I was born and raised in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Growing up I played sports this climate was made for. I mountain biked and swam in the summers; I played basketball in the fall, skied and ice skated in the winter and played softball in the spring. Each season brought new sights, new smells, new sounds, and adventures.
Then in 2010 this Yankee girl moved south, all the way down to Livingston Parish, Louisiana. There was no culture shock, at least nothing that compared to what I experienced when I moved from Amish country to Pittsburgh (and no I’m not Amish I just live near a small community of them), but it was different.
I loved it down there. I don’t think I would have moved back had God not brought into my life a man from my hometown only a short month after making the big move. In the two years I lived there I enjoyed the food, the history, and most of all the weather.
But there was something I missed greatly. I missed seeing the seasons change. In the south autumn and spring do not exist in the way they do up north. The seasons are merely marked by a date on a calendar not by the changing of the leaves, or new buds on the tree. The lack of changing seasons made me feel as though something was missing from the year. Then I moved back to Pennsylvania to marry the man who is now my husband. That first northern winter felt like it would never end.
As my second winter in Pennsylvania approaches I consider Ecclesiastes 3:1
This has always been my favorite time of the year; the colors, the smells, the general feel of the air. But when you think about what it means for the plant life that experiences it, I’m not so sure it’s such a happy time.
During the spring and summer, chlorophyll in plants uses sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water in oxygen and glucose. The glucose, a type of sugar, is used to nourish the plant and the oxygen is released back into the atmosphere. When autumn comes the chlorophyll begins to disappear, as it does the green in the leaves disappears and is replaced by vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. The leaves, which are now no longer feeding the trees, fall from the tree. The tree purges that which no longer feeds its growth.
Likewise, we all need an autumn in our lives. Every so often God begins to show us things in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth. He brings to light that which no longer feeds us spiritually. If we heed his guidance this will prune our soul and prepare us for the growth which is to come.
I would say that this is the season I am in currently. I have felt a deep conviction by God that I need to work on my patience with my family, my attitude towards the work that I do and need to do, and my productivity around the house. No I’m not lazy, but my husband claims I suffer from, “I need to do this but ‘oh look there’s a bunny’”. I can spend two days cleaning our house and yet never fully clean or organize anything.
This month I began a year long, Proverbs 31 challenge. I studied the qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman and I am, with God’s help and guidance, working on instilling these qualities into my life and attitude. I’m only a few weeks into my challenge (of which I’m blogging on my personal blog), and I all ready find it to be a struggle and a blessing.
Trees make it seem so effortless, but this is often a difficult season. Sometimes this season sees a great battle. We’re not ready to make these cuts, we’re not ready to give up and submit to God. Fighting God’s guidance often takes us into a winter like season.
During winter the trees are dormant, basically they’re on autopilot. We get like that too. Sometimes we face hard things and we just go through the motions to stay afloat. This is also known as apathy. Apathy is dangerous. Apathy says, “I know this isn’t right but I just don’t care”. I’ve been through that before.
Through a series of events during my college years, I reached a point where I believed in God, but didn’t care that he had a plan me. I made choices that went against everything I knew God wanted for me, and still I didn’t care. I felt God’s conviction on my life to change this, and while I made a half-hearted attempt, it was exactly that, a half-hearted, apathetic attempt to do what God wanted me to do in my own strength. I started going back to church. I got involved in a college age youth group. And I continued to live not caring if my actions and choices were honoring God.
Then I found out I was pregnant. I was twenty four years old, last year of college, single, pregnant, and scared out of my mind. I was embarrassed, so embarrassed I refused to turn to those who would help me most. I continued to try to do it all in my own power.
It was a cold time for me. I felt so alone, so isolated, so unlovable. Then at five months along I finally broke down. And God, in his provision, had in place a wonderful Christian woman who talked with me, prayed with me, and encouraged me to reach out to family and church members at home.
I learned something during that time; God uses those wintery seasons to make us stronger, even though we’re only in them because we turned from Him.
Spring is an amazing time; trees begin to bud, flowers bloom. Sure it’s muddy and not as pretty as the fall, but why should it be. Spring is not about tearing down.
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to tear down and a time to build,
When we come through a spiritual winter or even autumn, God doesn’t leave us in the ripped down, cold, and broken state. He builds us up. He molds us closer to his image. He heals us. He restores us.
This is an exciting time, everything is new. It is during this time that we see the blessings most clearly in our lives. It is during the springs of our lives that we feel closest to God. This isn’t because He is any different but because we are.
By the time my daughter arrived I had faced my fears and told my grandma and my church family in my hometown. The outpouring of love and support were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Yes, I still feared parenthood, what first time parent doesn’t? But I faced this new chapter in my life with peace and excitement.
This turn for the good lets us creep into summer. This is a time of great blessing, but this is the time we must also draw close to God.
Summer, trees are in their full glory. Fruit trees produce fruit. In our lives this is a season of blessing. We are seeing God’s promises come true. This is a time when we should be reflecting his likeness and glorifying Him; in essences, doing what we were made to do.
I am positive it was always summer in the Garden of Eden. This is a time of rejoicing and play. It is in this time more than any others that we need to draw close to God and nurture our relationship with him. As long as we remain in Him, He will continue to grow in us.
But this is where apathy sneaks in and when we cut ourselves off from God we plunge back into winter. Like my years in the south, we skip autumn. One day it’s all great the next we’re wondering how we got where we are.
The Israelites did this, God brought them miraculously out of a harsh winter and with fear, and disobedience they plunged themselves right back into it.
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, but by God’s hand they were lead out of slavery, they walked through the Red Sea. They had witnessed it raining manna in the desert, and they had seen God provide water from the rocks. Then, after forty years of God’s provision through what I’m sure would have seemed liked a dark winter; they reached the land of Canaan, the land God had promised them. They took one look at those who lived in Canaan and forgot that God was more powerful than any army. They could have been in an oasis, but instead they fought God and Moses and wound up spending another forty years wandering the desert.
What can we learn from this? It doesn’t matter what season you are in. Drawing close to God is the answer. Embrace each season of your life as a part of God’s ultimate plan, and listen to His guidance in each.
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,for this is the duty of all mankind.
Seasons of our lives are funny though. They don’t follow a set cycle. Spring always follows winter but sometimes we bounce between summer and fall, growing and enjoying God’s glory. Sometimes by no fault of our own life throws us into winter. God has a plan for all of it and we can trust in His everlasting love and promises. We can be like Joshua and Caleb and say, “we might be facing giants, but God is bigger”. We can trust God no matter what the season.
She writes at Faith-Family-Frailty of Mind. She is a wife, mother of two and a teacher.