My husband and I are away on vacation in Chincoteague, Virginia this week, spending some much-needed quality time without the normal life distractions. Times like these are so important; not only for the body to rest but also for the mind and soul to rejuvenate.

We were walking along the beach in full winter gear – hats, coats, gloves, and of course warm shoes and socks. As we were walking, I noticed that we were walking on shells; some smooth and perfectly intact, others rough and broken, some with sharp edges. We weren’t worried about stepping on something and hurting ourselves. We were careful to not get too close to the crashing waves and get our feet wet. I started thinking about how we were walking differently than we would be if it were the warmer months.

This led me to thoughts of the seasons of our personal lives, not the seasons of nature. Just like nature the seasons of our lives come and go but what is different in nature is that nature is cyclical. We know that there will be a winter, a spring, a summer, and a fall and always in that order. Each one leads into the next and so on and so on and so on.

In our personal lives the seasons change as our life circumstances change, and these changes are based on where we are in our lives. A child looks at summer vacation much differently than the parent who is planning said vacation. An adult with children sees the world differently than the childless one. The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one stops your world on a dime while watching someone succumb to a terminal illness is a long and drawn-out event. The one commonality in all of this is this that one day leads to the next and so on and so on and so on. Through the years we learn what we will most likely need to weather and protect ourselves from the seasons of our lives.

Which brings me back to the shells on the winter beach.

Today, we were able to walk on the hard, sharp, and uncomfortable shells with ease, we had a protective layer on with our footwear. We were able to withstand the wind with our coats, hats, and gloves. We are in the winter season of nature, but we are also in a nurturing season with one another.

We would remove our gloves every once in awhile to pick up shells or examine driftwood or other things laying on the beach. Sometimes we would put our gloves back on and other times we would hold each other’s gloveless hands as we walked along. Our protection from the elements in holding hands was the warmth that we were bringing to one another. And then there were the sudden glances, the smiles for no reason. We were just being, just enjoying the “season”.

Conversely, if we were walking on the beach in the warmer months we might not have on shoes or heavy clothing, but we might have on light flip flops and sunscreen (PSA – always wear sunscreen). We wouldn’t have that thick layer of protection under our feet or a coat keeping the wind at bay. Walking on the beach in the summer months is more about being aware the sharp edges of broken shells and running into (or away) from the crashing waves. It’s about being a little lighter on your feet, about looking down sometimes so as not to step on something that might hurt us. It’s also about looking up and soaking in the warm summer sun. It’s a balancing act to get it all right.

No matter the season of life you are in there is always the next one coming. Sometimes the seasons of our lives stay the same for years, other times it is a daily, weekly, or monthly change. Heck, sometimes it can change by the hour or in an instant. I think the important thing to remember here is the type of protection you need to provide yourself with in any particular season.

Being aware and taking time each day to evaluate your “season” is key to knowing what protection level you need, the thin veil of sunscreen and flip flops or the bulkiness of a winter coat and boots.