Changing Seasons

I’ve always loved fall. And mostly, it’s because of two things: the snacks and the style. As soon as the chill hits the air, all the good food and all the good clothes come out to play. Give me all the pumpkin bread, smores over a campfire, and warm, hearty food. Let me wear my scarves, and sweaters, and wedge boots on the regular once again. Fall Sara is one of my favorite versions of Sara every year (second only to Summer Sara whose pale skin is finally dressed up with a little color). 

I think there’s something so poetic about a changing of season. It always seems to me to be the physical representation of what God is doing in our lives. Changing us. Showing us a new way to see something. Bringing about something different, but lovely. 

Five years ago I was thrust into a changing of seasons I didn’t expect—the one from healthy to sick. It was a slow build to this change of seasons, full of doctor visits, surgeries, medications, and the like. But when it happened, it happened. Just like that it became clear that things were going to be different for me from that point forward.

The season had changed.

Though I was suffering a lot of internal ailments in the middle of that season, my body showed outward signs of the struggle. Within a span of only a couple of months, I’d dropped nearly 30 pounds. At the time, this was particularly alarming because I probably only could’ve afforded to lose 1/3 of that. It was completely out of my control and something I battled daily because to me, this change in appearance was a sign of the season of suffering I was living in everyday.

And what was worse? Nearly everyone had something to say about it.  

This may be a problem unique to women, but can we just talk about how much we think it’s okay to talk about each other’s bodies?

You’re so skinny. Your arms look frail. Gosh, I’ve never seen you so slim. Your legs look like toothpicks. Well at least you got some weight loss out of this ordeal.

I can’t tell you how often I heard unsolicited commentary just like this during that season of sickness. And as much as I tried not to take it on, over time it stuck with me. Eventually, the messages I was hearing in that season became, “Sure you’re sick, but you’re also really skinny. So good for you!”

How messed up is that, you guys?

Over the last five years, I’ve worked really hard to adjust to a new normal that is life with autoimmune disease and the lasting impact of medication that took it’s permanent toll on my body. It’s new ways of working, new ways of eating, new ways of exercising, new ways of resting—an entirely new way of seeing myself and my life in this new, unexpected season. And slowly but surely, I’ve come back to some new version of healthy.

The season changed again. 

And with it, so did my body. My doctor has been encouraging me every single step of the way to put some weight back on. (You guys, she’s amazing and if you ever need a doctor, I have her number waiting for you!) At every checkup, she’s celebrated me as the scale ticked back upward because, as she reminds me, it means that I’m healthy. It means the season has changed, and that is a good thing. 

But just like in that season of sickness, this new season of reclaimed health has brought with it commentary of its own.

Your face looks fuller now.

Gosh, you don’t look like you looked in those pictures a few years ago.

Your body has changed since I saw you last. 

Again, why people feel the freedom to talk to me (or anyone) this way I’ll never know! But they do. And in this season too, their words have stuck. 

The last six months have required me to try some new things to stay healthy. The hope is that these things will be temporary and provide a little relief from some chronic issues. But the down side is they come with more physical impacts on my body. A little weight gain, a lot of bloating and puffiness, and the general feeling of “blah.” In other words, not fun.

Again, my amazing doctor keeps remind me, “This is just for a season. This is for your health.”

But if I’m being honest (and that’s really the only way I know how to be), then I’d tell you it’s been really hard for me this time around. It’s been a struggle of my mind not to give into thoughts that tell me things that aren’t true about me. It’s a mental battle to say the physical impacts I’m dealing with because of this new medication are okay with me if they make me feel better. Because some days, that doesn’t feel true. 

And I think it’s been such a battle because the lies and thoughts in my mind are backed up by a chorus of commentary from others that I didn’t ask for and don’t need. If there’s anything these last few months have taught me is to watch my words because I know now how much they stick. 

There’s a stretch of street in my neighborhood that’s lined with trees. And right now, as the seasons have changed and the cool air is finally here in Georgia, they are vibrant with color and full of life. I was driving down that stretch of road just yesterday and found myself slowing down to take them in. I was blown away by how unique they all look—the reds, the oranges, the yellows all so bold and beautiful. 

I was so struck by it that even alone in my car, I mumbled to myself, “That’s so beautiful.”

And almost as quickly as the words came out of my mouth, I felt like God was saying to me, So are you. 

If that sounds weird, I promise it wasn’t audible or anything. No burning bush or visions of grandeur here. Just a simple sense in my spirit if that makes sense at all. 

In the same way I saw the beauty and uniqueness in those leaves, so God sees the beauty and uniqueness in me, no matter how the changing of seasons takes its toll on me. Those leaves can’t control the way they change. They don’t get to pick their colors or choose the shapes they’re going to take. They simply go with the seasons. Their changing is part of the process. A sign that they’re alive. A sign that they’re healthy. 

The same is true for us. When other voices threaten that truth, I want to look to the leaves to remember that who I am, just as I am, is a reflection of the life I have.  

The seasons may change, yes, but I’m choosing to see the beauty in that. 

Sara Shelton