Four ways to cope with hardship: Finding inspiration in a season of CHANGE.

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." --Albert Cumas.

Autumn. My favorite season. A time of sapphire blue skies draped behind crimson, orange, and liquid gold colored trees. Breathtaking. Every time I look outside, autumn's brilliance grips me. I stop and catch my breath. These times are little gifts. Opportunities for awe. A chance to whisper gratitude. I need these little blessings. They remind me to pause. Breath. Admire. Give thanks. They are the beats of rest in the otherwise frenzied tempo of life. 

Autumn is a season of change. Even our lake is in a state of change. Every autumn our big blue lake is drained until all that's left is a thin silver river running through the lake bottom. 

An entire hidden world becomes exposed: grassy hills and glades with creeks running through them, pebbled beaches, and sandy plateaus. Vastly changed. George and I love the lake when it's drained as much as when its waters lap at the shoreline. For several months the sound of speed boats is replaced with peace and quiet. We go exploring. We search the beaches for small treasures, like quartz crystal and obsidian, things we would never discover except for the emptying of the lake in autumn.

People's lives go through seasons, too. Mine is in autumn right now. I'm going through change on many fronts. It can feel overwhelming. Both boys are back home for a time. This change is huge. George and I are parents again, facing challenges we've never faced before. The outcome is unknown. The not knowing is scary. 

It's like I'm walking through the empty lake bottom of life. This is not only a time of hardship, but also a time of discovery. It's times like this, when the fullness of life is emptied away, when my heart is laid bare through trials, that I uncover spiritual treasures. Like hope. Hope is my companion these days. Sometimes hope swells. Other times it falls. It swells. It falls. But in the end, hope is enlarged in the soul. I learn to cling to it. In difficult times, one must feed on hope, just as a maple leaf is nourished by the sap drawn up from the deepest places of the tree. Was hope there all along? Yes, like a stone on the lake floor buried under thirty feet of water. It was always there. Available. It just took an autumn of the soul to make me appreciate its value.

Seasons come and seasons go. Autumn can be particularly difficult. Change is not easy. 

Here's four ways I've found to help me cope while I cling to hope: 

Don't go it alone. Talk. A lot. When we're down, we can easily want to crawl into a hole somewhere and hide. But when we withdraw, we only isolate ourselves. This can quickly lead to depression. We need the support and perspective of others. Do you know someone who has gone through a similar situation to yours? Don't be afraid to talk to other people. My friends and family have been a great a support to me. But sometimes it takes more than that. You might want to find a support group. There's nothing more validating than when you discover you're not alone. You're situation is not unique. Others know what you're going through. These people can be a rock when life gives you mud to stand on in the lake bottom.

Be transparent. Don't beat around the bush when you're reaching out for support. When we're afraid to tell it like it is, it's often because we feel shame about whatever we're dealing with. Nothing sets us free faster than when we just get it out there. Our honesty can help us discover the people who can relate to our situation. Likewise, it's just as important to be honest with yourself. Don't be afraid to feel whatever you feel, or to talk about your feelings. Ignoring them won't make them go away. It's when you look them in the face that you can deal with your feelings and begin to move past them. 

Create time for yourself. Down in the lake bottom of life, we need time to explore, to process our experience, to find the spiritual treasure we need to get us through. We need time to reflect and pray. During an autumn of the soul, try to remove from your plate anything that isn't truly necessary. It will take time to glean from your experience whatever you're meant to take away with you. Give yourself that time.

Embrace change. It's much more difficult to move on to a different season if we resist the changes life brings. The purpose of the autumn season is to nourish the soil so it can support future life. Change is a part of life. What feels like death now, will become life in spring. If we can come to embrace the change we find difficult, we will move much more easily through it.  

If you're going through a difficult autumn of the soul, my heart goes out to you, dear reader. I'm right there with you. While in your autumn, may you cling to hope. Spring is coming. 

Joy--Fearless Farm Girl,

"Farm Girl: it's a verb, because it's what you do."

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