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.

Brave Enough to Keep Trying

Brave Enough to Keep Trying

Since I was in elementary school, I have fantasized about performing in a Broadway musical. It doesn’t matter that I have the vocal giftedness of a robot—a dream is a dream, and it was mine.

Blame my parents for taking me to see The Phantom of the Opera when I was ten. Everything about the performance was magical, inspiring me to spend hours locked in my bedroom pretending to be Christine Daaé. I played the soundtrack on repeat, singing along and memorizing every lyric—if a casting director ever knocked on my door, I would be ready.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t sing on key to save my life. I was brave enough then to hold fiercely to a dream that stirred my heart, no matter what odds were stacked against me.

I tried out for our town’s production of Annie, singing my little heart out in the group audition and using my best falsetto to sound just like the professionals. I didn’t get a call back; it was the last time I tried out for a show of any kind. One rejection was all it took to squelch the shaky confidence that had given me the courage even to try.

If we let it, fear of failure will keep us from doing anything that matters. 

Rejection is devastating, even if it’s just perceived. As a kid, anticipating that I might not have what it took to get a part was enough to keep me from trying out again. Even though I’m all grown up now, insecurity still squelches my courage more often than I’d like to admit.

It’s been months since I’ve written anything here after losing my confidence as a writer when my world imploded last year. A series of events outside of my control led to a season of debilitating anxiety and depression, forcing our family to focus all our energy on recovery and healing. It has been excruciating and grace-filled and painful and beautiful—a year we would have never chosen, but one God has used to build greater freedom and deeper love than ever before.

Writing again now makes me wonder if my heart has really recovered enough to be vulnerable with my words again. It feels brave to offer my story back out to the world, unprotected from potential criticism, misunderstanding, or judgment.

I’m not a professional blogger. I’ve never been formally trained in creative non-fiction. I don’t know what I’m doing when my fingers start flying across the keyboard, but I know it makes me feel alive to put my heart into words.

More often than not, I read other writers’ work and feel inadequate in comparison. I talk myself out of the unique voice I bring to the world because it’s not as witty/deep/well-written/insightful/funny/inspiring/fill-in-the-blank as those I admire.

Even though I know better, I still catch myself using others as my measuring stick of enough-ness. I forget I’m not supposed to be them, I am designed to be me—imperfect, honest, insecure, passionate, dorky, hopeful—fully myself, just as I am.

Comparison steals the joy of discovering the irreplaceable beauty only we can offer the world.

I tell myself I shouldn’t even try to write because it’s not like I’m going to publish a book or make a living on my blog or do anything substantial with my words. It’s like I’m asking, “What’s the point of singing show tunes if I’m never going to perform on Broadway?”

Because I love it, that’s why.

Just like listening to Elphaba belt out “Defying Gravity” gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes (Wicked fans, am I right?!), writing awakens my soul and brings it to life like nothing else. And even though I may not be Idina Menzel, I can still sing the song I’ve been given at the top of my lungs with all the passion my heart can muster.

What matters most isn’t the performance I deliver but the bravery of offering my unique voice, no matter the response.

So I’m starting here, choosing to do one brave thing at a time, feeling vulnerable because it requires me to step out of the safety of my comfort zone. I may not be the best writer in the blogosphere, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write anyway. I’ll never grow into who I was meant to be unless I try and try and try again.

Neither will you.

Your brave thing will likely look completely different than mine. It might be inviting someone over for dinner or applying for a new job or setting boundaries in a relationship or taking that class you’ve always thought about. But if you never attempt the thing lingering in the back of your mind, you’ll never experience the fullness of who you were meant to be.

Building courage takes practice, so let’s just keep trying. You will be braver for showing up, even if you don’t get chosen for the part. The world needs more people like you.

Since vocal performance is not in my gift set, I decided to audition for a new role last week. After months of training, preparing, and convincing myself not to quit, I gathered enough courage to do something new and scary: I became certified as a group fitness instructor. And get this: I will dance on a stage wearing a microphone!

It may not be Broadway, but it feels like the next best thing. And you know what? That’s good enough for me.