When Seasons Don’t Fit Into Neat Boxes

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I recently visited an abbey about two hours north of us, near the Wyoming border, for a personal retreat. My plan was to spend a couple days in reflection and silence. I brought way too many books, my journal, my computer (just in case), and my hiking shoes. I wanted to rest, read, and reflect.

The abbey is Benedictine so the nuns observe the Offices in between running a farm whose pasture-raised, hormone-free beef has a years-long waiting list. I mapped out how many services I could attend while still maximizing my time alone.

My drive up took longer than anticipated—I had forgotten to factor in holiday traffic. I arrived in time to unpack, go for a short walk, and take a quick nap before Vespers. Singing the Psalms and the Magnificat stirred my heart and my carefully planned time of rest started to shift. I started to release my grip on my schedule and recognized that the very nature of an abbey retreat included adjusting my daily rhythms and pace.

A few hours later, I attended Compline and, having run into a friend at dinner (what are the chances?), went for another walk with her before bedtime. I awoke earlier than I would have at home and savored the luxury of staying in bed, listening to birds chirping and cows lowing in the pastures. I got dressed and noticed I was ready in time for Lauds, the second Office of the morning.

Taking my cue from Vespers, I put aside my quota for attending services and decided that I needed to listen to the rhythms of the abbey. I skipped Mass in favor of a breakfast in solitude but ended up attending more services than I had allotted for in my plans. And I still walked, sat in silence, and read more than ever.

The details of the weekend weren’t exactly what I had mapped out in my mind but falling into a different rhythm and routine refreshed me in ways I couldn’t have planned. Maybe I spent more time in silence with a prayer book than I anticipated but by holding my time openly, I learned the value of listening to the moment.

***

We’re in a season of transition as a family. Our oldest just finished kindergarten and our youngest starts preschool next year. On the last Monday before school let out for the summer, I realized we had nothing on the calendar. No laundry or errands, no play dates or deadlines. I asked Elle what she wanted to do and we walked to our neighborhood playground. We played on the swings, imagined under a pine tree, and slowly walked home, greeting every neighbor on their way to work. Even though these activities are a familiar part of our routine, this felt sweeter. It was our last day together before summertime and then a new school schedule.

I know I’ll have plenty of days with Elle in the future but in between two different school schedules and volunteering and all the other things that fill our time, it’ll feel different. I wanted to savor these last couple hours of mom-daughter toddlerhood.

Even though I’m nostalgic about that Monday, I’m also eagerly anticipating a new routine next year. I’ll have two mornings a week to myself. Our preschool is a two-minute drive from our house, which means I can maximize those two-and-a-half hours. I have big plans for that time—writing and day dates and working out. All the things that are squeezed into the margins or have been forgotten in these intense little-years.

I’ve been thinking about Ecclesiastes 3 lately, the poem about the seasons. In one translation, the title of those verses is Man Cannot Hit on the Right Time To Act. Often I read these verses in neat boxes: There’s a time to plant and a time to harvest; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I view it as a checklist of sorts—if I’m not laughing, I’m weeping. I’ve already planted so next is the harvest. Check, check, check.

What I’m learning is that the seasons don’t always fit into neat boxes, ready to be checked off. When I let go of my list of accomplishments at the abbey, I found I had more time and energy. Perhaps I didn’t do exactly what I was expecting but my expectations had also shifted and I was able to surrender my time and energy to a different rhythm. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the outcomes of the weekend.

I have a feeling this next season of school and routines will be the same. I have a lot of hopes and dreams for this time and yet, what I’m learning is to hold those expectations loosely. I’m learning that these transitions don’t always mean what I think they’ll mean and my schedule rarely goes according to plan. Sometimes I get really frustrated with this. I have things to do and goals to accomplish!

And yet, I’m learning to slow down and recognize the rhythms of our new routines. What is God breathing into this new space? How am I listening to seasons that I may not have made space for in my checklist? What am I learning by letting go of my own expectations and leaning into God’s plans?

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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter & Instagram @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.com.
Annie Rim