This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It was that time of year again…
It seemed like summer was going to hang around forever; but the weather outside and the date on my calendar were finally in sync. Cooler weather arrived, just in time, on the first day of autumn.
I loved summer. I loved when the kids were home. I loved the carefree schedule and the lazy days, but it was time for fall.
I was ready.
We worked in the yard last weekend, pulling out the wilted flowers. They looked beautiful in the summer, but now the flowers were faded, the leaves yellowed, and a tangled mess of dead matter was at the base of the plants. I grasped the first plant and pulled it out without a problem. I expected to struggle, but the plants came out in one easy clump.
They were ready.
Those flowers peppered the yard with bright color through June, July, and August; but, they were done growing. The plants were no longer thriving in the changing weather and fading sunlight. We cleared the mulch beds in preparation for the mums and the pumpkins and the outdoor fall decorations.
It was a new season.
Fall was my favorite. I was ready for cooler weather and longer evenings. I was ready for jeans and sweatshirts and pumpkin everything. I baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies last weekend too. I decorated the door with a wreath, the banisters with garland, and my mantel with the scarecrows my Mom painted years ago. I changed the tablecloth in my dining room and swapped out the plain candy dish for the acorn-shaped one.
I switched gears as easily as those plants separated from the ground because I loved fall. I looked forward to the changing leaves, the hot chocolate, and the pumpkin festivals. I was excited about what was to come.
In a couple of months, the fall decorations would be replaced with Christmas ones. I looked forward to it. I packed away the scarecrows for the snowmen. I moved furniture to make room for the Christmas tree. Those banisters were hung with lighted evergreen garland. Christmas was one of my favorite holidays.
I celebrated Christmas; and then it was time to put all those decorations away.
I was never ready for that.
Winter was my least favorite season. I didn’t like snow or cold or limited hours of daylight. I didn’t like fussing with coats and mittens and scarves and boots. I didn’t like cleaning dirty snow and salty residue tracked into the house.
I didn’t mind changing gears for fall. I didn’t mind winter during the Christmas season. I dreaded the long, dreary winter that came after Christmas.
That adjustment didn’t happen easily. When the Christmas decorations were gone, the house looked bare. When I got up in the morning, it was dark. When I got home, it was dark. When I went outside, the cold took my breath away and the wind cut right through me. Snow on the ground was pretty; but there was nothing pretty about the brown grass and bare trees.
Winter was hard for me.
By the end of the long winter, I was desperate to feel the sun on my face and to see color on the earth. I watched for the first buds on the trees, the first hint of green on the hills, and the first daffodil to emerge from the ground.
I loved the first signs of spring, but what happened in the dead of winter, when the dark days left a shadow on my heart?
Pennsylvania winters came every year, so I changed my mindset. I despised winter and could resign to be miserable for several months … or I could change my attitude.
It was all about attitude, wasn’t it?
When I got sick, I changed my perspective. I learned to enjoy the moment more. I learned to focus on the positive. I had to put those skills into practice. I had to learn to enjoy winter.
I had to adjust my attitude.
Even though winter was not my favorite season and it was difficult for me; I had to find a way to enjoy it. As winter drew near, I purposefully thought about what I liked about winter; and then I made a list.
An actual list…
Warm, fuzzy socks
Family movie nights
At first, it was hard to think of things but soon enough, I was on a roll…
Watching my husband play with the kids in the snow
Colorful scarves and hats
Then, I couldn’t stop listing all the wonderful things about the winter…
Watching the snow fall from my morning room windows
Listening to the snow fall on a quiet night
The sound of the snow crunching under your feet
I realized there were many things I enjoyed about winter. I was too overwhelmed by the biting cold, the dreary landscape, and the gray skies. When I shifted my focus, I was (almost) looking forward to winter.
Attitude…it really does change things.
So, that got me thinking. If I could make myself excited about winter; then, this practice could help me in other ways too.
Little things, like running errands or doing housework …
From having to go to the grocery store to buying the ingredients to prepare a family meal …
From having to clean the house to making my home a comfortable sanctuary.
Changing your attitude worked on the big things too.
I remembered stopping in the grocery store for milk before my appointment to have my head shaved during chemotherapy. My hair started falling out by the handfuls two weeks after my first round of chemo. This was really happening. There was no more denying that I was sick. I was devastated. I ran into a friend at the register. She asked how I was doing and I started crying. Her eyes were so kind. She told me something that I never forgot. She told me about her friend who also had cancer. She was a busy, working mom too. She didn’t have time or the energy for this cancer nonsense. During her treatment, she felt peace when God put on her heart that this was her time to be still.
This was her time to be still.
Whoa. Game changer. Attitude adjuster.
I was crazy busy at that time. I was trying to do way too much and I felt like I was failing at everything. How was I going to keep it together while I endured treatment for cancer? Getting cancer was not in my plans. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t know if I was strong enough.
But when I heard her say those words, something clicked.
This was my time to be still.
Although I questioned Him, I knew God didn’t give me cancer …
God gave me the opportunity for rest
God gave me permission to take care of myself
God gave me people to take care of me
God gave me time to focus on healing
God gave me the heart to focus on Him
Going through cancer back then wasn’t easy.
Going through cancer now wasn’t easy either.
But going through cancer gave me the shift in focus, the change in perspective, and the adjustment of attitude that I needed. Going through cancer taught me that I could do hard things, that I could survive the darkest seasons by finding the light along the way.
It was there. I had to look past the darkness to see it.
This year, as I packed away those Christmas decorations and prepared for the long winter season; I would make my list and look past the shorter days to see the gift of the longer evenings. I would look past the bitter cold to see the warmth of the family room fireplace. I would look forward to the spring that was coming, but I would enjoy the winter season too.
Enjoy the season I was in … that, right there, was the key.
No matter the season, no matter the weather, no matter the situation …
I had to enjoy it, or at least appreciate it.
If I couldn’t find something to be excited about, because life was hard sometimes; then, I had to find something for which to be thankful. For in the harshest of winters and the darkest of nights, there were beautiful snowflakes in the air and bright stars in the sky.
Inevitably, next winter, the snow would fall and the wind would howl. Instead of grumbling and complaining, I planned to put on my fuzzy socks and my most comfortable sweatshirt, wrap up in a soft blanket on the couch next to the fireplace and drink some hot chocolate while watching a movie with my family…or something like that.
The seasons of my life were going to change just like the seasons of the year. If I wanted to be happy, I had to let go of what was and embrace what was to come.
I would enjoy the pumpkins and the apples, and then the holly and the mistletoe. I would pack up those decorations and happily hang a new calendar on my pantry door.
I was ready.