“Struggles are a part of life but they are not the totality of what life entails so we must remember to discover all the other ingredients that make life worth living.” –Anonymous
My family and I went to the local pumpkin patch last Sunday. As if the day on the calendar was trying to fully live up to its’ name, it was an incredibly bright and sun-filled day. We hopped in the car, excited and expectant of all of the good things this day would bring – postcard-worthy memories and moments that matter, and a break from life’s often dulled pattern. This day had a different spice tossed in and we were ready to taste it!
Going there was a full circle moment because it was the same pumpkin patch my mom and dad brought my brothers and I to each year growing up. As we drove almost a half hour away from home to get there my excitement rose up and popped like bubbles in a glass of celebration in my mind.
The thought of sharing this tradition with my husband and two teenagers brought gratitude to my spirit and a feeling of joy I had not felt for a while. And, not to mention, this special place offered their famous homemade apple-spice donuts and cider, so my tastebuds and stomach had begun a rousing party of their very own in anticipation of the first delicious bite and sip.
We turned in the long gravel drive and marveled at the endless acres of pumpkins and gourds and the sweet nostalgia of the big, classic red barns with white trim, and of stacked hay bales. We could not wait to jump out of the car and explore. After purchasing our tickets (at prices that tried hard to deflate my happiness) we headed directly over to satisfy our craving of the hot donuts and the taste of autumn in a cup, when something unforeseen happened. We hit a rough patch.
My husband said something to our son that was completely innocent but taken the wrong way and it was like we all at once, family-style, tripped over a thick, prickly vine and smashed heart-first into the ground. Ethan stomped off and decided he wanted nothing to do with us. I blinked and the day went from beautiful and sunny to cloudy and gray. Just like that, in no time flat. SPLAT.
Why is life so hard sometimes? I turn and lament to God – “Why can’t we just all enjoy something together?” and then soon after I ask Him to help, “Lord, please take over…smooth out this new, rough patch.”
We each in our own way tried to coax Ethan back to enjoy his time in that amazing place and with his somewhat and sometimes amazing family (if I do say so myself), but he wanted nothing of us or that "stupid pumpkin patch". The damage was done, and he was done. My visions of family photos and good memories placed in our mind’s albums now were stained with the mud of yet another outing gone wrong. Ugh.
You have heard of the song: “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” right? Well, turns out, life never promised us an un-prickly patch either. Thankfully, we have hope and purpose even in the rough places:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
As always, God’s truth offers up very good and needed advice. We decided it was best to let Ethan go off on his own and chose to still enjoy our time with the three of us that remained. Sometimes, it is best to allow people to walk off, cool off, and then come back to center when they feel ready. And we must not allow other people to switch us on or off based on their moods and rough edges and change how we will feel or move forward in joy.
We must persevere and keep growing good things, even in life's often rough and prickly patch.
Question: Have you experienced a rough patch that God brought you through? How did you do stay joyful in or after the struggle?