Fall in Minnesota is like Mardi Gras.
Actually I don’t know that for sure because I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but Fall is a huge event. A blazing last hurrah before THE DEPRIVATION of light and color and warmth for a long, long, time. Sounds like Mardi Gras to me.
When we left Minneapolis two weeks ago for Africa, the firey autumnal luster was fading but leaves were valiantly clinging to branches, reluctant to give up the fight and die for the long, long, long frozen season of dark.
Spoiler alert: they failed in their efforts.
Now, we return to the black crooked limbs silhouetted against a gray November sky. The leaves have lost the battle and lay cold on the ground. Twinkle lights try to replace the glow of harvest color and there’s a tug-o-war going on between those who want to start the Christmas carols now and those who don’t want to leap over Thanksgiving straight to the 24 hour holiday sales of the day after.
There are those who lump “THE HOLIDAYS” together, and those who resist, trying to separate “Now Thank we All our God…” from “O Come O Come Emanuel” from “Joy to the World” from “Auld Lang Sine”. It’s a noble desire to be fully present to God and others in each tune from Thanksgiving to New Years.
But what if we didn’t have to let go of Thanksgiving in order to be fully engaged in every other day. Every other holiday? What if the discipline of literally writing down every gift every day slowed us down enough to truly be present to all the individual graces? I wrote before that I think I’ve always been a thankful person, but what a difference the writing has made. Maybe because it’s a tactile and visual discipline. Maybe because I can look back and savor the gifts as I re-read them.
The holidays are often a season of depression and awareness of loss for many whose loneliness feels enhanced in contrast to the hustle and bustle of family activities and blare of forced musical cheer in the Malls.
The good news is that we have a God who says “Come to me”. No matter what. He invites our honest, raw cries of despair and anger. He’s big enough to handle anything we hurl at Him. But He also gives graces that can be quietly hidden in the mess. In some seasons, we may need to take time to focus and look more carefully, like hunting for Waldo amidst the chaos of the picture that is our life.
A text message from a family member. The raucous laughter of friends around a table. The cinnamon-y scent of candles. A cup of savory squash soup. The feathery soft of your bed at night. Naming these small gifts doesn’t make us any less honest about the pain we may be experiencing, but can adjust our heart rhythm like a cardiologist might do to get us in a healthier place.
In the comments below would you take a minute to name the gifts of your day that we might encourage one another?