Early fall can be a confusing time in the Pacific Northwest. Hail has been known to pelt down on my car as I drive home from work, while the sun simultaneously shines in my face and glistens the wet road.
I’m cozily wrapped in a sweater to fight the morning chill, yet by afternoon, I’m peeling off layers as the sticky sweat of summer seems to linger on my skin.
This time of year is a majestic paradox of stormy and beautiful, cold and hot, fast and slow, all mixed together. Patches of green, yellow, brown and hints of red, paint the landscape. The lawn’s grass still grows wildly as the trees begin to lazily litter their leaves upon it.
My family and I begin to find our rhythm again that we lost in the blur of summer. Back to school routines, shorter days, and the thought of a warm home-cooked meal, offer a welcomed permission to curl up in a blanket and crack open a good book.
Yet, the beginning of fall is hectic. Mornings are a repeated reel of breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, packing lunch, and heading out the door to catch the bus.
It’s a constant ebb and flow of keeping up our urgent, fast-paced schedules, while also finding the time to drink that cup of tea and bake fresh banana bread. I often figure out dinner on my way home from work and it’s all I can do to just get the kids in the bath before piling into bed, Yet, there are those afternoons where the clouds roll in beckoning us indoors for games and hot drinks. There are those mornings where a candle is lit, the sweatshirt stays on, and the second cup of coffee is sipped.
I find myself lost in the variety that early fall offers us. Stressed one minute, totally calm and relaxed the next, I’m as unsettled and undecided as the weather. One thing, however, remains constant among the changing seasons and that is God’s longing for us.
I heard a song recently called, “Reckless Love,” by I AM THEY. The lyrics of this song struck a chord with me so vividly, I’ve had it playing on repeat in the car for days. As the chorus echoes in my car speakers, I’m relieved at the reminder the song has provided me:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
The message in these lyrics that resonated with me is that the Father’s love is never-ending. It is not something we can earn or deserve and there is something extraordinarily peaceful about that thought. No matter the mistakes we make, how selfish we are, or how tired we might feel, God’s love chases us down and is given freely, without a second thought.
My husband and I sometimes get into this routine at night where we watch a show together but we are sitting in different places in the room. He’ll take the comfortable recliner and I always gravitate towards the end of the couch where I can put my drink, snacks, or whatever I am working on, on the table next to me. The other night, I looked up at him and realized that I really wanted him on the couch with me. I didn’t need him to come rub my feet or share my snack, I just wanted him near.
“Come sit by me.” I told him.
“Why, what do you want?” He replied jokingly. He came over and sat by me bringing his Costco-sized extra soft blanket with him. Nothing else had changed much except we were now in closer proximity, but It felt good. It felt better just to be by him.
Sometimes I feel that’s all the Father wants is for me to just come and be near Him. “Come sit next to me,” He beckons. “I want to share this space with you. I want to be near to you. I don’t need anything other than your presence here with Me.”
With the start of the school year, I cherish the times my kids and I share before bed (the sweet times, not the I’m throwing a tantrum because kindergarten is so overly exhausting and I just need to sleep ASAP times).
There’s a favorite story of ours, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming. In the book, the main character Mr. McGreely has a lovely vegetable garden that he has worked really hard to grow. But of course, there are rabbits that keep sneaking in and eating all his vegetables. The story has a very Peter Rabbit vibe to it.
So in attempts to solve his problem, Mr. McGreely builds all sorts of obstacles to block the rabbits from reaching the vegetables.
However, the determined “flop ears,” keep getting in to the garden. During this whole debacle, one part in the story describes Mr. McGreely as furious.
My 3-year-old son asked me one night, “Mom. what does furious mean?”
“Really angry.” I told him. “Mr. McGreely has worked really hard on growing his vegetables and no matter how much he tries, the rabbits keep getting in his garden and eating them.” I summarized.
“Oh.” John replied, his voice dropping an octave mid-word.
My dad and I share a passion for reading. He and I have passed books back and forth to one another for many years. He recently passed a book on to me called The Furious Longing of God, by Brennan Manning. In this book, Brennan describes God’s relentless and intense love for us and uses the term, furious.
Up until reading this book, I always thought of anger as the best synonym for furious, like I described to my son. But now, when think of fury, I think of the intense and powerful longing love of God the Father. Brennan says, “God is sheer Being-in-Love and there was never a time when God was not love. The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is originating Lover, the Son who is full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love.”
As I think of God in this way, it has transformed how I view this new season. Cold, frosty mornings with crispy yellow leaves hanging off tree branches and pink cotton candy sunrises are just skim off the surface of God’s beautiful love and longing.
After school the other day, my daughter Hadley pulled out four fall leaves from her backpack. They were small and a vibrant red color with beautiful scalloped edges.
“Hadley, these are beautiful!” I exclaimed. “Did you get these at school?”
“Yup.” She nodded with a grin. “Out on the playground. I thought you’d like them. “And look,” she pointed out, “ no rips, no holes, no tears. They are perfect.”
I’m not perfect. I’ve got lots of rips, holes and tears, but I’ve also got Jesus and his perfectly scalloped love and the Father’s vibrant, endless longing.
We have had a couple thunderstorms this season already, which seems a bit unusual in the Pacific Northwest. My son is deathly afraid of thunder. He has many three-year-old fears, which he would gladly rattle off to you, but this one tops the list. Not only do we need to lay with him during the night when there is thunder, he also needs to be held by us. He needs one arm around him or our body up against his. Sometimes, he squeals or whimpers when the sky booms and other times, he is completely still, too frightened to even move or make a sound.
I, on the other hand, love thunder. Thunder has always reminded me of the power of God and how mighty He is. It comforts me and reassures me of His magnificence. When the clouds roll in and the sky darkens, His fury, like that of the gathering storm, begin to reveal His greatness and bring me to a place of reverential awe. I’m reminded again of those lyrics and that He longs for us:
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
So let the end of September and the start of the fall continue to be a time of mixed up chaos and peace. Let it be a song about God’s never-ending love and longing for us.