A New Season

A New Season

As I write, I’m sipping a pumpkin spice americano with cream, admiring the golden leaves still holding on for dear life as the nights get progressively colder. Today sunlight streams in through the windows and a blue sky helps gratitude come easily. I’m painfully aware of how short this season is, how quickly the leaves will all fall and the afternoon sun set earlier.

It’s supposed to snow next week. Before I feel ready, fall will turn to winter and everything will look different. The landscape will appear more barren, the air will chill my skin, I’ll wear thick sweaters and long pants, and braving the outdoors will require more prep and motivation. 

Each new season brings an invitation to live differently than we did before. Change bids us to remember where we’ve been, to remember who we are.

Today I find myself in a different season than the one I was in a few months ago–and I don’t just mean summer to fall. The stage of my life that I never thought would end, spending all day every day with kids who needed my constant care, has begun its slow fade into my memory. It’s been a couple months now, but the milestone I’ve been dreaming about for years has finally arrived: My youngest kiddo started kindergarten.

For eight years of long days and short moments, I simultaneously treasured our time together and counted down the months until my babes were both in school all day. For this seemingly endless season, my identity naturally wrapped itself around my role as mom, sidelining other parts of me that didn’t seem to have a place in my life for a time. It was a stage as hard as it was sweet.

I didn’t realize that in the midst of it I’d forgotten who I was.

Five years ago this month, I began an experiment with writing and started a blog on a whim. I didn’t know then how much I needed this space to create, to share, to encourage, to process. I discovered that using words to share my heart made me come alive, made me feel more like myself than I had in a long time.

But then, life.

The past couple years brought a new season of deep struggle and pain that knocked me off my feet. Necessarily, I pulled back from writing on my blog both to allow myself space to process more privately but also because I didn’t have words to express what was happening below the surface.

What I didn’t realize in the midst of my journey through such a tender season was that writing keeps me grounded. Telling my story on paper allows me to understand my experience in a new way. Writing slows me down, creating space to find my bearings. It helps me to remember who I’m made to be. 

Beyond writing just for myself, sharing my story brings meaning out of the seasons I’ve lived. Offering a piece of myself to others reminds me that my life, my story matters. 

Your story matters too.

The season in which you find yourself is an integral part of your journey. Whether you can see it or not, you are being shaped by the moments you are living today. 

You might be in a season full of sweet moments with littles, where you’re savoring snuggles and grateful for this time. Or on a new adventure, building a business or earning your degree in pursuit of a dream. Maybe you’re anticipating a new beginning, or right in the middle of a stage you wish would never end.

But you might be in a season didn’t choose–maybe there’s illness or challenges at work or difficulty with a child. Maybe you’re longing for a relationship that hasn’t come or straining to navigate life with healthy boundaries. You might be caring for an elderly parent or searching for a job with financial stability or struggling with depression. You could be grieving the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the loss of a dream. Some days may feel like too much, like you can’t keep doing this, that it isn’t even worth it.

I’ve been there too. It’s so very hard to believe life won’t always feel the way it does right now.

But this is not the end of your story. This season may be harder than anyone knows, but a new one is coming. And you will be different because of it.

Some days have passed since I last wrote, and the snow is here now. As fall transitions into winter, I’m reflecting back on the past couple years with new eyes. I just re-read something I wrote two years ago, while I was still in the midst of a deep depression, fighting to persevere through one difficult day after another. Even though I couldn’t see it then, I now recognize in myself courage that was bone-deep, the grueling tenacity of a girl who wanted to give up but didn’t. 

My heart aches with compassion for that girl now, remembering how it felt like life would always be an excruciating struggle, like nothing would ever change. Miraculously, tediously, gradually that season ended. She survived. Looking back, I’m so proud of her endurance. 

Something about a new time of year invites us to take a deep breath, to remember where we’ve been and consider where we’re going. I’m eager to jump into something new, to run as fast as I can out of a stage so full of difficulty and into a new season brimming with possibility and potential. 

But I don’t want to miss the gift of remembering–remembering where I’ve been, how God met me, where I struggled, where I found victory, how I grew, where I persevered, and in the midst of it all, how I was transformed. 

Remembering my story helps me take hold of who I am–not just who I used to be, but who I’ve become. Remembering enables me to live with deeper courage in the season ahead.

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you receive the gift this moment offers, even if it’s buried beneath dead leaves or frozen snow. May you remember who you are and in so doing find the courage to share a bit of your journey with another. This is not the end of your story, but it just may be the beginning of a new season.

Waiting on an Unknown Future

Waiting on an Unknown Future

Have you ever said no to something when you really wanted to say yes?

I said a hard no this month. There was a new opportunity I really wanted to pursue, and I desperately wanted to say yes. It was something I love doing, something I could justify spending time on, something that would benefit me and others. It had the potential to build my confidence, putting me in a role where my gifts and personality would thrive.

But there was a cost—a high cost to be paid with my time. Doing this new thing would fill up my schedule and my mental space, requiring lots of attention and energy, especially as I learned the role. It would leave no room for the other things I want to pursue, the things that make me my truest self.

Saying yes to that thing would mean saying no to anything else that comes along. I knew I had to choose between something good now or the possibility of something better down the road. As appealing as the opportunity was, I’m just not ready to say no to what may be waiting right around the corner.

Holding space for the unknown may be one of the hardest things for me to do.

My husband and I are planning a much-anticipated vacation together this summer to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Spending multiple nights in a tropical location without kids? Yes, please. It feels easy for me to keep that week free from appointments and commitments, because time alone with my husband is a rare and precious gift. Why would I say yes to anything else when a romantic getaway awaits?

When I’m deciding between doing something good now and waiting for something better later, holding out for the better thing is a clear choice. But the choice doesn’t seem as clear when the future is unknown.

My soul feels restless. I don’t think it’s the snow, although being stuck inside with my kids for multiple consecutive weeks because it’s too cold to get fresh air is enough to make a person batty. It’s more than just cabin fever—something is stirring deeper inside me. There is this longing, an ache to reach beyond my current reality and fulfill my purpose in the world.

My mind spins most days, dreaming about this cause or that purpose, a new organization I want to support, another need in the world or my community that stirs my heart. I’ve learned not to move forward with every passion-filled impulse that crosses my heart—I would exhaust myself in a second and be unable to sustain enough commitment to make any difference if I said yes to every opportunity.

I’ve said my fair share of yesses born out of impatience and paid the price. This time I’m mustering every morsel of self-control to wait for the opportunity that makes my heart come alive, where the cost is absorbed by the joy of knowing the timing and opportunity are right.

“What purpose does restlessness serve?” someone asked me, as I shared my struggle. I paused, pondering the implications of the question.

“I guess it could go two ways,” I answered. “Sometimes feeling restless motivates me toward action, nudging me toward change.” I paused. “But sometimes it just steals my peace and contentment with my present life.” I considered my words, filtering through examples of how this has played out in recent days.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Restlessness can facilitate change on the inside or the outside.” Hmm. And I had assumed it was a sign something was wrong. Could my desire for change be the catalyst I need to do the hard work growth requires? Could restlessness be my motivation to get myself ready for the next opportunity that comes?

As much as I love to dream about the future, maybe my restless heart just needs to be rooted today in the place where I’m currently planted. Maybe the process of growing deep roots really serves to protect me from blowing away in the winds of change when they come. Maybe I need to spend less time longing for something different and more energy investing where I know I’m called today.

Can I confess that the thing I so desperately wanted to say yes to involved teaching an exercise class? As closing this door forced me to find another way to strengthen my body, I’m already discovering the beauty of choosing what’s best over what’s good. Saying no has birthed greater motivation and joy in exercising alone at home than I’ve ever experienced. It’s also given me more time to pray and prepare and dream about what’s next—all because I chose to hold space for a better yes.

Hard as it is, I choose to wait on my unknown future. I don’t simply want to fill my time, which is the surest way to an empty soul—I want to fill my heart to overflowing. As St. Augustine wisely observed, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  May God give me the grace to hold still long enough to let His love pour in.

 

Photo credit for featured image: Caroline Knott