You opened up springs and torrents,
brought dry land out of the primeval waters.
Yours the day and yours the night too;
you set the moon and sun in place.
You fixed all the limits of the earth;
summer and winter you made.
I love this time of year – those first crisp autumn mornings, wearing long sleeves and sweaters once again, the golden glow of newly-shortened days at sunset. There’s a feeling of change, of moving forward to something new. Now that I live in Texas, I have to wait a little longer than I did growing up in Maryland, but it still happens – sometime after football season kicks off but before the holidays are upon us, when people start cooking chili and finally turn off the AC.
My husband James and I teach 6th grade religious formation at our parish, and this year’s theme is the liturgical year. While preparing for our first class, we reflected together on God’s wisdom in giving us the gift of knowing Him through the repeating liturgical cycle of the Church – each season from Advent to Ordinary Time having a distinct purpose in unfolding the mystery of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
We talked about how the liturgical cycle is reflected in our own lives: in the natural world with its seasons, in our personal prayer lives with their fluctuating periods of depth and dryness, in the ups and downs of relationships, like the stages of marriage from the “honeymoon phase” to mature love. Sometimes we might be in an austere “Lent”, journeying through our own 40 days of self-denial, while other times we are flooded with the delight of a “Christmas”, finally rejoicing in the arrival of what we’ve been hoping and praying for.
As I thought more about it, I realized that at the surface, infertility is so painful because, in a big way, my life fails to follow these seasons. It often feels like a perpetual winter, like I am hibernating through a blizzard that just will not end, my hopes and dreams lying dormant beneath a thick blanket of cold snow. All around me are friends in the springtime of their lives, welcoming the blessings of new life in their marriages like the first green shoots of daffodils in March, or delighting in their growing families like a gardener in his vibrant July beds. Lord, where is my springtime? Where are my thriving summer blooms? Elsewhere, I see aging parents witness contentedly their grown children and grandchildren carry on family traditions, reflecting autumn’s beautiful surrender to the next cycle. Lord, what will my autumn look like? How will I pass on all that I know and love?
I realize that this cross of infertility is propelling me forward in my journey to Christ, just as different seasons do in the lives of each person.
As I consider the wisdom of God, I recognize that He is much bigger than me. His seasons are always present in my life, though they look different than what I expected, for He created every one of us to know Him through them. I realize that this cross of infertility is propelling me forward in my journey to Christ, just as different seasons do in the lives of each person.
When I consider my journey to Christ, I recognize that I am not stuck in a perpetual winter at all. I realize that He has granted me a new springtime with each 6th grader I’ve gotten to spiritually “mother” (I doubt whether I would have jumped into this role otherwise). He has unveiled the fullness of summer’s blooms when James and I witnessed our goddaughter’s baptism and when the RCIA candidates we walked alongside were received fully into the Church. He has shown me the magnificent colors of autumn when I lent an understanding ear to others struggling with this cross of infertility. He has even expanded my appreciation for the silent, still beauty of winter as I learn (with difficulty, I admit) to pray, even amidst His silence and when things seem to make little sense. He is showing me that He dwells even there, in the bleakness of the coldest January day, for He is always at work in me.
At a retreat James and I attended recently, a wonderful Dominican priest, Fr. Jude, reflected on the beauty of daily prayer with the psalms. Fr. Jude reminded us that most of the psalms are lamentations while some are poems of joy and thanksgiving. He invited us to consider that if we ourselves are feeling happy, praying the psalms of lament can help us recall the sufferings of others. If we are feeling sorrowful, praying the joyful psalms helps us to recognize and remember how we, and those we love, have been blessed by God in so many ways. This prayerful consideration served as a much-needed reminder of what it means to be part of the body of Christ: to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, as St. Paul says. As I continue in my journey to Christ, learning to surrender to His will, I pray that He will form me into the kind of woman who can walk with others through their seasons with an open and loving heart.
I invite you to please consider joining us for the upcoming retreat for women on December 7th in Philadelphia, where we will more deeply examine the seasons of infertility with those who share our experience.
Allie is married to her husband of three years and writes from Texas.