Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrating the Brilliance of Him

I LOVE this time of year. I love it so much that I want to give it a great big hug. You know the kind- where you squeeze and squeeze and don't want to be the first one to let go because that means a little bit of it has already ended? That kind of love-hug. The feeling of Fall Romance actually starts for me in about late August. Why then, you ask? Because I begin thinking about September (which hosts the Autumnal Equinox) and so I consider August "Fall Eve." I look forward to all of it. I am the one who loves it when the Christmas decorations are in the stores before Halloween. Yep, I'm that person. I am humming Christmas carols- ok, not humming, full-on SINGING - them in my car in September. Why not? Who says we have to wait until after Thanksgiving? Are Jamestown settlers with muskets going to invade my Honda CRV and claim "Thou musteth not singeth hymns until after yon turkey meal?" 
I am celebrating the birth of my Savior! I will sing about that anytime I please, thankyouverymuch. 

(Besides, um, Who are we giving thanks to? Yeah. Case closed.) 

I end September by celebrating a dear friend's birthday, and then comes October. For our area we actually begin to feel a little of the effects of our planet moving further away from the sun in October. By that I mean that it finally doesn't feel like the outside is going to explode from the heat/humidity/haze of summer. Hurricane season has officially ended and the main threat is from the eventual nor'Easter that is going to blow through at some point this season. There's a hint- just a hint- of color to the leaves in October. Mornings are foggy and dewy and the sky is clear and bright. The humidity that both plagues and defines our climate abates, not altogether and forever for the season, but enough to allow our lungs to fill with crisp, clean air and, if you are blessed, just a hint of burning leaves. Halloween in Coastal Virginia is as unpredictable as it should be. Sometimes it's warm, sometimes it's chilly, but I do remember this from my childhood: it's always hot under a plastic mask! 

Finally November arrives. I actually enjoy going to the grocery store this time of year. No, really. I look forward to it in all its tacky, crowded, commercial mess. It is equipped with such an abundance of food/gifts/sundries that you would think we lived in an area that actually was going to see snow before Christmas! It's stocked so full you can barely get a cart through without knocking into a display of mixed nuts, fruitcake, aluminum pans or crated tangerines. There is a rack of calendars ranging from "I {heart} Bacon," to "Atlantic Coast Lighthouses," to "White Tailed Deer." (apparently they stock these racks regionally) And be sure to back up behind it carefully for there is an array of wrapping paper, bows, twinkle lights and gel window clings that are supposed to look like snowflakes. They don't.  Big, towering displays of cookies and cocoa. So cozy.

Beautiful, glorious, November. The leaves in my hometown reach their brilliant peak. The weather is almost always perfectly pleasant and the sky- oh the sky! The sunrises are quiet and soft, whispering "Good Morning" to the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The midday sun lights up the leaves like a million amber torches. I don't care how many times you see certain trees, they are still a fiery surprise on a November day in Virginia. And just when you think it couldn't get any prettier, the sun says "Good night" with brilliance and glory and no doubt at all about Who created it. Driving conditions are challenging in November. Deer are running and hunters are chasing. (mostly chasing down their prized hounds!) Leaves are falling across the road, billowing up as you drive over them and showering down all around you like a rust-colored snowstorm. 

       Big hugs. Big, squeezy, rocking back and forth hugs for November. 

Funny thing is, I used to ignore fall. I did. I plodded through life oblivious to the color, the miracle of God's portrait all around me. My mother never liked the late summer and early fall. It held painful memories for her and so she was always sort-of negative at this time of year. She loved Christmas, no mistake, and I think she liked Thanksgiving but, since she was so busy cooking, it was hard to tell. I guess I picked up on her lack of enthusiasm.  I always loved the mountains, but not living in them and never seeing them in their autumn glory, I never celebrated the color or the season or the beauty. I'm not sure when I did  begin to appreciate the splendor of it all. But I'm sure glad I did and I now see that it has everything to do with knowing Who created it. Amazing how our perspective changes as we grow closer to God and we begin to allow Him to change us.

It always depends on our point of view. 

I was finally able to see the Blue Ridge in what is known as "Peak Week" this year. My husband fulfilled a dream of mine (which he has had a habit of doing for thirty years, by the way) and he booked a stay in a cabin!  A precious little cabin! A dream for years and years- y'all just don't know! In the fall.  On a windy country road in the North Carolina Blue Ridge. One of my favorite places on earth. There is so much that goes along with all of this story and it deserves it's own "chapter," so I will not elaborate yet. The lessons I learned over a week in the oldest mountains on the continent could fill all the blogs. But there is one lesson that is just for today. For I was thrilled at the thought of seeing the leaves in all His glory! I was so excited that I wouldn't let myself even think about it. Seven year-old Christmas Eve kind of excited. That was me. 

The afternoon that we arrived in mountains was rainy and foggy. Really foggy. Foggy Mountain Breakdown stuff. The colors were there, shrouded and hidden like a beautiful bride behind a wispy veil. The next few days were rainy. I would not allow myself to be disappointed; I never really do allow that about the weather. I am sure that God has His reasons for the fog and rain and I'm sure one of them could have been that we would have been so distracted we may very well have driven off the side of Grandfather Mountain. Instead I just slid down it. But again, that's meant for another blog, another time. 

Through the course of the week the sun did peek out here and there. I kept waiting for the "aha moment" when I could see the majesty of the mountains, the fall color that I had dreamed of. It just wasn't really happening. 

Until we got in the middle of a range driving from Mountain City, TN to Damascus, VA. That's when it hit me. Up until now, I had been IN IT. We were so far back in the mountains that we were actually a part of it all. I was in the midst of the beauty of Autumn in Virginia. It wasn't until we came out and looked upon it from a different place that we could actually see the color, the beauty, the creation. 

was so overwhelmed I couldn't speak. 

I have a sister who is an artist. Oh, some people would says she is a critical care nurse at a major hospital in Florida. But make no mistake, she is an artist. She can sketch, paint, write, design, and she has a green thumb as well. Don't ask what happened to me. Still trying to figure that out. Oh, yeah, she can sing too. 

One of my earliest memories of seeing her work was when she was in high school. She had her sketchbook, a very large one, and she was using a straightedge and a protractor. I was curious because I had only ever seen her use her clay, pastels, and watercolors before. I watched her carefully align the straightedge on the paper, and make clean, simple lines angled so that they almost touched each other at the top of the page. Then she began to fill it in with images of bushes, trees, grass, and dirt. Suddenly the lines had become a road.

She told me she was currently studying perspective. 

Taking my hand, she took me outside and down to the end of the court where we lived. She knelt down beside me as we looked down the street. See? Perspective. 

(yes, I have been blessed with TWO amazing sisters who always took time with me and who always invested in me- I know how rare that is and I thank God for them in so many ways)

As I have traveled this life's journey, I have often recalled that lesson. I learned so much more than an artist's technique that day-- I learned to look at the big picture. 

Of course I was young and unable to know that at the time, but I remembered my sister's simple way of showing me that there is more than one way to look at something. That sometimes when we are in the midst of something we have to take a step back in order to see how I credit that lesson, and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life by opening my eyes to its application, with my ability to use sound discernment in the middle of a crisis, to sort out complicated details, and to sometimes find humor in an otherwise bleak situation. I also enjoy playing around with photography and looking at normal objects from an not-so-predictable angle. (That latter one may just be attributed to my weirdness though.)

Like when I look at trees glowing with the brilliance of fall. And when I look Christians. Are we glowing with the brilliance of the One Who created us? The One Who sustains us and gives us every good and perfect gift? 
The One Who lives inside us - are we shining and attracting the attention of others so that we can show them...Him?

Where is our perspective focused? Are we looking outward toward others in a caring and compassionate way, while still looking inwardly at how we can evaluate and eliminate anything that reflects Him badly? 

And are we so immersed in the midst of Him and His work that we cannot even tell where one ends and One begins? Are we so in awe that we are unable to speak or even draw a breath because of His overwhelming presence? I want to be. So desperately. 

As the season moves on toward that beautiful, holy night, I beg the Lord to allow my leaves to be on fire for Him. May the buds that form and bloom in the spring bring with them the promise of new life in Him. And may the Son shine through it all. 


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