Fall

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Fall. It’s a time of new beginnings as kids head back to school after summer break. It still stands out to me as a turning point, even though I’m no longer numbered among those who are returning to their backpacks and pencils, school buses and cafeteria lines. I think I will always consider this time of year to be one of new starts, even if I’m not moving on to another year of school. I’ve left behind the days of shopping for school supplies and new school clothes, but I’ve hung onto the feeling of wanting to begin again.

I adore fall—the beautiful, rich colors, the warm drinks, the leaves crunching beneath my boots, cozy sweaters and scarves—I love it all. Okay, I may resent the colder weather a little bit, but bonfires and hayrides and trips to the apple orchard make it well worth it. And the fact that the cooler temperatures come around whether I want them to or not reminds me that I’m not in control, that I have to choose to make the most of what I’m given and be grateful for each season (of the year and of life) as it comes, because no matter how endless it seems, it won’t last long.

Life would seem too monotonous and mundane without having anything to strive for, without any signposts to break up the year and remind us to set a new round of goals and ambitions. Many people think of resolutions as only an annual event, a New Year’s tradition. But why limit our reflections upon the past year and hopes for the next one to a single occurrence every twelve months? As the leaves begin to change color and the air grows crisper, I find myself considering once again what kinds of change and growth, what new starts, are needed in my life.

I am grateful for this season and the way it reminds me each year that I can have the opportunity to start again, to turn over a new leaf, to begin a new chapter. I choose to continually challenge myself, not with the mentality of never being good enough, but knowing that there is always some room for improvement in becoming the best version of myself.

As I break out my jacket and boots, I’m reminded once again that this season is a fleeting one– it seems it’s halfway gone almost as soon as I realize it began. All too soon, frost will be forming on the grass and stores will be filled with Christmas music, luring people into the mistaken notion that they need more stuff in their lives to be happy. Instead of falling prey to that way of thinking, I will pause to reflect upon everything I am already blessed with, knowing it’s more than enough. I’m choosing to take this opportunity to recognize the brevity of fall and life as a whole, to see the need to cherish every moment, knowing each one is precious.

As the hours of daylight grow shorter, my time becomes an even more valuable commodity to me. But in preparation for the holiday season that will all too quickly be upon us, I will choose to slow down and savor the sights, sounds, and smells of fall while it’s here, and I encourage you to do the same. May this be a time filled with the aroma of apple and cinnamon, the crunching of leaves and crackling of fires, and the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage as you take a moment to ponder the greatness of life in all its changing seasons.

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Learn by Doing

Although I wrote before about breaking my ties with perfectionism, it’s still something that permeates my daily life. I’m more aware of it, for sure, and sometimes even have the strength to combat it. Most days, I have to I remind myself it’s okay to sometimes be content with “good enough” instead of “perfect,” to see life as more of a journey of progressing towards my goals than always having to do a stellar job at everything, to extend myself some grace for my mistakes, and to try new things.

Today’s post from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy hit home for me, as she talked about her own struggles with perfectionism. She suggests adopting an outlook of learning by doing, seeing any outcome as a success, instead of setting yourself up for failure by expecting perfection at every turn. In a practical sense, this kind of approach looks like not agonizing over decisions, paralyzed by fear of making the wrong choice, but being willing to experiment with things, knowing they may or may not work out, and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe that’s really what we should be aiming for anyway– perfectly okay. Not perfect, but perfectly okay. Perfectly imperfect. Perfectly genuine. Perfectly human. Perfectly beautiful in all our flaws.

I could try to paraphrase Anne’s words, but I wouldn’t do them justice. Take a moment and head over to her blog to read her encouraging entry about banishing the need to be perfect. You’ll find yourself nodding in agreement as you read about accepting mistakes and failure, a much healthier approach to life, and be both uplifted and challenged to revamp your approach to life by the end. Enjoy!

One Step at a Time

I’m a planner. Ask my friends and family. I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing. I like to have it all organized and planned out so that I can get as much done as possible. Knowing what plans I have or events are on the calendar helps me figure out what else I can get done.

But I’m learning that I don’t have to have it all planned out. When I have a really defined long-term plan, I get too far ahead of myself. I get too far ahead of God. I reach a point where I no longer need to rely on Him for provision.

Instead, I fool myself into thinking that I have everything worked out for a while, all my needs provided for. Things inevitably don’t go the way I planned, of course, often causing a whirlwind of futile attempts to set everything to rights by my own strength. But the things in my life, right or wrong, are beyond my control sometimes.

In order to get me to open my eyes to the fragility of my plans, emptiness of my dreams, and selfishness of my heart, God allows me to encounter situations that challenge my self-sufficiency, reminding me that I can’t rely on my own plans and provision.

When our landlords told us they were moving ahead with the construction plans for the house this fall, my roommates and I were taken by surprise. The timeline had been shortened more than we had expected, and we were left with more questions than answers as we began to survey our options.

I kept telling myself we had plenty of time to find something, since we were planning on renting again, and postings didn’t go up too early in advance. I also knew from previous experience that it’s hard for me to be content with my current surroundings when I have a new place that I’m looking forward to. I get too far ahead of myself, dreaming about what I’m going to do with the new space, forgetting about the place and people currently around me. I wanted to steer clear of that this time, making sure I didn’t let the glittering allure of the next stage of life detract from my enjoyment of the place I was already in.

I knew God would provide a place, and as things seemed to move at a snail’s pace while the days flew by at warp speed, it was a comfort to know that we had a back-up plan of moving back in with our parents. But my sister and I recognized how inconvenient that arrangement would be for everyone involved. We trusted instead that we would come across the right place at the right time, even if it meant loosening our expectations and learning through trial and error, both of which we did by the time the search was over. But we knew we had to be faithful, trusting in His timing, knowing that He’s never late and seldom early. He provides for our needs for today, not all of our needs for every day all at once. He doles them out in smaller portions to keep our eyes trained on Him, to keep us close to Him. And, boy, did we have to stay close to Him during this experience, taking things just one step at a time.

My sister and I just signed a one-year lease for an apartment not too far from where we’ve been living. But I have absolutely no clue what life looks like beyond that. It’s a blank slate. No five-year plan for this planning-happy girl. That’s both exciting and frightening for my Type-A brain, but I’m trying to wrap my head around it. It’s an adventure. It’s my adventure. It could go in any number of directions from here. And that’s a beautiful thing.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Learning to Let Go

Letting go. It’s far easier said than done, isn’t it? I, for one, have never been good at it. I want to hold on as tightly as I possibly can to the things that mean the most to me, and, frankly, even to the things that don’t. Letting go of anything is hard.

Have you felt fatigued from holding on too tightly for too long? I have. I’ve reached a point where I came face-to-face with my own stubbornness, seeing clearly for the first time that I couldn’t hold onto everything, and that willingly letting go is less painful than having things taken from me when I choose to hold them too tightly.

When I refuse to let go, it’s as if I’m saying the things I have right now matter more than what I might get if only I were willing to let go of the past and move forward. You can’t receive more blessings when your fists are clenched around the ones you currently have. When you open your hands and choose to let go, you are then free to receive abundantly more.

I have seen this concept more clearly in hindsight in my present circumstances. The biggest blessings have come to me when I have let go of the control I had on a situation, stepped back, stopped striving to make things go my way, and just trust that God will work it all out in His timing.

I worked incredibly hard to find a job for after college graduation, and went months without finding anything even remotely promising. I was getting more and more bitter as graduation drew closer, despite saying that I was trusting God to provide. It’s abundantly clear to me now that I wasn’t trusting Him at all; I was working to make it happen on my own. I took a part-time job when I felt I had hit rock bottom, just to make some money until I could find something better. Because I was so burned out from months of job searching, I decided I would take a break and temporarily be content with my part-time job to recover emotionally. Shortly after that, I got a call out of the blue which quickly led to me getting a full-time job– one that I wouldn’t have been able to get on my own. As soon as I let go of my plan, I gave God enough room to work His.

I have a tendency to work really hard to try to get things to work out in a certain way, praying that the Lord’s will would be done, but all the while basically just asking Him to bless my will instead of submitting to His. I have my own agenda, and I have gone through life like I can make things perfectly fall into place by sheer willpower and effort of my own making.

If you haven’t reached this point in your life, learn from my experiences with it: you can’t make it work out your way. Sure, you might get what you want, but it likely won’t be as good as you thought it was going to be, and you might have missed out on something far better in the process because you were so tunnel-visioned on what you thought was best for you. In doing this, we blind ourselves to God’s better offers for our lives.

He came that we might have life, and have it to the full. What makes us think that the things we want are better than the things He desires to give us? Yes, sometimes we want the same things He wants for us, but I encourage you to be willing to let go of your plans and remain open to the idea that He might have something far better in store for you than even your wildest dreams. And that’s pretty amazing.