What Season of Life Are You In?

[I]f you’ve been wondering why it has been radar silent here on Art, Life & Faith for the past few weeks, it’s because I’m in an unexpected new season of life. In agricultural terms, I’m in the midst of a ‘perfect storm.’ As many of you know, The Grove Center for the Arts & Media is a ministry to artists that I serve. And what makes The Grove unique is that we really do have a grove. Twelve acres of avocados and organic lemons which require constant cultivating, weeding, feeding, watering, and trimming for every new season. Thus, for the past month (as noted by my agri-absence), my hands have not been at the keyboard, but manhandling a weed whacker and chainsaw. I’m in a busy season of cultivating about 1600 trees…what season of life are you in? A busy season? A peaceful season? A fragmented season? Read on…


If you want to cultivate a beautiful life, it’s very important to periodically ask yourself, “What season of life am I in right now?” Just stopping to ask that question can dramatically affect your choices and what you choose to do with your time. Let me share my perfect storm example…

About six weeks ago, it became remarkably clear to me that a perfect storm of manual labor was brewing at our avocado and organic lemon property. There was way more work to be done than in the average year…

  • Recent rains and ensuing heat led to the sudden rise in weeds (which I had just mowed down!).
  • The weeds must be cut to keep the snails off the lemon trees (cowardly shell-hiding slugs!).
  • The lemon trees were so heavy with fruit that limbs were breaking…time to trim the lemon trees. Lots of fruit. A good problem.
  • The avocados need to be picked, but there is a migrant labor shortage in California. Which is why I have 4 children.
  • We need to stump (see photo) 100 forty foot avocado trees to make the trees more fruitful (Read John 15) and save on the water bill.
  • Ready to join me?

Throw in an hour drive from my home in San Clemente to Valley Center (North San Diego), where our grove is located and the day goes by pretty fast.

In the past month, I also had a Grove Getaway artist retreat and our monthly Grove Artist Gathering. Very quickly, I realized that something had to give, which was my writing. But only for a season.

What season are you in right now? In your family and key relationships? In your marriage? In your work and church life? In your relationship with God?

Honestly, when I realized how much work had to be done at the grove, I wanted to run for the hills and hide. It was simply too overwhelming.

If you’re in a difficult season of life right now, you need to get creative.
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For me, I came to the point where I just embraced what was before me. I’ve said ‘no’ to more appointments. I gave myself space and grace with how much writing I think I need to do. I’ve brought my friends and family to work on the property with me. I’ve hired more help when I can.

Instead of looking at how much work I have to do and complaining about it, I’ve tried to look at all the great outcomes…yes, the fruit of it all…I get to exercise. I have a beautiful drive along the coast and into the country. I pray and listen to worship music I love (U2 is worship music!). I look for cool “wow” moments from God like the beauty of golden poppies, a hawk flying overhead, and a cool breeze when I’m drenched with sweat.

All these small moments make for an abundance of spiritual and practical life lessons I’m learning as I cultivate our grove.

If you’re in a great season of life right now, be thankful and praise the Lord. If you’re overwhelmed, those lemon trees in the photo may offer a bit of encouragement…

When I’m standing at a long row of lemons with knee-high weeds and feeling overwhelmed at the hand-to-hand combat to come, I just keep telling myself, “One tree at a time…one tree at a time…”

For whatever season of life you’re in, just take one tree at a time. One step at a time.

You’ll find more fruit grows when you don’t resist the season you’re in. Embrace it.

Give yourself space and grace.

God offers it to you in abundance today.

Questions: What season of life are you in right now? Are you embracing or resisting it? What does this season offer you right now?

I’d love your comments and feedback.

(If you know someone in a difficult season of life right now, consider forwarding this post to them. I hope it offers them the encouragement they need today.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500434949 Paul Nielsen

    Currently I’m in the Fussy-non-sleeping-baby-rules-the-roost phase of life, meaning very little outside of survival gets done. Despite my best intentions to embrace it, both prior to and during this phase, the embrace has been difficult thanks to lack of sleep (seriously, how is a person supposed to parent well on so little sleep?) and prior commitments.

    And, of course, it would have to come at the point in life where I really feel like I have the best hold on my own artistic ambitions I ever have and have basically zero time or energy to put into it. Every time I close my eyes I’m painting or sculpting, and I have to admit it’s kind of depressing not to actually be DOING it when it’s all every bone in my body wants to be doing, is urging me to be doing, feels like it was created specifically to be doing.

    Some will argue that the act of raising a child is the most creative of all, and while it is INCREDIBLE and creative, it’s not the same as getting your hands dirty with pigment or splinters.

    If only my day job actually involved the making of art *sigh*

    Or being an arts catalyst (or both, really). If you would have asked me three months ago what I’d be doing now, I would have said I’d be setting up a small art center and helping my wife run a fiber arts shop. Alas, the door that seemed to open so wide right in front of us last fall — without our looking for it in this particular but wonderful way — slammed shut on our hands. When is The Grove going to start hiring; I’d love to work out there 😉

    So, thanks to my overwhelming fatigue you got a bit of a rant, but that’s the honest spot I find myself in presently.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Oh, there is nothing like sleep deprivation to absolutely skew our life sideways. Thanks for the very honest and authentic post about how life really scattered once a newborn enters our families.

      Yes, raising a child (I have four!) is creative and incredible, but I’ve found that the people that offer the most unsolicited child-rearing advice are those who have no children!

      I love my kids, but avocado and lemon trees don’t keep me up at night!

      Take it one lemon tree at a time…come visit some time Paul! Thanks for writing…

      I’m off to the grove…literally!

  • Lew Curtiss

    Joey I completely relate to your situation. Having worked in Washington’s wine industry in the 1980’s I remember our vineyard training. We learned the value of balance in weed tolerance. We learned the value of Fall pruning for next Spring. We learned the value of removing some of the canes, and of pruning clusters after the Spring “set” (pollination). This is all so incredibly relevant to life & art.

    In life right now, we’re in the “Nest is Emptying” phase. Creatively, like you, I’m in a what do I prune, postpone, and focus on phase. As a global thinker and a philomath, it’s pretty easy for me to keep putting irons in the fire. Sometimes I do this until effective productivity is so diluted with busy-ness that I’m of no use to God, and my arts-practice simply stops.

    This last weekend the Spirit lead me through a pospone and prune process. Because of that, I’m having a great week of getting done what really needs to be done.

    Great post, thank you!

    Lew Curtiss / http://creativeharmonies.wordpress.com/

    • https://profiles.google.com/107350086208954629499 Joey O’Connor

      Lew, I’m so grateful you “feel my pain”! Thanks for your thoughtful response and story. I love your use of words and imagery. In this age of political correctness, I’m afraid I’m very ‘weed intolerant’…when it comes to weeds, I have a scorched early policy.

      I love your line: “This last weekend the Spirit lead me through a pospone and prune process. Because of that, I’m having a great week of getting done what really needs to be done.”

      I feel the same when I focus on first things first. A tremendous amount of freedom comes from a single focus. Thanks again for your comments Lew.

  • Reglindis Eckhardt

    Right now I am in the “getting-my-feet-back-under-me” season of life. My husband died 4 years ago, leaving me with a lot of debt and no income. I was too old to be hired as a person-with-prospects and too young to be pensioned off. I have, with God’s help been successful at becoming 90% debt free by selling all my assets, but have not much left except my a small amount of art supplies, my sewing machines, a very small Roadtrek (24 year old motorhome – van conversion) and a small cargo trailer.

    I gave away anything that wouldn’t fit in the trailer (gut wrenching) and left for where God was directing me (terror in a nutshell for an old lady driving an old van ahead of a hurricane – Sandy – and snow) … to northern Alberta … to be with my wonderfully pregnant daughter and am looking for a job. The place I am in is so cramped that I haven’t been able to paint or do much as far as setting up an easel and make a bit of a mess. I have not gotten the courage up to dye the silks I have brought with me but this is going to change soon. The sketching has been more prolific.

    The stress of relocating in mid-winter. The fact that I have not found a spiritual home or job yet and the lack of friends my own age have thrust me closer to God than ever before. It has not been easy, but I am convinced that God wanted me here. I have no idea why. Why not Oregon or California or Florida or Vancouver Island?

    What I have gained from this is a powerful first hand experience of how God does provide for me. I have been given free educational upgrades in computer skills at the local college – something I wasn’t able to access in Ontario. i have made friends in the arts. I have been given an opportunity to introduce the idea that all the arts are wonderful ways through which to worship God.

    Sometimes I think the “dry” periods help break away the ruts we get into and prepare us for new growth, just like the pruning of the lemon trees do for our orchard. We are given deeper understanding, greater hunger to get back at it and new appreciation for the privilege of being able to. Some artists do not experience the drastic changes I have experienced in my life, but I have stopped being envious of them. I am beginning to see the fruit of what I have put out and am much more aware of what God has in store for us.

    Though my life seems chaotic, I am at peace.
    Blessings Joey

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Thank you Reglindis for sharing your heartfelt story. I am taken back, a bit blown away really, by the depth of insight and courage you and others have shared in response to “What Season of Life Are You In?”

      Your story reflects a dramatic trust in God, courage, and hope in the midst of challenging circumstances. I am grateful that the peace of God remains with you. Thanks for your honesty and transparency. A rare gift in this age of hidden hearts.

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