“For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;

A time to be born, a time to die,

a time to plan, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

A time to kill, and a time to heal,

a time to break down , a time to build up;

A time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

In nature’s sense of seasons, we are approaching fall.  I am inspired by nature and find her to be a great teacher.  I enjoy that nature is slow and consistent and reliable.  Summer will turn into fall, which will then become winter and then spring, over and over again.  When the seasons shift, even in the subtle beginning, there exists a scent of promised change.

As described in the verses from Ecclesiastes, there are also seasons in life, periods of time that are bookmarked by birth and death, planning and reaping, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing.

As the lazy days of summer drift into the slightly cooler days of fall, I recall several events from this period of time over the span of many years.  In 1994, I received the news that my mother had passed away unexpectedly.    In 2004, Hurricane Ivan arrived and took with him many of my beloved possessions and much of the structure of my home. In 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.  While these events were challenging at the time, I know today they led to personal growth, deepened my faith, prepared me for what was to come and provided unexpected gifts and blessings that helped to shape and define my life.

Following the loss of my mother, I was asked to help with the youth of the church.  Despite the fact that I was lost, empty, and depressed, I said yes.  I have no idea why but believe God was present and at work.  Through this ministry, I developed a deeper relationship with God and made a connection with the youth and other adults, establishing a community I had not known before.  It also took the focus away from my loss, and planted my feet firmly in the church and in God’s word.  Through giving, I received.  All of these factors would establish a base that provided strength and support and often laughter.  This became the road map and resting place while rebuilding my home after Hurricane Ivan and my health after Breast Cancer.   All of our experiences can provide growing ground in the same way a seed buried in the dirt grows to a deeply rooted tree or a stone becomes polished by the force of a waterfall.

These messages are brought to life in the movie “The Shack”. The messages are complicated but profound and include challenging topics of pain and loss and forgiveness. The main character, Mack, has experienced a childhood of darkness but has found a place of joy and light in adulthood.  An event occurs that leads the main character into a period he refers to as “the great sadness”.  When we learn the reason why, no one doubts the reason for his sadness or his anger.  Mack receives a mysterious message that takes him on a journey where he meets God.  Mack doubts, questions and rages at God but is ultimately led to a new understanding.  The event and the sadness remain a part of the tapestry of his life, but Mack is changed.  There is a new birth, a new love and a new season.

Regardless of whether you are experiencing a season of sadness or of joy, things will change and you will move into a new season, at times gradually and other times in a sudden and startling way. God is with us in the midst of whichever season we are in and will sustain us in the tough times and delight in our joys in the good times.  The people on this earth and in the community of our church can be the hands and feet and heart of God in every season. That includes me, and that includes you.