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A Season of Change
By Mary Elder-Criss

It is fall in the hills of West Virginia, my favorite time of year. I love the crispness of an autumn morning, and all that it entails. The mountains have all begun to don their cheerful patchwork quilts of multiple colors and the clouds hover low to kiss their peaks. It is a season of celebration, one of harvest, in which we reap what has been sowed. Yet, it is also a season of preparation, for readying oneself for what lies ahead. Most of all, however, it is a season of change.

It has been said, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
The year 2004 has definitely wrought a few changes in my familyís life, but through it all, one thing has remained constant. Godís faithfulness and provision has remained unaltered.

The modifications to our lifestyle began early in January, when my husband received a lay off notice from his job of eight years. Thus began an almost five-month period during which he was home every day and that entailed a major adjustment for us both.

Suddenly, the person I sent off to work each day with a kiss and a wave was instead propped up on the couch, cup of coffee in hand, watching "Good Morning America." All at once, the wife he kissed goodbye every morning was asking him to wash the dishes and fold the laundry while she began the school day.

Having Daddy home every morning, firmly planted on the living room sofa, soon began to play havoc with my routine. What normally took the girls and I five hours to complete in school, suddenly took us seven.

My eight year old daughter, Erin, is what I call a "piddler," by nature, anyhow. Easily distracted by any little thing and a daddyís girl to boot, it was now open season for her to take advantage of this novelty. Every ounce of patience I possessed was needed to keep her focused and on track with her schoolwork.

Thankfully, before extended therapy was required, God answered my desperate pleas for spousal employment. Neighbors were surely astounded by my gymnastic abilities that first morning in June, as my husband headed off to his new job, travel mug of coffee in hand. Watching a 41-year-old mother of three turn cartwheels in her front yard was, I imagine, a remarkable sight.

Although I joke now, good was wrought from that season. The biggest unemployment benefit our family received was accomplishing a sense of unity during those months of togetherness that had previously been missing.

My husband also got a firsthand look into my daily life; what pressures I faced while attempting to teach our children and effectively manage the household. It gave him a new appreciation for me, and he no longer questioned why some evenings I appeared as if I had done battle with a wringer washer, and lost.

The new job turned out to usher in another welcome change; which was more money and less stress. The financial difficulties we had suffered the last several years were slowly being overcome through the provision of this job, which was definitely an answered prayer.

No longer did I have to put all the bills in a hat and pay whichever one was fortunate enough to be extracted first. I had robbed Peter to pay Paul for so long that I truly did not know how to act when I was able to pay them both. Neither did Paul or Peter. Everyone was happy, including me. A trip to Wal Mart becomes a little more entertaining when you are able to buy something other than cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

The next test to be faced was my motherís deteriorating health. At seventy-five, she was told she would need a total knee replacement due to severe arthritis. Thus began seven months of doctorís visits and endless tests to attempt to correct a mysterious condition in her blood in which the Sed Rate level was too high to have the needed surgery.

As months went by, her condition became so severe that she required a walker to navigate her home. Always an active woman, she literally became housebound by this condition and her emotional well-being suffered greatly because of it as well.

Her flowerbeds have always brought her great joy and are the envy of every woman within a two-mile radius. Health restrictions kept her from being able to tend them and this was the hardest part for her. It was almost an insurmountable chore for her to even manage a walk outside to enjoy their beauty.

Yet, God used this disability to implement important changes. He gave me a new appreciation for my parents and all that they had accomplished in their lives. My mom would often join me outside on summer days, and sit and reminisce while I planted and tended her flowers. It was a season of drawing together, of new compassion learned and an opportunity to give something back to the one who gave me life.

However, God ordained that change was not over for me yet. My twenty-year-old son had been dating a girl since December of 2003, and in June, they announced their intent to marry. In August of 2004, I experienced firsthand the silence and emptiness that can only accompany "letting go."

Although I had been aware that this change was coming, I was still caught unprepared. Walking into Jonís room the morning after he left home was like walking into an empty tomb. All that had been a part of my sonís presence, that signified his life, was no longer there. The silence was deafening, but my weeping soon shattered it.

However difficult this transformation was, again God used this experience for good. He gave me the words to let my son know how proud I was of him and how privileged I felt to be his mother. Tears were shed again, but this time they were tears of joy. He changed my weeping into laughter.

Recently, God has been implementing a few more changes, as well. The writing ministry that I began for Him over three years ago has begun, through His blessing, to take wing. My mailbox has recently been inundated with freelance opportunities to contribute to Christian publications and I am so excited by this new direction.

Whatís in store next? Only God knows, but whatever changes He has planned, I am positive of one indisputable fact. No matter how many things do indeed change, His mercy and faithfulness to work them for good will always remain the same.
Mary Elder-Criss lives in beautiful Southern West Virginia with her husband of thirteen years and two daughters whom she homeschools, as well as an assortment of animals that always seem to follow her children home. She has been published by a variety of Christian magazines, newsletters and ezines, and also writes full time for her home church's website. When not writing, or teaching, Mary is usually hard at work repairing damages in her flowerbeds caused by her husband's overzealous use of weedeaters. Mary can be contacted by e-mail at mcriss23@earthlink.net.

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