It’s the end of October, the days are getting shorter, and for the first time in at least 5 years, I am enjoying fall again. It used to be my favorite season.

maple tree in fall

Then, in 2007, our newborn baby had major surgery the day before Halloween. I looked at the fall calendar, saw that surgery date, and willed the days to go slowly. I dreaded fall and winter every year because flu season was always tough on Elli. In 2007, we added to that a newborn medically-fragile baby and a very real fear of RSV.

Fall tree through the window

In 2008, Elli died in October.

Each of the autumns since then, I’ve felt like the days after the summer solstice were descending into darkness, not just of season but of spirit. The weeks leading up to that day were teary and sad, the weeks after were dark and lonely. Depression gripped me tightest in the winter, and I dreaded its coming every fall.

But this year, everything is different.

close up of frost on a leaf

Why? I can’t say for sure, but I know this: I am healthier, both physically and spiritually. I have taken better care of myself all year. I’m working out more regularly, taking the vitamins I need, drinking more water, reading for pleasure, communicating more openly with Scott. We are out of a controlling oppressive atmosphere that worked hard to muzzle me and revoke the freedom we have in Jesus. I know myself a little more, what I am good at (and not so good at), and I’m (a little) more at peace with this woman named Joy. And God is bigger, more to be loved and less to be feared, more mysterious, and less bound by man-made rules.

Joy

For the first time in years, I can think about the holidays without panic and with anticipation. The idea of decorating and cooking and shopping, while not exactly euphoric, isn’t torturous either.

Joy dressed for the day

Instead of feeling needy and empty, my heart is full. While scarred and still fearful of repeating past hurts, my heart is stronger. I am ready to love. Ready to advocate for others. I am ready to stand and ready to work.

Do you have seasonal ups and downs? How do you manage them?