Finally Fall!

After living in Arizona during one of their hottest summers on record and then moving back to Michigan during one of their longest summers in history, I am so ready for fall!

Last year my family and I spent a year in a somewhat seasonless desert. Many people move to the Phoenix valley for the consistently warm temperatures. “Who wouldn’t want sunny skies and palm trees ninety-five percent of the time,”? they argue. People who live there and stay there are the ones who love that kind of predictability and the year-round, vacation-like weather. For me, however, I like vacation-like weather when I’m on – well – vacation. In fact, the entire year we were there I felt like we were on some distant exotic trip. The locals would question how anyone could actually enjoy living where there is cold, wet snow and dangerous freezing rains. What are seasons? Well, to a Phoenecian, it’s the difference between warm, hot, and really hot. It’s a few changing colors on land-scaped, deciduous trees. It’s brown versus less brown with radiant cactus blossoms. It’s active rattlesnakes or hibernation.

To me, seasons represent change. While Arizona may not have a lot to offer seasonally, you can still find change in its diverse climates and landscapes. In just one day you could travel past the rising red rocks of Sedona carved by clear, flowing rivers to the snow-capped mountains in Flagstaff, and all the way down to Colorado River tucked in the deep gorges of the Grand Canyon. In Michigan, however, we may not have tall, majestic mountains, but we do have drastically diverse seasons.

Here in the north, after what seemed like an eternal summer, the surrounding trees are finally beginning to change. The solid blanket of green foliage that once covered the rolling hills has now completely morphed into a blended Monet-like mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and as my kids seem to think – a hint of blue – maybe from the spruces or sky peeking through. The way the sun sits in the sky this time of year projects a majestic, almost iridescent-like blue in the sky and is often mixed with wild colorful cloud formations, and sometimes with an occasional rainbow. The tall brown corn stalks and grasses cause the vibrant green, well-watered, lawns to pop. You don’t have to drive far to find colorful tree canopies oftentimes accompanied by wild purple flowers. The mix of fall colors is just stunning. It blows my mind how anyone could deny there is a God with our world containing canvas after canvas of well-thought-out, artistic handiwork.

In about two weeks, however, the radiant colors will fall to the ground leaving the trees bare. Clouds will soon begin to cover the majority of the sky like a warm winter blanket. Soft, white snow will soon fill the air and cover the earth below making all the ferns, leaves, sticks, grass, and dirt invisible. The world will become a winter wonderland forming new tree canopies accompanied by ice cycles and animal tracks. Life will slow down just a bit. Winter sports will take off and the smell of chimney smoke will fill the air. More books will be read, more games played, and hot chocolate will become the beverage of choice. Days will be shorter and nights will lengthen and come February many will long for the Arizona sun, taking vitamin D supplements or going to the tanning salon to gain some sanity from cabin fever.

But with the long, cold winters comes an appreciation for spring. The sun will begin to show its face more frequently and the first sighting of a robin will bring great delight along with the first glimpse of a crocus popping through the softening earth. Hope. Spring is a reminder of hope. Hope that seasons don’t last forever. Hope that in each new chapter of life, though there will be hardships, there will also be beauty. Spring is a reminder that death brings new life. Trees that appeared life-less will begin miraculously budding with purples, pinks, whites, and reds. New fragrances will fill the air like a glorious perfume. Mud puddles will open their arms to any curious child, even those stuck in adult bodies. A new choir of cheerful birds will form as they return home to build their nests and start new families. Indoor seedlings will find their way into the rich soil mixed with the decomposition of last-years fallen leaves – dead leaves giving life to new spouting seeds that will create food and life for animals and people. Storms will roll in with lighting to clean the air. Rain will fall hard and long to nourish the vegetation before the season of drought and hot sunshine. With much anticipation warm, temperatures will melt away dampened souls, bringing sounds of children swinging, climbing trees, and kicking a ball.

Once again the rolling hills will be covered in green and the clear, turquoise waters of Lake Michigan will begin to look more and more inviting, but just to the feet – at first. Soon neighborhoods will be filled with lemonade stands and garage sales. Beaches will soon be covered with umbrellas, towels, and tanning bodies. The sound of boats and Sea-Doos will echo across the lakes and growing fields. Farmers’ markets will be booming with customers craving whatever crops are in season. Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, peaches…

When the apples and pumpkins come, so does fall and the sound of marching bands in addition to well-lit stadiums full of football fans.

Seasons were not made to last forever. We were designed by a Designer who loves change. Whether it’s the change in elevation or change in seasons, our earth was created and filled with things that change. In the middle of a dark season, it can feel as though things will never change, but they will… if we let them.

Do you ever find yourself getting stuck mentally on the hardships of a past season even after the change has occurred? Or, do you ever find yourself thinking of all the negatives in your current season yet clearly see all the beauty of seasons gone by or the ones to come? Why is that when we are standing in the cool crisp air of a long-anticipated fall that we still hold on to the bitterness and fear – the heat – of the past summer? Or, why do we focus on the fact that we can no longer swim in the warm lakes instead of enjoying a hot cup of tea by a warming fire?

It’s not easy in our culture to break away from these two extremes and from the negativity that they both bring. But what if we could? What if we could somehow see the beauty in each season as it comes and let the hardships of each season bring about a new appreciation for the next one. What if we could let go of the pain and bitterness from past hurts and disappointments or the fears of the future and not let them dim the colorful world around us? In addition, what if we stopped longing for the highs in the rearview mirror and instead embraced the new blessings that are right in front of us.

When seasons linger too long it brings discontentment and frustration, but when summer lasts through the fall, winter, and spring, and still through the whole following year, it brings despair. We were not made to stay stuck in one season. Too long has our world lingered in the events of 2020. Certain politicians and selective people in the medical world and media are taking advantage of these events and holding onto them for financial and political gain. We are constantly being reminded of the fear they think we should still have. Thus we have found ourselves captured and imprisoned by both extremes – idolizing the distant past when things were normal, longing for the future when Jesus comes back so much so that we’ve lost the will to live, or we are still holding on to the fears and frustrations from last year – which combined with this year’s hardships has created a load too heavy to bear and has left us blind to any good around us.

It’s time to move on y’all! But how?

I’ve noticed that every year in the spring there are still some trees holding onto last year’s leaves. These leaves are brown and ugly and show no sign of new life. Other trees, who had dropped their leaves, had begun producing blooms of beautiful colors and aromas.

I think we have a choice. We can keep hanging on to last year’s leaves by saturating ourselves in the news and entertaining endless arguments, or we can change our focus. What if we, for one day, took all the energy we used being consumed by last season’s poop and instead focused on the excitement and pleasures of our current season.

I wonder how we – how I – would feel at the end of the day if I shut off my phone, my tv, and anything else that keeps me wallowing in despair, and instead took note of just 10 blessings – maybe people, places, or things – that God has given me in this current season of life. What if I stopped looking for strawberries in the fall and started looking for pumpkins?

Then, what if one day turned into two…

What if it wasn’t just me…

What if we could be the change that catapults our world into a new, beautiful season full of hope, generosity, selflessness, and new life.

Fall is here. It’s time to let go of summer.

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