Red, gold, burnt orange, and toffee-colored leaves. Denim fleece-lined jackets. Plaid shirts. Pumpkins. Gourds. Cinnamon apple cider. Pumpkin-spiced lattes. Bonfires and blankets. Thanksgiving. It's not surprising fall is a favored season among so many.
A time to start slowing down. A time to reflect. A time to be thankful. A time for family.
But what if this fall season finds you in a valley, and the beautiful yellow, red, and orange leaves feel like they are swirling around you out of reach? While others laugh on hay wagon ride through the apple orchard, your life feels like raking up unending dead brown leaves only to have them re-scatter across your lawn.
How do we in these seasons as Christ followers practice, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?
Since the valley of brown leaves is where I am finding myself as I write, I am digging down under the brown leaves to remember what has helped to regain peace and a thankful spirit. Hopefully some of these will be good reminders for you as well.Keep an eternal perspective. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19-20)
Breathe in slowly. Exhale slowly. Repeat several times. Picture blessings and beautiful things that make you happy as you breathe in. Picture the disappointments, hurt, stress, or pain leaving your body as you exhale. Picture Jesus walking away with your burdens. "For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you'." (Isaiah 41:13) "Come to me, all you who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
If you can, bundle up and take a walk outside. It releases those wonderful feel-good endorphins walking in God's beautiful creation. "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number, living things both large and small." (Psalm 104:24-25)
Remember that God made each of you wonderfully and one-of-a-kind. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:14) You have a purpose, even in this dark valley.
Do something that fills up your bucket, even if you can't spend a lot of time at it right now. What does that look like for you?
Keep a gratitude journal. Rewind through it during times like this.
Take one day at a time. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:27, 34)
We were never meant to do life alone. Sometimes we offer our hand out. Other times we need to grab onto someone else's. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
Pray. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)
Even on the darkest days, one thing remains true: God is always good. Reflect on his ways. Write down his qualities. Celebrate his faithfulness. Praise him out loud. Off-key is just fine or find some praise music to sing along. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Some day we will be in the presence of our amazing Creator and our Savior. We will be reunited with our loved ones. What a day of rejoicing that will be! "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)