Staying Strong in the Seasons of Life

Because we started our family later than some, my husband and I are well into our fifties and are still up to our fetlocks in parenting.  Because our oldest son and his wife started their family earlier than some, we are also beginning the season of grandparenting.  Since I’m a bit over-the-top in the whole planning and structure realm, I guess I thought that we’d get a break in between these two seasons to re-tool, become wise, and maybe . . . finish our house.

Sarah Geringer reminds me that God’s timing is perfect, and in her devotional Newness of Life, she invites me to examine my life in terms of thresholds with a determination to view each season with confidence and anticipation of all that God will do —  even when the seasons overlap in ways that I did not foresee!  She is writing from a season of pre-teen children with its financial pressures, time constraints, and quiet doubts.  Set against the backdrop of Ecclesiastes 3, her own story and the words of tired King Solomon make it clear that God is at work in orchestrating the big picture:  birth and death, planting and harvesting, tearing down and building up, grieving and dancing.  And, thankfully, He is also present in the seasons that, to us, seem to be less momentous:  the scattering and gathering, keeping and throwing away, silence and speaking.

I have had a tendency, in the past, to view the momentous words of Scripture from a distance.  After all, when does a homeschooling mother of four who lives on a country hill with spotty Internet service ever encounter a season that tips on a balance of war and peace?  How about on a Sunday morning in a house with one bathroom and six people who need showers?  It turns out that this life of mothering and sock sorting is a great test case for the long view that says there is “a time for every activity under heaven.”  The truth of the gospel is also present in those long ago Old Testament lines of poetry, for each threshold of life is one more occasion in which to witness the newness of life that Jesus ushered in, that we might have life “to the full.”

Listen to the implications:

“In your seasons of birth and death, Jesus remembers you.
In your seasons of planting and harvesting, Jesus bears fruit through you.
In your seasons of killing and healing, Jesus transforms you.
In your seasons of tearing down and building up, Jesus is your cornerstone . . .
In your seasons of war and peace, Jesus empowers you.”

Hildegard von Bingen famously said, “I am a feather on the breath of God.”

When the unpredictability of life is viewed from this angle, there is beauty and a keen anticipation of what God will do next.  In times of transition, our response is key.

What will you do with the newness of this particular season of your life?

//

This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great news!

Sarah has released her new devotional The Fruitful Life, just in time for this Lenten season.  Click here to read more about it or to pick up your copy!

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Start Where I Am. Use What I Have.

When my thrifty mother-in-law made mincemeat, she would start with the venison roast from a deer who may have had the audacity to nibble on her tulip leaves.  From there, she would improvise, adding whatever needed using up on that particular day:  a batch of jam that didn’t “set up” just right or an over-abundance of applesauce.  Somehow, the mincemeat always simmered fragrant and delicious.

When I make mincemeat, I follow a recipe – to the letter. But it is likely that if any of my daughters-in-law find a need for that particular pie filling, they will just buy a jar off the shelf.
(Or I will give them one of mine!)

I’m well aware that generational change is a given, but having BOTH a graduation AND a wedding on my spring calendar this year brings it to center stage.  Good and exciting things happen quickly once our kids hit the double digits, so I’m braced and on board.  Change is on the menu whether I like it or not.

I’m choosing to like it.

However, here just below the 45th parallel, where the sun rises in its own good time, spring is still weeks away.

The majestic evergreens and the kindness of low  bushes that turn a deep red after they drop their leaves are all that rescue my mid-winter landscape from a panorama of sepia and gray.  Last night, Venus and the waxing crescent moon were veiled in mist, and the damp cold that is seeping into my bones today tells me that change is on the way.  And I welcome it.

If it’s got to be winter anyway, then let it be cold.  Let the ground stay hard, and let the sky send a fresh, clean blanket of white every few days to relieve the monotony of all that has expired.  Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of mid-winter acedia.  Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.

In this season of slow sunrise and early dark when the daffodils snooze and the robins make angry phone calls to their travel agents, I will make fish chowder and fill up the empty spaces around my table with people who need the full feeling that comes from a hearty welcome.  After all, no matter how earnest my intentions, I cannot make less than six quarts of anything.  (And I can’t shake the idea that if Jesus had walked the frozen fields of New England instead of the dusty roads of Galilee, He would have worked His way with a metaphor around an abundant kettle of steaming chowder.)

With sons coming and going, who knows how many bowls I will need to put on the table?  This ever-changing count provides a concrete measure, a confirmation of the vague sensation I carry that someone, somewhere has thrown a lever, releasing a huge gush of life from this busy and crowded home.

This season of change includes Driver’s Ed — Round 4. This time, I’m certain that the boy behind the wheel was napping in his crib just yesterday, while I weeded green beans and scribbled in a journal.  Today, I handed him my cell phone (which he immediately silenced) and told him to call me when he needed to be picked up.

My first cellphone had a tiny antenna on it.  It rang infrequently, but when it did, I usually missed the call anyway, because, buried in my purse, it sounded like a distant chainsaw in the woods.

I still keep my phone in my purse, despite the “fervent counsel” (i.e. nagging) of my children.
Them:  “Where were you?”
Me:  “In the garden.”
Them:  “Why didn’t you take your phone with you?”
Me:  (momentary silence while I try to adjust my wording and tone to be kinder than I am feeling)  “Because I carried a baby monitor around in the garden for ten years.”

Is it a sign of progress that, now, when I hear a distant chain saw in the woods, I run for my cell phone?

A more urgent question:  Am I willing to “outgrow” my crankiness and claustrophobia about technology in order to connect with the important people in my life?

Facebook updates me on the steady advance of the cancer that is tunneling its way through one more friend.  Closer to home, dementia is stealing the self-hood and the memories of yet another precious personality whose creativity and warm laughter are forever lost to this world – while she wanders a locked-down ward and curls up on the wrong bed for her afternoon nap.

Thanks be to God that the offset of all this lament comes in celebration of the full-body smile of my adorable grandson who has absolutely no idea how much joy he adds to the world just by inhabiting his own tiny skin,.  And while it is true that it is the voice of the Lord that “strips the forest bare,” it is also true that when “winter is past [and] the rain over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth . . . and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.  The fig tree ripens is figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance,” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).  I will bring what I am learning about patience from this cycling of the seasons to my navigation of a life of perpetual change.

I will start where I am with my full days and my inconsistencies and my pitiful mixed motives.

I will use what I have, putting it all in the pot to simmer, and somehow, by the grace of God, I believe that it will be enough.

//

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Change: Friend or Enemy?

For me, it was a case of the right book at the right time when Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong showed up in my mailbox.  I am walking through a season of boys coming and boys going; setting the table each night with only four plates . . . or hearing that we may possibly need nine plates; adjusting to my mother’s presence in our home — and then adjusting to her absence after her transition to the nursing home.

I’ve always thought that I was a flexible person, and if I had been asked (and I wasn’t), I would have said that change is a good thing — healthy, invigorating.  I realize, of course, now that I was thinking of change rather narrowly:

  1.  Change that is my idea;
  2.  Change that produces a good outcome — as I would define it.

Kristen offers a more helpful definition:

Change is leaving “the comforts of what is to embrace the potential of what will be.”

She does not offer pat answers or an easy fix.  Nor does she assert that adjustment to change is just something we need to “get over.”  Instead Girl Meets Change is about her own journey of letting go of white-knuckle control of her circumstances and trusting in the all-knowing, sovereign God who orchestrates her life — sometimes with harmonies that were strange to her ears.

She has woven inspirational journeys from her friends’ lives along with deft renderings of the inspired accounts of people like Joseph, Esther, and Naomi who opened their hearts to God’s detours and changed the course of history.

If I’m going to have a change of heart about change, I need to make my home in the rock-solid truth of Scripture — that never changes.

Capture

If you are curious to see how friendly you REALLY are with change, take this fun quiz!  It took it . . .and apparently I still have some work to do.  How about you?


This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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It’s Time

Slowly, slowly, she made her painful way through the kitchen.  Her eyesight dimming, she had not yet detected my presence there in the room, so I could watch unnoticed and register every discouraged sigh.  Then, with sad resignation, these words:

“I don’t know why this has to be so hard.”

Sadly, I realized that it was time to open the door to a different “hard” – a conversation that I was not ready to initiate about a topic that she was not ready to discuss.

“Mum, it’s time.”

“It’s time to find a safe place for you to live where you won’t have to be afraid of falling;

where you won’t have to climb stairs;

where you won’t have to be alone so much of the time;

where the people in charge know how to help you.

Five years ago, recovering from devastating surgery, Mum had asked, and we had said the hard “yes” that started this journey together in our home.  Renovating space to create a bedroom, equipping our bathroom with all the necessary hardware for her safety, embedding her routines into the rhythm of our days, we made the adjustment.  Our rallying cry and our plumb line:  “This is the right thing to do.”

Mum’s television, her word search puzzles, and the entertainment value attached to the daily comings and goings of her four grandsons filled her days to the brim.  As the one who tries to orchestrate all those comings and goings, I barely noticed Mum’s gradual decline.  Two graduations, a wedding, a new baby grandson, and five gardening seasons  whizzed by, and suddenly Mum had become a triple threat to herself:  vision, balance, and mobility all compromised, and all pointing to trouble.

When, I wondered, did she start resenting the guests who came to our home?

“I just want to sit down here and eat!” she grouched, pointing at the dining room table, laden with a buffet meal for over twenty guests.

And then there was the day of flames and popcorn in the microwave . . .

Capture

My friends over at Soli Deo Gloria are sharing this article about caregiving, change, and God loosening my roots.  I hope you’ll come on over by clicking here to read through to the conclusion.  Come as you are!  There’s always a welcome, and be sure to read some of the other challenging essays while you’re visiting.

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link up with these communities on a regular basis:  Looking Up,   Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way, Cozy Reading Spot, Reflect, Literacy Musing Mondays, Purposeful Faith, Words with Winter