Autumn Reflections

     “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

     The fall has always been my favorite season, and my love for all things autumn has multiplied exponentially since moving to a home state where we actually experience seasons. I am quite the stereotype, with my love of the cozy boots and sweaters, the crisp air and crunchy leaves, and the lattes of pumpkin spice. The autumn air makes me desire to read and to bake, almost exclusively. But the most anticipated and adored facet of autumn, for me, is the spectacular show presented by creation as the leaves change into their gorgeously varied hues.

The changing of the leaves feels even more satisfactory to me this year because I, too, feel many changes developing in my inner life. The past year has held tensions and struggles and pain, as well as joy and comfort and growth. We have walked through some scary situations and some lonely ones, too. These included medical challenges, feelings of isolation, learning experiences in marital communication, difficult parenting seasons (aren’t all parenting seasons hard in some way?), job changes, finding a church, and finally facing some long held body and food related issues. These situations changed me. I’m definitely beginning to believe that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…”— Little did I know that what He meant was, “…whether you like it or not!”

One of the obvious personal changes is how my reading life has evolved (insert here my mother’s tears of gratitude and joy). Books became a lifeline for me this year. As I began to emerge from the fog this summer, I read three different books which all spoke to me in varying ways on the topics of being present and content. (For three fabulous books, see Niequist’s Present Over Perfect– my favorite and sort of earth shattering for me, McMinn’s The Contented Soul, and Shinabarger’s More or Less). I can feel God doing a work of peace, contentment, rest, and joy in my heart. The feeling of His work is so tangible some days I can almost taste it, which sounds ridiculous, but there it is. I hope to write more on these topics in the coming months. In the mean time, I am breathing deeply again, more deeply than I can remember breathing for years. I am savoring the sweetness in my life, and like the autumn leaves, I am changing.

Those autumn leaves give me such thrilling hope. They remind me that change is often a beautiful thing—indeed that it is a necessary part of life. Because I remember that those same sturdy trees will display their splendor again each and every fall, they bear witness to the absolute faithfulness of the Creator God. And they also remind me, when I am willing to admit it, that sometimes things have to die a little bit– or to go dormant– before they bring new life and growth. Some things in my life have had to pass away this year: my obsession with busyness, my desire to control all of the things, my longstanding struggle with my body and with food, some preconceived notions about how easy marriage and parenting and jobs and ________ (fill in the blank) ought to be. I have no doubt that I will have many more of these struggles, joys, and pains for the rest of my earthly life. Fall gives me this hope: the autumn leaves will share their glorious fall colors and too soon will give way to winter’s dormancy, but that is not the end of the tree’s story. Spring will come, most assuredly, with new life and growth and excitement. And when I look back again and again, I’m seeing that this is also the truth in my little life. Changes that sometimes even feel like little deaths always give way for new life, new growth, new joy.

My recent contemplations and those three books have also been causing me to pause and consider the earthy, tangible nature of my faith. It is no mistake that the same God who sent His son as my Savior is the very Creator God who gave me eyes to see, colors to behold, taste buds and delectable foods to enjoy, and yes, the seasons of the earth and of my life. I think the importance and interconnectedness of the whole of Creation is a concept I have sometimes neglected because of my protestant emphasis on personal salvation, but Scripture paints a picture of a God who is working to redeem ALL of creation. The Christian faith, when it gets right down to it, is actually exceedingly earthy and gritty and tangible– men created from dust, a season for every activity under heaven, a savior broken with blood and sweat and exhaustion, tables full of feasts and wine, and a someday when the lion will lie down with the lamb. It is thrilling to imagine how God is weaving together a gigantic and yet intricate story for His glory, which includes all created things, even our small but important human lives. As I watch the leaves gradually transition from lush summer to gorgeous autumn to dormant winter to hopeful spring, I may rejoice in the idea that I, too, am continuously moving forward into new seasons, where the redemptive God will be faithful to complete His good work in me. (Whether I like it or not!)