What Does Fall Mean to You?

Let’s just be honest, out of the four seasons, fall is the most dramatic. She is the loudest and most vibrant. She takes up all the space in the room. You just have to pay attention to fall. She’s the one at the party who’s had a little too much punch and is graciously singing Celine Dion to everyone. Her fancy name is autumn equinox (Sept. 22) and in her honor, I’m blogging about what she means to me. And I’d really love to know what she means to you!

When I think of fall, I think of school deadlines, pumpkin- scented candles, mulled cider, camping, chilly nights, over-sized sweaters, long bike rides in state parks, eating waxy candy corn, chili with sour cream, long prayers during the sunset, little fellas dressed up in handmade or store-bought costumes. I remember each year that my grandmother showed up at my family’s front door with a scary Halloween mask on, magically changing her sweet voice to something wretched. I think about couch cuddling, scraping the frost off my car, smelling the wood burning in the fireplace, and jumping up and down in place for warmth. I think about cute scarves and hot, homemade casseroles. I think about the excitement of the upcoming holiday season and all the traditions accompanying it.

I think about fall funerals and fall birthdays. As I think about the changing of summer to fall, I think about how people come and go for certain seasons of life, making me even more grateful for those that persist, walking with me season after season. I think about how leaves are actually the organs of the tree and even though the trees lose such vital appendages, they still survive, even thrive come spring.

What does fall mean to you? What fall traditions are you looking forward to?

If you are reading this, know that I’m sending you love this fall. Hoping that you’ll be kind to yourself this season, hoping that you’ll do things to fill yourself up and make you remember that your story matters, hoping you have conversations with inspiring friends that help you believe in yourself again.

Be sure to let me know some of your fall traditions!

A City Girl in a Farmer’s World

Recently, I embarked upon a northern road trip to the Land of Lincoln…the Prairie State… the Midwest… Illinois. A cousin’s yellow-and-orange-misty-eyed wedding instigated the journey north. My mother, grandmother, and I decided to make this last minute trip with the eager anticipation of hugging dearly missed relatives. Fellowship was the goal here. And it was one that was met with great fervor.

Crossing the state line, we were welcomed into IL with the gracious hospitality of my grandmother’s brother and sister-in-law, Uncle Sherman and Aunt Sue. These two are quite the pair and I can very honestly say, some of my favorite people in the world. Sherman is the quintessential Great American Prairie farmer. He was born on southern IL soil and has farmed the same soil for 70 years. He has a relationship with that land that I can only gaze at from afar with my city girl eyes. He’s got to be the most patient man and teacher I know; people always remember meeting Sherman because they immediately notice the kindness in his eyes. He married a beautiful woman named Sue; she truly is his better half. Sue has the uncanny ability to make anyone she converses with feel as if they are extremely important and their story matters. She really just cares. And she cooks a mean butterscotch cookie.

Disembarking the interstate, country roads led us to Sue and Sherman’s farm. We passed through small towns that made me feel like I had gone back five decades to the days of yesteryear America. Let me tell you, I got a great view of the town square, since I had to circle it multiple times after we spotted a much needed post-office box. I later learned that for Sherman’s 50th birthday, Sue and company kidnapped him, robing him in one of her lovely shawls, and paraded him around the square in an antique wheelchair. Apparently the square has multiple uses as grooms used to push their new brides around the square in a wheelbarrow. Boy if that doesn’t speak romance, I don’t know what does.

Waking up at Sue and Sherman’s is quite the experience. After a sufficient amount of coffee, I was met by Butch the pet turkey. He looked at me as if I was the species who was out of place; I decided he was right and quickly maneuvered myself to a different part of the barn. Don’t get me wrong– I have a great appreciation for the avian species, I just figured I’d appreciate from afar.

About that time, I heard the approaching roar of loud machinery coming into the front yard. I grabbed my camera and ran over to see a large John Deere combine. Now, you may know what a combine is, but let me tell you, I did not. So I’ll explain. This is a massive piece of machinery that is used to harvest six rows of corn at a time. Sherman spotted my wide eyes and asked if I wanted to ride with him. Naturally inquisitive, I did. As I ascended the combine ladder, all I could think about was how I should be tweeting this memorable moment.

As it turns out, I didn’t have the time because we immediately set off to harvest the corn. In his infinite patience, he explained to me how the combine cuts and thrashes grain; he also lent me much insight into a farmer’s world. As he was driving, I noticed the sun spots on his tan, calloused hands. Hands that had farmed for years. Hands that made corn grow. Hands that made love grow.

After half an hour of talking, Sherman pulled the big combine brake and announced that it was my turn to drive this baby. I was pretty sure I heard him incorrectly, but when he started to switch seats with me, I knew he wasn’t kidding. I thought about explaining to him that I can barely work a toaster or that just last week, I managed to break a toilet handle at work.

As it turned out, I didn’t have time to explain any of this as I took the pilot’s seat. I figured this was kind of how life goes– it forces you into something, you aren’t qualified or even quite ready for. With much trepidation, I let the brake off and began aligning the combine to harvest the next six rows of corn. Sherman believed I could do it, so I did too. With his patient voice guiding, I farmed. And as it turned out, I had no time to tweet. Life was happening and I was busy.

About halfway through the weekend, I started to get wrapped up in the 80 items on my to-do list and the internet access that I didn’t have. I started to worry about deadlines and the busy week ahead. But then the night wrapped up with a long-time family friend coming over to extend hugs and lots of laughter. As we sat close laughing about old family mishaps, I realized that this was my to-do list. This moment. And I needed to be present.

Sometimes we are so caught up with the future, that we fail to live presently.

Sometimes we need to slow down and say, this person matters. These people matter. I need to give them the dignity of my full attention. I need to be in this moment because this moment will never come again. I need to embrace this love, this laughter, this joy. Because if I’m not careful, the life I am so eagerly awaiting will pass me by without my noticing and all I’ll have to show for it is a marked off to-do list.

As we finished up the weekend singing hymns at the old country church down the road and to the right, I realized, the Land of Lincoln taught this city girl a lot more about life than just how to drive a combine.

So tell me, what life lessons have you been learning this September?

A New Life.

Almost four months into the new year… and I am in love with it.

Today I rested….well after I got home from classes and obligations… I rested. I soaked the sunshine in that was so generous to come. I walked around outside… I saw the beginnings of blooms…of new grass covering the old, dead. I heard birds chirping songs of spring. And I couldn’t remove my mind from the Creator of it all. It is the Creator who gives new life, Jesus.
There is a verse in 2 Corinthians 5…and it says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation, the old is gone. The new has come.”
Do I believe that? That the old is gone. The new has come. Today I am becoming new.

There is nothing that both humbles and excites me more. I don’t want to be who I was yesterday, rather, I am becoming new. Just as the spring has come… new life is given when we are in Christ. I am not my own anymore… my hope is not in this world, neither is my joy, or my peace. It is in Christ. I am in Christ, a new creation. It is the most beautiful thing that I have ever experienced. Life anew.

Taking it a step further, I refer to an earlier blog post. How can we be a new creation if we don’t know who gives life?
Jesus speaks, saying… “I have come that they may have LIFE and have it to the full.” The word life there is a Greek word and its Hebrew equivalent used in Ezekiel 37, where the Ezekiel stands in a valley of dry bones of what was once a vast mighty army. The LORD asks him: “Can these dry bones come alive?” Ezekiel replies, “O Sovereign Lord, You alone know the answer to that.” ……The Lord replied, “I will put breath into you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Then Ezekiel watched as the Lord raised the bones and breathed LIFE into them.
The words “life and alive” are used several times here both in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. We even see this same Greek word again in the New Testament in Ephesians 2 where Paul writes that “though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life…for it is by grace we have been saved.” So…

Can God bring that which is dead back to life? A dead marriage, a dead friendship, a dead soul, a dead city, a dead church? Without a doubt. “Then breath came into them, they stood on their feet, a great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10) Christ… the giver of Life. And when we are in Christ, we are a new creation. The old is gone, the has come. Life has been breathed into us. We are no longer dead. We are alive. Hallelujah.