Life is full of seasons. I’m not talking about spring, summer, fall, and winter. I’m talking about the seasons in life. The ups that are sweet and full of joy, and the downs that are sour and downright sad.
It’s no surprise I’ve been through many different seasons in the last 10 years. For the past decade, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. My life has been in a season of giving to my three children, taking care of them—most times before giving and taking care of myself. In the middle of it, sometimes I hated it. When will I have time for me? I would think. These kids suck all the energy out of me. There is nothing left at the end of the day. After crashing in bed each night, the mornings would bring more of the same work. I’ve always loved being a mom and my kids bring me joy, but it was hard.
Five years ago, I began a new season. After battling septic shock and near death, my husband had his legs and fingers amputated. He and my young children needed me 100% of the time. It was exhausting. It was hard. It was a season of illness, self sacrifice for me, and healing for all five of us. For two years I tried to be as selfless as I could, always putting their needs before my own. In time, God brought our family to a happy, new normal.
One year ago, I found myself in yet another season of hardship. Months of illness ended with my father’s death. A couple of months later, my youngest child started Kindergarten, and my time as a stay-at-home mom with children home all day came to an end. My season as my husband’s caregiver ended, too. He was completely independent and back at work. I had no one else to give to for eight hours during the day. I was out of my element. To top it off, I worried about my mother. I wanted to help her but didn’t know how.
The first few days my home felt all wrong. It was quiet. Much too quiet. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Who am I without my children to take care of? Is this what moms feel like when they go to college? What am I going to do for eight hours until I pick them up?
I know what some of you are thinking. That sounds wonderful! How amazing to have all that time to yourself!
Well, it wasn’t wonderful. I felt guilt I’ve never felt before. I should find something to get involved in, I’d say. Maybe I can volunteer somewhere. Maybe I need to get a job. It isn’t fair that my husband works while I just stay home alone all day.
Wrong. I was surprised by the responses I received. Not one person agreed with my needing to find something else to do. Every friend and family member I talked to told me the same thing: “You don’t need to do anything. You’ve had a lot going on. Take time for yourself. You need to just rest.”
Rest? What does that even mean? How do I rest? I don’t know how to rest!
“Find something fun to do, Mom. You should take a painting class.” Even my sweet daughter is encouraged me to do something that made me happy.
I decided to really take better care of myself. If I wasn’t healthy, I couldn’t take care of my family well. I decided to start taking walks around my neighborhood every day. I joined Weight Watchers and lost some weight. I volunteered at my kids’ school weekly. I read more than I’ve read in a long time. For fun. In January I started reading the Bible. I have a goal of finishing the entire Bible in 2017. I’m over halfway there.
So, why am I sharing this now? Well, because that season of life is over, I can look back objectively and find purpose in it. I can write about it now. I really did need rest. The idea of taking care of myself so I could take better care of my family was spot on. It’s similar to what they say on airplanes: “In case of an emergency, first put on your mask and then put on your child’s mask.” I finally looked at myself and healed what was broken.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. I’ve refilled my gas tank, so to speak. I’ve had time to figure out what is next for me. I’m still me, and I still have a lot to give. In addition to being a mom, I’ve always dreamed of being a real writer. My dream job would be to write for a living, to use my words to encourage others. So, now that I’ve been given the chance, I’m going to do my best to make that happen.
Those were just seasons. I can see that now because I am no longer there. They were over as quickly as they began. I didn’t even have time to absorb they would be gone.
We all find ourselves in difficult seasons. They might be easier to bear when we know there will be an end. Maybe we can even find joy in them. I have some of the sweetest memories of time with my husband and children during the season of my husband’s illness. I’ll never forget attaching the boys’ wagon to Ian’s power wheelchair while trick-or-treating one year.
Are you in the midst of a difficult season? Let me encourage you by saying this: It won’t last forever. This, too, shall pass. You’ll get through it…and you’ll be better because of it.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—” —Ecclesiastes 3:1