November Light

The chatty summer birds are mostly gone now, seeking warmer nests to fluff their feathers, and the winter birds have centre stage. These are not nearly as petite and delightful, but rather clumsy and comical as they lumber around the neighbourhood scratching out their living.

Leaves have dropped, snow blankets the ground and nights are finger-numbing. The night is long and dark, but it’s worth it to see the morning light come in with such brilliance.

The first rose glow gives way to orange-gold radiance, then blinding light, and finally, the pale sunshine of a November day. The sun hangs low in the sky, casting long shadows as it speeds toward the western horizon, slowly revealing a stunning late afternoon colour gradient which fades as darkness falls. The silhouettes of the towering neighbourhood evergreens that stand guard over our street, begin to blend with the night sky full of twinkling stars and planets. We like to play a guessing game: is it Mars? Jupiter? Venus? The moon is late to the party these days, rising in the middle of the night and sticking around long past sunrise, another November treat.

Each November day, with its vivid dawn, reminds us that “…the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(John 1:5 NIV)

This comes as a complete surprise to me, but I’m developing an appreciation of the very month I have long dreaded for its challenges with frigid weather, constant childhood illnesses, and long hours of darkness. There are gifts to discover in the gradual shift from a world alive to a world asleep until spring. The in-betweenness brings moments to breathe deep before we wander into another season full of anticipation and celebration, one quite unlike any other we’ve had before. Cuddles on sick days, candles in darkness, calm evenings – these are the blessings of a month that I’ve often cast aside as bleak and dismal.

November begins with a somber day of remembrance, considering recent history and struggling with the reality that the world has not changed as much as we would like to believe. As we wandered among decommissioned planes, tanks, torpedoes and naval mines this year, the grief of war stirred up a deep longing in me for true peace, the kind that only Jesus can bring.

Come, Lord Jesus, and make all things right.

In our world and in our own shattered relationships, Lord, make all things right. Bring the kind of healing only You can. Let this in-between season stir our hearts as we dare to hope that You are able to do what no one else has ever been able to do in the history of the world.

Help us embrace the tension of the now and the not-yet. Help us grieve our losses, adjust our expectations, and rest in Your love. We know that we are still in the middle of this story, and we trust that You are faithful.

It seems fitting that November ends with the dawning of the season of longing and anticipation of our Saviour. We look forward to celebrating His first coming and we anticipate His second coming, knowing that He has promised to return and make all things right.

November is the space we need to prepare our hearts, dare to hope, and trust that He will do what He says He will do. It’s the space we need to learn not to grow weary and lose heart. It’s the gift of the in-between, the time to anchor our entire holiday celebration to the One who is worthy of our praise before the sparkling of the season begins.

Now is the time to fix our eyes on Jesus…

“…the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 
Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Glorious November Light

Slowing Down to Savour

A temporary relief from the stifling heat of summer is so welcome! Dark clouds hang overhead, yet to give us the treasure within. We’re waiting for the rain to fall after a week of bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and hot, sleepless nights.

Summer is sailing along now, heavy with the scent of life in full bloom. All the things we’ve planted are showing their resilience in the face of hail and heat. Some stand tall regardless of what comes, others are crushed beneath the weight of the elements or become food for critters and birds bent on survival.

Saskatoons are slowly ripening, but the sparrow stole my only strawberry of the year. Though the plants are young and the soil likely needs more nutrients, I have hope that in future years we’ll have more berries. Maybe I’ll expand the patch in a few more years if the plants are doing well.

Amid all the flowers and fruit, our kids are engaged in the very serious business of backyard play. With four between the ages of 5 and 11, there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the day. Morning ’til night, with short breaks for food and responsibilities, they play. And play. And read. And play. I believe in the gift of a rather boring summer, with loads of space in the schedule to literally do nothing, if that’s what they want to do. Of course, the responsibilities are always an expectation, but otherwise, we aim for a rather carefree summer pace.

I glance outside. The much-needed moisture begins with sprinkles at first and then turns to a steady, gentle rain. The thirsty ground is soaking up the blessing of a long, cool drink. Trees bend in the wind and robins impatiently pull the surfacing worms out of the ground.

The kids wander around for a while before becoming thoroughly soaked and chilly. In the back door they tumble, asking for a late snack, although lunch is nearly ready. It’s our daily reset button, a gathering around an abundant table, filling their hungry bellies and setting them on track for the afternoon ahead.

I don’t want to forget what it was like in this season of life. I am learning to slow down and savour the small, ordinary moments of each day. These scenes are mainly for me, snapshots of what life is like in these good old days, moments captured on paper and in photos, and mostly, in my mama’s heart.

All four kids, home together, more of a gift than I can fully appreciate, I’m sure. That old cliche rings true: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12, 14 (NIV)

The pansies are doing alright this year. Grateful.

A Little Cup of Soil

I am never more amazed than when, after planting a seed, watering and waiting, a little green sprout pushes its way up toward the light.

It wasn’t looking so good for this particular little cup of soil though. The other three had just the right amount of water and light, but this one was drowning. My seven year old ran up to me with the mud sloshing around in the cup, tears in her eyes.

“Mom! Everyone else’s sunflower came up but mine! I think I added too much water!” She was heartbroken. I double-checked the tray, and sure enough, three sunflower sprouts were reaching for the sunshine and the fourth was barren.

“Hmm,” I mused. “Let me see what we can do.” I wasn’t so sure it would work. In her excitement for trying her hand at gardening, she dropped the cup right after planting the seeds and then watered it within an inch of its little plant life. 

I carefully poured out some of the standing water, absorbed the rest with a paper towel and gently shook the cup to loosen the solid mass of soil that was left. We set the cup back on the tray in the light, hoping for the best.

Every day, I received the daily plant report: “nothing”.

Then, just a few days later, the story changed. “MOM! It’s coming up!”

Two tiny light green specks appeared in the middle of the black earth, pressing on through obstacles the other plants had never seen! These sunflowers were determined to succeed despite being dropped, losing half their soil and nearly drowning.

This little cup of soil burst with new life the week before Easter and it’s not lost on me. In His mercy, the Lord uses ordinary things to remind me of who He is. In John 11, Jesus meets Martha on the road after her brother Lazarus died, and they have a short conversation about resurrection. She tells Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died, but even now she knows who He is.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’ ” (John 11:25-27 NIV)

She has faith in Jesus to do the impossible, and shortly after, He does. Lazarus is raised to life again by a word. Jesus calls him and he walks right out of that grave, still wearing those strips of linen around his hands and feet and face. Jesus says ,“Take off the grave clothes and let him go”. And the Pharisees begin to plot to get rid of Jesus.

He knew what He was doing, and it was all motivated by love. Often, I’ve read Ephesians 2 and have been stopped in my tracks by various phrases in the first ten verses:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV)

Because of Christ, no longer do we have to wonder if the seeds are going to sprout! He is not just our great example of how to love our neighbour as ourselves; He is our salvation. It is His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that gives us true life! 

We can walk through this earthly experience continually laying down our lives with joy, carrying a hope that cannot be deterred by circumstances, knowing that one glad morning we will wake up in the presence of the One who made us, knows us, loves us and gave His life for us so that our fellowship with Him can never be broken.

Hallelujah, what a Saviour! He is Risen!

Little sprouts (image: mine)

For the Tough Days

There is something that grieves me so deeply I am rendered immobile with sorrow if I dwell on it too long. It’s a situation I have no control over; in fact, I am simply a spectator. I have reasoned, begged, pleaded and prayed – and the situation remains the same. The pain that comes with this kind of experience is something I simply cannot explain. Is God really good? Yes. Can I understand why He allows this to continue? No. My heart takes comfort in knowing that one day all will be made clear. And yet, it is so difficult to watch. This morning I am thinking about the different Scriptures that help me focus on Him while the storms are raging.

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Proverbs 14:10

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Let His Word wash over your weary heart today and carry you through.

Morning skies (image: mine)

If Ever

This morning as I was thinking about the current state of the world, the words of an old hymn popped into my mind: If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

My generation is living through its first lengthy world-altering crisis. Two years of fear, distance and polarization with no definite end in sight can feel overwhelming. Some say “this too shall pass”, but from our current vantage point it feels like putting the pieces back together will take a lifetime. We are the generation that believed that if we just worked hard enough and did all the right things, we could control the outcome of our lives. And now we are living the endless reality that things beyond our control can upend our plans in the blink of an eye, not just personally, but collectively, thanks to an historic global event.

Fear is sneaky. It whispers in our ears in the dark of the night and screams headlines from our newsfeeds. It warns us of our limitations and finite knowledge, wrapping its frigid fingers around our hearts, squeezing the hope right out of us. We are acutely aware that we can’t protect our kids from everything. We watch our loved ones face great difficulty and weather our own unexpected situations, fully grasping that life is a vapour.

Psalm 13 has always been a great source of comfort for me in dark times:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
    and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

David is clearly in a state here. We have a deeply personal prayer filled with desperate language. And then, somehow, in the midst of all the talk of being forgotten by God, wrestling with thoughts, waking day after day with sorrow permeating each part, feeling defeated and overcome by enemies, the psalm ends like this:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

A sharpening of focus reveals where our hope can truly be found. The grief of loss is a slow burn that may not ever be extinguished this side of heaven, but we can learn to say “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” because of Jesus. He is that beautiful gift of hope for a world reeling in panic and confusion. He is unfailing love. He is our salvation. Romans 5:1-8 is a solid reminder of the truth that God has not left us alone to wander through this life with dread in our hearts.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Amen and Amen! Friends, we have nothing to fear. Let us learn to sing the Lord’s praise in the face of uncertainty, for He has been good to us!

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
for thee all the follies of sin I resign;
my gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me
and purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath,
and say when the deathdew lies cold on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow:
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

(Canadian William Featherston penned the words to “My Jesus I Love Thee” somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16. He died at the age of 26.)

Blue skies in January

New Year, Same Things

New year…same things.

We’ve cultivated some beautiful rhythms over the past year that I’m not quite ready to replace. I love the small signs that we are, in fact, in an entirely new year, with decorations safely tucked away and some small progress made in our organizational plans around the house. The calendar hanging in the kitchen has a new theme. I’m writing ’22 in my journal. And we’re receiving invitations to make plans in the months to come.

But some things have remained the same, thankfully.

Maybe it’s my current stage of life, maybe it’s because the majority of our family celebrates birthdays in winter and it always has me feeling all kinds of ways about how fast life goes and all the constant changes each new year brings, but I love the little ways the Lord reminds me that His love never changes and His hope endures, even when everything else around me rides a roller coaster.

It has me asking, at what point does something become a tradition? For the third year in a row, I’ve brought home the same kind of short, wide plastic pot of spring bulbs from the grocery store. I’ve had great success plunking said pot on top of my piano and neglecting it until the hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, irises and other beauties sprout up like sci-fi monstrosities overnight. The first year I was amazed by this $15 burst of beauty. The second year, I tried it again, thinking Year 1’s experience was a fluke. And again, over the course of mere days these little green stalks sprouted up to reveal the most lovely of colours and shapes. So this year, I’ve been watching and waiting to see the daily growth of this little pot of delight! Less than 24 hours after taking its place on the piano, once-invisible yellow tulips peeked through their pale green stalks and by the evening, reached up and opened their petals like rays of warm sunshine. Since then, dark purple irises with golden flecks have peeked out and the daffodil is wide-eyed.

An Easter garden in January, right in my living room! What a gift to have a glimpse of warmth long before the ground finally awakens for the growing season, revealing the hope that the grip of winter will one day melt away into a season of bounty.

Experience teaches us where to look for God’s goodness. At first we may be surprised by it — like tulips suddenly bursting forth from stalks that seemed empty. But then, it happens again. And again. And yet again. And we train our hearts to watch and see what God is going to do in this difficult season of wintery waiting. Every single time we have made it through a difficult, painful or confusing season, we look back and see what the Gardener has been doing. Our stories become reminders of His goodness and faithfulness! The barren soil of our lives is tilled under, weeds, roots and rocks are removed, nutrients are added and God grows stunning things.

What a comfort to know that although we may not be able to change much of what is going on around us, we can fix our eyes on the One who makes all things beautiful in His time. We have the promise of life in Christ!

Two Scriptures have been resounding in my heart this week. The first one is from the Old Testament:

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Job 19:25 (NIV)

And the second is from the New Testament:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NIV)

No matter what we are facing today, this week, this month or in the year ahead, we can be filled with true hope! Jesus is the real deal — He breathes life into the dust of our hearts and grows gorgeous things in places we never expected. 

Be patient and train your heart to hope in Christ. Keep your eyes wide open to the beauty He is cultivating in your life. And always remember that our Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth. 

Praise the Lord that He always does what He says He will do!

 

Day 1, Day 4 and Day 5 of my mixed bulbs.

December Lights

The December sun sails low across the sky with remarkable speed, its warmth just enough kiss my cold cheeks but not quite enough to melt the blanket of white that sparkles all around me. The gift of another sunny morning in this final month of the year does my heart good. With sixteen hours of darkness each day, any glimpse of sunshine is a gourmet meal for a hungry belly.

But it’s not the pale daytime glow that has us eyes-wide, mouths-open in wonder. The real show starts as the sun disappears behind the trees across the street. Around 4pm the crescent moon takes centre stage as Venus begins to sparkle low in the sky. A few minutes later, to the right of the moon, Jupiter joins the show, and just after sunset Saturn twinkles faintly between the other two planets. We stand in our front yard, pointing and exclaiming as more and more stars twinkle into view. It’s not easy to see under the city lights, but the excitement of recognizing constellations and planets fills our hearts with wonder. We check the apps to confirm our suspicions and realize what we are beholding with our own eyes corresponds to real objects millions of kilometres away, with names and measurements and other scientific data to understand.

It’s not necessarily the numbers that astound; it’s that we can see the things we’ve only heard about or viewed in photos or videos. These tiny sparkling lights in the sky are real planets and stars, formed and placed with care. The late sunrises and early sunsets provide ample time to behold the beauty of the December night sky, a reminder that the Lord has carefully woven beauty into every season.

In winter darkness, even the smallest lights gleam. 

This week, we’ll mark both the longest night of the year and the holiest night of the year: the first day of winter followed shortly by the wonder of Christmas. Not only do the days begin to grow longer, but we will bask in the beauty of a gift like no other: Jesus.

Psalm 147:3-4 rings in my heart this week, and the contrast is not lost on me:

He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.

The Creator entered into His creation. A baby is born, sending one king into a jealous, murderous rage, bringing other kings over long miles to their knees in worship. Angels announce the good news to stunned shepherds in a field, who hurry to a humble stable to see the Messiah. A young mom cradles a fragile, tender newborn, the long-awaited answer to the yearning of hearts from generation to generation: “How long, O Lord?”. The things we’ve only read in prophecies of old are taking place before our very eyes.

We begin to understand that what we are beholding in this Christmas season corresponds to things promised centuries ago and we are amazed. The One who gave Saturn its rings and caused Venus to shine above the horizon at dusk in December entered into the lives of the broken by being broken for us, and shattered the power of sin and death by dying on the cross and rising from the grave.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)

Thank You Jesus! Only You can number the stars and bind up our wounds in the darkest of seasons. You are the true light of the world!

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of peace
Hail! the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the some of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King

-Charles Wesley

A simple star

The Skies Proclaim

This fall has been remarkably pleasant, with many beautiful days for hikes and walks through colourful hillsides and parks. Snow flurries made their annual Thanksgiving weekend appearance though, serving as a reminder that winter has not forgotten us. As surely as the squirrels hide peanuts in my planters, cold weather is on its way. Seems like every year the second weekend in October is a turning point where we go from brilliant warm fall sunshine to “the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow”.

As an extra rare Thanksgiving treat this year, even city-dwellers caught a brilliant display of the northern lights. The light pollution here makes it difficult to see much of anything, but over the weekend, what a show! For some, it was their first glimpse of aurora borealis in all their majesty. Growing up in the country, they frequently danced across the winter sky and let me tell you, it never got old. My memory clicks back to a scene: sitting bundled up in lawn chairs with our chins tipped to the sky, watching brushstrokes of green shimmer and sway across the deep blue night filled with diamond constellations. Quiet. Calm. Magnificent. My mind took a snapshot that stays with me even now that those days are long gone.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge. 
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Remarkable how every eye can see the glory of the Lord on display on a night like this. Scientific explanations only deepen my awe of His design. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Last night as I was trying to sleep, I felt the weight of time slipping away. It happens on occasion, where I’m lifted out of the current state of day-to-day affairs to see the larger picture of life, like a sudden display of aurora borealis in the night sky. Look up! it says. And see the glory of the Lord!

I’m always alarmed by how short our time here actually is. My musings must have been prompted by an old movie we watched recently with our gaggle of kids about a man whose daughters break tradition as they grow up and start their own lives. As I watched the story unfold before me, the heavy realization that one day my own children would move on from this place into their own seasons of bittersweet beauty had me feeling some feelings. Kids are likely to do things much differently than their parents and it’s naive to think we’ll be spared of the growing pains coming our way. It’s also quite tempting to imagine that the best of life is behind us now that our kids are basically through the baby and preschooler years when things are simpler (albeit exhausting) and they’re all just so darn cute! But I’m catching glimpses of what’s to come as I watch friends bless their grown kiddos and send them off into the world, and let me tell you, it’s stunning!

These friends are my northern lights, my glimpses of beauty in the unknown, my beacons of hope, yet another fingerprint of the Lord’s gracious hands. They remind me that no matter what life brings our way, God goes before us and walks with us through it all. So today I’m tipping my chin to the sky and drinking in the truth: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

And then, back into the ups and downs of the day-to-day. As I turn my eyes back to what’s right in front of me, Lord, let me soak in the daily hugs from You — snuggles, laughter, moments of insight and the works of Your hands, right here in our home.

Image: Stocksnap

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