Autumn Leaf Dreams

Living in Texas has stolen a little bit of the joy that used to be autumn, but still something in my spirit shifts when this time of year comes. Somewhere deep in my soul I think I know what F. Scott Fitzgerald meant when he wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

There’s something about cooler weather after a long, hot summer. There’s something mysteriously beautiful in that handful of weeks where the trees turn to vibrant shades of red and yellow — like a grand finale of nature’s artistry showing itself off right before the stark, bare winter begins. These are the weeks my heart most longs to be back in the hills of Tennessee.

So my favorite month came, and it appeared with vibrant hope and deep expectancy. I sat on a beach in Southern California on October 1 and I dreamed into a month of new possibilities, new mercies rolling in like the tide to the shore. I had a good feeling about this October.

A week later, back home and in the middle of another round of fertility, the doctor called. I had gone for my monthly blood test to see if my body had responded positively to the fertility drug I’d been taking. Every month so far that phone call came with disappointing news — until this one. I was sitting in a meeting in church when my phone rang, and recognizing the number as my doctor’s office, I grabbed it and ran out the door to answer.

“Your progesterone levels came back, and they indicate an excellent ovulatory response to the clomid,” she said. “If you miss your period, take a pregnancy test and call us with the results. If your period comes, we will try another round.”

I got off the phone and right there in the middle of the church parking lot I cried joy tears, thanking God for breakthrough. Finally, a hopeful conversation. A chance we could have conceived at last. This could be our month.

Oh, Lord. We’ve already been through 18 of them. Let this one be our month.

In that week the days felt like an eternity. I watched the calendar and I wondered how many days past 28 I should wait before I consider my period late. Day 29 went by… 30… 31… 32… I thought, “I’ll give it one more day.” So I gave it that one more day and sure enough, I started bleeding.

Hope deferred. Again.

I wept.

And then I worshiped.

Something in my spirit rose up against my flesh and knew that God was still on His throne, worthy of honor and glory and praise, no matter what. Only ten days ago I had wept joy tears for the breakthrough in my body’s response this month — and how quickly I had let disappointment steal that joy.

Maybe these are the autumn moments of our souls. Where we’re getting ready to shed and to die, but somewhere along the way as we enter that place of brokenness and surrender, there’s a fleeting few moments of our most radiant beauty. 

Our souls shine bright with those vibrant reds and yellows … and then those colors fade and suddenly we’re bare. Not for lack of a life source, for surely those trees are still rooted, but to make way for a healthier, fuller tree in the spring time. Momentary deaths that yield multiplied life.

This is how our God works. He takes death… and He turns it to life. He takes impossible scenarios and makes them possible, defying every plausible mathematical and logical explanation. He breaks a few loafs of bread and he feeds thousands with it.

He breaks it and it multiplies.

Death yields life and brokenness produces multiplication, and suddenly the pain in our lives makes a whole lot more sense.

Maybe our tears in those moments water the soil of our souls. Perhaps the pain is softening the ground in which He wants to plant something. And maybe, even when the painful season of preparing the soil is over and the faith-filled uncertainty of the season of planting has passed… we still wait for the harvest.

That waiting space is not void.

Father, forgive me. How many times have I missed what you had to give to me in the waiting season because I was so fixed on receiving the harvest?

Maybe autumn is only a beautiful gateway to the place of being stripped and exposed so that we can live again.

Maybe brokenness is the state in which He most prefers us — ready to be multiplied.

Maybe life does start all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

But maybe that life only starts when we’ve been willing to die first.

So it all goes back on the altar. My dreams. My hopes. The deepest desires of my heart — even the good ones that are from God and for God. All His. He will resurrect them in their time. They fall like the autumn leaves to their death now, but only to yield something even more beautiful when He brings the spring.

And me? Well, my hands are free when I’ve laid it all down.

I always preferred to travel light.

The beauty of process.

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One of the things I miss the most about living in Tennessee is the fall. I used to love taking drives down back roads in Nashville when the leaves were changing colors. When I was in college in Arkansas, I’d drive across the entire state of Tennessee to visit my sister in Knoxville, talking to God and enjoying the beauty of His creation as it transitioned to another season.

Last week as we drove from Waco up to Lawrence, Kansas, I got to see those fall colors again. As we drove, I began to wonder what was actually happening scientifically to those leaves when they were so beautiful in the fall.

Trees spend the summer months going through photosynthesis and storing up food so that when the winter comes, they can rest. As they begin to shut down their food making factories to go into rest mode for the winter, the chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the green fades with the chlorophyll, we begin to see the colors of autumn that we admire so much each year — a color that’s actually been there all along, we just couldn’t see it.

We always want to say that the trees are dead in the winter, but they’ve really just gone into a state of rest. The wood part of the tree lives, because it’s rooted. The plant itself is always connected to the life source. 

But why do the leaves die? 

Leaves have to die and shed because over time, they’re damaged one of three ways: by insects, disease, or weather.

We’re pretty similar as humans. We have to go through this process of renewal from time to time, because we get damaged the same way the leaves do. Maybe it’s attack of the enemy (insects), or perhaps we’re dealing with disease (heart issues), or maybe it’s just life circumstances (weather). Whatever the case, we too need to shed some things off once in a while. It’s the only way to keep bearing fruit.

But through the process, we are always connected to the life source. 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” -2 Corinthians 4:16

…and even nature knows that the process is beautiful. Because God made it, too. We long to see the colors of autumn every year. The colors of renewal and refining. The colors of change. The colors that signify the coming of winter… a season of rest, that will spring up new life in the season to follow.