Okay, for those of you who have the unmitigated nerve to live in warm weather climates right now, this article may not be as easy for you to visualize. However, for those of you who share my winter-weary sense of frigid despair, steadily increasing case of seasonal affective disorder, and acute case of cabin fever because you live in the northeast or in some other area of the country that has nine feet of snow, then you should easily be able to see the picture I’m trying to paint.

As winter has not just settled in, but more like rammed itself into a full-scale collision with our daily routines here in New England, it got me to thinking about one very special winter’s past that I’ll never forget. It was the winter of 2009, the year we adopted our beautiful daughter Madeline.

Madeline was born a little over three months early, so she was very tiny and required about a six-week stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor, Maine. We live in central Massachusetts, where the winters can be brutally cold and filled with snow, as it definitely is this year. Bangor, Maine however, is about a five-hour drive north of us that makes winter in Central Massachusetts look like beach weather.

There is so much to reflect upon from that fateful winter. Getting a call on Christmas Day that Madeline had made her appearance into this world. Watching her grow from a 2.2-pound little Christmas angel with tubes strewn about her frail little body into a totally tube-free, 4-pound miracle ready to take home. Four pounds may not seem like a lot, but when you compare it to two pounds, the difference is astounding–trust me. Also, seeing numerous friends and family members visit and call on a daily basis to show their support and love for our family was something we’ll never forget.

One memory continues to be as vivid as ever. My wife and I both had to take most of the six weeks off from work, and we rented a small apartment up in Bangor so that we could be there for Madeline for whatever she needed. Things happen fast when they’re that small, so the need to be there is absolutely critical. The apartment wasn’t much, and as I mentioned earlier, it was literally the dead of winter. So cabin fever may seem like a problem now, but when you’re five hours from home in an even colder climate and know nothing or nobody around you, it’s even worse. There was one particularly cold spell I can remember where the temperatures were steadily into the negative numbers for several days, and the wind chill froze bare skin in something like the 0-60 time of a Ferrari. That’s cold!

Part of our daily routine while we were there involved me walking from our apartment to the laundry area of the complex to routinely wash and dry the four or five articles of clothing each that we had remembered to pack. It was a really short walk, but it continues to resonate with me because five years later I see it so clearly still. I can feel the icy parking lot crunching snow beneath my feet. Every breath I took resulted in a puff of cold air being blown in front of me, and the view of the frozen water to my left with the sun peering over its horizon every morning was really quite beautiful. It was a moment of Zen for me unlike any other. In that moment of Zen, the same words kept coming to my mind: “This is what I was meant to do.”

It may sound corny or trite in some way, but I can say with 100% complete honesty that those words kept coming to my mind, and I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s the most vivid memory of the otherwise nasty season known as winter that I’ve ever had. I try to keep it in my mind at times like these when Old Man Winter is really knocking my spirit around like a punching bag. It brings a little smile to my face because on every one of those walks, all I could think of was, “This is what I was meant to do.” There was so much going on around me, and so many vital and emotionally consuming things to consider regarding Madeline’s health and the ongoing adoption process we were going through, but I always had the overwhelming reassurance of those words in my mind.

I’m sure we’ve all had ah-ha moments like that one where we feel like this is a defining moment in our lives and a purpose of immense magnitude taking place right now. I’d be curious to hear some of them if any of you are willing to share.

By the way, as I’m writing this we have just received another 18 inches or so of snow. I’m pretty sure that brings our total to over 100 inches for the winter now, 90 percent of which has occurred in the last three weeks with just about no melting whatsoever. If that weren’t bad enough, we had tickets to go see Frozen on Ice this afternoon with Madeline, and the show she had been looking forward to for the last four months has been cancelled! How do you tell a five-year old that Frozen on Ice has been cancelled?! Technically, it’s been rescheduled, but you get my point.

It’s all good though because I truly believe, “This is what I was meant to do.”