Faith, Joy

Making Sense of Crazy Seasons

I’m learning it’s possible to hold two equally true but opposite emotions at the same time: despair and hope; sadness and joy; exhaustion and exhilaration; purpose and discouragement. In recent months, we’ve had medical issues for myself and my family (we are all okay), the death of my father, checking my mother into memory care, the loss of relationships, and a job that has both grown me and challenged me. I’m a bit tired.

Entering into a new year serves as a good time to take stock, assess, and attempt to adjust the course, and as I think about all that has been hard, and all that has been good in recent life,  I’m left with the conviction that this holding of opposite things is not only okay, but actually an honest way to live life.

Our human temptation is to classify a season as good or bad, difficult or easy, but the truth is that many seasons hold both…and ultimately, even the “bad” seasons hold so much beauty. In a similar way, people who can be so overwhelmingly frustrating and contradictory can also be amazingly talented, beautiful, and inspiring. This urge to classify things into good and bad limits our ability to truly embrace and experience the fullness of what and who they are.

Five years ago, we were living through the decline of our business, a busy season that never happened, and uncertainty about our future other than the growing clarity that our current life path had reached an end. It was a difficult season of tilling the field of our lives, stripping it down to bare soil and then deliberately and persistently choosing to make that soil fertile ground, instead of hard, impermeable rock. 

In that freshly turned soil, new things began to grow, and five years later we find ourselves in a new life, with new purposes that seemed to grow from the best seeds, hand selected from every other season. In so many ways, we are thriving, but there is still a good amount of hard. 

If I were to describe that season five years ago, it would be full of adjectives like hard, impossible, despairing, hopeless, exhausting, terrifying. Yet, in the midst of it are memories of taking our children to the playground to play; sitting in a hot tub on the deck of our house at 3800 feet in the Sierra mountains, watching the shooting stars and, on some nights, the snow fall; friends who helped us liquidate 22 years of life into a 28 foot moving truck, and God’s miraculous provision that helped us move from California to Tennessee. Since we moved over 4th of July weekend, there were fireworks greeting us each night, as we moved across the United States. I told the kids each city was celebrating our move! There were so many blessings amongst the hardships.

And that’s how I would describe this year, too. 

My father died, but we were able to connect with dozens of his friends and hold a memorial for him that celebrated his life. I gained new insight into who my father was, outside of our home. 

There were cancer diagnoses in our extended family, but we watched the miracle of radiation and chemotherapy eradicate it, and were able to spend Thanksgiving celebrating the gift of life and healing with one family member, while talking to another family member who had received good test results. 

My mother is in memory care, but she is safe and cared for. I would never choose alzheimers as a final chapter for anyone, but I don’t get to write the script of my life, nor anyone else’s. God’s care and provision for my parents in their final chapter of life has been undeniable and merciful. 

Though my blog has remained quiet lately, my new job allows me to write, all day, every day, which is a dream come true. Writing for a ministry, I’ve grown in my understanding of God, theology, and how all of that interacts with my life and the lives of those around me. As our pastor says, “Working in ministry is a lot like work,” and it has been very challenging…but there is no doubt I have grown professionally and spiritually in this time.

This year, my daughter has been healed from allergies and food aversions that had been with her for most of her life. She was able to eat anything and everything this Christmas, and it was like an entirely new experience for her. I am so thankful!

Once again, amongst the hard, there has been so much good, and much to be thankful for. Do you also find this to be true? 

Discouragement points to all the broken relationships and the places where I fall short. Joy, peace, and hope shine light on the relationships that have endured through the difficult, growing deeper. It reminds me my performance in this life is increasingly not about me, and my ability to deliver or excel, but about my willingness to surrender to God and His plans, trusting that they are better than whatever story I may have written. 

I have lived long enough to realize that my “perfect story” is just an idea that leads to discouragement, coveting, and dissatisfaction with my reality. God’s perfect plans lead to contentment, joy, and fulfillment, each step of the way. Sometimes that same path contains hard things because that’s where the growth takes place–and that’s not only okay, it’s a purposeful part of the journey.