The first signs of autumn

The first signs of autumn

Today I return after what seems to me a long absence from cyber space. I’d like to say I’ve been out of town for a long summer vacation, or perhaps on a book signing tour, or on a trip to visit my kids, but sometimes reality isn’t quite so simple. This has been a year of change and a transitional season for me and my family. As summer fades and the beautiful days of autumn begin, I feel as though I have experienced autumn all year as I have watched the final fading away of one season in my life and the birth of another.

In January, I envisioned spending the summer marketing my new book, writing articles, working on my new website, and indulging my passion for writing with blog posts and completing the first draft of my second book. However, I did not realize how unprepared I was for the gap left in my household when my daughter married this spring and left our home to manage her own. This gap was magnified even more when my son went from part-time to full-time and over-time hours at his job. Suddenly I found myself ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ or more literally, between my job and my county place.

And to complicate things a little more, as summer came to West Texas, so did the rain. We were so very thankful for rain at last as the devastating drought that has plagued our land for more than four years seems to have finally come to an end. However, the rains added even more to my already overflowing work list than I anticipated as I discovered my massive yard is much harder to maintain by myself than I ever imagined. While it has been difficult for several years to manage our country homestead and work, I have always had some assistance from my children. In fact, the past couple of years, Jacob completely managed our yard and most of the animals while fencing pastures and building his goat herd and at the same time Jennifer handled most of the housework and grocery shopping. Their help allowed me the freedom to write when I wasn’t working, but this summer all of the yard work and household chores and most of the barn chores have fallen to me to be squeezed in what little spare time I have.

While I actually enjoy working at home and at the barn and I love this country lifestyle, the need for  income from outside employment to provide for my household has forced me to seriously consider my lifestyle and what changes may be necessary if I ever hope to write blog posts and articles much less another book. But I am slow to change and while I was busy removing flower beds, simplifying my yard, and considering what animals we needed to sell and what changes could be made to simplify barn chores, life suddenly changed again.

Earlier in the spring while I was putting the final touches on my book and overwhelmed with preparations for my daughter’s upcoming wedding, my sweet sister-in-law ended her long battle with cancer and left this world and her family to be with her Lord and Savior. Although we rejoiced that she was in a far better place than we could even imagine, our hearts were broken as we grieved the loss of her presence in our lives. At the time I never dreamed that I would one day have in my possession her most precious treasures – her two youngest boys.

Almost four weeks ago my sixteen-year-old and fourteen-year-old nephews came to live with me.  After a few weeks of rearranging and painting we have finally got a room prepared for each of the boys and Jacob and I have tried to make them feel welcome in our home. It has been an adjustment for all of us as this veteran homeschool mom enrolled these two previously homeschooled boys into public school and got them started in football and band. It has been a new experience for all of us as I have taxied kids back and forth to school, football practice, and band. This fall football games and school concerts will be our new normal. Life will certainly be different.

This week school started and by coincidence I have had a little less work and a little more time at home. It has been nice to hang pictures and add little touches to the newly arranged bedrooms and to finally feel as though there is some semblance of order to my home, but as I tidy up Beau’s room I find myself struggling with a wave of memories as I remember when this room belonged to Jerrod.  And the waves of memories didn’t stop in the bedroom but continued to pound against my heart as I stepped outside into the warm Autumn sunlight and was greeted by the sights and smells of late summer – sights and smells of years past that have been absent through the drought but have returned with the recent rains. Perhaps it is because my children grew up and left home during the years of drought or perhaps it is because the arrival of the boys reminds me of the years in which I raised teenagers, but the memories have been almost overwhelming and my heart aches for days past in when my children were all home and I did not have to work away from home.

Although this heartache of an empty nest and this longing for days gone by has caught me off guard and somewhat surprised me, it is not the first time I have found myself grieving for the past. Often in the midst of difficult years, I have caught myself looking back and longing for better days. In the years that followed Justin’s surgery and subsequent brain damage, there were days that the weather, the season, and circumstances reminded me of those blissful days when my children were babies and toddlers,  my marriage was good, and I enjoyed the simple life of a farmer’s wife, and I would look back with intense longing just as I find myself looking back now and wishing I could go back to those precious years when my children were teens and pre-teens and we were all home to enjoy the beauty of autumn together.

But just as the world turns and droughts end, rains come, and land is revived, I am reminded that difficult seasons in our lives don’t last forever. I am also reminded that God is good and sovereign in all seasons and even when the road seems barren and the journey seems long, there are moments when the clouds break and the glory of the sunset fills the whole sky. And although we may not wish to go back and relive those difficult seasons, we treasure those glorious, grace-filled moments when we are reminded that we are not traveling alone. And so while I must work and make a living, I treasure these days that I am blessed to be home and while I may not be able to go back and relive the teen years of my own kids with whom I had built a solid relationships, I treasure the opportunity to help my nephews through these difficult years and look forward to building deeper relationships with them. And as I adjust to this new normal, I remind myself that God is good in all things and in all things God is good!