It is late February in Florida, and Spring is peeking around every corner. Tender, fresh, just beginning…Spring. Soft afternoon light, shades of green all around, tulips pushing up through a ground that never quite got cold this winter. Spring, unmistakably. Something I loved about growing up in North Carolina was the change of seasons. Four seasons, uniquely their own. Beauty and colors all their own, each season brought change and transformation. Each lovely in its own right.
When I was in my early twenties, a godly older woman stood before a group of eager young women and related seasons to life and motherhood and marriage. As she spoke, her words engraved on my mind. “Sometimes,” she said, “you will enter a season of winter that lasts for what seems to be an eternity. But the promise of Winter is that Spring will come. It doesn’t stay Winter forever.” I have listened to many wise women speak, I’m a serial Bible Study attendee, and a lover of words. People say things that I love, that strike chords deep within me, things I underline, highlight, things I write down, things I vow to remember. While many of those things stick around only in the recesses of my mind, these words spoken by this dear woman to a small group of mamas and wives each struggling, desperately, to feel as though we were going to make it through this thing…these words have echoed in my mind nearly every day and through every season of my life.
In Florida, seasons is a term I use very loosely, if at all… There are 80 degree days in December, mosquitos in January, and what I lovingly refer to as endless summer. There aren’t really four seasons here, it’s more like summer and less-summer. Sometimes, I swear Florida realizes she’s missing out on something and tries to one up her Carolina sister by squeezing all four seasons into one day, just to show off. There are days that start out in the winter- a bit rainy and in the 40s, and slowly progress through the temperatures until they end back at summer…balmy and in the seventies. The days that encourage you to eat the chili you put in the crock pot that morning on the back porch in the sunshine while you maybe get a bit of a tan. These days can be confusing. Just today, the morning started out lovely. It was in the sixties as I dropped the boys off at school, the sun was blazing well before noon, and as I sat at my desk, barely after lunch, the rain began to pour. It’s cooler out now, with only that feel in the air you can get after a perfect rainstorm. What season is this? While for most of the country, it is still winter, Florida is like the fickle middle child- never quite sure what she wants or how she feels. Flittering from one day to the next, trying to figure out what she wants. What I have found is that sometimes, much like those confusing Florida days, determining exactly the season our lives are in can be confusing, too.
There isn’t a clear line most days. On any given day I may feel like sunshine and and all the beauty of Spring in my marriage, but in my parenting- maybe a bit more like summer. Like these are the days I’ll always remember, and Autumn is coming, then cold, hard days are ahead. Like I’m soaking up every last morsel of the sunshine, then the crisp, colorful Fall days, terrified I’m ill-equipped for the chill of teenager-hood that lies ahead. And then there’s that other bit…community and relationships. In one direction I see my long time friend, reemerging like a faithful tulip after a season of dormancy, in the other direction I can hear the cracking of fallen brown leaves under my feet and know that some friendships have fallen away, never to return to their former glory. How is it possible to feel like your life is simultaneously in all four seasons? And how are we to cope with this?
I think God created rhythms in nature partially to remind us to keep rhythms in our lives, but also to remind us of His promises to us, and that He endures, and that HE IS GOOD. Winter will end, Spring will come, there will be Summers, there will be Autumns. Each beautiful in its own right, full of a million moments to appreciate. Each season promising transformation, and each season full of new beginnings and always endings, too. I have been in a season of turmoil, feeling winter in some facets of my life, and simultaneously not wanting to miss the summer days in other facets. But what I’m learning is to recognize the good in both, and to remember that they will end. If it weren’t for knowing the feel of a frigid December wind and the crunch of snow under my feet, I couldn’t fully appreciate the warmth of the sun beating on my face, sweat forming across my brow, feeling the embrace of the sun (or maybe that’s just the actual tangible humidity, I’m not sure). There is no season of life, under God’s creation, that is all bad. If you’re my people summer is, of course, your favorite. But that doesn’t make winter less wonderful in the eye of the Creator. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a purpose. We have to learn to not only recognize the good and the bad, but to embrace them both. To me, winter is scary. I don’t like to be cold, I don’t like short days, it all just seems so dark and dreary and depressing. But do you know what is also scary? Mosquitos that get to grow all year round because there was never a cold snap to kill them off. I know, this is a loose and silly analogy and it breaks down pretty quickly, but stick with me. Sometimes, I think there are things in life, that by the time summer comes, by the time a different season of life approaches, would literally eat us alive if Winter hadn’t come along to prune them from our lives. At the time, I don’t appreciate the cold snap, or the necessity to actually buy my children long pants. Now mosquitos dying, that doesn’t really hurt me. Friendships dying, heartfelt efforts proven fruitless, communities falling apart, pain, brokenness in places that should be solid…those things hurt. I have experienced those things in this season. And much like a mosquito, I never understand or see it coming. But seeing the good amidst the darkness, that part is important. I do love cuddling under a blanket, coffee in hand, watching a fire burn in the fireplace, curled up with my guys. I love wrapping up in a big scarf and the perfect boots, and being awakened by the chill and the silence in the air. And I love those first bright days of Spring- the fulfillment to the promise that Winter will always end. There will be day and night, season after season. I may not have a full understanding of why we need seasons, but I know that we need them. I know that change is hard, but that it’s needed. I know that life is bittersweet, and that you can’t appreciate the sweet without the bitter. And more than anything, I know that the bitter days of Winter allow me to soak up the sweet days of Spring.
The sun just went away again, the rain started pouring, and the thunder is rolling. But like the fields of wild flowers that will bloom early this year because the rain brought deep growth and transformation to a seed lying dormant, so will this rain grow beauty in my life. So in this proverbial Winter or Spring or Summer or Fall of life, I’m learning to draw in close to my guys. To snuggle them closer, love them well, grow, change, and focus on just staying where it’s warm. And I’m confident that Spring will come. However brief, and maybe in a day that also includes Winter…but Spring will come.