It’s Texas, and it’s still 100 degrees out, with no end in sight. I love summer, and pool weather, and the fun and excitement and relaxation it holds. Yet seasons change, and I posted on social recently that September can keep its pumpkin spice… I’ll take root beer floats in my swimsuit any day.
But fall is coming. I can see it.
I can actually see it, in the way the afternoon sun looks a little different, and the sky is bluer than blue. LJ October blue.
This is my favorite time of year, when the seasons change, because there’s electric energy in the air. Maybe it’s back to school, or the return of football, or that we’re all finally ready to start pulling new colors out of our closets. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the routine we settle into as a family, or the excitement of Saturdays together at the baseball parks.
This year, especially, I think it’s the anticipation of our 10th October missing our son that’s stirring my spirit, setting me up for a new season of reflection and growth. There’s something about these big milestones – and all the emotion they bring - that makes my chest feel heavy.
Whether it’s the turning of the earth or the shifting of my life, when seasons change it's promise that we’re still here, still evolving, and still have something to offer the world. This is the part of change I can get on board with.
As we usher each new season in, there’s opportunity to learn through grooming, to exhale in rest, and to expand with growth.
In my experience, grooming seasons tend to happen simultaneously with or directly following a big setback or trauma. Something that is often out of our control, or a seemingly-impossible circumstance thrust upon us against our will. My specific setbacks were death and the unraveling of our marriage. The months that followed each trauma were excruciatingly painful seasons of massive pruning, in uniquely different yet similar ways.
This grooming season carved away everything I thought I knew about God, my own faith, and my vision for my own purpose in the world. (That is a whole separate book. Hold tight.)
In the meantime, the short version is that my faith grew up stronger and thicker than before, my understanding of God deepened, and my trust in His mercy abounds. This season of change was grooming at its finest and most rewarding.
This was (and in many ways, still is) a season in which Jack and I both experienced the cutting away of parts of ourselves that were wilted or dead. We slashed away habits that no longer served us. He and I both changed behaviors holding us back from the faith and relationships and life we were meant for. We opened our eyes to beliefs we thought were true but turned out to be wrong. And we learned about betrayal from people we thought we could trust. Because we wanted to heal and be whole, better than we were before, there was no room for any more weeds or thorns between us. Arrogance, selfishness, dishonesty, fear… we dug them all up and cut them at the root.
Grooming seasons of change are full of humbling setbacks and painful self-discovery. They also, inconveniently, require embarrassing confessions to ourselves and others. The first step is admitting you have a problem, yes?
Grooming is more “letting go” than anything else. A willingness to release things we don’t need anymore. I believe this is God’s way of making us just uncomfortable enough to finally be willing to drop our grip of what we think is best in favor of what He knows is best. Not surprisingly, the less junk we hold onto, the more clearly we can see His plan for our lives and the lighter our steps feel moving forward in its direction.
While some seasons of change are specifically for grooming, we’re always in the process of maintenance. Little shoots of toxic growth pop up from time to time, in the ways we snap at each other and settle back into old lazy patterns. The grief wheel is always, always, always turning. But we can recognize those triggers or slipping patterns now and perform a mini-groom much more quickly than the full season originally required.
That’s the beautiful thing about grooming seasons – they are a remarkable “reset” phenomenon, restoring you to a new factory setting. From this clean slate, new possibilities emerge and so does a stronger, wiser version of yourself.
You just have to make it through.
We grieved, we retreated, we desperately searched for answers and “why.” We rejected help until we were drowning in our own incapability. Finally we asked for help from our family and friends to cover meals, housework, errands, and tasks that were easy to delegate. We didn’t eat, exercise, or sleep well. He and I both sought wise professional counsel for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. We snapped at each other a lot and practiced lots of forgiveness and sacrificial love. We said no to just about everything and everyone in favor of our self care. Nobody had energy to care what anybody else thought about us. We accepted love and care from people without feeling pressured to reciprocate.
After those massive grooming seasons of change through grief and marriage recovery, we felt exhausted and renewed all at the same time. It was like coming out of an underground cave – the world looked different, we looked different to ourselves and to each other, and we were beyond grateful to have made it out alive. Quite literally, in both cases.
Grooming seasons changed to seasons of rest. With refreshed perspective and hearts full of hope, these new seasons were nothing but bright and truly felt like a gift after all we had been through. We played and laughed. We celebrated and put on weight and loved every single minute of our light-hearted life. It wasn’t perfect, and it won’t ever be, but compared to the darkness we stumbled through it’s pretty sweet.
Those seasons of rest were exactly what we needed to heal, recover, and enjoy each other and our life again. Not much was asked of us and that was absolutely okay. There was no chaos anymore. Just peace.
Lots of reading, deepening of our spiritual lives, fun at the ballpark, great food, great wine, joy in our friendships, gratitude for the lessons we learned, hope for the future, continued self-discovery and reinvention. Jack reshaped his business model and time management. I started writing this blog. We spent lots of time together as a family living the values we hold in priority. We had a baby! (I realize a baby means no rest at all but the decision to bring a little life into the world was made in the most rational and present mindset.)
Somewhere in those rest seasons we started to dream again. It’s hard to create anything out of chaos, so it’s no surprise that as our life calmed, so did our minds and hearts, freeing up space for creativity and future-minded thinking. We were able to take inventory of our careers and their trajectories, determining where we really felt called to direct them. We felt pulled to move forward with plans and pick up where we left off before we lost our son and almost lost our marriage.
More is expected of us during seasons of growth. Everything we’ve learned from those trying seasons of grooming, and everything we perfected in seasons of rest, comes into play when growth is required. We can take those new skills, that stronger belief, the renewed sense of self and purpose, and apply them all to a new mission.
I can think of many opportunities in which I’ve been invited to grow and said no - either consciously or subconsciously. I may have said no to growth because I was scared or doubtful. Growth looks like time… like work… like inconvenience. It looks like therapy... like hard conversations... like staying in painful moments until you've seen them through.
Growth is not mandatory. Saying no to growth is okay, but it comes at a price. You will stay exactly where you are, with the same problems and anxieties you have, unless and until you are willing to grow around and through them. Some people spend their entire lives in this place by choice, or some by unawareness. I don't ever want to do that. There's too much abundant life to be lived to stay stuck.
Because growth is optional, some people will say no when you say yes. We will outgrow certain people in our lives. This is hard. It doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but it does mean the relationship is redefined. But here’s some good news: the right people will always grow with you, or meet you on the way, and they will cheer for you it happens.
Jack expanded his business, we took on more opportunities to mentor and lead in all aspects of our life, we had better discussions about time/money/emotional management, our teamwork patterns kicked into higher gear, we experienced bumps in our relationships and had to make peace with some redefined boundaries, I’m feeling a push towards new projects and sense of urgency to pursue bigger goals, it’s easier to prioritize commitments, time seems to multiply and so does productivity.
So where do you find yourself right now? No matter which season you’re in, you can hold tight to these important truths:
There are tools and resources at your disposal. There are people in your life who are divinely placed to help and support you. And I believe God is standing right beside you, waiting for you to grab hold and trust His guidance.
So with the sky getting bluer each day closer to October, I’m embracing the season I’m in – a little uncomfortable, a lot exciting, with a lump in my throat and bright hope for tomorrow.
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.