The transition between seasons always draws my attention, with thanksgiving, to the wonder of creation and turns my heart to the Creator, God. I get such joy from the vibrant colors of autumn leaves even as they drift to the ground, and the warm summerlike days that turn to crisp cool chill with frosty mornings are the best. Bright orange pumpkins that adorn porches and doorsteps make me smile. The sight of farmers working hard to harvest the fields and the call of migrating geese is like an autumn song to me.
Except for my first two and half years of life in central Florida, I have always lived where there are seasons, and I love each one. Unlike some people, I like cold snowy weather and fireplaces and candles lit and family gatherings in cozy indoor spaces. But I can hardly wait for lengthening days and buds on trees, with robin harbingers, and flowers that defy the last snow of early spring. Summer is so great, warm poolside days, picnics on the patio, fresh bounty from the garden, with firefly nights and daylight past children’s bedtime.
My cousin who lives in season-less southwestern US, and who seems often quite cranky, posted on Facebook that she is sick and tired of so many sappy pictures of fall leaves. “Don’t you all know that these are all a reminder of death and dying?” I get it; right behind the bright colors is winter’s frigid dormancy.
I understand that short days and long periods of darkness can seem never ending. But I see an invitation to put the lawnmower away and store the garden tools in the shed and rest and recover for a while.
Those of us who live in seasons know for sure that autumn is a part of a great cycle of seasons.
My heart was touched and inspired by a new friend I made at a pastor’s retreat last week. I asked Minh to tell me a little about her life story and I learned that she was born and raised in Vietnam, and at the age of 18 escaped the fall of Saigon on a fisherman’s boat. From a refugee camp in Taiwan, to an asylum-seeker in France and then Australia, to a pastoral candidate in the United States, Minh’s story offered a glimpse of what she called “seasons” that prepared her for the next step in her life journey and where in looking back she saw the faithfulness of God.
This understanding is reinforced for me by my mother, who at nearly 96 has been in hospice care for 11 months. Recently I came across a scrapbook that my mom kept while growing up in Iowa. Carefully folded on onion skin paper I found her high school valedictorian speech. Recently in her room at Willow Brook, I read her the words that she had spoken to the graduating class of 1939 at Oskaloosa High School, about changes, seasons of life, and years to come. At age 17, Mom closed her speech that day about a time to come when they will have reached the end of their lives and they can look back on the days that they have lived “not in the light of success or failure but in the light of Christian character.”
Maybe one reason that I love seasons is that seasons punctuate time for me. Perhaps, seasons give us all a chance to hope for what lies ahead as we review what is coming to a close. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, which captures words of one searching for life’s meaning, declares, “To everything there is a season and time for every purpose under heaven.”
What cousin Cindy, seems to have forgotten, my mother holds dear in her heart, is that seasons are not the end! So for now as the beauty of falls color fades and the cold of winter sets in , I will light candles and sit by the fires’ warmth, go to bed a bit earlier, eat soup made from summer’s garden bounty, plan holiday gatherings, share meals with immigrants and refugees … And I will spend time with my mother as her body wanes, and I’ll read out loud the words of her favorite scripture, Psalm 23, until this season comes to a close and her life is renewed face to face with the God she has faithfully served, and she too, “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Amen.