Shifting Seasons

Japanese Maple at the Bryce House

The past week has brought about a clear indication of the shifting seasons, particularly related to the fall foliage. We are in a definitive state of transition from fall to winter. Just last weekend, I drove to Youngstown a couple of times — and I was genuinely wondering if I was wrong about my previous assessments of “peak conditions.” It seemed like the landscape was just getting fuller, and more beautiful (except for the maples, which were past their prime). At the very least, the fall foliage along Interstate Route 76 was “near peak” last weekend. Today, though, I drove that same stretch of highway, and the fall foliage was clearly post-peak. Everything that remains is a rusty, dusty, orange. And things have thinned out dramatically in many places. It’s clear that momentum is building towards winter.

Towner's Woods with Chad

It feels like November, even while the calendar says it’s still October. I’ve started to feel the first twinges of my November Blues again, too. At first, I wondered if it was just post-race fatigue. But there was a moment on Sunday evening, after I’d just done a bunch of work to clear the deck for Life Group Coaching, when I just felt wiped. I didn’t want to have people over to my house. I didn’t want to try lead a meeting. Mostly, I just wanted to crawl in bed and stay there. Marci caught a glimpse of my face around that time and asked if I was doing all right. And it became clear in that moment that she saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.

My face was flat. My eyes were vacant, as if I was watching the seasons shifting, darkness rolling across the land. Fortunately, I was able to brush off that moment and move on, without incident (it ended up being a lovely evening with the Life Group leaders). Still, I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of the seasons shifting.

Japanese Maple at the Bryce House

I noticed the darkness again on Tuesday morning. I didn’t want to try and lead all of the H2O Kent meetings that we had scheduled for the day. And I just felt overwhelmed for a moment, getting dressed in my bedroom. I powered through and did all right. I stayed engaged for almost all of the day’s business. Even when we covered more challenging topics, I didn’t crack despite the seasons shifting inside my heart. Wednesday was better, emotionally, but that’s when a weather system rolled through, bringing literal darkness, stripping the forests of their most colorful foliage, and soaking me to the bone as I went about my normal morning meetings. It really started to feel like November then, though, and it made me feel more and more certain that it’s coming for me.

The Japanese Maple in our driveway is the last splash of vibrant red in our neighborhood. It’s beautiful. But it’s just started dropping its leaves, and I’m amazed to notice how quickly the small red stars shrivel and fade. Once disconnected from the tree’s vascular system, they transform into a crumpled ball of russet-brown within twelve hours. No exaggeration!

Japanese Maple Leaves in Various Stages of Death

Similarly, my heart hangs in the balance, ready to crumple and disintegrate… if I let myself become disconnected. But I don’t intend to become disconnected. I intend to lean into my friends and family. And most importantly, I intend to lean into the Lord like I’ve learned in previous seasons of depression. A lot of times, my November Blues can bring some of the most meaningful spiritual insight. God becomes increasingly real to me as I walk with Him through the darkness. “Even when I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil because You are with me, Lord.”

If your thoughts ever bend my direction, as the cold November rains soak the earth, as the winds blow the last of the leaves from the trees, please pray for me. I’m not freaking out about the shifting seasons, but I’m taking the transition seriously. And I’m walking by faith.

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