Tuesday, September 24, 2013

faith in the seasons

Autumn is upon us.  Maybe not so much here in Texas, where the temperatures and humidity are still dabbling in what other parts of the country might consider a mid-summer heat wave, but seasonally-speaking.  Stores have been shrouded in fiery hues of red and orange and yellow, the flavor of pumpkin infiltrates our coffee, our Pinterest boards, and even our m&m candies.  There's a yearning for feeling the coziness around a fire pit as you sip hot apple cider you picked up at the orchard earlier that day when you and your loved ones plucked firm, juicy fruit from the neat rows of apple trees.  The pre-season to all winter-esque holiday gatherings that are just over a crisp and cool horizon that's dabbled with shadowy figures of all things Halloween-y.

There are those who don't view autumn with the same love-filled lens as others.  Those who look past the brightness and warmth of the color palette most often associated with this time of year, but instead prefer the newness of a dew-filled spring morning.  Those who crave the slow-growing warmth of a sun that's been 'just out of reach' when the Earth tilted her northern hemisphere away, as if turning a cold shoulder to a friend who is reaching out for an apologetic embrace.  Those who are awed by the freshness and renewal of flowering plants and trees and the greenness of life

Still others enjoy the starkness of a crisp and barren winter, or the blazing and squinty-eyed days of a golden-hot summer day.  Whether you prefer crunchy ice as it protectively shrouds the grass and trees, or as it floats in tart and tangy glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade; you're enjoying the frigidness of a frozen mass that in its own unique, yet contradictory, way can warm your heart.

The 'four seasons' are inevitable.  Even for those of us who live a little further south and are not subjected to the harshness and bleakness of a frozen winter.  'Down here', we don't bundle ourselves into a human burrito to navigate snow-drifted roads to work or the store for the standard 'french toast' run {milk, eggs, and bread} before the next blast of arctic wind brings several more inches of crystalline water vapor.  But that doesn't mean that 'down here', we don't have store shelves bursting with pumpkins and turkeys and shiny gold garland {and now, even more than ever, thanks to the over-commercialization of practically *everything* holiday related, these items all inhabit the same space at the same time.  HallowThanksMas.}.  But really.  The differentiation between seasons may not be as obvious to some in terms of weather, but the consistency with which the Earth rotates ensures us that we will have winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Seasons of life are a little less predictable, however.  Not always un-predictable, just less predictable.  As in, they're {almost always} inevitable, however there isn't a calendar you can refer to that will tell you the solstice, won't give you a clue as to when to plan for the equinox.  Stores don't change out their displays, offering preparatory clues, and the weather forecast can be so varied that it would keep any meteorologist working double overtime.

Major life changes are often times a pretty good indicator of the journey into new season.  Graduations, jobs, marriages, children, moving.  All things that signify the departure from one atmosphere and gravitating toward a new one.  Even if some of those life changes don't find you physically in a new space, mentally you've made a paradigm shift in the way with which you view yourself, your world, and the interaction between the two.

Sometimes, however, there can be a gap between the life-changing event and the actual onset of the season.  We continue living life, we bask in a seemingly harmonious afterglow of a well-orchestrated life changing event and manage the random small, tweaky hiccups with ease and a level head.  We pride ourselves on how we've adapted, adjusted, and 'fit right in' to our new role, our new location, our new title.  As time passes, 'the event' becomes less of a worrisome or stress-inducing item on our agenda and transforms into something that says, "look what I've[we've] accomplished.  I[we] are awesome."

While I'm no expert by any means of the word, I have had my fair share of 'major life events', a large majority of which inhabited a relatively tight time frame on the timeline of my life.  Between late June of 2005 and early May of 2006 I became a wife, a resident of Colorado, a homeowner, a teacher in a new district, a friend to a whole new crop of fantastic people, and a mom to not only our sweet and sensitive son Gavin, but our {now} aging and loyal pug, Biscuits.  Talk about a flurry of activity.  It was a little bit of hysteria blended with excitement, anticipation, fear, and a splash {or more} of breast milk.

The events were coming toward me at such a rapid rate that I didn't quite have time to process before the next one showed up in my lap or on my calendar.  I was basking in the glow of a continual process of new.  Even if the new was scary {and most of the time, it was}, I was still enjoying it, embracing each event with the fervor of a ravenous beast after bringing down prey that was easily two times its size.  Sure, it was messy and crazy and at times seemed insurmountable; but the adrenaline rush that overtakes my soul kept me on the 'right side' of crazy, allowing me to keep devouring the beast, even if my gut was full of nourishment.

The afterglow of that gluttonous phase of life left me an over-scheduled working mom/wife/teacher/friend, but it didn't leave me with the same negative and piteous feeling I get after, say, consuming a half a pan of brownies.  Instead, I felt satisfied.  Pleased and happy and blessed.  Did I have times when I was overcome by the stress of a busy and emotional time?  Absolutely.  Did I take things out on the wrong people when really the person I was most frustrated with was myself?  Of course!  Did I find myself craving more, more, more because I'm an overachieving, people-pleaser who relishes in the beauty of a full and busy life? Um...hello?! You've met Raegan, right?  My sweet third munchkin who was my craving, my heart's desire to round out the sense of 'family' that Randy and I had grown in our years in Colorado.  'Selling' the idea of Raegan to my 'we have the nuclear family, what more do you want?' husband was a tough job.  A heart-to-heart-but-I-still-can't-quite-put-it-into-words kind of discussion paved the way for this effervescent personality to come charging into our world wearing her spry and tireless suit of armor that she {only recently} removes for periods of time at night when she {finally} rests.

But I digress.

When we moved to Colorado, I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that it would not be our forever home.  I found myself pushing that stirring deeper and deeper into the parts of my mind that house other nagging unpredictabilities.  The place I house my 'what-ifs' and obscure scenarios.  I found a hole in which to bury that feeling of we won't be here forever, and began filling it in with anything and everything I could that would take root and help firmly plant myself on the beautiful and majestic ground at the foot of the Rockies.  These roots followed a commonplace pathway--marriage, job, house, kids.  The 'other' stuff--the extra curricular, the baking, the projects, the groups, the more, the more, the more was just added security that my roots were deep and held firmly even if things on the ground above were less than stable.  I took delight in the years I spent rooting myself.

Then, without {a lot} of warning, came 'the news'.  Like I said, I always had an inclination that Colorado, in all its illustriousness and magnetism, was simply not the place where I was going to stay rooted.  So, even though 'the news' rocked me to my core, left my pillow case and my friends' shoulders tear-stained, and, frankly, made me incredibly nervous, I knew that I was embarking upon a new season and at the core of this move was better opportunity for not only my husband, but our family as a whole.  And so, the plans began to take shape.

Ironically, the leaves were falling {and even some snow} on our final days in Colorado, crimson and amber and carrot-colored pages from the book we had written in our seven and a half years there.  The pages scattered across the streets on which we drove, piled high in the lawn in which we played, and danced in the wind around the parks in which we frolicked.  Each representing a moment, a memory, a time of the season of my life where I enjoyed my blessed and busy life.

I spent so much of my time in Colorado piling responsibility and commitment on top of responsibility and commitment until the pile became so daunting there seemed to be no other way to attack it than with a spread-eagle belly flop deep into the heart of it.  I was like a child, jumping into my own proverbial pile of leaves.  And when I was called back in, called to depart from that pile, I spent the last moments sinking in and savoring the comfort of 'busy'.  I wriggled around to make the crunchy and prickly parts less abrasive, and was determined to keep the pages of our Colorado story as pristine and meaningful as possible.  

Was life in Colorado always flowers and bunnies and sunshine and roses?  Ohhh...no.  Not by a long shot.  But I know those challenges, that time of gluttonous life changing event after life changing event were all put into place long before I even knew I'd one day be a Coloradan.  Brynn's memory verse at church for the month of September in testament to that fact.  "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:11.

That's the funny part about God.  He knows the plans, He knows what we're going to do, what is going to happen to us...yet He doesn't let us know.  It's the faith we have in Him that tells us to keep on keepin' on, regardless of the season, regardless of the storm, regardless of the struggle or the worry or the fear or the sadness we are experiencing at this time in our lives.

My season in Colorado ended last autumn.  A whole year has passed since we began preparations for this life change.  While the stores didn't carry decor and the weather didn't signify anything indicative of the heat we'd soon discover exists in the sub-tropics of the United States, the calendar did bear dates.  The Realtor coming to take pictures of my haphazard home-staging, the moving company's arrival encircled in red with an accompanying sad face, and then 'D-day'.  Departure from our children's home state and my own adopted home state as we headed south for greater opportunity for our family.  The dates marked the end of a season.

And then we arrived.  We temporarily settled in our 'home' while we anxiously awaited settlement.  Life began to take on a sense of normalcy, albeit starkly different from that with which we were accustomed.  Soon enough, we found ourselves learning the light switches and sounds of our new home, relishing in the wide openness of the spacious floor plan, hem-hawing over the placement of furniture and decor.  I was refreshed by the 'newness' of everything.  Found myself busy and intrigued by my new title of Stay at Home Mom.  'The event' of moving became less of a worrisome or stress-inducing item on my agenda and transformed into something that said, "look what I[we] accomplished.  I[we] are awesome."  {Sound familiar?}.  I began to take pride in the way with which I'd transitioned into this new state.

But then there's this.  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18.

It's time to meet my 'fall'.  My recent feelings, emotions, and personal struggles are all 'normal', I know.  I've heard this from a number of well-meaning souls who were kind and brave and sweet enough to reach out to me as I bared my vulnerable heart and soul in the wide world of the blogisphere.  I've heard it face to face from those few caring individuals I've begun to connect with down here.  And while the sentiment behind the word 'normal' is put forth with a range of tone--from deeply concerned to simply compelled to give forth their own two cents, I have come to find a bit of discontented by the actual word.  I don't want *this* to feel normal.

For me, I feel like I'm just steps into a new season in my life.  I'm dabbling at the threshold of a cumbersome and overwhelming doorway and am not quite sure how large or big or intense this season will be.  I feel the warmth of my Colorado season still faintly embracing my shoulders and the brightness of a spring-time like sun that shone during our 'transition to Texas'.  But the light from that transition is dimming as the routine of life takes over and the words 'settled in' escape my lips when responding to the question, "How are you guys doing?".  Along with that, I also feel a chill.  An unexpected and surprising chill for such a southern-lying state.  I look ahead with blurry vision and am hesitant to leave the comforts of that large doorway that lets me lean up against it for support on days when I'm wondering how in the world I wound up here.

I don't want this uncertainty to feel normal.  I don't want to be faced with a living with unfamiliar 'bigness' in a state that prides itself on the the very word.  I want to feel rooted.  I want to feel ingrained, planted firmly in the spongy, clay-like ground of this new community.

The gap between the event and the launch of this season gave me a false sense of hope.  It made me think that I would naturally take on the life of a stay at home mom without reverberating pangs of guilt and sorrow for the abandonment of a career that can only be described as a lifelong passion for the art of it all.  It made me think I'd fall seamlessly into a regimented schedule of laundry and dusting and story hours and Pinterest projects without the nagging desire for a bit of spontaneity or a day of lounging around watching Disney movies and Food Network.  The gap of time was glittery and shiny with the newness of life here in Texas.  The exploration of the area, the decoration of our home, the concept of palm trees as part of our local vegetation {sounds silly...but that was a huge deal for a while} and living in a place once again where the beach was just a relatively short drive away.  Sparkling.  New.  Sand and BBQ and humidity-soaked excitement that placated me long enough to ensure my kids would become acclimated quickly and fall into routine.  And they did.  In record time, it seemed.  I knew they would...kids are resilient that way.  I found {and still find} myself jealous of their adaptability, their transparency and acceptance and ability to move forward with life.

I know God planned for that bright and shiny newness as a way to distract me from seeing this current season.  I know He didn't want me to see that this time of struggle and uncertainty would be one where I was faced with a catalog of emotions and feelings and soul-seeking moments.  Personally, it's hard.  This season isn't the gluttony of responsibilities and commitments with which I had ensnared myself in Colorado, but perhaps that's His way of telling me to lessen the burdens, to clear the path for growth in a different way.

While my calendar doesn't give a clue as to the length of this season and my field of vision does not reveal the inclination of a threshold somewhere on my horizon, I know this is just a season.  This time will pass, these pages will be written.  And from them, growth will occur.  Change will happen.  And life will continue to march on.  For I walk by faith, not by sight.

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