Falling Leaves in February

Where I’m from, the leaves fall in the Autumn. Colors bright, they cling to branches, adding texture to the sky.  Then the first snap of cold sucks the life out of them and they fall, browned, to the ground.  It’s predictable, it happens every year around September.

If you’d been spying in our backyard today, you would have seen two mowgli-children jumping in an enormous pile of brown leaves, making snow angels and disappearing in the glory of them as the hungry heap swallowed them whole.  It’s February, this is not when leaves should fall.  To be honest, they probably did most of their falling in January and have been napping for a few weeks untouched.  However, this does not change the oddity.  Did they have amnesia in September?  How long had they been orange and red and glorious?  Had I missed out because I hadn’t expected it, hadn’t opened my eyes to see it?

As I loaded black bags brimming, it struck me that seasons are rarely predictable.  Sometimes buds pop up through the snow, sometimes leaves fall in February.  We have been in a transitional season of life here and we keep saying, “next week should be quieter”, “next month we’ll find routine again”.  But today, today, while raking dead leaves rotting, I realized I had missed their moment of splendor.  I heard the words of an old friend, “spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you” (A.Dillard).  No, we can’t take time with us.  How often will I need to learn this lesson?  How many days will I spend rushing through the busy-ness and miss the changing colors?  The train of my to-do list derailed, I jumped in the pile with my laughing, dirt-covered children, hands reaching for me as I stared up through the leaves at specs of light – giggles in the now.  “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.”  (A.D.)

This, this living in the present, soaking in the waterfall of moments and noticing everything enough to give thanks for it, is not easy.  Discontent gnaws our soul and makes a whirlwind of our time.  Bitterness tamps our sin deep and hard, ready for a tiny spark to set off an explosion.  Worry steals our joy and leaves us thirsty.

God is the Divider of the firmament and He specializes in souls.  The fourth-day creation was good.  God spun light in the darkness, creating seasons and days and signs and years.  God, the Eternal Fountainhead of Wisdom, says time is good.  There is exactly the right amount of it and we are to let it mark our days, our seasons, our years, our worship.  Time is not busy, it is not rushing – I am the busy one rushing through it like a gorilla through a field of lilies.  When (or if) I stop and turn around, I wonder at the broken stems.  This is not embracing the gift of now nor being grateful at its goodness.

I confess the discontent, the bitterness, the worry that has climbed slowly like ivy up my heart, tendrils gripping their way into my soul.  And I receive the renewing streams of forgiveness that bring me to the ocean of the present.  These moments, this day bursting with life and light and color, this is the day which the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.  In this rejoicing, I find that time is amplified, its presence sweeter, its memories deeper.  This is the right season, whatever falls or buds in it, and this life of grace is good.

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The Fragrance of Christ to God

Burn my soul, dear God above, that all dross this day may banished be. I offer here myself a sacrifice, blinded by the blemish that I have become. The sin which so easily entangles has done well its work in me, until from the depths I cry unto Thee, knowing full well that Thine is the only hand that can make me clean. Yet lingers a fear, a shame that downcasts my soul – have I the faith to touch Thy hem as a woman years ago had done? This is the fire of which I speak: a cleansing flame by Spirit driven that returns me to the dust from which I came. But in my dying I am raised, for spotless Christ proclaims, “She is in Me and I in her – My blood has made us one”. The fragrance now raised before the Throne is that of mingled flesh, as all sin, shame and spot are burned. My Husband has once again presented a spotless Bride to Thee.

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Oh would that it did end there! But you, my whoring soul, are so like Israel, that day after after day this same must be done. How great is my desire to be true, faithful, and pure and yet how great my shame as once again you find me selling my soul to another. How well Thou knowest Hosea’s grief! I beg, therefore, that through judgement and patience Thou would teach me to be a Wife. I seek to be not a daughter of Eve but a daughter of Mary. Through the power of Christ, may the incense of this handmaiden’s faithful prayers be greater than the fragrance of my sacrificed sins. And in this may I be a pleasing aroma, the Fragrance of Christ to Thee.