autumn’s easter celebration

While I’ve been somewhat silent on the blog front, I haven’t stopped writing. I’ve been storing up words and phrases, piecing them together and keeping the pretty little things like a child storing pebbles in her pockets. The purpose of this collection is more for my own personal joy than for putting into prose and publishing here.

I am savoring fall bit by bit: the fog frosting the fields, the fragments of pink scattered across morning sky, the street lights dimming one-by-one and reminding me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Lamplighter.”

I’ve been reading a lot, too – mostly rereading, I suppose. Emily Dickinson and John Donne collections have been thumbed through and lingered upon, even as a spiritual discipline of sorts to spark my prayer and my praise. My annual adventure through Avonlea with Anne continues to captivate me, and my heart thrills to anticipate how “September [will slip] by into a gold and crimson graciousness of October.”

October is the most delightful month, in my opinion, and as today is October 1, I am savoring each and every glimpse I catch of God, more treasures to add to my pockets. The crisp morning air collides with warm afternoons to produce both layers of clothing and layers of thoughts about the coming changes. There’s a spiritual depth I find here, and my heart is more sensitive to the Lord as the world around me slows and cools from summer’s simmer of heat and activity.

There are moments when I instinctively feel that we should celebrate Easter in the fall. I wrote last year about how odd yet beautiful it is that we celebrate death during the autumn months, as opposed to the life (or coming life) celebrated throughout the rest of the year. And I get that Easter in the spring is sweet because new life is springing up, and it correlates with the joy that Christ is risen.

But I have a hard time celebrating death in March or April. I don’t want to focus on that part of the story when life is teeming all around me – yet that is a critical part of Easter’s celebration.

In fall, I am more able to process the change that death renders, the somber air of what’s taking place in the changing world around me as it lets go of the life it has previously been growing. It may seem like a backward step, like a defeat – I am sure Christ’s followers felt defeated as they watched their Messiah take His last breaths. But His dying is what produced everlasting and ever-fulfilling life.

In fall, I am struck with how God uses pain to produce hope in our lives.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Last year I mused on finding beauty in death. This year, I am wrestling with the fact that hope is produced through our suffering.

I am not so sure I like that pattern. At least, not as extended as it has felt in my life. There are days when it feels like the suffering never ends, so where is the hope in that?

But I suppose God’s timing is never our timing, and His plans are never what we would choose – thus, our hope must be in Him and not in our trials ending. This world is broken, so there will always be something that’s not working right.

In seasons of discouragement, I find myself looking for stories of others who have walked well through their own pain and who have come out on the other side still able to say, “God is good!” I soak in their words. I think, “I want to write like that! I want to have that perspective in the midst of my own confusion!” I try to decide what I should say about my own circumstances, but when I sit down to write, I draw a blank.

I more often find myself agreeing with my dear heroine Anne of Green Gables: “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?” And I suppose part of the difficulty comes in not seeing the full picture yet, as many of the writers I am reading or the women I am talking to are now able to do.

Why must the Lord use suffering to produce hope? It can feel like a constant battle to let this hope remain in my focus instead of the trial that continually blocks my view.

Yet hope does not hide until we are out of the fire. Hope must be present when we can’t see what’s ahead, because we can be confident in a strong God Who is able to handle our uncertainty. Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

As leaves redden and crinkle, as days shorten, as layers pile up, we do not lose hope. We do not despair at the coming winter. Instead, we savor the delightful but ever so brief middle ground of autumn, knowing that winter will come, but so will spring.

And in the midst of trials, may our hearts cling to the hope that prevails in Christ – a better hope, as Hebrews 7:19 proclaims. Because of His death, we have life. Because of His sacrifice, we have an intimate relationship with God, Who is producing good through the sin and brokenness in us. He has not abandoned us. Rather, He is purposeful in our seasons of sadness, and He promises to continue that work in us until it is completed (Philippians 1:6).

Happy October 1 – may you find yourself celebrating this season with a joy that goes deeper than pumpkin spice and flannel shirts. May you identify with Christ’s death and rejoice in the life He gives, even if things here on earth continue to disappoint.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

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