Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous outside, (in the 60’s near the end of November in Kansas!) so Megan and I headed out to the Overland Park Arboretum to enjoy what will probably be one of the last nice weekends (weather-wise) for the rest of the year. We took out the Canon T2i to snap some shots, and came up with some pretty nice pictures, if I do say so myself… 🙂
I think I kind of got caught up in taking pictures- we would be walking, and all of a sudden I would see something and go tromping off down a trail or into the underbrush to catch ‘the shot.’ Now, I am still trying to get the hang of photography, so out of the hundred or so I took there were probably about 15 or so that I would consider good.
Anyway, it was such a beautiful day that we ended up walking around for about an hour and half, just enjoying all the beauty around.
As you can see from some of the pictures, most of the leaves are off of the trees, so we missed out on the changing of colors that can make the Arboretum spectacular in the Fall. However, as we were driving back, I mentioned to Megan that I thought the Arboretum was such a cool place because no matter what time of year you go, it has a beauty all its own in each of the seasons. As I was getting these pictures ready to put online, I was thinking about that conversation a little bit more, as well as a scripture passage that was read in church today. It comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Our lives have seasons of their own, and truth be told, most of us would rather always live in the summer than have to go through the winter. If we are fortunate, we live in the prime of life where the world is full of green and aflame with beauty, but then we inevitably feel the chill that comes upon the air in autumn, a harbinger of winter’s fast and unceasing approach. As you notice the trees near the end of November, you can still see some leaves clinging to the branches, as if they are trying to stave off what will eventually come. Sometimes I feel like our lives feel the same way- we go through the autumn (whenever that may be) when the life that once flowed so rich and free begins to ebb away. Try as we may to hold on, our leaves will eventually fall, only to be covered by the snow in winter.
Depressing, huh? As I was contemplating this, I was reminded of the beauty I saw yesterday. While autumn signals death in a way, in that the leaves changing colors means that the life is being withdrawn from them, there is yet a beauty that can be found in that. I don’t wish to strain a metaphor, because I do not think that the hard things we go through in life or even our eventual deaths are necessarily a ‘good’ in the sense that it is better for us to die than to live; rather, I was struck by the idea that as the seasons of nature give beauty an opportunity to emerge in unexpected ways, so the seasons of our lives give us a chance to demonstrate beauty as well. Jesus told us that ‘in this world you will have trouble,’ and it is true. Whether it comes from without or from within, suffering is an aspect of our fallen world that, much as we may try (and should try) to mitigate it, is still an ever-present and inescapable reality. Yet within that suffering, within that winter of life is a chance for beauty to emerge.
The Arboretum in the winter is silent and cold- the sound of birds has long since been lost to the winds that drift through leafless trees. Yet within this silence is a serenity, is solitude. There is a difference between being in solitude and being alone. To be alone is to be without hope, to have solitude is to have peace within one’s self. In the scripture verse, St. Paul tells us to give thanks in every circumstance. For him, this was no platitude, for he himself had experienced immense suffering. Yet for him, even being by himself in a solitary cell was not to be alone; in it he found solitude for he knew and trusted in God, whose presence knows no bounds or bars. Within Paul’s winter, the beauty of faith could be found and seen ever so clearly against the cold and lifeless backdrop of his circumstances.
My grandfather who recently passed away likewise demonstrated this to everyone around him- even as he struggled through the onset of the winter in his life, losing the life and vitality that once had been borne in his body, yet his spirit did not diminish but grew in spite of everything. His life and faith actually blossomed like the spring had come. And in fact, for him it truly did. As I remember him, some of his final words to me are one of the most beautiful memories I have of him.
So as I sit looking out my window at the leaves that are barely clinging to life at the close of autumn, I am reminded of how God gives us opportunities in every season of our lives to be beautiful and to find beauty. Suffering will come, and to some extent it cannot be escaped. In those moments St. Paul reminds us that suffering is a chance for our faith to increase, for the beauty of faith that God has poured inside our hearts to shine out the clearer, no matter how cold the air might be or how dark the skies above. As St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
With that, enjoy the photos!