October Blessings

I love October. It’s absolutely my favorite month of the year.

I don’t think this will come as a galloping surprise to anyone – I mean, LOTS of people consider autumn their favorite season. But for me, October specifically is my favorite, for several reasons.

And okay, yes, full disclosure: my birthday is in October. I remember as a kid feeling a kinship with others in my school grade who shared October birthdays. Later, I learned that my best friend from college has an October birthday, and my brother Jimmy and wife Christy got married in October. Of course, once you get past the age of 10 or 12, people stop making a big deal out of your birthday. Still, I enjoy mine. But that’s not the only reason I love October.

Getting to October means that we’ve survived another Texas summer. This is not a small thing. Summers around here are brutal, and September is nothing but a tease. The calendar may say that summer is over, but really, it isn’t – even in late September, the highs can easily reach the upper 90s or more. But October is a different matter – there are still warm days, to be sure, but the evenings and mornings have a delicious chill about them.

Another thing I like about October: postseason baseball. “October baseball” means that only the best teams are still playing. Playoff baseball is a thing of beauty – even more than the regular season. Big players make big plays in big games. And there’s a reason nobody in baseball is ever nicknamed, “Mr. April.” (Thank you, Drew Bowen!) As I write this, this year’s World Series is about to begin, and I’m ready!

The changing season also means some changes to the menu. I love a good pot of chili, and there’s something about good chili – especially venison chili – that is warm and comforting and satisfying. I don’t know why we don’t eat chili when the weather is hot – we eat other soups and stews – but chili is the ultimate cold weather comfort food. And I know, at some point soon, I’ll be making a pot of it.

Or chicken and dumplings. Or Guinness beef stew. Or something else warm and filling. There are plenty of delicious, hearty foods to enjoy with friends and family this time of year.

October means the holidays are coming, but not here yet. We have the excitement and anticipation of those good things, but don’t yet have to put with the craziness of too many events and too little time to do them all. I can, and do, look forward with a child’s excitement to the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I love the colors of fall: red, orange, yellow, golden brown. Even though we don’t have the brilliance of New England or Appalachia (or even East Texas!), it’s still nice to see the changing colors of leaves and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

In some ways, autumn is like a parable. The changing colors can inspire us to glorify God by taking up a new interest and exploring new opportunities to grow. The loss of leaves can remind us that sometimes we need to let go of some things, to allow old habits and destructive patterns drop away.

October is a reminder that nothing is permanent. Seasons change. Life is transitory. Make the most of every opportunity. We can choose either to be resentful that something is gone, or we can give thanks that we were able to enjoy it for a while. Savor it – appreciate it – then say, “What’s next?” and move on.

Summer’s over, winter’s coming, but for a few more days, October is here. And I’m happy about that. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

On Thankfulness

2014-08-06 07.38.59And then there was one.

The house next door to us was hauled away a few days ago. The move had been in the works for a long time. The neighbors who used to live there have been gone for five years, and the house has long since been sitting empty. The movers put it up on I-beams some time ago, and we knew it was just a matter of time until they hooked up a big truck and took it away.

But it was still a bit of a surprise to drive up Hickory Street the other day and see a big empty lot where a nice house once stood. So now our house is the last one left on our part of North 17th Street.

Now, that’s not an altogether bad thing. The Texas Tech Health Science Center, just east of us, has announced exciting plans to expand their operations, to open a new School of Public Health and to build a new student center, which will certainly be a good thing for those studying there. We need people trained in public health issues, and goodness knows, we desperately NEED the nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers that will come from there.

The neighbors that used to live next door have moved a few blocks away, but we still see them, and the kids still participate in our activities here. (And the cats that used to live under the house there – well, I’m sure they’ve found new homes as well!) But it’s still sad to see an empty lot where a friend’s house once stood. And it’s sad to think about the good times and fellowship we had with those around us, who are now gone.

Life goes on. We learn, fairly early on, that change is part of life. We cannot hold on to the present, no matter how hard we try. Nothing is this life is permanent. Neighbors move away – sometimes new neighbors move in. Jobs end. Children grow up and leave home. Parents grow old and die. That is the ultimate reality in this world.

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that no good thing in this life can be permanent – that’s part of God’s design. If we mistake the blessings that we have here for eternal joy, then we might forget that we were meant for higher, greater things. Blessings are meant to encourage us, to strength us, and yes, to BLESS us, but no blessing in this world is eternal.

So when a neighbor moves, or a house is gone, or any other blessing that we have been enjoying is taken away, we have two options. We can either become angry, sullen and depressed that it is gone. Or we be can be appreciative that we had that blessing to enjoy for a time, and give thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, trusting that He has even better blessings in store for us.

God give me the grace to choose to be thankful.