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.

In the Midst of Struggle

In the Midst of Struggle

I zipped up my running jacket and stepped out into the cold drizzle, a biting wind blowing against my face. Taking a deep breath, I resolved to make it a short run and started down the street. My thoughts swirled with reluctance as the chill penetrated each layer and settled into my bones—it was cold and wet and miserable—what in the world was I doing outside?

I knew the answer, even as I forced my body to ignore the myriad reasons I should turn around and pour another cup of coffee instead of running in the rain. My natural inclination is never toward discomfort, even when facing it leads to benefits on the other side. But experience has proven that perseverance is always worth it, even when it feels easier to quit before I begin.

Sometimes life feels like running in the rain.

Hard days—or seasons—make me want to hide at home in my jammies where I’m safe and warm. I’m in one of those hard stints now. Lately, anything beyond the basic activities required to get through the day feels too overwhelming to attempt. Extra things like reaching out to friends, writing thank you notes, and organizing the piles around my house have shifted temporarily into the “not today” category.

So I haven’t spent time writing in a while. Not only because I haven’t made much time to write, which takes considerable determination during any normal season, but also because it feels tricky to put my heart into words. If I’m honest, I haven’t wanted to admit I’m fighting a battle for healing that isn’t over yet.

I’m still in the midst of my struggle.

For a writer, it’s vulnerable any time you are brave enough to put your heart on a page and press “publish,” opening yourself up to the opinions and potential criticism of others. But when life knocks you facedown in the mud, the risk of sharing your struggle from that vantage point feels like an invitation to be kicked in the face while you’re down.

Yeah, I guess it’s time to admit I’m that writer. Here I am, facedown in the mud.

The details don’t matter, because we’ve all been there or will be at some point. Maybe it’s a period of grief, a struggle with depression, a life transition, relational pain, some sort of loss, a hard diagnosis, or another type of crisis—whatever the cause, it leaves us reeling, uncertain which way is up and if we’ll ever be the same as we were before.

I keep waiting to reach the other side of my particular season of struggle, eager to share all the lessons I’ve learned after surviving such a difficult time. I know I’ll have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness, that I’ll point to different moments when my heart changed and my load lifted on the road to eventual transformation. I’m clinging to the hope that I’ll have words of encouragement for anyone on a similar path, cheerleading those who are struggling in their own ways to persevere.

But I’m not on the other side yet.

I’m still in the midst of my own battle to remember who I am, piecing together my identity by sorting through each broken fragment. So instead of waiting for the end of this slow, arduous process, I’m writing from the middle of it—in the midst of a place I’d rather not be.

Transformation isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. Like Cinderella’s experience with her fairy godmother, I’d much prefer to wave a magic wand and arrive at the final destination of this healing journey I’m on, where in a flash I’m altogether different than I used to be—stronger, braver, more whole-hearted.

Real-life transformation, however, requires a lot more tenacity and grit. Change comes almost too slowly to notice, demanding stamina to keep moving forward with almost no evidence that forward is really even the direction you are going.

Sometimes perseverance looks like things that are intuitively productive, like journaling or exercise or counseling or heartfelt prayer. Other days perseverance looks like getting out of bed. Then doing the next thing and the next, one tiny next thing at a time. And sometimes it looks like simply not giving up, even when giving up feels like the only thing that makes sense.

Perseverance eventually changes us if we keep not quitting, no matter how slowly movement comes.

Today, the gradual ascent toward transformation looks like admitting I’m still not where I want to be. I’m writing from the midst of my struggle, where my capacity has been exponentially diminished for a time. It’s humbling for this recovering perfectionist to say no to invitations and back out of commitments, but pretending I’m at full strength will only use the precious energy I need to keep pressing on.

It’s tempting to push my people away, as if distance will keep others from seeing the dirt smudged across my face and caked in my hair. But the vulnerability of telling the truth about where we are opens our eyes to see that we’re not alone in the mud after all. Sharing honestly with safe people helps us to lift our heads enough to see a whole heap of others who thought they were the only ones here too.

If you find yourself today in a place you’d rather not be, you are not alone. You may be in the midst of it, but this is not the end of your story.

I’m here with you, cheering you on and reminding you that you don’t have to climb a mountain today. You just have to choose not to quit. Go for that run or make your bed or light a candle and spend some time breathing deep. And if that one thing is all you do right now, it’s enough.

Sometimes victory simply means not giving up. Let’s keep pressing on together. We’re going to have a breathtaking story to tell on the other side.