November 2007

Dear sisters and brothers,

While we’ve been blessed with a mild autumn and many trees are still beautiful in their fall finery, we’re a short time away from bare trees and full darkness at 4:30PM. I know there are GOOD reasons why we have Thanksgiving in late autumn after harvest time, and historical (and theologically symbolic) reasons for celebrating Christmas when we do, but today it feels as though we have weeks of holiday preparations to help distract us from the darkness and chill as winter closes in. As for me, I’m not ready to move on to holidays yet. What does this time of year have to teach us?

I spend a lot of time looking at trees in autumn. We have one tree in our yard that sometimes holds on to its dead leaves through the winter. My horticulturist husband tells me this is one reason this type of tree doesn’t always fare well in our winters. Those leaves mean that the tree can be broken down by strong winter winds more easily, plus they hold snow and ice, weighing down the branches. This demonstrates that in difficult circumstances, letting go can be the way to survive. I don’t know if Francis was looking at the trees when he learned that possessions can weigh you down and hold you back on the path to holiness, but I suspect nature at least reinforced the lesson he learned from Scripture.

Another aspect of nature’s lesson is the line from Ecclesiastes, "To everything there is a season." My lesson from the trees is great for fall and winter; the trees that drop their leaves in summer are not surviving, they are dying. How do we discern our seasons? As I am firmly in "middle age", I feel increasingly called to let go of things that were - and are - good, and were - and often are - important to me. At this point in life, I believe that I am being asked to put some things down so my hands and heart are free to pick up something else. What that something else is, I’m not sure yet. I feel confident that I’ll know it when I see it, but in the meantime I need to be like the trees in autumn, letting go of the beauty of the past season and waiting patiently (or not!) through the winter for the renewal of spring.

My parents would tell you that I do not easily let go of anything! I remember multiple occasions when they had to insist that I stop reading and rereading some favorite book, until I had experienced something else they wanted me to try. I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t ultimately appreciate what they forced me to try… but it wasn’t easy getting me there! The Gospels assure us that God wants more good for us than even our earthly parents, so I have to trust that the Father has good in store for me, as I wait "in between" the good of the past and the good of the future.

The shorter days of this time of year signal all of nature to prepare for winter. We humans try to shrug off the signals and continue with our daily routines as if the seasons don’t matter...but they do. Between now and Advent, we can give thanks for all the good God has given us, while discerning what we may be called to let go of. Then, in that time of preparation, we can set aside the things that would weigh us down and make it harder for us to answer God’s next call in our lives.

May God grant you blessings at Thanksgiving, and may you continue to rejoice in the wonder of the Incarnation…………………..Vickie