Ten years ago, I interviewed for a job in a part of Canada I’d never visited, 5,000 km or so from home. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, I lived for periods of time 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 was unprepared for the fifth season that this new place I’d found myself in offered.

In this land of long winters, there is this strange “Ugly Season” falling somewhere between the dead of winter and spring.

The snow melts, and a remarkable dirty layer of grime seems to cover absolutely everything. I have no idea where all the dirt comes from, but it’s there, everywhere and on the muddy grey landscape with the depressing lack of green signs of life, it’s flat-out ugly.

While utterly depressing when it’s here, the good news is, Ugly Season is typically short. Just a few weeks between late March snow melt 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.

Here’s what I’m coming to accept: Ugly Season is a reality. We all have them. 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. Dirt that just seems to appear.

This year has been a particularly challenging one for us. One in which we’ve got friends fighting fierce battles, and we’ve engaged in some ourselves. As we celebrated our wee girl’s recovery from a scary bout of pneumonia, we faced the reality of my dad’s health struggles, and about a week ago it got so bad and we were terrified that we might lose him. I’m fully aware of the realities of heaven and I’m looking forward to it, but right now I’m not ready to lose him. So not ready. So hard to be faced with life’s ugly. This Ugly season felt like a badly timed joke.

And yet, there is hope.

Last week, I walked out of the office at the end of a particularly gloomy Ugly Season day. I looked down to find a tiny patch of snowdrops had burst out of the dirt crusted grass beside my car. They were randomly placed – unintentionally planted. Bravely blooming in the ugly. I looked beyond the dirt and found a glimpse of beauty in the broken. Grace that I needed just in that moment.

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

Maple syrup, for one. It’s only in this short time that the sap flows if we tap in and choose to find it. It seems normal enough, but boil it down and it becomes sweet to the tongue, a reminder of the hope of glorious spring to come. (Holley had a lovely blog after visiting us for last year’s Maple Syrup season!)

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 have the eyes 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 of future glory as we lift our eyes to see what God has placed right in our path, right where we are.

*And… a Movie Ticket Giveaway! I’ve been given two Admit Two (Canadian) passes for the film release of Heaven is for Real (in Canadian & U.S. theatres next Wednesday) to share with you, friends! All you need to do is put up your hand by posting a comment below. I’ll randomly pick two commenters to receive these passes.