There is a tree outside my window that I like to observe while attending online class. I have been observing this tree for a year now, watching it bloom in the spring, admiring it’s full-bodied branches in summertime, waiting for the leaves to change color and eventually fall in autumn, noting its bare branches throughout winter, and seeing its new buds of greenery once again at the dawn of spring.
I’ve also observed the sun — its place in the sky and how bright it shines — as the seasons have changed. I’ve never paid such close attention or taken so much pleasure in the changing seasons. Though I’ve always been fascinated by weather, astronomy, and the like, nature’s fluctuations have held my attention especially captive this past year.
I couldn’t tell you where this deeper admiration and wonder of nature has come from, but watching the changing seasons and reflecting on this past year has reminded me of a popular passage in Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reads,
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
I have heard these verses quoted often, almost to the point of tuning them out when I hear someone recite them. But they serve as an important reminder to embrace and accept the season in life that we find ourselves in.
March 19, 2020 was the day I flew home from California, expecting to return the following August. Instead, the unthinkable happened and I ended up staying home for the entirety of my sophomore year of college. Though I will be returning to California in August, it will be a year later than I expected.
I would be lying if I said there weren’t times throughout this past year that I wanted to be somewhere else. I left Azusa Pacific right when I was starting to flourish. I had established some solid friends, was thriving in each of my classes, and finally started feeling at home in California.
When the time came to pack up and leave eight weeks early, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to finish the year out. And although living at home and being close to my family has been a blessing in many ways, as time goes on, I’ve found myself missing the experiences that I’ll never get to have.
Now, with an expected return to campus this fall, I find myself looking forward to the future and failing to live in the present. Even though I’ve been waiting on this return for months, it feels as if I’m going to have to go through the process of saying goodbye to my family all over again.
Although I’ve probably enjoyed this extra time with my family more than the average college student, I’ve still had my moments of sadness, loneliness, and longing to be with people my own age. It’s only in the prospect of leaving my family once again that I find myself having to stop, pull myself out of the future, and be present where I am right now.
I love my family dearly and have cherished these extra months with them, and I know leaving them again will be hard. I’ll miss bike rides with my dad, goofing around with my sister, and teasing my older brothers. I’ll miss my mom being there to pull me out of anxious funks and to remind me I don’t have to be perfect. I might even miss my dog, and that’s saying a lot.
My family members are not the only ones I will miss. I’ve been working the same job since May of 2020 and will likely keep working this same job until I move back to the West Coast. The relationships I’ve formed with coworkers at my little Starbucks will also be sad goodbyes. I may not miss the 5:00 am shifts, but I will definitely miss the small community I had outside of my family at work.
While August still seems far away, I know it will come quick, and I don’t want to arrive back on campus wishing I had better cherished my time in Texas. Nor do I want to spend my time in Texas wishing I was somewhere else or with different people.
I know I will look back on this unique, out-of-the-ordinary, and unexpected time in my life with the fondest of memories. I haven’t even left and I already feel nostalgic.
If you find yourself in a similar position, I encourage you to challenge those longings and wishes to be somewhere else. Take full advantage of where you are now, trusting that God can and will move and work if you invite Him in.
The past year has been full of situations that are completely out of our control. It’s been frustrating and irksome, to say the least, but this year has also challenged (and forced) me to let go and say, “God, it’s in Your hands. You have the ultimate victory. Thank You that I can trust in this victory, and that I can trust in the hope I have in You.”
Friends, whatever season you’re going through, embrace it. Life is too short and time passes too quickly for us to live in discontentment, frustration, and longing.
Grace and peace,