I’m sitting in my favorite local coffee shop having a cup of Columbian and an omelet for breakfast. It’s Saturday, and I got up early on the one day I could sleep in to be here (more on that later). It’s moderately busy here today. There are four elderly folks in the overstuffed chairs by the wall, drinking coffee and chatting. Two middle-aged women are having muffins and sharing photos via their smart phones. A college student with her laptop and a stack of books, studies over a large cup of something caffeinated, I am sure. A mom and her twenty-something daughter are having breakfast at the table next to mine…apparently “fueling up” before a morning of shopping. A young mom and her tween-aged daughter just stopped in to sip coffee and cocoa, and a young couple just finished breakfast and left the table in the corner that they seemed so happy to be sharing. People of all ages and stations are coming in for their latte’s, coffees, and cappuccinos…heading off to work or other things, no time to sit and enjoy. Looking around, it seems to me that everyone in this coffee shop, including myself, is in a different season of life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons this week. I suppose that’s partly because it appears that spring has sprung early this year. After a couple of weeks of geese flying over in vast numbers, and now large flocks of cranes, it feels more like early or mid-April rather than the second week in March. Red-winged blackbirds line the fence and phone wires along the road ditches, staking out nesting places, and the meadowlarks are warming up their pipes for the busy days ahead. (Have you ever noticed how loud a bird that size can sing? It seems to me that if they weren’t able to release their songs, they would absolutely explode – PHHHT! – a puff of yellow and brown feathers! ) Robins are singing in the predawn hour and I’ve even seen a prairie chicken booming on the lawn at work this week! (I’ve only seen one rooster and one hen, so I hope she’s not the overly picky type!) Snow and ice seem like distant memories already as the afternoons warm up into the 60’s and 70’s. Indeed, it seems that spring was determined this year and has pushed winter out early.
I love the seasons…all of them…and am pretty sure I would not enjoy living somewhere that doesn’t have defined seasons like we do here in Nebraska. Each season has something wonderful to offer. Spring delights with all things new and fresh, and who doesn’t love the long, sunny days of summer? Autumn is so lovely dressed in yellows, reds, and oranges with harvest underway, and winter can be so charming in a layer of fresh white snow, while we are indoors, wrapped in a cozy blanket with a good book and a cup of tea. Of course, each season has its particular drawbacks, I admit. Spring can be cold, damp, and messy, and that summer sun can beat down relentlessly…to the point of exhaustion. Those lovely autumn leaves have to be raked, and everyone tires of icy sidewalks and roadways, and frigid temperatures as winter wears on. Even so, I think the wonderful outweighs the wearying, and I love that in the natural world each season has a purpose all its own. Spring is for birth, summer for growth, autumn for harvest, and winter for rest. I think the seasons of life are a lot like that too.
Right now you are in a season of life. You might be a young mother with small children and your season is full of laundry, fixing meals, cleaning up messes, answering a million questions, and running after children determined to elude you. You are also in a season of wonder as you watch those same children grow and learn, as you see their personalities bloom, and as you store up memories that only a mother can, memories you will ponder in your heart for the rest of your life. You might be an empty nester, and your current season leaves you feeling like you have lost your purpose in some ways, even if you still find yourself busier than you expected to be. What a confusing mix of thoughts fills your days and weeks. Nevertheless, you have a new found freedom, and you just might have a while to think about the things you love to do but have not had time for since you started your family…opportunity awaits. You might be getting older, and your kids are grown, and even your grandkids are starting to get married and have children. You might feel like your usefulness is waning during this season. Yet you have the privilege of years, and the wisdom that comes with them, and you have the time to read and pray that you never had before. You might be in a season of singleness or loneliness, longing for it to end, or you could be in a season of pain…physical or emotional… that is wearing on you like a seemingly endless winter. Perhaps you are in a season of wonder and joy, planning a wedding, having your first baby, or starting that career you always dreamed of. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you are in a specific season of your life…a specific time full of specific things that will not last forever…whether you love where you are right now or hate it. Interestingly enough, making the most of your current season, lovely or harsh, is the same either way.
Embrace it. Embrace the season you are in for all you’re worth.
In Ecclesiastes it says there is a season for everything under the sun…both pleasant and hard things. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) It also says that “God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NET) Whatever season of life you are in, God is in control of it, has a reason for it, and intends to see you through it. When He says in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for those who love God,” He is saying that whatever season you are in, He is using it for your good. Let that sink in for a minute. Whatever season you are in has intentionality behind it, and it is for your good! So embrace it…get everything you can out of it…don’t wish it away or cling to it…but enter into it with expectation and joy, even if it’s a season of difficulty.
What, exactly, does embracing the current season of your life look like? I have to admit, I’m no expert, but I am learning that embracing means looking with the same intentional heart toward God as He has toward me. It means seeking out lessons in the day-to-day, week-to-week life I am in. Those lessons can be the littlest of things, but they can be positively profound as well. It might be the lesson of learning to listen. I still remember my six-year-old son, on a day when I was particularly distracted, taking my face between his little hands, looking directly into my eyes, and saying patiently but firmly, “Listen to me.” Listening is a skill whether it’s listening to your kids, listening to a coworker who is hurting, or listening to God. The lesson might trusting. When your health is a struggle, and you cannot make yourself well no matter what you try, you can despair, get angry, or trust. I think I went through all those stages when I developed type 1 diabetes at the age of forty-three. When I stopped my fearful struggling, I found it a lot easier to move forward as I trusted that God had it covered no matter what happened…but I had to learn that over time, over a very hard season. The lesson might be lightheartedness. When your kids spill a half-gallon of milk on the floor (and those things just happen when you’re a kid, they are not due to disobedience), you can get angry and scold, and fill the house with tension, or you can get the cat and let him have his fill while you clean up the mess. If you get the cat, you are fostering a lighthearted memory for your children, as well as yourself, and you are developing the same kind of atmosphere in your home. Maybe the lesson is loving…not the easy kind…loving someone who is loving toward you…but the kind that God had toward us when He gave His son for us in our sin and rebellion. That might mean demonstrating real love to a rebellious teen even when they have exasperated you to the end of reason, or loving a coworker who is less than likeable. Love in those cases is a choice, not an emotion…but it can take a while to learn how to love beyond emotions. Maybe the lesson is patience. (In my own life this seems to be the “all season” lesson that I have to learn over and over in a million little ways. Oiks!) That lesson might involve the kind of patience that helps you wait in a long checkout line with a smile on your face, even through your schedule is full and you really feel pressed for time, or it might be the kind you need when you are doing everything you think you are supposed to, and you are still not getting the desired results. Or it could be the long term, “dig in your heels” patience you need when you are praying for something you desperately want (and believe is God’s will) and the answer seems as far away as it did years ago when you first started petitioning God on the matter. Perhaps the lesson is delight and thankfulness. You might be going through a time in your life where God is teaching you to look with new eyes at old blessings you have been missing right along, or maybe He is asking you to take a new delight in simply knowing Him better day by day.I could go on and on, but you see the point I’m making…there are particular lessons to be learned in particular seasons. I cannot learn a lesson that I am not ready for, or that is out of context to my experience. God is perfectly aware of that, so He leads me through seasons, progressing from lesson to lesson, each building on the last, each accomplishing a good work in me if I will allow it. So each season can be truly beautiful if I will intentionally look to God for understanding, and remain confident in His goodness… and that’s true whether I am referring to the seasons of the year, or the seasons of my life.
Okay, back to why I got up early on the one day I could have slept in so I could have breakfast at the coffee shop (the day before daylight savings time begins, I would like to add). It’s because I am in a season that’s fast drawing to a close for another year…a season that is part of my working life. Though I work year-round I don’t do the same things at my job everyday…there’s a less hectic season involving more deskwork (late fall to early spring) and a season of constant busyness that requires daily interaction with the public (late spring to early fall). I love them both but I wouldn’t want to do either of them all year long. God has blessed me with these seasons in my work-a-day world, and I am learning how to make the most of them. So I am embracing the opportunity, while I still have it, to sit in my favorite coffee shop with an omelet, a cup of Columbian, and you today…with a thankful heart for God’s grace in this wonderful season of my life.