Every year during the last week of September, my husband begins the process of preparing our pool for its season of rest. After completing the necessary preparations of removing handrails, a diving board and stairs, he hunts me down for my help. While Pat does the manual labor, I assist him by holding the air compressor nozzle to each pipe until the air is removed from the lines. We don’t want to find a broken water line in the spring. Once he is sure the pipe is free from air, Pat caps the inlets on each end of the pool. We repeat this scene every year, and without fail, as I stand in the pool house, I reminisce. This, I will confess, usually leads to a bit of complaining. No one can hear me because of the extreme noise of the air compressor, so I am even free to complain out loud. As my mind replays the fun of our summer days, my disappointment level over the end of another one rises within me. My eyes focus on Pat, watching intensely for the “thumbs up” that lets me know when to remove the nozzle. My mind and mouth, however, have become focused on my sorrow at the loss of summertime as I grumble to the Lord about the changing of seasons.
As Central New Yorkers living east of Lake Ontario, our little town Parish is a perfect target for snow. We can accumulate snow…lots of heavy, wet, lake-effect snow. Once, a few years ago, Parish welcomed 88” of snow over three days. With thoughts of all things snow — blowers, shovels, ice and storms — my heart yearns for a longer season of warm summer sunshine. On this day, however, as I grumbled away in my despair over what was coming, I began to sense the still small voice of the Lord. He began to whisper, “Instead of grumbling over the fact it’s time to close the pool, why don’t you thank Me for the enjoyment you had in the pool? Rather than feeling sad that summer is over, thank Me for the memories you made. You should thank Me at the close of every season for all I’ve provided during that season. Appreciation will brighten the change of seasons if you look for Me in them.” I was struck by His words. Thank Him at the end of every season? I only thank Him at the end of winter because I am just SO thankful it’s over. I’ve never thanked Him for my time in a particular season, or for the new one approaching. Usually, I simply focus on what I feel I am losing or dreading what comes next.
As summer days pass on, I’m thinking about fall, which will usher in the beauty of changing leaves. However, with winter imminent, my thoughts quickly turn to the next season, so I never enjoy fall quite like I should. I’m rejoicing when winter finally begins to fade, and spring shows up at our doorstep. While I might enjoy the warmer days and spring flowers, my eyes quickly look towards the plans of summer.
This “ah-ha moment” helped me recognize that the same has been true in my spiritual life. I’ve failed to allow appreciation to brighten the change of the seasons I’ve passed through. I may shoot out a “Thank You” because a difficult season is over, but I haven’t allowed appreciation to exude from me for the beauty that came from the season. I realize now my spiritual seasons look something like this:
In the spring season, I welcome the new as signs of life and new growth begin to appear from under the earth. Spring always feels like a season of revival for me. We begin to come out from hibernation after those long, cold winter days. It’s time to enjoy the warming sun and longer days. We unlock the windows, open them wide and spring cleaning begins. Fresh. Spring is like a fresh start. Spiritually, my spring season brings anticipation as I sense God is about to move. Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:4, NKJV). I love a spring season in my spiritual life when I sense God is awakening something new. I am open to His spring-cleaning deep in my soul, seeking Him for the fresh and new. Well, I should clarify, sometimes I’m guilty of being open to the new as long as I feel I am in control of what’s coming. There are some aspects of a spring season I’ve found difficult to endure—like those April showers— the ones that brought flooding to our finished basement, more than once. While we were working feverishly to prevent the water from entering, it was impossible to stop. We prayed for it to stop — actually, we prayed for it not to happen — but it happened regardless. I’ve had some struggles during my spiritual spring when I’ve felt helpless, praying earnestly for God to stop what I couldn’t. Appreciation will brighten the changes within a rainy spring season when I thank Him for growing my faith. It’s during this season that I’ve learned to trust when God says “no” or “wait” because He has a better plan, even if I might not understand it.
In the summer season, I enjoy family vacations and lazy days at the beach, relaxing by the pool, BBQs and family reunions. We enjoy the heat—which can be just right—although some days it feels a little too hot; the high-humidity-sticky-hot kind of heat that can become so uncomfortable it’s almost unbearable. For many years, we didn’t have an air conditioner in our home, so there was no escaping the heat; a fan was our only comfort. A little cool air was better than no air at all. I’ve experienced some hot, dry spells in my spiritual seasons of summer as well, which have left me thirsty and uncomfortable, longing for refreshment in my soul. I refer to these moments as my wilderness wanderings. As I press through a dry season, I seek to understand why I can’t seem to hear God, or why He seems so distant. I, like David, find myself calling out, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NIV). My spiritual summer season becomes sticky-hot as the Lord begins to correct and discipline, whereas the enemy uses the heat to cause apathy in my quiet time with the Lord. Appreciation brightens the change within a hot, dry season as I learn to press through the dry times, remaining faithful and dependent upon Him to bring the refreshment I long for. He alone can quench my thirst.
In the fall season, our eyes behold the beauty of the changing leaves. We enjoy apples picked right off the tree and all things pumpkin. In our family a love for football brings excitement and anticipation. Schedules tighten up as kids go back to school, and the windows begin to close at night as cooler air is ushered in. In my spiritual season of fall, I’ve learned from the leaves that it is okay to let go. I’ve even noticed some leaves let go when their color is still vibrant; they don’t wait until they are dead. They’ve taught me I must not hold so tightly to friendships that are out of season, plans and schedules, my right to hold a grudge or what other people think. You know, all things relating to…me. Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes chapter three have been helpful to me during a season of letting go. This passage reminds me that God has an appointed time for every season. Every season. It’s hard to live free when you’re consumed by the need to control. Appreciation brightens the change of my fall season as I experience the freedom of letting go and allow God to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Beauty will burst forth when I do.
This leaves the season of winter. I have never been a fan of winter as I formerly mentioned. Pat and I grew up in Western New York State with plans of moving away from the unrelenting winters common to that area. The Lord had other plans for us and planted us in Central New York, in an area that yearly accumulates an equal amount of snow, if not more. For me, winter ushers in temperatures that are too cold for my liking. While there are moments in which winter may look pretty, snow often interferes with or disrupts plans. All of creation seems to stop. The trees go bare, the birds stop their song and the days get very long and dark. Stillness settles over us in the winter. Job 37:7 from the Amplified Bible says, “God seals (brings to a standstill, stops) [by severe weather] the hand of every man, that all men [whom He has made] may know His work [that is, His sovereign power and their subjection to it].” I found myself in a spiritual season of winter almost ten years ago. The unexpected death of a very close friend seemed to usher in storm after storm of disrupted plans and dreams. It brought long dark days of depression and confusion, which left me cold, bare and empty. Bitterness creates quite a chill inside a heart. But while winter may look like death to the natural eye, there is still life beneath the snow and cold. We always discover how busy the moles have been in the yard when the snow melts; a lot can happen under the covered soil, in the dark. And in my season of winter— while the weight of pain was so crushing— God knew that I was finally in the place where He wanted me. I was still. This is where He whispered, “Be still in My presence and wait patiently for Me to act (Psalm 37:7)” Simply, Be still. Appreciation brightens the change during the winter season when I remain still during the storm, trusting in His Sovereign power. May we all seek to discover His work in the deep dark places as we remain still before Him.
God often ushers us through cycles of seasons, and we can treasure each one if we decide to allow…
Appreciation: an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something: an ability to appreciate something.
to Brighten: to make (something) more colorful or cheerful.
the Change: to make (someone or something) different. (Merriam-webster.com)
in every one.