Nature goes through seasons. Depending upon where you live, there are four distinct characteristics that distinguish one season from another. In the winter, it is cold, melancholy and often dark. During the spring months you’ll see shoots of new growth, greenness and the warm air begins to return. Through the summer, the climate is often hot and humid and everything seems to come to a standstill. Then comes the fall, when the leaves turn brown and start to fall, the weather turns slightly cooler, and the days become shorter.
Life is Filled with Patterns
Life goes through seasons too. I’m not necessarily talking about when we move from one adult phase to another, for example, from a teenager to a young adult. These cycles have been studied for years and we know there are clear distinctions mentally, emotionally, and physically in every stage of the human development cycle.
What I’m speaking of, when I say life’s seasons, are the seasons that befall each and every one of us in any given period in our life. I have come to believe by closely observing nature and my own internal and external biorhythm that there is a revolving cycle moving in my own life, if I am willing to pay attention to it.
I remember a period of time when I was working fervently on The Christian Meditator. If the saying “more is better” is true, than I wholehearted embraced the phrase by working often around the clock. Yet, during this time, in the deepest yearnings of my heart, I kept hearing, so gently, so quietly, “Rhonda, you need to rest. You need to take a sabbatical. You need to slow down,” and I wanted too. Accept I couldn’t pull myself away from a cultural bias that says “work is everything” and that when I am not working, I am not being productive. And even though I continued to work, in reality I was only spinning my wheels. I was doing a whole lot, but not really accomplishing much at that time.
Fast forward many years later, the voice returned. Yet this time I really took heed. As I contemplated the need for real rest, an extended rest, and time for renewal, the Lord brought to my attention the cycle of the seasons and that at any given moment, we are in one of them. The seasons in our life may or may not correlate with the seasons of nature, but in many ways as a healing practice they should. Aside from nature’s rotations, these seasons happen continuously and can take days, weeks, months, or even years to complete before you start the cycle all over again. Just think of the cycle of a day, at night we sleep, we wake up to work, we come home to relax, and before bed may reflect upon the past 24 hours. You can find this cycle in just about anything we do.
We learn from Solomon in the book of Ecclessiates that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Everything God does is linked into divine order. If you look closely enough you can find various patterns associated with all of life.
As we develop and grow in our walk with Christ, we also go through various seasons that possess new insights as well as new challenges. What determines whether we advance to the next level is how we handle the seasons that show up. We may go through a dark time in our life (winter); we plant seed of trust and faith (spring); our seeds come into fruition (harvest); and then we reflect on and evaluate our accomplishments (fall). It’s amazing how you can find this pattern in just about anything. When we fail to successfully make it through each season, we are usually destined to relive them again in another place and time. Therefore, it’s best to make our way through them with love, grace, trust, and faith.
Winter – Time for Rest and Renewal
As we dive a little deeper into the nature of each season, we can see that each one has a definite purpose. Winter is a time of hibernation that can be used to rest, reflect, and go inward. This is the time to put all the work aside and just be. It is a time to fellow ship with God, sit at his feet and learn from Him. During winter, as you pause in God’s presence, your spiritual awareness and acuity grows. He may also open you up to new ways of being that you may not have considered before. It is generally during this time of quiet and silence that your ears are truly attuned to listening. It is also during winter that God may give you newer seeds to plant in the form of new ideas, creative ventures, better strategies, and/or new spiritual insights. In winter, you take it all in. You write it all down. You meditate on it, absorb it, soak in it, and you let what you learned rest deep in your soul. You practice it before you teach or present it, so you truly have something authentic to share with others. Don’t be surprised if new books, teachers, and information show up in your life that helps to navigate you further on in your journey. Winter is all about internal growth and developing your spiritual roots.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10) If practicing silence and meditation is a part of your regular ritual, your spiritual senses are heighten, you gain more clarity, and you experience more of the spiritual realm in your life. You integrate with God’s spirit and allow Him to reside in you to a greater depth, to become a part of you. “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (St. John 17:21)
During winter, you are preparing for spring, but it’s not a time for planting, not yet. Planting prematurely will ensure that your seeds will die from frost-bite. The longer we stay in the winter season, the deeper our roots can grow in God or in whatever area we desire to grow. It’s literally like going back to school and taking notes, preparing for that big day when you can start making your dreams a reality. How do you know when it’s time to move onto the next cycle, you’ll just know. The Holy Spirit, guide of all truth, will open the doors and lead the way. We just need to hear and obey. But whatever you do, don’t try to rush through winter, a time of being, to get into a time of doing. I personally find winter to be the most rewarding time of all because I feel the most transformed and the most blissfully. I get so excited about the new revelations I learn, especially the ones that just pop up in my spirit. So often I am telling the Holy Spirit, “Wow, that’s such a good idea!”
Spring – Plant New Seeds
Then here comes spring, a time for new and outward growth. Everything begins to blooming and turn green. It’s as if everything around you is coming to life. The dormant seeds in the ground start to shoot up in the wet-rich soil warmed by the sunlight. It’s a season of creation and creativity. Now is the time to take all you gathered during the winter and make something of it. It is your time to plant all of those ideas you’ve written in your notebooks or filed away in your cabinets. Whether it is writing that book, adding something new to your business, stepping out on a new endeavor, spring is here and ready to back up your plans as you plant in them in its fertile soil of manifestation. During spring, go full force and don’t hold back. Kick fear to the side or do it afraid. Let every doubt go and take the plunge. Follow your heart and the yearnings of the Holy Spirit even if it just means taking baby steps at first.
Create daily routines that will help you reach your goals. You only get one season of spring per cycle so plant with all your heart. If you plant your seeds too late in the season, your harvest will probably be stunted. I whole-heartedly believe in the power of routine and rituals to maintain balance while accomplishing your goals. I really try to avoid spending all day on projects (unless absolutely necessary) but find that if I do just a little bit every day, I’ll accomplish far more in the long haul than having power-work sessions all day and sporadically.
Summer – Enjoy Your Harvest
Next comes summer, time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and gather the harvest that you planted in the previous season. You may have worked really hard during the spring, planting your seeds, tending the soil of your mind, and frequently watering by giving enough attention to your pursuits to make sure that everything grows. Through summer, you might have gained some accolades, financial success, published that book, hosted those presentations, finished that class, or completed some other endeavor. Now enjoy yourself! Bask in your successes. Reward your accomplishment. Take a deep breath, lots of them. Maybe you can go on a vacation and have some fun. Whatever you do that brings you joy, this is the time to do with in all your heart.
Even if you worked really hard and didn’t see any of the tangible fruits of your labor just yet, don’t sweat it. When you feel that sense that, okay, I’ve done all I need to do, now I just need to let go and let God, you’ve reach summer. Be mindful that sometimes it takes years of planting before your physical abundance starts flowing in, but mentally and emotionally you can feel on top of the world. No matter what you are pursuing, remember that the joy is always in the journey, developing your character, and what you learned about yourself along the way. If you are doing something you love, that is reward in and of itself and every day you are living your dreams, even if only a few hours at a time.
Many people bypass this step. They don’t know how to relax. They don’t know when to quit. They continue to work, and work, and work and rarely give themselves permission to take an extended break of fun. I need to reread Ecclessiates but I’m sure that Solomon wouldn’t have a problem with me adding, “And there is a season for (harvest) fun.” Even if you have a day job and can’t take off, you can still implement your harvest time on evenings and weekends or better yet, apply the seasons approach to your job and use it to plan your projects.
Fall – Reflect and Examine
Now we come upon the last season- fall. I like to look at fall as a time of reflection. A time to look back over all I have done and evaluate it. As a resource teacher, one of my requirements is to do progress monitoring. Every 6-weeks or so, I meet with my principal and sometimes a team of teachers to examine how my students performed over this period. To establish a base line, at the beginning of the 6-weeks, I pretest the students. Throughout the 6-weeks, I continue to assess to determine my educational plans and whether I need to revisit certain subjects. Then at the end of this period, I bring all this material together to see the overall progress of my students and in what areas. At that time, as a team we determine 1) Is the student benefiting from this program, and 2) If not, how can I modify my instruction? Sometimes we decide to put a particular student in a different program altogether. Evaluation, examination, and reflection allow us to make the necessary changes to amplify our success. There is no point in doing the same thing over and over if it’s not getting the desired results.
Sometimes during fall, you might look at your accomplishments and decide if you need to make some adjustments. Perhaps something just isn’t working the way you had hoped. You can make the decision to modify it, scrap it altogether, or give it more time. As I stated earlier, the harvest we might expect may not manifest itself in one growing season. It could take years. In addition to the progress monitoring of your endeavors, fall is a good time to check your motivation, to do some soul searching. Take time to ask the hard questions. Anything not motivated by love in the end will not give you the fulfillment and purpose you desire. If money or financial success is your primary motivation, you are selling yourself short. Real joy comes from making your soul sing by contributing your unique gifts and talents to the world and knowing that you are making a difference. Then the money won’t matter. If finances are an issue, keep your day job, and play with your passion until it grows enough to support you, (grow those roots) and it will grow if you keep it alive and don’t abandon it prematurely.
We can learn so much from the seasons. I am so grateful that God opened my eyes to these patterns. I am even more grateful that when I felt that call to move into the winter season and spend time with Him, this time I didn’t hesitate. What did I have to lose? I really didn’t want to do anything anyway, but once I surrendered to it, the Lord opened my eyes, and I am more excited than ever regarding my new and future goals.
Understanding the seasons helps us to maintain a healthy internal co-system that includes periods of renewal/rest, planting/sowing, harvesting/enjoying, and then reflection/evaluation. If we are unaware of the cycles, we can get stuck in one season for much too long with a variety of destructive consequences to follow: burn out, stagnation, lack, feeling stuck, emptiness, and the inability to move ahead. All of these conditions may be telling us our cycles are off. For example, if we spend too much time in harvest, we can miss the time of reflection and not make the necessary changes to elevate our success even more. Alternatively, we may continue to move down a direction that had we took the time to reflect, we might have decided to let it go. Without spending that time with God in winter and receiving new insights, you may keep planting those same old seeds when God wants to cultivate more in you, to stretch and expand you beyond your narrow vision. Yet this can’t happen without taking that time to get still. In addition, if we spend too much time in relaxation and reflection (winter), we may miss the time to plant our seeds to produce our next harvest.
I was surprised to see this cycle in the flow of relationships as well. There are times we need to gather to ourselves (rest, reflect), sow into the relationship (prayer, sacrifice), reap the harvest (unity, passion), and then evaluate what’s working and what needs to be transformed. This process can happen daily, weekly, or longer. However, if we get stuck in one season for too long, it can stunt the growth of the relationship or our partners can feel neglected, smothered, unimportant, or unheard.
Embrace the seasons. Don’t fear change. Don’t get caught in rat raise of productivity when your soul is telling you it’s time to rest. If you are in tune with your spirit, it will tell you when it’s time to start planting (planning) again. But in the meantime, God might be saying, I want you to just sit at my feet and listen. I need to build you up and give you new insights so that when the seasons change, your plans and seeds for sowing will reap you an even greater and more rewarding harvest.” That might mean coming home from work, turning off the television and reading your Bible, writing in your journal, meditating, being still, or spending extended time in nature.
Take some time to reflect upon what season you might be in right now or that God’s spirit may be trying to draw you to. Ponder the following questions.
- Do you need to rest and take time for yourself? Feel like hibernating, hiding from the world, drawing back, or going inward? (Winter)
- Is it time to plant, to create a vision for your life, and write down you’re your goals, and then sow the seeds of your plans. (Spring)
- Have you worked hard all season and now it’s time for fun and enjoyment and put the work aside for a while and just marinate in your success or hard work? (Summer)
- Have you produced and reached your goals and wondering should you modify or adjust? Is something just not working for you? It just doesn’t feel right anymore? Is it time to look back and evaluate and think about how you can improve and transform what you accomplished? Or even a time for change? (Fall)
At any given point, I believe we are in one of these seasons, and we need to stay mindful of how they rotate and evolve so that we don’t miss out or jump over any of them, for all are important and needed to maintain a healthy, functional and balanced life or life endeavors, whatever they might be.
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