Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Autumn Glory or Gloom?

Five years ago today my brother flew into Kansas City to drive my moving truck with me and all my stuff in it to the Southwest. It was my desire to live closer to family and to leave behind bitterly cold, gray winters. I haven't missed the winters at all, but I have missed my autumn loving friends (the other friends too) and autumn. I had been living in my new hometown for about a month when a box arrived in the mail. My thoughtful friends and coworkers (sorry I do not remember all who were involved): Kimberly, Melissa, Danielle, and Virginia sent me a box full of autumn leaves. Among the leaves they included a handmade card by Virginia, a Starbucks gift card and a bag of orange and purple Skittles, handpicked especially for me. It was such a lovely treat!

Having spent most of my life in the Midwest, I get an incredible yearning for autumn every year; it has always been my favorite season. There are those who find autumn depressing as summer's beauty tarnishes, turning brittle and letting go of its hold on life. From his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer wrestles past his own dark thoughts of autumn.

“In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. . . . But as I explore autumn's paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own life experience, I am easily fixated on surface appearances—on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come. . . . This hopeful notion that living is hidden within dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. . . . Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life.”

How does the letting go, the “daily dyings” of your life effect you? Jesus taught in order to have life, we must lose our lives. It is a beautiful mess this dying, letting go and losing the self in order to have life and be whole. Not so unlike autumn. The leaves glow in glorious red, orange and yellow. Sometime after the color begins to fade and the leaves start to get crackly, a big, blustery wind tears the last of them from the branches leaving the trees standing stark naked against the gray sky. The leaves eventually turn into compost for the soil making it rich and healthy, all the while seeds fall from dead blossoms to reseed and multiply in preparation for glorious new life to burst forth come spring. Can the letting go in our lives create a rich purpose and beauty? I think so.

There are times in our lives when the letting go, the dying to something in our lives, plunges us into a dark place for awhile. Have you been there? I have. I am amazed when I look back and remember some of the darkest seasons of change for me, at the treasures buried among the decay and hurt. Those surprising nuggets show their true colors on the bright side of grieving. Those were times God used to release me to become more truly who I am, freeing me from fears and dysfunctional thinking and doing, and from myself. I am transformed and made new. It is hard to admit, but in the dying, life is released. Death is not all doom and gloom, autumn is one proof of it.

Here are some of the highlights of my childhood autumn days:

  • After a storm shaking branches from the trees, grandma would bribe us to help clean up the wooded pasture with a promised bonfire. We stacked all the branches against a large tree stump that stood in a small clearing. Later we invited neighborhood friends and cousins to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. All provided by grandma. It was such fun.
  • Burning leaves. Oh what a haunting smell.
  • Trick or treat in the small village nearby. Everyone knew us and we knew them. Mable made popcorn balls and always saved one for my mom.
  • Homecoming, football and the school bonfire.
  • Going back to school. I loved it!
  • Burning candles and the first fire in the fireplace.
  • Walking in the woods and the crunching of leaves beneath my feet.
  • The cool crisp air carrying with it the scent of autumn. Can't explain it and no candle scent is a true copy.

1 comment:

  1. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
    ― Corrie ten Boom