a contented heart · I am blessed · looking ahead · this is where it's at

What We Lose in Flowers, We Gain in Fruit: My Back-to-School Wish

“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” – Samuel Butler

Shopping pencils and pens, sweaters and jeans.
Making lunches and long car pool runs.
Crisp sunny days, frost hanging on night air,
Geese in the sky, combines in the fields.

Fall is a cozy time of year. I like it.

Except for adjusting back to the school routine. And losing summer. But most especially for losing a chapter of our lives.

Each year, August and September make me sentimental. I’m coming to recognize, even plan for that heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach when the night air has an unmistakable chill and the first leaves begin yellowing and fluttering down.

Becky Thompson said it well when she wrote it’s like when you call children in to get ready for bed and they say, “‘Momma? Can we play still? Do we have to go to bed now?’ […]

“There’s something about being told that we are out of time to make us want more and question how we spent what we had.

And on this night before school starts, I feel like I can hear the same words in my heart. As if time himself is standing on the back porch of summer shouting, “That’s it! You need to come in now! Another season is ending.” And I’m asking… “But does it have to?”

It’s so true. I want one more day – one more month! – I want to grab Time’s hands and push them back, hold them there. I want just a little more time. A little more time to hug my children, to whisper secrets, read stories, play games and hear their laughter.

In another spot-on post, Becky writes, “NOBODY… NOT ONE PERSON… told me that on the day I sent my baby off to school I would issue myself a test with one question and a pass/fail grade.”

“Did you enjoy the time that you were given enough?”

That, no doubt, is one of the deeper concerns behind my autumn misgivings. Time is moving on — soon, soon my children will be moving on — and there is a deep ache we as parents have. We ache to get it right, to do and be and provide all the things.

None of us, however, has the ability to provide all the things. That power is God’s alone. I do, however, have the ability to practice acceptance and contentment in this season. Today, on the threshold of another autumn, another school year, another year of childhood slipping away, I can accept what was and be content with what is.

And, just like so many other circumstances in life, there are two sides to the coin. Time’s passing can be seen as an inevitable loss or we can see the potential that lies ahead.

In his book Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom provides a wonderful illustration of this through his and Morrie’s conversation about aging. I love Morrie’s perspective on it.

“Weren’t you ever afraid to grow old, I asked?
“Mitch, I embrace aging.”
Embrace it?
“It’s very simple. As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
Yes, I said, but if aging were so valuable, why do people always say, “Oh, if I were young again.” You never hear people say, “I wish I were sixty-five.”
He smiled. “You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.
“Listen. You should know something. All younger people should know something. If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”

Maybe it could be put this way too: if we’re always battling against our children growing up, we’re always going to be unhappy too. Perhaps our unsatisfied, unfulfilled lives reveal our lack of acceptance and contentment.

Can we accept that we did the best we could? Can we be content with the time we’re given? Can we look ahead with faith and joy?

Maybe we can learn from the changing seasons – from the vivid colors of autumn and the fluttering leaves falling. As the saying goes, autumn, like spring, is simply a reminder that change can be beautiful – that letting things go can be beautiful.

I echo this quote from Dodinsky, “I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked at the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.”

I hope I can zoom in on the good stuff and all that lies before us in this back-to-school season.

The family shopping trips for school supplies – with a stop for pumpkin spice doughnuts and apple cider. Making chili and applesauce, roasting marshmallows, collecting leaves and carving pumpkins. More time to read stories to my preschooler and pursue my own interests.

I hope I will remember how privileged and blessed my family and I are to have good health, to belong to a wonderful community, to have dear friends and family, and to attend a private Christian school.

I hope I will remember that every passing season, each passing year is bringing us closer to Heaven. I hope I will stop and take note of time’s passing so that I will reevaluate my life and prioritize the things that truly matter – and cherish my loved ones in a new and deeper way.

I hope, as autumn comes and flowers die, I will focus on all that I gain, on all the fruits of this season of life.

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