Have I Abandon My New Year’s Resolution? The 365-Mile Challenge in a Polar Vortex

“Everyone needs someone who will call and say: ‘Get dressed. We’re going on an adventure.” -Unknown

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountains and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” -John Lubbock

“I am forever in awe of my Creator.”

My dog and I just finished another beyond chilly walk around our neighborhood. As I took off my layers, unclipped my dog’s leash, and poured myself some hot coffee, I realized I still couldn’t completely feel my fingers. My dog is settled in, curled up on a pillow in our living room, and I’m thankful for the oddly quiet house where I’m able to sit down and type away.

No, it’s not one of those gorgeous days where the sun is shining, and I didn’t really feel like going outside for a walk, but I did. And I don’t regret it.

As I walked through our quiet lake community this afternoon, most of the driveways are still hidden behind the piles of snow that line both sides of the street. A barrier has been created in front of each lawn as the snow plows have continued to push more and more snow off the streets. So much snow has accumulated over this last month, on top of freezing rain, plummeting temperatures, and dangerous winds. I’m thankful I was actually able to get outside today.

When I took on the 365-mile challenge at the beginning of 2019, I didn’t expect to have a polar vortex, several ice storms, more and more snow, along with other extreme weather which made it impossible for me to get outside some days.

I wanted to experience the fullness of winter by being outside in this season, but it’s been a challenge with the weather being too risky on so many days. Sickness also hit our home for a good week and a half, so that prevented our family from doing a whole lot outside.

With that said, I’m thankful that this challenge is forgiving and allows for time outside to be made up on other days. This new year’s resolution has challenged me to get outside for 365 miles during the year; my individualized goal with this challenge is to get outside for at least 20 minutes a day.

Since I have two young children, miles aren’t always easy to put in with them in tow. Ultimately, our family is enjoying the outdoors, and I’m putting most of my miles in on the treadmill until it is safe for me to go outside every day again. Until then, walks with our family still bring on quite the adventure when we get them in. Also, our outdoor play time has been pretty fun, too.

As February comes to a close, I can’t help but share some of the miraculous and beautiful discoveries that have come with taking on the 365-mile challenge for this year.

1. I’ve Never Considered Myself a “Winter” Person, But…

I have never considered myself a person who enjoys winter. My hands and toes always get too cold, way too fast. I hate the feeling of bitter cold air on my face and ears, and I’m not a fan of putting on multiple layers just to go outside for a mere 20 minutes. It seems like a lot of work, and it often is with an eleven-month-old and a 3.5-year-old, but we’re getting quicker at putting on those layers.

With that said, I never thought I’d say this but, winter really isn’t that bad. Yes, I’m actually admitting this after going through that polar vortex and other crazy weather this winter, which completely surprises me. But, it’s true.

Winter comes with its own beauty that is unlike any other season. Yes, it’s cold, but after going through some dangerous temperatures this winter, the days in the 20s and 30s don’t seem nearly as bad. I’ve actually been eager to get outside on those days, especially when the sun is out.

Yes, I still hate getting myself layered up and my kids layered up to go outside, but once I’m outside, I never regret being out there. It’s similar to working out in that people often say they don’t like going to work out, but once they’ve done it, they always feel better. I feel that once I’ve stepped outside, I already feel like a different person. There’s this newness and clearness that overcomes my heart and soul when I step out into a world that is so much bigger than what’s going on in my house or in my head at that moment.

Beyond the fresh air, there’s been this quiet blanketed beauty in seeing snow completely cover every inch of ground, every tree, every house, and our neighborhood lake in this new year.

With living in a lake community, I’ve come to appreciate the quietness that comes with the winter months. There aren’t many people that stick around the entire year, and I love going outside and embracing the quiet.

When I have my kids outside, clearly, it’s not completely silent, but there’s still this magical experience in the midst of winter that brings peace as we watch the white snow cover everything around us. It’s almost a surreal feeling when it’s so quiet as the snow falls, and there’s not a single sound to be heard other than your own footsteps. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve experienced this, you know exactly what I mean. It’s one of those experiences one can’t completely put into words.

2. Yes, My Kids Want to Go Outside in Winter

So, to be clear, “no” my kids do not enjoy being outside in freezing rain, negative temperatures, or wind gusts of -65 degrees, BUT on the “typical” winter days, both my son and daughter have loved being outside.

I knew my 3.5-year-old son would most likely enjoy being outside to play in the snow, but I really didn’t expect my eleven-month-old daughter to love it as much as she does. I kind of expected her to get upset when we were outside in the cold, but that hasn’t been the case.

One of her favorite things this winter has just been lying back on a sled as I pull her around our yard. She often just babbles away and looks up at the trees and takes in her surroundings. I love watching her discover the world around her. She’s also enjoyed just sitting in the snow and watching her brother play or watch me shovel the snow. It’s all so new to her, and it’s been great seeing her soak it all up.

On most days, my son does want to go outside. I initially tried to plan what we would do, go sledding, build a snowman, etc. but I quickly came to learn that he just enjoys discovering what he can do outside himself. I think in all of us there’s this amazement that comes with discovery and having an exciting new experience. Our family doesn’t always know what we’ll be getting into when we step outdoors. Some days my son wants to go on an “adventure” and follow a new path or the animal tracks in our yard. Other days, he enjoys figuring out how to move his toys in the snow, or he wants to jump in slush puddles.

As I see my children discovering and enjoying the outdoors, it brings back this child-like fascination of nature within me. I have often stopped to look at the smallest of details within God’s great creation that I may have otherwise missed.

I remember one day specifically being in awe of these perfect snowflakes resting on my son’s winter coat. Each one was so different, and yet so intricate. If I hadn’t been outside on that particular day and stopped to really look, I know I would have missed it. It’s in those God-given moments that creation points me back to God and His greatness. It leaves me in awe every time. And I’m grateful that my kids are teaching me so much as they enjoy the outdoors.

3. Don’t Force It

There’s been days where I’ve wanted to get outside to keep up with my “outdoor 20 minute goal”, but it just didn’t work out. One child was napping, while the other one was awake, someone was sick, my husband got called back into work, we hadn’t figured out dinner yet, etc.

Having a young family is hard, but when the day doesn’t permit me to get those 20 minutes in outside, I have learned to accept it. There are some days with littles where it just doesn’t pan out, especially if it’s just one parent at home with both kiddos and a dog. I’m thankful for the ability to go outside most days, but I think with this challenge there comes some flexibility and grace for oneself on the difficult days. And of course, there’s been some chaotic days where 20 minutes outside has been more than beneficial and it turned into hours outside.  

There are so many screen-less adventures that are yet to come in this new year. As each new adventure begins, I find myself tucking away my phone deeper and deeper into my pockets. Being present often involves devoting time to the people and world around me that isn’t seen behind a screen. Capturing every moment on camera has sometimes been a distraction from me actually experiencing all that is before me.

That’s what this challenge has brought to my life. It’s given me the opportunity to leave technology- even just for a little while, embrace God’s great creation, and get outdoors to be more present with the world and people around me.

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