Unlike many people, I don’t have a clearly established favorite season of the year. If forced to choose, I would say that I particularly enjoy the transition from one season to the next, though I’m not sure that counts as a favorite season. I love the first cool morning in September that heralds the arrival of fall. I love the first bracingly cold day in December, and the first uncomfortably hot day in June. I love the first day in March when I can rely on the sun for warmth, instead of my winter coat. Each season possesses its own unique set of possibilities and limitations, and I prefer the transition because it heightens my awareness, both of what I’m giving up by moving out of a particular season, and also of what I’m gaining by moving into a new one.
I’ve come to realize that the same principle of possibilities and limitations holds true for not just physical seasons, but life seasons as well. Unfortunately, I’ve found it more challenging to be philosophical about the life seasons than I have about the various advantages and disadvantages of winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s easier to accept the limitations that physical seasons place on me, annoying and inconvenient though they may be at times. For example, if it’s thirty degrees and blowing snow outside, we can’t go to the park. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about that, so I adapt accordingly. I’m also better at recognizing and appreciating the possibilities offered by the various seasons of the year. I have my favorite routes around Norman for savoring the changing colors of the leaves in October and November, and I offer prayers of gratitude and find as many excuses as possible to be outside on sunny days with light winds and mild temperatures, whenever they occur. I don’t waste much time or energy second-guessing the weather; it is what it is. I accept it as it comes, however it comes, enjoying the good and dealing with the bad.
Regrettably, I’m not as patient or reasonable in my approach to dealing with life seasons. Rather, I rail against the difficulties, fail to show gratitude for the blessings, and often succumb to the temptation to doubt both God and myself when it comes to the current circumstances of my life. Take my family’s present situation, in which we’ve found our lives increasingly spread across the metro area. We live in Norman, and Jason, my husband, works in Oklahoma City, and City Pres is in Oklahoma City, but the more seriously we started looking into joining the great migration north, the more we began to appreciate various aspects of living in the community and in the house where we are right now. That was completely unexpected, it didn’t (and still doesn’t, really) make sense to me, and so I started doubting the timing and logic of God in leading us to a great church in Oklahoma City, while simultaneously strengthening our commitment to stay in Norman.
I certainly didn’t realize before becoming a mom how limiting staying at home full time with a little one could be, and I don’t think there’s any way I could have. For right or wrong, it takes the majority of my focus and energy right now. I am grateful for having been in a position to make that choice, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling some strange combination of frustrated and guilty when Doug asks me to think about what breaks my heart and then do something about it, or when another incredibly worthwhile service opportunity is posted on The City. The frustration occurs when I think of all the things I’d love to go and do and be involved in, if only someone else could watch my toddler and then his little sister who will be along some time in early October. The guilt occurs when I think about how much time and effort I’m investing in just my family during this particular season, when there is so much broken that needs to be fixed out there. In this instance, I started doubting myself, second-guessing the decision to opt out of teaching—trying to make a positive impact on the lives of other people’s children—so I could focus solely on my own.
These are the things I had been thinking and feeling about my current life season when I came across this quote from a memoir called The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, by Rod Dreher. He says, “There are seasons in the lives of persons and of families. Our responsibility, both to ourselves and to each other, is to seek harmony within the limits of what we are given—and to give each other grace.” In my doubting, guilt, and frustration, I had lost sight of the principle of possibilities and limitations that governs both the physical seasons and my life seasons, and this quote helped remind me of that truth. Now, I’m trying to be more mindful and prayerful about applying that principle to this specific season of my life, while, as the quote suggests, figuring out what “harmony” looks like in the midst of that, which will require ample amounts of the grace he speaks of, for myself and from myself, and for others and from others. As I work to sort all this out, I’m grateful for a Creator who gave us the physical seasons whose joys and challenges reflect our own in a way that can help us to navigate them with the proper perspective, pursuing the possibilities and learning to live with, and even appreciate, the limitations.