I love the changing of the seasons. Sure, I have my favorites, but I find I enjoy the newness of each season. Here in Northwest Georgia we have pretty distinct seasons and each one has its beauty. I love the coolness of autumn with the leaves changing colors and the smell of campfires. When the leaves are all gone and the mornings become very crisp, excitement builds for hot chocolate, beautiful starry nights, and the hope of snow! When the winter seems coldest and wettest, the first hints of buds show up on the trees, pitchers and catchers report, and the promise of spring is renewed. The summer brings long, bright days, and nothing beats seeing my family come alive playing in the water somewhere…anywhere, really. Each season has so much to enjoy. Breathing deeply the fullness of each one is one of my secrets to living well. After all, what’s the point of looking forward to a season if you don’t enjoy it when you get there? Even so, when I have tired of winter's’ bite or summer’s swelter, breathed my fill of spring’s pollen or raked my fill of fall’s leaves, I remind myself to look forward to the coming season. It will be here before I know it, and it will be a welcome change.
It was with this optimism I was approaching my fortieth birthday in May of 2014 - a new season to enjoy and I was excited to begin. It is my desire to live well and do well what is in front of me. My thoughts came rapidly, “Maybe I’ll do some writing,” (like this). “Maybe my men’s group can take that fishing trip this summer and get some time to talk through those conversations we can’t seem to finish in two hours per week together. I have this great new guitar and I am already excited about the online lessons I am finding.” Yep, I was excited about this season. In many ways, I still am; however, I wasn’t quite ready for the first couple of months of my forties.
On May 31st I celebrated my birthday with my family. My wife and two kids, my mom, dad, and I did a few of my favorite things, going to the movies and playing games (I love board games and card games!), then sat around the kitchen together. My mom pulled out this huge bag and handed me a small lamp to rub and bade me make three wishes. Each “wish” was a slip of paper with a description I had given her of things I wanted for my birthday. It was creative and fun and I’m proud of her for not pulling out the black balloons and a buzzard piñata like she did for my dad’s fortieth! She showed a lot of restraint. My dad had not been feeling well but we had a great day together. He even made a comment about not being sure he would see seventy, and he was okay with that. Six days later, at the age of 62, my dad passed away.
It is never a good thing to have your wife wake you saying someone is knocking on the door at 4:30 in the morning, then get to the door and see a police officer standing there. It is worse when he knows your name. Half asleep and half adrenaline-crazed, I began filling in the blanks as this poor officer tried to tactfully tell me I needed to get to the hospital. My mom had been trying to call… Cardiac arrest… I have forgotten most of his words but I’ll never forget how difficult it was for him to tell me what I needed to know without stating what was obvious.
The next few weeks were like that night standing at the door looking into the face of a police officer. In a state of disbelief, I was processing information I didn’t really understand, hazily recognizing the next step, then feebly taking it. The stops along the way, emergency room, “quiet room”, funeral home, friends and relatives bringing food, condolences, and prayers, took me from one step to the next. I knew to keep going, only doing the things I had to do.
I kept an appointment to have my knee checked out because it was easier than thinking about rescheduling. Torn ACL… So, I scheduled surgery for July. I didn’t mind the idea of being laid up and out of work for a bit. I didn’t want to be around a bunch of folks anyway.
We had a summer vacation a couple weeks before my surgery. My mom came along. It was one of the most wonderful gifts the Lord has ever given me. My family played in the water. The days were long and bright. The good of the current season was upon me. The hope of a new season began to be reborn in me again.
August arrived, the month of my son’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, and the anniversary of my brother’s death. All of these things were a little more significant to me in 2014. Some days it was difficult to breath at all, much less deeply. But sometimes living well means grieving well, and such was this season. I did what I could with what was in front of me; nothing more, nothing less. As the season wound down, I cast a glance forward. Autumn is on the horizon, my favorite season by far, and I can’t wait for the leaves to change. I look forward to cooler days and being able to climb stairs! (Remember the knee surgery?) I also look forward to writing and playing the guitar.
That said, I am most excited to see what else God has in store for me during this season. It has already been more meaningful, challenging, and powerful than I could have ever imagined. A depth of my soul has been tapped that I could not have anticipated. Deep calls to deep, according to Psalm 42:7. Turmoil and thirst have called to hope and praise. The greater depth of turmoil has called to a deeper hope, and I have breathed deeply the changes of this season.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!