Friday, September 10, 2010

Autumn, How I Miss Thee!

"Walking home from work, I inhaled the crisp Fall air and immediately a familiar smell entered my nostrils - freshly fallen Autumn leaves. The scent left my nose longing for more. I wasn't satisfied. I took another deep breath. I closed my eyes and was instantly comforted. I know it sounds silly, but there's something about that time of the year. Autumn is my favorite season. I love all the special things it brings. The weather cools to just the right temperature - you can wear flip flops and a sweatshirt for the perfect outfit; it is the perfect weather to walk arm in arm with a loved one and not overheat. There are unique joys: to twirl with my arms open under a tree as cascades of leaves fall around me like a fountain, to walk down the street chasing after crispy leaves that are being blown by a cool breeze just to crunch them under my feet, to take beautiful pictures of the transformation of the earth as it prepares for a cold winter, to enjoy the smells of a summer's past and behold the future. For most of my life, Autumn has signaled the start of the school year - a time of new beginnings and of learning.

But growing up, school wasn’t always as beautiful as the Fall. I was glad that I was smart, but being smart was not my primary desire. I wanted to be the beautiful girl who was popular, who all the boys liked, who could get all the other girls do to anything at the drop of a hat because they wanted to be like her. My childhood didn’t exactly happen like that, though. I grew up the gullible girl who people took advantage of for laughs. I found myself doing whatever I could to fit in and stay close to the people everyone thought was cool. I rejected people who felt as lonely as I did to avoid the sting of rejection they knew. During middle school I was made fun of almost every day for one thing or another – my weight, my hair, my clothes, the way that I spoke – any imperfection kids could find. I found myself feeling useless, hideous, and worthless. Suicide was an abiding thought that seemed better than whatever I was going through – better than the loneliness and the pain. Like many teenagers, I thought my life meant nothing. And it seemed there was nothing there to prove me wrong.

That is, until high school. My freshman year, I ate lunch with a girl everyday because we would otherwise both sit alone. We got to know each other pretty well and after two years of inviting me to church, I finally went with her. It was there that I met someone who changed my life – my youth pastor. He told me that I was beautiful and special and loved. He gave me hope. He affirmed my worth whenever he had the chance. This adult, who knew little about me, took the time to show me that I meant something to this world, that my life was significant, and that I was made to do something great."

These are the opening paragraphs of the essay I used to get into graduate school. It's funny that as I end my stay at UCF, I was reminded of these words I wrote. Mostly because I miss Autumn. It happens to be my favorite season (thank you very much). I'll take it over the brazen heat of Summer and the penetrating chill of Winter. Though I have grown to really enjoy living in Florida, this is one thing I miss dearly. Bonfires and hay rides and corn mazes; hot cider with powdered donuts and pumpkin carving. * sigh * There is certainly something special about that time.

Here I am, in an Autumn three years after I wrote this essay. I'm in my internship at a high school and I have an amazing opportunity to live out the love that I've been freely given. It's been given by family who, as they sought the heart of God, gave me what I needed even when I didn't desire it. It's been given freely by my old therapist, who cared about me even when I didn't believe people would love me if I didn't give them what I thought they needed. It's been given by my friends who have been there for me even when I have felt like I was too crazy to love. Ultimately, it's been given to me by a God whose name is Love. A God who created me and loves me for all of who I am, not just when I'm doing well. It is this love that draws my heart to love others. How can I not love others and give grace that was so freely given?

I don't get to experience the Fall I wrote about three years ago in its fullness where I am right now, but I am very aware of the truth in these lyrics: "All of my life, in every season You are still God. I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship!" In a place where it can be hot until December, and I always say the seasons are "hot" and "very hot," I am grateful to have experienced such differing seasons in the past. I know that no matter how long I might feel in the dark, Winter will someday end and hope comes in Spring rains. I know that even when Summer heat stretches until October, I will soon feel a cool wind and be able to chase leaves down the street joyfully. Seasons will change, but God's love is the kind that transforms people and seasons. It's the kind that will continue on forever.