3 ways to handle unwanted seasons (in life)

There’s a time for everything. But life doesn’t tend to follow the time-table you lay out for it.

That’s why I’d like to share 3 ways to handle unwanted seasons in your life. I’m not just talking about winter (’cause who doesn’t love fall??)–I’m talking about handling the unpredictability of life.

I’m thinking about all of this because my emotions have been all over the place lately. I’m like a leaf falling to the ground, zig-zagging my inevitable course toward its likely landing, which will be hard and not where I look or feel my best. I’m blown into other leaves, I’m lost in a pile of everyone, I’m swept into the air with the latest gust of public opinion, only to repeat the cycle of falling, shifting, looking for a comfortable place to stay.

Seasons mean change, yet because climate and weather cycles are predictable, we find the seasonal change to be exciting. We buy new decor. We buy new clothes. We talk about the weather. Somehow, it’s comforting to know what’s going to happen before it’s happening. I think that’s why my mother talked about the weather every morning at breakfast. It was a small way for her to settle herself. To establish a norm for the day.

I’m a Minnesota girl, and I like four seasons. (Granted, I’m not a fan of a 6-month winter.) I’m more of a Virginian now: I like my seasons to last for a quarter of the year and then transition. Like this:

  • Spring: newness, budding trees, thick grass, chirping birds, warm sun, flowering everything.
  • Summer: heat, ocean, sand, books, vacations, slower everything.
  • Fall: crisp air, a riot of warm colors, fire pits, sweaters, boots, pumpkins.
  • Winter: Christmas, snow, coats, hats, rosy cheeks, hot chocolate, roaring fires, reading under a blanket.

Nice and predictable.

Seasons are one thing. Seasons of life are another. They aren’t that predictable. Life happens when and how it wants to happen. It surprises us. Stuns us. Flattens us. Angers us.

So I have a few suggestions if you feel like a leaf falling through a brilliant autumn sky. (At least, this is the therapy I’m giving myself today):

  1. Note your triggers. October is the birthday month for my mom and me—we share a birthday week, actually. Since my mom passed, I tend to fall apart at the end of every October. I don’t plan on it. It just happens. Yesterday, I was angry, and then I began crying for unknown reasons, and then it hit me—our birthdays are about a week away. (Maybe I’m not a mental patient.) The third week of October is a trigger for me. It’s warning me that some special days are coming up, and I need to build in a cushion for my soul. I need to get creative and give myself some grace to grieve, or I will be a complete wreck. I suggest you discover where your triggers are and prepare for the battle that’s coming (you can’t run from it, I promise).
  2. Take the long look. This may be a fall that looks like any other fall, but it’s not. We’re still in a pandemic, still surviving a pandemic, in an emotionally-charged election year, following a national cultural war that’s still going strong. We’ve got some stuff that’s interfering with whatever “normal” used to look like. Things are not normal, no matter how much we want them to be. I say push through the hardship toward regeneration and renewal. Work toward a better future. Everything cycles back to “normal” eventually, even though “normal” alters itself over time.
  3. See the value in change. And by that, I mean value the change you can’t control. Everyone likes new things that they choose themselves, but most people don’t like new things that other people implement. If nothing else, this descriptive has marked 2020. I’m not saying you have to like all the changes that happen around you. Plenty of changes are not good—not even right. Find value in choosing to react and adapt in positive ways. That will help you endure the change you don’t want.

Yes, I know that generally we’re willing to acknowledge the stress or the tension around us. We might even acknowledge that we can learn from it or grow from it. But then we buy a motor home and disappear into the forest because somewhere in the growing process it occurs to us that we can’t undo what’s being done. So we eject.

Don’t eject. There’s a better you waiting on the other side of a not-normal season.

This morning I read Ecclesiastes 3 because I know that there’s a season for everything, and I know I’m not happy with this season of my life (not the fall, just 2020 in general). The wisdom of Solomon is comforting, but I wonder if he believed what he was writing. Because if you read the whole book, you can tell that his emotions and thoughts were all over the map, too. I’m glad he was brave enough to write them down for us. (Wisest man ever, remember.)

So here’s My 2020 Rendering of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 14):

There’s a time for everything and a season for every situation that happens.

A time for remembering birthdays and remembering death dates,

A time to plant new ideas and a time to pull them up,

A time to punish and a time to give grace,

A time to take down and a time to rebuild,

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time to mourn and a time to celebrate,

A time to spread out and a time to gather together,

A time to hug and a time to elbow-bump,

A time to investigate and a time to accept,

A time to preserve and a time to discard,

A time to break off and a time to repair,

A time to be quiet and a time to speak up,

A time to befriend and a time to un-friend,

A time for doing battle, and a time for making peace.

Everything that God does lives forever. Everything that we do, apart from God’s plan, will eventually fall to the earth, raked up, and be thrown away.

Happy fall, everyone. This is just a season. What kind of season will it be for you?

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