I curled up under a blanket on the carpeted floor of our master bedroom closet. Pulling the pillow over my head, I squeezed my eyes shut and turned on the box fan, drowning out any unwelcome noise. I just needed 30 minutes of consecutive sleep. After all, it had been weeks since I’d had any quality rest. Being a mother of a two year old and an infant didn’t offer a whole lot of “me time”.
After one particularly rough night with a newborn who had her days and nights mixed up, and a toddler who had suddenly taken to waking up multiple times in the night as well (often just to inform me that she heard the baby crying), I was exhausted beyond all reason.
That particular afternoon, my husband took over when he got home from work. I banned myself to my closet, hoping to achieve a blissful state of unconsciousness. I remember laying there, still hearing the duet of a jabbering toddler accompanied by a fussing baby entering the witching hour. Instead of choosing sleep, my defiant brain occupied itself with a stream of thoughts about sleep training, potty training, and if it would be appropriate to turn on the Barney dvd for a fifth time in one day.
In that moment, I wished it all away. I wished away a difficult season instead of embracing it!
Instead of Wishing it Away…Embrace It
I longed for a day when my baby finally slept and my toddler would stay in her bed. If someone had told me at the time to enjoy this season because “it all goes so fast”, I would have glared at them with a fiery fury, handed them my sleep deprived, colicky newborn, and run for the nearest Target to wander the aisles ALONE. I truly wondered if I would ever make it through that season.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was wishing away some pretty incredible gifts. That stage of life, in hindsight, taught me so many things about myself.
I learned to seek and find patience from the deepest part of my soul.
I learned to accept the underserved grace of a toddler who gave me hugs throughout the day, even though I was exhausted and grumpy.
I learned to show humility and apologize for my sleep-deprived outbursts, often directed at my unsuspecting husband.
Looking back into that window of time, it appeared to be a season of struggle, exhaustion, and self-doubt. But in reality, I was learning valuable lessons that continue to serve me well today.
Stop Longing For the Past
In addition to wishing my seasons of struggle away, another trap I often find myself in is a desperate longing to go back to the good times. To experience all over again the seasons of life where things felt easy and everything was running smoothly.
When I’ve struggled professionally, I began to wish I was back in college where my greatest stress was studying for a test the next day. When I find my husband and I immersed in household budget spreadsheets and shuttling kids to sports practices, I long for the first year of marriage where we were starry eyed and cuddly instead of exhausted and overworked. When faced with enormous decisions such as moving across the country, I long for the times in my life when I simply felt content, settled, and that everything was predictable.
Instead of enjoying the season I’m in, I often find myself wishing for what I can’t have back. And this is every bit as unhelpful and discouraging as you would imagine. Because unless you’re Marty McFly and have access to a DeLorean, you can’t go back.
Tethering ourselves to past experiences and seasons might prevent us from clearly seeing the blessings of the season we’re in. We can only live in the present. Wishing it away could end up being one of our greatest regrets.
I would give anything right now to hold that jabbering toddler on my lap and cradle that newborn in my arms, just one more time. I wished it away then, in a sleep-deprived state. But now I realize those moments were some of the most treasured, valuable times of my life.
Embrace This Season – Living Life Brings Perspective
The truth is, life is a collection of seasons and remains in a constant state of change. Friends change. Jobs change. Your pants size is most certainly going to change.
When, one day, you suddenly find yourself looking at wrinkle cream reviews on Amazon and wondering when your once silky hair inexplicably took on the texture of straw, your first reaction might be to become resentful of how quickly time marches on. I honestly find myself shocked when I realize that the 1990’s were thirty years ago and not, in fact, just yesterday.
That’s the thing, though. Life is not a series of chapters with clearly defined beginning and ends, but a succession of blurred lines, like the shift from summer to fall, fall to winter. Before we know it, we’ll look back and wonder where it all went. But when we lean into the changes, we learn something valuable about ourselves.
It’s a strange sort of tension to try and tell yourself to “enjoy this stage” while simultaneously wishing you were somewhere else. Anywhere else. But if we never experienced the push and pull of life, we wouldn’t learn a whole lot. Perspective is gained from life’s experiences. Some are blissful, and some are just plain devastating. But we always learn something from the pain and the struggle.
When I stop and think about the gifts that only come with the experience of walking through life’s valleys, it encourages me to embrace those tough seasons. I know something beautiful will come from it.
What Can We Learn From Our Struggles?
So what, exactly, can we learn from the times when our blissful bubble of happiness bursts, and we find ourselves enduring a season of grief, struggle, and heartache?
I think back to seasons in my life where I felt frustrated, challenged, and discouraged. In hindsight, I can clearly see the gifts that emerged from them.
Those early days of motherhood spent covered in spit up and still wearing maternity clothes (although I wasn’t actually still pregnant)? I learned I could love someone more than myself.
That season of a hurtful relationship with a friend and enduring the sting of rejection? I learned how to walk away from unhealthy relationships, and how to value friendships rooted in mutual respect.
The first year of marriage with one of us earning an entry-level salary and one still in school? We learned how a budget works, and that a great Friday night could come in the form of a rented dvd and some Hamburger Helper.
While we don’t always have to enjoy the particular stage we’re in, we can still look for the bright side of each situation. Maintaining that perspective not only benefits ourselves, but others who we might be able to help along the way.
Take the Wisdom You’ve Learned and Share it With Others
My sister was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease over a decade ago. She suffered agonizing pain for years, with what appeared to be no end in sight. She had a freshly earned bachelor’s degree, but had to put the beginning of her career on hold. There were many days she simply couldn’t get out of bed.
The intense suffering led to major surgery, which was successful in alleviating the debilitating pain. She still has bad days, but it’s nothing like it used to be.
She’s told me before that while that was one of the most difficult times in her life, it gave her so many gifts.
Now, she has a whole new appreciation for the good days. She knows even though bad days may show up, they won’t last forever. She experienced the love and support of family that she always knew was there, but felt it in such new, tangible ways.
That valley was treacherous. But she gained experiences that she can share with others in the same situation, stand in the gap for them, and provide hope for their struggle.
Don’t wish away the treasure of knowledge you accumulate just by living.
We Can Learn Something Valuable From Each Stage of Life
Take a minute to look back at the life you’ve lived so far. Soak in the memories of all of the stages you’ve walked through, both good and bad.
I think about life’s stages and can compare it to the process of growing up. I think we can all agree that not every part of childhood is pleasant, but those combined experiences shaped the person we are today.
When I first learned to ride my bike at six years old, I was covered in scrapes and bruises. Each time I went back out and tried again, I would inevitably fall and skin my knees repeatedly, ripping open the freshly healed wounds. But over time, falling became less frequent. The wounds healed, and one day I was able to successfully ride my bike for miles without crashing. The process was painful, to say the least. But the outcome gave me a sense of accomplishment and realization that I could do hard things.
This applies so well to the stages of my life. In seasons where I’m in the valley, walking through the pain, there is nothing I want more than for it to just be over. To just get on the bike and ride it already!
But I’ve discovered first hand that there truly is purpose in the pain.
We gain so much perspective from living through those seasons.
And it is just a season. It won’t last forever. The same can be said of the good times. I want to live purposefully, with the promise that each season is a valuable part of my story.
Our experiences are a colorful tapestry of joy and pain, hope and despair, plenty and want…all woven together to create a beautiful life.