Have you noticed the candy corn is already stacked high and imploring us all to, “stock up now!”? Just the other day I came very close to acquiescing. In any other year I would have casually tucked the hardly healthy amongst the “Harvested Locally!”. In any other year, I would have tucked the impulse buy in the pantry because August is way too early to showcase fall’s burnt hues in the jar on the counter. In my house, candy corn is reserved for when sweaters and crackling fires warm and sipping steaming froth is a sideline staple. I came very close to tossing a couple of bags in my cart, but I didn’t. For the first time in what feels like a long time, my heart is just not ready for what is right around the corner, at least not just yet. I just want to stay right here, unrushed in this season we are living. It’s probably because I know when I fill that jar, my heart will start a countdown leading to what I know will be stirring and straining. So, admittedly, I am delaying the inevitable even though I know it’s in the stirring that water is made clean and in the straining, the heart is made stronger.
The season I am in has afforded me mountain top moments and has given me the space to sigh long and slow in an awareness of abundant graces, to know what it feels like to be amongst colors as they paint the early morning sky, to discover a sea of straw can captivate my heart and watch the smile of my son I have known for 17 years grow richer and deeper by the day. Home. Home has become a place where there’s not always a lot going on but yet, much happens – a heart granted haven to be still and where hearing my boy work through the cords on his guitar is like listening to a symphony. Belly laughter has lingered long, and freedom was granted to release tears that should have long ago been emancipated. This has been a season which I thought was impossible, where what I thought reserved for the accomplished, was granted…to me. I am still in awe that I would be considered peers to the caliber of women who have also received the Randolph Macon Women’s College Alumni Achievement Award. Which, by the way, helped me see with new eyes and understand with a new appreciation. Because of what happened that day, I know change is not only inevitable but necessary…
On the day I accepted the Alumni Achievement Award, I was asked about my years at the college, friendships formed, and which classroom lessons conveyed to life. The final question was, “Do remember what you wrote in the yearbook?” Remember what I wrote? My mind raced in a million directions. What had I written where? Words flashed in front of me: typed out and deleted, etched onto the pages of my journal and in the margins of my King James. Words that formed lists, were scribbled on notes and poured over in hopes they would adequately express my gratitude. I had written so many words and yet I had no idea, so I quietly answered in defeat, “I do not.”
She whispered in return, kind and gentle, “Let me show you.” And I gasped.
On the screen was my 20 something self, smiling easily, arms crossed and leaning against a tree. Above my picture was a quote – wisdom and a promise by Eleanor Roosevelt.
“I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face.”
And just to make sure it was abundantly clear, 20 something me clarified, “We must do the things we think we cannot do.”
My eyes pooled to overflowing and not because of the nostalgia of the moment or courage and conviction the screen conveyed. Nope – exactly the opposite. I knew my oh so self-assured 20 something me was trembling when I wrote what I desperately wanted to be truth. On this day, my 20 something yet to be lived wisdom reminded my 40 something heart it’s ok to be scared but it’s not ok to avoid facing whatever it is that is making me tremble.
Truth be told, a new season in my life is approaching and I am scared. Actually, terrified. I have no idea how this is going to play out. My 17-year-old Brave One is facing down a new season too. His senior year with all its possibilities and choices is splayed endless in front of him and all I want to do is circle back to his 1st day of preschool. I’d like to go right back to that first day and press my knees into the chalked concrete sidewalk and speak the wisdom learned from knees numbed from kneeling on frozen ground and worn wood pews. What I would give to once again be nose to nose with my Brave One imploring him to not give up and feel the adrenaline when he experienced a new victory. Everything would be so clear and comfortable – there would be no uncertainty and the painful moments that came as a surprise would be easily averted.
It would be nice to sit right here in this season where peace has been found, settled into a life that is comfortable, but the truth is we will all have seasons full and abundant and, seasons barren and dark. Each one teaches lessons that help press forward to claim it’s victory or to be still and silent. I have them as does my Brave One and just because I am terrified of what mine may bring, I do not want to steal or stall his. Because you know water that sits in place for too long becomes stagnant and muscles not stretched atrophy. And stagnant waters poison and atrophied muscles immobilize. Stirring is where water is made clean and, in the straining, where muscles are made stronger. And let’s not forget the heart – the heart is a muscle.
So, it’s ok that I am not ready to toss a couple of silly bags of candy corn in the cart because I am feeling nostalgic. There are a few more weeks left before my Brave One starts school and I will sit right here in the peace of all that is now. And when the time comes and the autumn winds blow, I’ll toss a couple of bags alongside some pumpkins that will surely be in the cart. And when I get home, candy corn will fill the jar on the counter and there is no doubt there will be a moment, without even realizing it, my Brave One will reach his hand into that jar on his way to graze the pantry – because that is just what he does. And in seeing this, I will probably not see my 17 something young man, but my 2 something little boy who decided candy corn was his favorite. And most likely my eyes will pool to overflowing, because that is just what I do. And I will sigh in the knowing, seasons of my past have proven that at this very time and this very place, in whatever season we are living, all is as it should – for me and for him.