AUTUMN


I knew I was getting older the last time I went to Forever21 and the sales associate asked me if I was lost and then called me ‘ma’am’.  I quickly darted out of the store, pretending like I had wandered in by mistake.

Then, I heard on K-Love that women who dye their hair blond look older.  I immediately quit dying my hair.  I decided to find out what my natural color was, since no one really knows.  That was about six months ago.  I’ve been really obnoxious about it too.   “I’m going natural,” I keep telling people.  “I’m going to quit spending so much money on my vain attempt at looking young and give to the poor.”

So, I’ve been working the ombre style until Michael changed the 3 out of 4 burnt-out light bulbs in our bathroom.  I was so thankful until I looked in the mirror and noticed millions of white hair attached to MY HEAD!!!!  Ok, not millions. But definitely more than two, which might as well be millions.  PLUS, less than 12 hours later, Michael and I were driving down the road in the daylight and I made the egregious mistake of looking at myself in the mirror…..and I noticed a wrinkle where I’ve been smiling too much.

Obviously, I

1. had a nervous breakdown.

2. apologized to the poor.

3. scheduled a hair appointment.

4. stopped smiling. Ever.

Wrinkles and grey hair?  What in the youthful world is happening to me???

Am I growing up? So much evidence suggests ‘no’!  In my profession, I am still a teeny tiny infant.  As a mother, I have little bitty children.  I’m not yet responsible for a turkey at Thanksgiving.  I still have slumber parties with my friends.  I even know how to hashtag….

But. I guess I have a ‘profession’. I am a mother. I do make the dressing for Thanksgiving, and the world has to be realigned and meticulously organized and prepared for a slumber party to actually happen.

Maybe I am growing up?

We have had the most gloriously spectacular autumn here in North Carolina.  The trees have been the most brilliant shades of crimson, gold, and fire orange that I ever remember seeing.  My super smart science friend says it’s because we had a relatively dry September and some frosted but not frozen mornings.  I’ve nearly run off the road staring at/Instagramming them with my (hip) (smart) (i)Phone….because I’m young like that. Michael reminded me as I was admiring them on a family outing, that the the chlorophyl has been keeping them green since spring, and that just now their true colors are beginning to show.  That as they come into autumn, they are really coming into their fullness, into the pinnacle of their magnificence, into the truth of what they were created to be.

mapleleavesturning

And then I remembered my grandmother talking about the autumn of her life.  She shared about what a full and beautiful season it was.  And then she shared about how she knew it was slipping away and how she was easing into the winter season.  She talked about the peace she had as she braced for the winter.  She didn’t fear it, she embraced it.

Before the sun finally sets, the frost begins to squeeze the color from the blue of autumn’s skies and the brilliant colors of spring and summer turn from scarlet red to softer hues of gold.  As age begins to wrinkle our skin and greys our hair, we look forward to living our final chapters.  As we join the vast caravan that marches toward the west, we shall first behold the winter “sunrise” which brings with it tiny hints of lovely pastel shades.  When winter sunrise begins to paint its dawn upon our lives, we shall not fear what lies ahead. 

She was so wise.

Our culture would have us to believe that the summer of our life is to be preserved at all costs, and, by the way, at all costs is the precise and only motivation.  While I am still far from shopping in the “Ladies” section at Belk (sorry, but the only way I am buying a sweater with a turkey  embroidered on it is if I wear it as a joke), I am coming to the realization that there is real value in each season of life.  Could it be that ever so softly, ever so slightly, my autumn is creeping upon me?

Besides the physical calamities I am enduring, I’ve noticed other changes too.  Ten years ago if you had asked me to give you a 10 year plan, I would have gladly blurted out my pretty little plan tied with a pretty little bow.  I have learned the value of being open to God’s plan. I have learned the value of sitting at the beautiful feet of my elders.  I am learning the value of saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with my priorities.  I am learning that some things matter, and other things, simply…..don’t.  I am learning that I have so much to learn.   Maybe, ever so slightly, ever so gently, my true colors are beginning to show.  Maybe, despite my initial repulsion, I can find beauty there.  Maybe, as I come into my own, I can even embrace it….the way my Grandmother embraced her winter.

We will quietly stand and behold the majesty and wonder of a sunrise that will lead us beneath the open sky, under its glorious arch to walk among God’s creation and all His peaceful works.  ….together we can share the calm that dawning brings and welcome release from relentless busyness.  Between the winter sunrise and sunset, we know that Jesus will be with us. 

Because the wisdom of her words, which she shared through her wrinkled lips, made her more stunning and more beautiful than any attempt at holding onto the evidence of her youth.

Wasn’t she beautiful?

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Frances, easing into winter

(Quotes by Frances Pierce, from her autobiography Why Not Us?, the chapter entitled “Winter Sunrise”)

(Image of Photographic Oil Portrait by Gaye Frances Willard. For more information on photographic oils, click http://www.portraitartistnc.com/GWbrush.html)

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BECOME

I remember being in the concrete driveway of your old house. You had effortlessly set up an entire play land of activities with hula hoops, giant homemade bubble wands, a crazy sprinkler, and a little kiddy pool. You were quietly keeping order while sun bathing, and eventually you stood up, picked up a hula hoop, and began to hula. You had managed to get at least 4 hoops going simultaneously. One was around your waist, one on each arm, and one around your neck! Suddenly, we all wanted to hula too!

‘I want a turn, I want a turn!!’ we yelled impatiently.

‘These hula hoops have been laying here all morning, and no one has paid them any attention,’ you responded in your calm, firm way, which we didn’t dare question.

Those hula hoops were boring rings of plastic before they were set in perpetual motion, at which point they became the most fascinating things in the driveway. The same scenario played out with the bubbles, as you took the rope and dipped it into the homemade solution and created the most giant bubble circle I’ve (still) ever seen.

And we’ve been watching you quietly create a life full of beautiful masterpieces with your gifted hands ever since.

I can’t express what your constant presence in my life has meant. For sisters, you and my mother couldn’t be two more different people. She with her exuberance, you with your calm spirit. She with her everyone, you with your each one. She with her drive, you with your patience.

But you have the same Joy, the same Peace, the same Love. Because you know the same Savior. And it is invaluable to behold the wisdom you both possess and to see the manifestation of the Word through both your unique lives. She with her vision, you with your voice. She with her unwavering encouragement in a culture of despair, you with your unwavering testimony to Truth in a culture strife with lies. To witness what God can do no matter your personality, no matter your size (you’re so tiny), no matter what.

What if you had never used your gifts? What if you had never sung your songs? Made your cakes? Painted your masterpieces? Written your children’s books? What if you had never become what God created you to become?

The little 8-year old girl who gave her life to Jesus while reading The Merriest Christmas Ever wouldn’t be who she is. And so many others who have been touched through your music and your art wouldn’t understand our Savior the way you have helped them to understand Him.

And I wouldn’t be who I am either. I’ve needed to see you stand for Truth. I’ve needed to see you take a risk to follow a dream. I’ve needed to see you pay attention to things. I’ve needed to watch you patiently hold up your hand so still and so high, a sea gull would brave the decent for a morsel of food. I’ve needed to see you watch the animals in wonder and in awe. I’ve needed to see you create something wonderful from something plain. (Lord knows I needed you at my wedding. The dress, the flowers, the cake, the music, is there anything you cannot do??) The lessons you continue to instill in my life are plentiful and precious. The hours we get to spend over coffee, over Russian Tea, over the driveway, over nothing, are some of the sweetest moments I’ll know.

Grandmother once told a nine-year-old Jonathan to fix a mistake on his picture by making it into something new. She said, “Gaye always just makes something new out of a mistake. That squiggly line can become anything you want it to be. That’s what Gaye would say.”

Thank you for allowing Him to make beauty from ashes. For becoming the beautiful, wise, amazing, artistic woman God created you to be, despite being a merely a human in fallen world.

I love you.

GW_Gaye