LET IT GO!

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Of all the four seasons, I enjoy Autumn most of all because it’s the season that welcomes everyone back into their home to spend longer evenings with family, friends or a good book.

Hal Borland was an American author, journalist and naturalist. (No, he’s is not the brother of Al Borland from “Tool Time.”) I like to think of him as a “season specialist.” He found a way of finding wonder and wisdom in the different seasons and the constant transformation of nature.

Now that we’re officially in Autumn, trees have been in a glorious survival mode for a few weeks already. But what a amazing show before Autumn is done!

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Did you know that leaves don’t just fall off? Growing up, I assumed they did – I mean, it is FALL after all. Leaves, in fact, are actually pushed off by the tree. It’s the only way the tree will survive the winter. We could learn a lot from trees.

Right now, trees are letting go of anything that would make survival during winter harder. If they were to keep their leaves, the added weight of the snow would break their branches.

We don’t know what Winter will be like here in Minnesota this year – when it will start to snow, how much it will snow, how much snow will melt in between snowfalls, or when it will stop snowing for the season. That’s how seasons often are – we have some idea of what to expect, but we can never be certain, can we? The only two things we can be certain of is that Winter will begin and Winter will end. Although that sounds simplistic to the point of being condescending, we often seem surprised by its arrival and disappointed that it’s not over soon enough.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

8f0ca2121e047e9f93401eea082fd846We each have seasons in our lives, as well – some easy, some challenging; some pleasant, some painful. I believe there are a few truths of seasons, whether in nature or in our personal lives.

They’re inevitable.

They’re temporary.

They’re transformational.

But most of all, they’re transitional. Just as Autumn is sandwiched in between Summer and Winter, the season you’re going through will pass in time. (True, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!)

The key to surviving your particular season is to let go of anything that doesn’t help you through it. What are you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to survive the challenging season ahead – a season of financial change, a season of poor health, a season of grief, a season of busyness, a season of disappointment?

Let go of habits that are robbing you of your time and energy. Release people from your unforgiveness. Delegate responsibility. Ask for help. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations. Use paper plates! (Not all changes need to be grand and philosophical, you know.)

Take time to find beauty in your season. It’s there somewhere! Even in the midst of death in Autumn, trees look like blazing flames atop a match, the leaves change color and fall to carpet the Earth in gold, red and orange.

Autumn also provides a new view. Hal Borland recognized that “October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.” The season in which everything seems to die also allows us to see everything that was obscured by foliage during the summer!

So while seasons are an inevitable part of nature and our lives, they can be survived. Beauty can be found in those changes. And, ultimately, what lies dormant will bring forth life in its time. All we need to do is prepare for it, be patient as we move through it and trust that this season may just be what we need to see God’s faithfulness in the next season.

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“One day you will look back on this season and know that you are truly blessed, and not because things were perfect but because you found perfect grace in the worst of it.”

~Morgan Harper Nichols

 

 

 

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?

When I was a young girl, I was scared of the dark. This was a particular frustration for my mother. Our only bathroom was at the top of the stairs, which also happened to be where the only light switch for the stairs was. So she knew that if I had to go to the bathroom, she would need to stand at the bottom of the stairs promising me that if I turned off the light at the top of the stairs, I would make it safely down the stairs, free from anything that might be lurking in the dark distance between us.

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As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that there is nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light. There are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. There is no cold, bone-thin hand that will reach for mine as I pull away from the light switch.

Right?

Of course! Today I walk freely around my home at night in the dark free from anxiety. I don’t expect anything worse than tripping over the cat or stepping on a LEGO.

And yet, I’m still afraid of the dark. More precisely, I suppose I’m afraid of what I can’t see. In spite of my greatest assurances that everything is fine, there’s that quiet whisper…”What if?”

What if the car needs repairs and we don’t have the money to fix it? What if that pain in my chest is more than heartburn? What if I don’t recognize that my child needs mental health care? What if I can’t handle the next storm that threatens to take down my home?

This is the same whisper that I believe Eve heard in the Garden when Satan said, “Are you sure…?” It’s the threat of uncertainty. Certainly, monsters are real. We hear about them in the news. Some of us have been married to them, have dated them, have been unwitting friends of them, have been victimized by them. And, yes, bad things can happen. We can face the diagnoses of a fatal illness. Events can financially devastate us. Natural disasters can lay waste to our lives.

So…Are you sure?

Of course, you aren’t! However, there comes a certain comfort in knowing and believing – truly believing – that the One in whom you place your life has it covered. When I was very young, I trusted my mother to keep me safe. I believed that as long as she was at the bottom of the stairs and I could see her, either I could safely reach her or – if something came out of the dark behind me – she could reach me in time to protect me.

Seeing her didn’t keep me from running down the stairs out of fear that something could creep up behind me! Similarly, my faith in God isn’t always strong enough to stay so focused on Him that I don’t look at my life with fear and anxiety. Why? Because…what if?

The good news is that “fear” is not only defined as an unpleasant anxiety, but also as a reverential acknowledgement. The important thing is to have the appropriate “fear” – the fear of God, the confidence that He cares deeply for us, that he is in control and that His plans for us are good and not malicious or duplicitous as the enemy would encourage us to believe.

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We can have peace when we understand that each event in our life is just one piece of the puzzle, that God knows how all the pieces are to fit together, and that ultimately the pieces will form a beautiful picture. We should have nothing to be anxious about.

I think this is why it was so important that Christ came to us as The Light, in whose presence nothing can be hidden, there are no shadows, there is nothing to be afraid of.

It doesn’t mean we won’t fear. Fear is an emotion that God gave us, and He tells His children “do not fear,” “do not be afraid,” “do not be anxious” often enough to indicate that He knew we’d be afraid. But He also followed with the comfort that He would be with us. Just as my mother would be at the bottom of the stairs. Fear serves to draw us near to the One who can keep us safe. Fear was what gave Peter the courage to step out of the boat and walk towards the calm that surrounded Jesus.

Because we’re human, and because we live in a sinful world, things will frighten us. How long we allow ourselves to remain afraid, how crippling that fear is, depends on our faith in God. Do we trust Him to protect those He loves? Do we trust that He has a good plan for us? Do we trust that He created the puzzle that is our life and knows exactly where each piece fits? Do we look at Him to shed light on our life in order to dismiss the shadows? Do we trust that there is nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light? Essentially, do we believe His Word?

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My mother died several years ago, but even before that I realized that she wasn’t capable of protecting me from the things I feared. But my God will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He will never abandon me! He knows the number of hairs on my head and has carved my name in the palm of His hand. He loves me. And He loves you. We can trust Him.