Embracing the Season When You're Wishing, Waiting, and Transitioning
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
"I have resolved to live, not just endure, each season of my life..." -Unknown
One thing I miss most since the move to Florida is the seasonal variety. Now instead of easing into those crisp fall days of crunching leaves and cute autumn ensembles we bump the thermometer down from hot to slightly less hot. Sometimes you can pull off a sweater, which is always exciting.
For those of us who have experienced the clearly-defined four seasons of the year, we remember the eager anticipation for the days of warm sunshine when the last of the nasty snow leftovers finally melt away. We long for warmth until that becomes unbearable, wish for cooler weather, and repeat (anybody else guilty of this?)
Isn't this just how life goes, though? Seasons come and go and each is filled with sprinkles of joy, unexpected surprises, disappointment, grief, growth, and challenges. We long for transition when in the thick of a struggle but then look back with a similar longing at the past. There can be mourning associated with the end of a season and beginning of a new one. It is possible to be excited and grieved at the same time. Whether you're in the midst of major change, just emerged on the other side of one, or feel like you've been in the same rut for awhile, this is for you.
When you're transitioning
These few weeks that mark the end of summer and beginning of fall have always seemed to signify change to me. Some parents are experiencing an empty nest for the first time. Others are saying sayonara to singlehood or welcoming a new baby this year. Families are making a big move into the unknown and embarking on a new adventure. Some are trying to adjust to a different kind of loss, trying to make sense of what life looks like now.
Thinking of life in terms of seasons has been very helpful for me in coping with changing circumstances. It helps me view things as, for the most part, temporary. Not only is this planet not our forever home, but time here passes swiftly, something I realize more with each passing year. Change is inevitable, and it's good. It is in the midst of these changes that we are most malleable for growth. It's in the discomfort of a transition that we're raw and vulnerable enough to be stretched and challenged for the better.
I've noticed in my own life a pattern emerging in which just when when it seems I'm settling down in my newly-established comfort zone it's time to get up again. I'm resistant, but the outcome it would seem is always better than the last one. New lessons learned. Relationships formed. Confidence strengthened. Faith fortified.
If you're in the middle of a tough transition now, take heart! You are in for something good, catching glimpses of what this next chapter might hold. I'm not saying that it's going to be easy or there won't or haven't been tears and fears. In fact, there is probably grief as you close out the previous era to enter the new. But even in that, look ahead with eagerness and anticipation of what is to come, knowing that He makes "everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
When you're looking back on last season
Sentimentality is both a gift and a curse. Honestly I could spend hours walking down memory lane. I love to reminisce, and while this brings a sweet comfort to my heart, it can also bring a sense of sadness. It's tempting to highlight the most positive aspects of a past life phase and compare them to the things we believe we're lacking today. This is really an infatuation with a past season, a selective vision that picks out the best parts of yesteryear and conveniently overlooks the part where you couldn't wait to leave certain things behind.
As much as I LOVE my life stage, being a mom and a wife, I do sometimes reflect on the highlights of past seasons and find my mind wandering unproductively. My sentimentality can go beyond nostalgia and threaten to sew seeds of discontentment. Ecclesiastes 7:8-11 sums it up nicely:
"The end of a matter is better than its beginning; patience of spirit is better than arrogance of spirit. Do not be eager in your spirit to be angry, for anger resides in the heart of fools. Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. Wisdom along with an inheritance is good, and an advantage to those who see the sun."
It's normal to look back on things of the past with nostalgia and to reminisce with the people we love, especially as we and our children grow up. But it's also important to leave those days there. Practice the art of giving thanks for where you are now, taking the gift of fond memories and carrying them with you into the future with the excited anticipation for creating more.
When you're in the waiting wilderness
Maybe the challenging season you're in right now is one steeped in waiting. It feels like nothing is happening, like you're standing at the threshold of change but can't seem to cross over. The circumstances haven't changed, Prince Charming hasn't shown up, the hard work hasn't come to fruition. It can be both discouraging and disheartening.
During a past season of waiting when I craved action but felt stuck in a rut, I was reminded of Ruth's story. Read Ruth 1-4 when you get the chance. Trial after trial hit this girl. We find her widowed and living with her mother-in-law in a foreign territory where she was ridiculed and shunned. There's not an account of how often she complained or groaned about her situation (which would have been many verses in my book) but we do have record of her faithfulness. Day after day-we don't know for how long- she diligently carried out the tasks at hand. I like to imagine her very human heart crying out to God wondering what He was doing, asking when things would change, much like mine has, but she remained faithful in the waiting.
If you're waiting, your mission is not over. He continues to work. You haven't been neglected or forgotten or left to simmer on the back burner. Just as God was stirring in the hearts of Ruth and Boaz unbeknownst to them, He is working behind the scenes in your life to do great things. Continue to press forward in what you have already been assigned to do, whatever that looks like for you. You are not wandering around aimlessly in the wilderness of your wait- in fact, it could be one of the most fruitful times of your life.
When you're in the middle of the storm
I know I overuse the ocean analogy, but sometimes it just works. You're standing in the sea under looming storm clouds as mounting waves pummel you over and over again. Sometime this is the life season. Things don't seem to slow down; it's one wave after another and you're having a hard time catching your breath. Or you're smack dab in the middle of a storm of life circumstances, wondering how you'll even survive.
Lots of things are happening in the midst of rough seas. In times like these we crave calm. We pray for peace, a chance to rest. Our bodies suffer from exhaustion and a compromised immune system. Anxiety and depression escalate and self-esteem declines as we start to feel drained and disheartened.
We need each other more than ever now. If you don't have a person, a trustworthy confidant and source of encouragement, make this a priority. Learn to say no and how to set firm boundaries when it comes to relationships, the workplace or social calendar. Take things one step at a time, identify one small thing you can control right now and cross that off your list. Take note of your physical and emotional needs and evaluate how these are or aren't being met. Things will not be like this forever; the waves will calm down. Just like every other season, this one will come to an end, too. I've recommended this book before but if you're in a tough place today, check out the Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan. It's a great reference time and time again.
When you embrace your current season
Like the quote at the top, I do aim to truly live this season, not simply endure it while waiting for the next one to start. How do we savor this season when it's so tempting to look back, beg the Lord to hurry up and change our circumstances, or get caught up in the daily grind of simply surviving? Unfortunately I don't have all the answers because I'm right there with you. But here are some things I know to be true:
Find comfort in others
Wherever you are- moving to a new place, in the midst of young family life, nearing retirement, a single student- find people who are both like-minded and in a similar season. Joining a local MOPS group (Moms of Preschoolers) and being able to connect with other young moms has been a huge blessing. There are other ways to connect with your people. Try Meetup- you can search probably just about any category in any regional area to find people of shared interests, beliefs, and backgrounds.
About everything. Journal often, take a zillion poor-quality photos and videos, stop to soak in an evening of laughter with family or admire a sunset. Keep a gratitude book where you take note of unique things about your life stage, pay attention to what you might take for granted. Spend a little extra money for a trip you won't regret. Say hello to your neighbors. Have ice cream a lot. My mother-in-law once made a pact with two good friends to try something new every month, which led to some hilarious memories. Recognize purpose in the daily grind.
Don't leave Him out
Sure, not every season is going to be brimming with laughter and joy. We go through hard things, many things we have little control over. But our perspective is something we can adjust. I don't know who said this but it's good: "Where you place your hope is imperative to your joy." How often we run to things and people without going to Him first- or at all. In seasons of both storm and sunshine run to Him and remember, those who trust Him will be renewed in strength and "soar on wings like eagles..." What hope in that!