In the western hemisphere, spring has come and gone, summer is taking its leave and we are gearing up for the pleasures of fall. The colors are presenting themselves in all their vibrant glory. The days are getting shorter. Cooler. We can still enjoy sipping our favorite ice cold beverages but a certain comfort comes in thinking about the warm drinks we’ll soon enjoy by the fire.
Spring blooms with a fresh awakening. Summer brings an energy of abundance. Autumn is a settling in, the harvest of all we prepared for the coming decline. And winter provides a barrenness that, like pain, can bring utter clarity. In winter, life is not gone. It has simply gone underground to gain strength.
Often in our lives, however, the seasons get confused. As evidence of abundant life surrounds me at the close of summer and beginning of fall, my heart is experiencing winter.
This past spring brought the unfathomable death of a dream and the aliveness of summer passed numbly. It’s as if autumn’s harvest got sucked right back into the earth like a horror scene in a sci-fi movie and winter blew in without welcome or warning.
With the disclosure of my husband’s secret life of marital infidelity, my life turned into something I never wanted and everything I worked so hard to prevent. As a result, I am currently in the most painful season I’ve encountered to date. But it’s also the most grace-filled season I’ve ever encountered.
I can sense some of you saying, “What?! There’s grace in pain?”Believe me, I’ve said the same thing, but allow me to explain.
Do you know anyone who cans or “puts up” fruit and vegetables for the winter? Growing up, my mom did. She canned anything she could get her hands on but I mostly remember a kitchen busting at the seams with pears. She and my aunt would get together, prep the kitchen, sterilize the jars and gather supplies. Then they would go pick pears from friend’s trees and bring them all back to our kitchen. The peeling and chatting and laughter ensued. For days!
I vividly remember the delicious smell when I would walk in the house after school. The taste of what came from their labor of love was even better. They would make pear butter, pear relish, and when they got tired of all the fine chopping, the slices got larger and they simply canned the pears for pies. Every spare inch of cupboard space and sometimes spare inches of other spaces in our house would be filled with pear-filled Mason jars.
We’d have pears to last through the coming year. Come harvest time the following year, it was prep, pick, peel and repeat.
During this current “winter” season in my life, I’ve learned from my previous seasons of pain, loss and grief. I’ve done my spiritual and emotional canning, so to speak. I’ve learned from my mistakes and my successes. I’ve been mindful not to take shortcuts in the healing process even when I’ve been tempted to. If I’m going to do the work, I might as well do it right. Right?
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You’ve heard it said, “wherever you go, there you are?” I am not willing to take the same me with me into the future. Regardless of what the outcome of my marriage will be, and even in pain, there is potential for personal growth. I can become better. I can be healthier.
I want to share with you three gifts of grace that I’ve stored up from previous seasons that have helped to prepare me for my current winter season of pain.
I’ve dug deep into my trust issues and found that my need to feel safe was misplaced on humans and not God. I’ve learned that God is the only one who is 100% trustworthy. When the bottom dropped out from underneath me, my immediate response was to turn to His comfort and faithfulness. I’ve come to the place where I 100% know that If I lose everything, God is enough. He is always enough.
I’ve learned how to set healthy boundaries for the purpose of insulating my heart, not isolating it. As a recovering people-pleaser, doing this has been a revolutionary tool in my life. (My favorite resource on this topic is the book, Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.)
And then, when my world collapsed, I had community. Using the model that Jesus illustrated for us, as His inner circle of three widened, and as my circle widens, the information shared widens as well. I’ve learned enough from my past experiences to know that I should only share my deepest thoughts, concerns and feelings with those who can 1- handle the information with tenderness and trust … and 2- lovingly and truthfully support me in it. When my heart was shattered, because I had my trusted tribe already established, I was able to reach out immediately for prayer and trusted counsel.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but something of immeasurable courage and strength.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Other things I had in place were music, a professional therapist, and the gumption to research other tools and resources that would promote healing.
God was not surprised when my spring turned to winter. He graciously set everything in place for me so that I was prepared for my “such a time as this”.
I want to encourage you, while you’re in the middle of a painful season or as you prepare for one to come (because it will come, John 16:33 tells us so), to place your full trust in God alone, set boundaries in place for your personal health not for isolation, establish your trusted tribe.
Ask yourself what you can do to prepare yourself for the seasons to come? Are you ready for winter?
If your marriage is in a painful season, take a look at Kirk and Chelsea Cameron’s online marriage course.
Andrea Stunz has been a Christ-follower from the age of seven. She is the loyal wife to one, loving mom to three amazing adult children, grateful mother-in-law and ridiculously proud grandmother. A well-traveled Texan, having lived in Brazil, Asia, and the UK, Andrea finds joy in her family, grace in her friends, beauty in a story, purpose in the sunrise, wonder in her travels, and hope in Colossians 1:17. Andrea longs to encourage others by sharing stories because “a story worth living is a story worth sharing”. Find more from her at AndreaStunz.com.