I love autumn. Like, realllly love it. I wait all summer for summer to end with a very ‘get it over with’ kind of attitude. Here in Minnesota, you have folks of all stripes: those who live for hot summer days on the lake, those who pine for the frozen sparkle of snow, those who can’t wait to get into their spring gardens, and those of us who wait with bated breath from December through August for autumn.
Guess which group I’m in.
To be clear, I love living in a place that celebrates and embraces all four seasons. You can find me outside in them all — yep, even winter (my second favorite season!). But fall has a hold on my heart.
I’ve long adored this brief season that quietly slips in and ends by roaring into the next, blazing a trail of coziness and color in between. I celebrate my birthday in the fall (it was just this weekend — I turned 41!), the majority of the music I stream for these months is autumn-themed, and I wrote a whole entire devotional about seeing God all autumn long. I totally deck out my home in oranges and mustards, pull out my flannels and sweaters, and celebrate each holiday in a big way. My family loves football and my son plays, so Saturdays are spent at his games, Sundays are spent cheering for our hometown teams, and I make really good snacks — even though I don’t really follow the game. Grocery store aisles and coffee shop menus teem with my beloved pumpkin spice and I soak it all up in its limited edition glory.
I just love it all. Usually, I’m chomping at the bit to dive right into my favorite season. This summer was the hottest on record and I fully expected myself to decorate early, crank up the A/C, and longingly stare at the trees, willing their leaves to change.
But here we are all the way into October with my birthday celebrated and my son’s football season over, and though our trees have all turned, it’s still warm out; that lovely brisk autumn air hasn’t yet dropped here. The grass is still green, even my garden tomatoes continue to grow, and it just doesn’t feel like autumn… outside, or in my heart.
Maybe it’s because I’m worn out from the daily grind of work, home, kids, and all that goes along with managing a life.
Maybe it’s because I’m in long-term sadness as a beloved family member struggles with serious health issues, with no end or diagnosis in sight.
Maybe it’s because my husband traveled a lot for work this summer and we went on exactly one date.
Maybe it’s because September blazed into being this year with all the back-to-school ruckus of papers, new shoes, forms, spirit days, lunch menus, and schedules, and it was all due at once (and most of the things required a check).
Maybe it’s because the laundry never ever ends, and the shoe pile in the mudroom constantly overflows, and by the time I’ve dragged out the appropriate seasonal clothing from the basement tubs we’ve nearly moved on to the next one, and I can never quite catch up to my to-do list.
Maybe it’s because for my birthday I really wanted to take a trip to Minnesota’s North Shore, where the fall foliage is iconic as the lighthouse on Lake Superior, but the trees passed their peak weeks ago. The hot, dry summer led to an earlier turning, and with palpable disappointment I missed it.
One of my favorite artists, Mary Engelbreit, has a piece that features a frazzled-looking lady and a caption that reads, life is just so daily. I relate to that wild-haired, big-eyed, ready-to-snap lady’s statement deep in my soul and I wonder if that’s it, that I’m just so buried in the daily (which I usually feel sparkles with ordinary glory) — and I can’t claw through and see the wonder of it.
It’s still there, the pull to and evidence of God’s glory shimmering right on the edges of our real lives. I think about Jesus living His short, full, very real life here on Earth and I wonder if He saw the glory in the dirt. Did He ever struggle with work? Stress out over the dishes? Feel behind on all that He knew needed to be crammed into just a few years?
Then these words in Ecclesiastes come to mind, of seasons and turning and timing, and one phrase leaps out to my heart from them:
“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart…”
Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 NIV
And I feel seen, knowing it’s there in that place of burden that my own human heart is getting bogged down. Standing right between everything God has made beautiful, with the knowledge of eternity and all I want to fit into this one precious life getting in the way of experiencing it all.
Like the leaves on the North Shore, turned ahead of time and out of sync with my expectations, I feel out of step with this season I love so much. But those passages in Ecclesiastes remind me of the Jesus I also love so much, that His life also turned ahead of time… and yet it was actually the exact, perfect, just right time.
Every step we take is all in His time, and there’s a grace and relief in that.
Even when it flies, the time is His. Even when it drags on and on, it’s His. Even when it feels off-beat, it’s His.
So I’ll look at the trees lining my street, changing colors on the timeline only they know, and breathe deep for a moment knowing the same One who changes the leaves can also change my heart.