Can I tell you a secret? I’ve never really been a fan of summer. I realize that statement is anathema to a lot of people, but nevertheless it’s true. Okay, I love a cool dip in the lake as much as the next girl. I love camping, especially here on the Pacific Coast, and I’m always game for a New England clambake. Also, I definitely wouldn’t say no to a s’more or two, or a nice corn on the cob just dripping with butter. But for all of that, autumn is my season.
For me, there is nothing better than a cold, bright autumn day when the smell of the air just starts to change. It’s a little bit wood smoke, and a little bit cool rain, and a little bit evergreen. I love the silvery quality of the sky in the mornings when you’re not quite sure if the fog is going to lift, and I love those blue-skied days that throw all the leaves into a vibrant technicolor panoply of crimson and russet and gold.
All year long, my soul is yearning to light that first fire on the hearth. I’m dreaming of that first stretch of November rain that seems like it will last forever, those days that beg to be lived indoors, huddled close under blankets with plenty of good books nearby. I crave steaming mugs of cocoa topped with marshmallows, and thick slabs of creamy butternut squash lasagna, rich bowls of beef stew with hunks of chewy homemade bread, chunky cinnamon-flecked applesauce, and anything baked with cardamom.
It might be tempting for me to become impatient waiting for those autumn days, just like it might be tempting for you to long for blue skies and beach days when everything’s gone pumpkin spice. The trick, I think, is learning to love right where we are. No harm in looking forward to what’s coming next, of course. We were designed to anticipate. But to find a way of looking forward without missing out on the gifts of this moment, to anticipate and yet to appreciate–that is the secret of soulful living in any season.
I find this way of thinking of seasons, and of talking about them, lends itself particularly well to the discussion of motherhood. As mothers, we can be sorely tempted to yearn for the days to come (or perhaps the days we’ve already lived through), and I think it’s in the yearning that we sometimes get lost. We can become so consumed with what we’ve lost, or so wrapped up in our anticipation of what we hope will one day be, that we fail to appreciate where we are right now.
There’s nothing like the sleepless fog of new motherhood. That soft new baby smell, the tremulous newborn cry. Those days may have been blissful for you, as you snuggled up in bed with this beautiful new life, learning all the pudgy folds and dimples of this precious person you’d been gifted. Maybe now you’re looking back and wishing it had lasted longer, or maybe your first weeks and months as a mother were not quite so idyllic.
Maybe you spent them in a NICU, prayerfully pleading for good test results, for strength and stamina to keep from unraveling, for one more day. Maybe you have painful memories of shattered dreams: the hopes of nursing you had to put by, the birth that didn’t go as planned, the blissful bond that didn’t click like magic. Maybe you can’t remember any of it, you were so exhausted and frazzled and depressed that it all seems like a blur. Maybe you’re in the middle of that blur right now, and you’re hanging on with gritted teeth, praying the next season comes faster.
It will, so take a breath. I won’t tell you to savor each moment, but just slow down for a minute and breath. Know in the very depths of your being that you are exactly where you’re meant to be, hard and harrowing as it may seem, you are doing enough just by living it and you are doing it right just by saying yes with all your heart to the hard, harrowing, beautiful, brutal, precious, awesome work of mothering.
Terrible twos? Threenager? The surly seven-year funk? Every age has it’s highs and its lows. Try to find that adorable lisp in your toddler’s next temper tantrum (it really is there if you listen). It’s hard work growing people, and really the work never ends. There’s no use trying to rush it, just as it’s no good to hold on to a moment that’s past: our children keep on growing, and if we’re wise, we’ll try to be present to every moment. Now, we don’t have to cherish every one of those moments–we just have to stay amazed.
Sure there’s a season each one of us will love best, one that will suit our personalities and priorities and perspectives. When you’re in that season, it’s easy to stay present, to appreciate and be aware and be awed. But unfortunately what they say is true: this season goes so fast. The good news is, all those season that don’t suit you so well pass just as quickly, even if that don’t seem to at the time. But then again, that’s the trouble. If we’re just crossing our fingers, gritting our teeth, praying for tomorrow–those are the seasons we may miss completely. And here’s the secret, it’s not just about our children.
That’s the crazy beautiful thing about this vocation of ours. Mothers are not just mentors, we’re not a means to an end. In other words, we are meant to do more than make babies, nurture them for eighteen years, and then set them loose. This isn’t an indenture. Motherhood is an adventure–it’s the adventure that is marking your pathway to heaven! Our children aren’t the only ones growing here; we mothers are meant to be growing, too. In wisdom, in holiness, in kindness, in gratitude, in love.
Really, I think that’s what savoring comes down to. It’s about drawing near to our great God who made the earth and all its wonders, who set the stars in the sky and gave everything its season. You were given this season. I was given this season. Maybe it’s the season to forgo sleep. Maybe it’s a season of sickness and trust and trembling. Maybe it’s a season of double down on discipline, starting with my own self-discipline as I model virtue for my little saints-in-the-making.
Maybe you’re in the midst of a season that speaks to your soul in the most profound and glorious way. Perhaps this is your summer, and you love summer, and you are soaking up every blessed ray of sunshine. Or maybe, like me, you find summer just a little too bright, a bit too hot, and you feel heavy and sticky and worn at day’s end. That’s okay. This season doesn’t have to be your favorite, but it will be oh-so-much-sweeter if you remember that God has graced it. Yes, even the sticky, sweaty dog days of summer are sweet with strawberries, shining in the light of his glorious sun.