It happened a few days ago, that subtle change; a shift in the angle of the sun; a breeze with cool crispness, nudging me—catching me by surprise. Something is changing: summer making way for fall. I welcome the moving of the seasons.
This year I am aware that the seasons of life have also changed.
Since last September I have moved from a stressful season in a traditional church. Being there in the first place was a long-shot, I’ll agree. To think that I could live within the constraints of an institutional polity with its entrenched leadership was optimistic—overly so. Moreover, though I truly liked the people and enjoyed the relationships for the most part, it was expecting too much of them to abandon some of the comfortable trappings of the church of the mid 20th century. During my last months there, it became claustrophobic; a narrow room with few windows and worse, no doors. It became the trigger for my first experience with physical symptoms of anxiety: chest pain that mimicked a heart attack. Though I was willing to remain in that pastoral role (I still think it would have been best for the congregation) I was liberated by my dismissal—relieved in more ways than one.
And then, almost immediately, my sister, Maxeen, showed the first signs of the heart disease that was to shape the last few months of her life. Though she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years earlier, she hadn’t advanced much beyond the beginning stages. Even so, we counted it fortunate that she had been living in our home for the previous 10 years or so. She wouldn’t have been able to live alone under those circumstances, and certainly not after the diagnosis of congestive heart failure.
The first six months of 2012 were a wearying downhill journey. Maxeen required more and more help. She needed someone to handle her finances, her medications, her meals, her visits to the doctor. The added responsibility of being a caregiver for her as she slipped away from us mentally and physically began to take its toll.
If the task of pastoring a struggling, stubborn church was a pressure cooker, being a care-giver was more. And then came the grief at Maxeen’s passing and the demands of the final arrangements.
The stress of this season—a year or more—carried us like a wave and deposited us on the shore of August.
Today, as the waning summer bows to approaching autumn, Jody and I have a sense of anticipation. For the first time in months we feel released. The weight has lifted. It is as if we have completed a strenuous journey, the Lord has met us with cool water, a damp cloth for our forehead, and provided nourishment.
Are we ready for what’s next—the coming season? Yes. I believe we are. Maxeen’s room has become a prayer center—a spiritual “war room.” How it is to be used is still taking shape. Jody is prepared for another year of Bible studies (Exodus) and is anticipating a fruitful year for Abide Ministries, and for the Sonship Studies. Dan is writing more and preparing to start Sonship Studies for men while continuing work with The Summit Fellowships. Please keep us in your prayers as you have all along. We are anxious to share with you what unfolds in this new season.