Three Weeks of Thanks

I stand over the bubbling pot, slowly stirring as September sun streams in the window. The golden yellow tree across the street is at the pinnacle of its glorious but short-lived annual fall display. It takes about a week, but what a week! Just days after full fall colour fills its branches in a final majestic salute to the summer, its leaves are shrivelled and crunchy, fluttering through the air on the stiff autumn breeze. Thin, smooth branches reach up to the crisp blue sky signalling the end of its hard work for this year. Before long, it will rest under the heavy blanket of winter and awaken again with the thaw, ready to repeat its rhythm with enthusiasm.

Today we take the short hike up the big hill to stand on the top and see the brilliant brushstrokes across the landscape. The palette is ever-changing emerald to gold, ruby, burgundy, fire, copper and every shade of nature. The kids sit under the poplars and sketch the bark and branches full of brilliant leaves preparing to let go for another season.

I’m learning a lesson from the trees this year: there is beauty in letting go.

Have you ever seen a tree that holds onto last year’s leaves? Every single one is eventually replaced by the new growth of spring. The resplendence of fall reveals this season’s work, not last season’s decomposition. But last season’s decomposition played a part. The leaves that fall this year will feed the ground for next year’s growth.

Remarkable. Every process of nature reveal the glory of God and His wisdom, a living book to read and learn from.

Instead of just filling up on turkey and pie on the second weekend of October and moving on with our lives, I wanted to create an intentional season of thanksgiving in our home. Years ago when we began this tradition, I had no idea just how much it would challenge and shape my experience during what tends to be a whirlwind of a season.

It has become my annual reminder to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving regardless of circumstances. If I wait until everything is going smoothly, I fear I will be waiting a very long time. Our family’s rhythm has quickened from the wide open schedule of the summer to the more structured pace of the fall, adjusting to a new school year, facing cold and flu season, handing regular life demands. And this year again, more pandemic challenges. Throw politics in the mix and it’s explosive. Thanksgiving falls at a less-than-ideal time of the year.

And yet, we must pause. Perhaps it actually is the best time. We need to stop in the middle of the crazy and give God the glory. To remind ourselves of His faithfulness from generation to generation. To discover the beauty of His goodness in even the smallest blessing and the greatest challenge. To acknowledge that our perspective is limited but His wisdom knows no bounds. To accept what comes from His hand as His mercy and goodness and find ourselves quieted by His love in all circumstances.

We will let go of what has been and embrace the season we are in, preparing our hearts for the days to come. We will let the leaves of last season work to fertilize the growth of the next. We will choose to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. 

The familiar refrain of the Psalms invites us to send our roots down deep into Him and remember the truth of who He is,

even when…

even if…

even now.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

The brilliant tree across the street.

The End of Summer

The end of summer has me feeling all the feelings. 

After a tough year, these past two months have been a breath of clean, cool, mountain air and I am sad to say goodbye. And yet, the excitement of a new month, a new school year and a new season fills my heart! I don’t want rest to become a casualty of the drive to achieve. As we’ve intentionally created space for rejuvenation over the summer, I’ve seen how it’s a key piece for me to be able to love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbour (including my family) as myself (Matthew 22).

When I came across James 1:19-21 last week, the words jumped off the page:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

I’m what some would call passionate, which is just another way of saying I have a short fuse. Frustration surges through me when things aren’t working well or when something unexpected stands in the way of my plans. My patience gets a real workout most days.

Lord have mercy! In fact, this very week has been full of ample opportunity to heed the Lord’s instructions. Never imagine I write these things here because I’ve perfected them in my own life! I write to remind myself of the things I need to hear. And with the hope that one day my own children, when they are grown and flown, will discover these words and understand the heart of the mom who loves them so deeply.

What does this call to a patient response actually look like in my life as we enter into a busier season for our family? With more demands, kids in different ages and stages, daily responsibilities and unexpected issues, I’m learning that a posture of rest is the best place to start. Full disclosure — this week I didn’t rest as I should have. I didn’t listen to the Word in this area. And guess what happened? The opposite of being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Moments of asking forgiveness and starting over. Rebuilding what was broken by a careless word. Exhaustion is not your friend! It makes it nearly impossible to actually respond instead of react to life as it bubbles up around you.

If I want to be quick to listen, I have to actually slow down long enough to hear what is being said. If I want to be slow to speak, I need to give myself the time it takes to think through my response instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to my mind. If I want to be slow to become angry, I must take a moment to weigh my response in light of what it means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbour as myself.

I can press pause in a world that measures worth by progress, take a step back when I want to rush forward and carefully respond instead of react. These things take time, the very thing we’re told is in short supply and we need to maximize for success. What fools we have been, to buy the lie that success must come at the expense of rest! To wear the badge of busyness while our souls wither and our relationships slowly crumble.

What does success actually look like?

Perhaps it looks less like a schedule bursting at the seams and a pile of finished projects a mile high, and more like a life deeply rooted in Christ, with relationships built by the painstaking work of listening, patiently responding, and practicing self-control.

Lord, give me the wisdom to listen well, to measure my words and to respond with love today!

Image: Free Nature Stock/Stocksnap