What Happens in the Stretching Seasons

A few years ago, after a particularly grueling season of family life followed by a respite, followed by the onset of another stressful season, a dear friend listened to me talk about what was happening and said five words I have never forgotten.

“Lois,” she said, “you’ve become quite flexible.”

Flexible. Now that’s a word I never would have used to describe myself even a few years earlier.

As I’ve written here on more than one occasion, I’m not fond of change. I tend to like things how they are, and it takes me awhile to adjust to different, even if I’m the one who initiated it.

My life hasn’t exactly cooperated with my preferences these last several years, however. Here’s a brief recap:

In early 2006, after 12 years in Arkansas, we moved to my home state of Kansas where Randy had accepted a new job. That job didn’t work out how he thought it would, so in the fall of 2008, he accepted a position with a different company. Soon thereafter, the stock market crashed and the construction industry in our area tanked.

Three months later, he was laid off.

After a 12-week search, Randy found a position with an out-of-state masonry contractor. Eighteen months later, the firm closed its Kansas City office and Randy was out of work again. He landed a new job more quickly this time, but was soon assigned a project 2 ½ hours from home that required him to be gone throughout the week.

During the 10 months he worked out of town, we got our house ready to sell, put it up for sale, sold it, and moved into the basement of a foreclosed fixer-upper that needed several weeks of work before we could really even live in it.

Lilly and Molly started fourth and first grade at a new school while their dad was out of town. In addition, my 40-year-old body was slowly grinding to the end of its so-called childbearing years (so-called because for me, there was no child-bearing, mostly just pain, associated with my reproductive system), which made all this transition even more memorable for me.

That fall, Randy came home for good. We adjusted to living full-time with husband and dad again (if you’ve ever done that, perhaps you can relate) and continued remodeling the house (hoping that some day, the downsizing would start to pay off). When his company decided to send him out of town again the next year, he (thankfully) started looking for another job closer to home.

Yeah, I know. That’s a lot.

When I think about it now, I wonder how we did it.

It was right around this time that my friend made her observation about flexibility. She had known me before all this happened, and apparently, she saw a difference.

I’m not an athlete or a personal trainer, but I do know that stretching is the best—maybe the only—way to increase flexibility. Physically, we can stretch a little more each day until we reach places we’ve never touched before.

I’ve watched this happen with my ballerina daughter. The things she can do with her limbs—movements she was unable to perform a few years ago—astound me.

And it’s all due to the stretching.

I wish there was some fail-proof exercise regimen that could accomplish the same thing in real life, but of course, there’s not. It’s the circumstances of life that stretch us—some in very awkward ways, some in ways that we feel surely will break us in half.

We don’t often get a choice about these uncomfortable chapters that are divinely written into our life stories. We can, however, draw comfort in knowing that the Author and Finisher of our faith knows the end from the beginning, and has a clear purpose for each stretching season.

The missions pastor at our church in Arkansas used to say, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break.”

All these years later, I think I’m finally learning what he meant by that.

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgementThursday, Faith on Fire and Grace & Truth.

34 Responses to What Happens in the Stretching Seasons

  1. Aimee Imbeau says:

    How often have I looked back on my life and wondered “How did I manage?”. Well, I guess the best answer to that is the Lord. He carried me through.
    Thanks for sharing your heart on Grace and Truth again, Lois. I enjoy your posts!

  2. Life has a way of stretching us sometimes and when we look back we wonder how we did it. Flexibility is something I am trying to work on in my life. To let things go. To be flexible and go with the flow. To release control. To take a deep breath, smile, and keep going with joy in my heart. Thanks for sharing with us. I like your pastor’s saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break.”

    • Lois Flowers says:

      All those things that you said you’re trying to work on? Me too, Theresa. 🙂 It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? But it sure is nice when you can step back every once in awhile and see how far you’ve come!

  3. June says:

    How wonderful that your friend saw you growing in ways even you didn’t recognize yourself. I can definitely relate to your stretching analogy. And yes, the stretching can be painful at times. But as you say, we can trust that He knows the right amount of movement for each season of our lives. Blessings on your weekend, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Good to hear from you, June! Yes, I’m so thankful that my friend pointed out what she noticed to me … her words made a big difference in my life! I like how you put it … God does know the “right amount of movement for each season of our lives.” 🙂

  4. Joanne Viola says:

    Lois, such a good post. I love the quote from your missions pastor. I want to be flexible, bending but not breaking. Glad to have stopped here today!

  5. Brenda says:

    Lois, we have similar stories. Lots of moves, lay offs, and even a period of time where my husband lived out of town and came home on the weekends. — ((Hug)) — It’s a lot of change for someone who doesn’t like change. I was fortunate enough to not dislike change, but that sort of change, the kind you can’t control — it’s not fun change. “Flexible.” I like it. 🙂 Hope things have continued to settle down for y’all. My MIL called it “resilient.” I’d never been called resilient before, but I think it’s similar to flexible. God is good. And faithful. And we are blessed. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all that, Lois. 🙂 ((hug))

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, Brenda, I think “resilient” is a good word to describe it. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have a much better appreciation for military spouses who have to hold down the fort for months (as opposed to a few days at a time) while their husband or wife is deployed! We’ve been in a good spot with my husband’s job for almost five years now, and I’m very grateful for that. But I’m also thankful for that season of change, because my increased flexibility is certainly helping in other ways now! (Which of course shows that God knew what He was doing all along!) Hugs, friend!

  6. Linda Stoll says:

    Stretching, flexibility, graceful, strong, serene, expectant.

    Yeah, that’s where I want to be. Your story has hit home for me, Lois, during this changepoint in our lives.

    I’m grateful …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s a never-ending journey, isn’t it, Linda? Just when we reach a point of comfort, something new comes up that stretches us in a different way. But at least we’re not getting stiff, right? Hugs, friend!

  7. Stretching — yipes! I didn’t see that one coming, but it is SO True! Great analogy! I think I’ll go do some stretches and think about this some more! 🙂

  8. Betty Draper says:

    Flexible is a word I am familiar with after moving 29 times through the years, living in two third world countries. I must say my flexibility has been over stretched at times due to my fighting against another move or a situation I did not want to be a part of but had to live through it. But just getting through something is not God’s way, He wants us to relax let the band of flexibility relax too. I am 70 so have lots of years of flexing but the last event in my life, double bypass heart surgery has been a lesson in a different flexibility, being limited in what I can do means I must relax and rest so I can recover. I am grateful to still be alive and able to learn more about Him through this trial. Loved your post, glad I stopped by.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, I would say you have had ample opportunity to develop flexibility in your life, Betty! It’s so encouraging to hear from people in your season of life who are still learning, still growing, still developing new kinds of trust muscles. I’m glad you stopped by too, and I wish you the best as you continue to recover from your heart surgery!

  9. Hi Lois,
    Job stresses with finances and moving are so difficult to navigate and you’ve had your fair share of them the past few years — and yes, I can agree with your friend — you have displayed a tremendous amount of flexibility! Keeping your home life running smoothly for your girls during that time was also a Herculean effort, I would imagine. But I have to think that those experiences will shape your girls’ view of God, life and how to handle difficulties they encounter in the future and that gives those years so much value, even if you couldn’t see it at the time. Love the photo of your beautiful ballerina! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You know, Valerie … the very friend who commented on my increased flexibility is the same one who told me that she was glad her family had moved around a lot when her kids were younger because it taught them to adapt to new situations, make new friends, etc. That was so reassuring to me when we moved and the girls had to change schools. They got to grow in ways I didn’t experience until I went away to college! Plus, learning to trust God through job losses and other transitions … you’re right–these are lessons that will hopefully stay with them for a very long time! Thank you for your kind words, my friend!

  10. I love how you’ve described this process, and I’ve seen the same thing happen in my own seasons of stretching. We need them, because during the challenges, we just live life. We’re not thinking about how great this experience is going to look in a blog post five years from now. We’re just leaning in to God and His carrying love. Then, miraculously, we look back and realize that we are not the same person that we were before the stretch!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Exactly what you said, Michele. Repeat this process a few times and it really starts to sink in, doesn’t it? God truly does have a purpose for every season. 🙂

  11. Tara says:

    Bend and not break…that is an image that sticks with me. So much THIS: “We don’t often get a choice about these uncomfortable chapters that are divinely written into our life stories. We can, however, draw comfort in knowing that the Author and Finisher of our faith knows the end from the beginning, and has a clear purpose for each stretching season.” I am blessed to be your neighbor over at Tell His Story today!

  12. Trudy says:

    You went through some very trying times, Lois. What a wise statement your friend gave you in 5 words. I’m so glad the home and job situation have settled down now. But now you’re stretched in other ways. I sure hope your “trust muscles” aren’t as stretched and sore as last week. The future won’t be easy to take concerning your mom and your aging dad, but I know God’s got you. Love and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      This week is going much better than last, Trudy … I’m definitely grateful for that! And I’m also glad for the stability our little family has enjoyed for about five years … it’s good when life takes on a certain rhythm, isn’t it? 🙂 That certainly helps when things get crazy in other areas! Hugs to you, my friend!

  13. Kristi Woods says:

    Wow! You have been stretched. It sure doesn’t feel like much is being accomplished amid the stretching season, does it? But our Father has His ways. Your post caused me to think of my own life lately. I’ve been stretching – the exercise version. And it’s making a huge difference. In fact, I’ve been touting its goodness to the kids. They think I’m crazy. Your post gives it all more credence. 😉 Hopefully things are a bit smoother in your neck of the woods right now, but my biggest hope is that trust is firmly in the Lord – regardless. 😉

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I need to start doing more of the exercise version of stretching too, Kristi … do you have some kind of program that you follow? The stretches we used to do in junior high P.E. class probably wouldn’t do me much good now! And yes, it didn’t seem like much growth was happening during all those years, but now, I am SO thankful that God allowed it all (well, most of it…). 🙂 So nice to hear from you this week!

  14. Lois, you have been through much these past number of years! It is true how life circumstances stretch us. They stretch our faith muscles, and our trust muscles. As we allow life to stretch us, we also begin to look more like Jesus.

    I love your reminder that Jesus always uses those stretching seasons in our lives. They are never wasted.

  15. Lesley says:

    I have definitely become more flexible too. I used to cling to order and control but I’m slowly learning that life doesn’t work out like that and learning to adapt.
    Times of stretching can be so hard and painful but it is encouraging to realise that often we look back on those times as times of growth and see how God was developing us through them. It’s worth it for those moments when we see that we’re doing something we couldn’t have done a few years earlier.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I echo every word you wrote, Lesley. You especially hit the nail on the head about order and control … I still like order, but with flexibility has come a greater ability (and willingness) to go with the flow!

  16. I think I could qualify as “Stretch Armstrong” for this season of my life! Glad to be your neighbor (and fellow Arkansan) at RaRa Linkup

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Stretch Armstrong … that’s good, Vickie! Where in Arkansas do you live? We lived in Northwest Arkansas for 12 years before moving to Kansas in 2006 … 🙂

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