, I’ve discovered that maple syrup, is a big one. It’s only in this short time of cold nights and above-freezing days that the sap flows if we tap in and choose to find it. It doesn’t seem like there is anything remarkable that could come out of tree-juice in a dead-looking stand of sugar maples (trying to explain it to our wee girl was hilarious), but boil it down and it becomes precious syrup for pancakes or a dip for my mother-in-law’s tea-ball donuts – a reminder of the hope of newness, of spring to come.

We have this hope of glory – a taste of the sweet – even in our ugliest, dirtiest seasons. This season, no matter how long it lasts, is short if we measure our span of life in light of eternity. Truly, we do have this hope to hang on to. To see hope, wherever it sprouts in the mud and muck, to hold it in our hearts, and let it sweeten the season to come is the trick, isn’t it?

Friend, I’m holding on to hope. This ugly won’t last forever. It’s a short season, even when it’s hard. May we have tastes and visions and imaginations of future glory as we lift our eyes to see what joy is right beside us, exactly where we are.

Movie Ticket Giveaway!

Need a little hope-filled inspiration? You know I love a giveaway.

I’ve been given two Admit Two passes for the release of I Can Only Imagine (releasing in North American theatres starting next Friday) to share with you, Canadian friends! (Sorry, US friends – this one is just for those living north of the border.) You can increase your chances of winning in a lot of ways – use the app below to enter!

Two winners will be chosen at noon EDT on Monday, March 12th, 2018.

Ellen Graf-Martin – I CAN ONLY IMAGINE Ticket Giveaway