The Closing of Autumn

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The first-frost smells of slightly frozen autumn are transcendent. Last night’s temperatures brought all but the heartiest of this year’s bounty to an end; yet when the first rays of early morning sun warm this frozen world, the result is a feast for all my senses. The fresh chill in the air exhilarates me as I draw it deep into my lungs. A carpet of frozen leaves crunches beneath my feet, releasing the sweet fragrance of decay. It is magical, this first frost.

Welcome to the close of autumn.

I sit with him this morning, the creator of all this, breathing it in. We sit on my front porch, drinking tea, listening to the unmistakable sound of gentle wind rustling through dried leaves, breathing in their sweet, tangy smells. I share with him my thoughts on fall: the joys of cooler temperatures, the beauty of autumn, the celebration of harvest. But also, my dislike of endings, my struggle against the inevitable coming of cold, dark days. I confess my preference for all that is green and growing, hopeful and alive.

He listens patiently, then reminds me of his side of the story. The creator of autumn is enthralled by the harvest of his handiwork. The blue-gray skies, raindrops that spontaneously appear in the air, the surplus of gourds, pumpkins, and burnt-orange mums. The warmth of sweaters, the comfort of sipping hot tea. The smell of decaying leaves—which I myself just described as transcendent. The brilliant colors of life in this harvest season. The gratitude of abundance, of fulfillment, of enough.

In nature, nothing is wasted. Fruits and vegetable may be harvested to provide life for another creature, but even if left to rot on the vine or in the field, they will fall and feed the soil, the worms and fungus recycling them back into the ground, readying them to spring forth into new life. Nothing is ever wasted or destroyed: only transformed.[i]

If this is the way God acts through creation, mightn’t we expect him to work this way in our spirits as well? All our efforts, disappointments, victories, and failures—in his Kingdom, nothing is wasted. He is taking it all, shaping it, forming us, steadfastly working toward his own harvest festival in a world made new. Our Gardener can cultivate gratitude in me, even—perhaps especially—in the seasons I try to push away. For it is when I need him most that I remember to seek him . . . and find him.

Is this why he exhorts us to rejoice “in all circumstances”?[ii] We walk boldly toward the close, choosing gratitude, believing that God’s ultimate harvest will be justice, wholeness, redemption, shalom.

I sit quietly, taking it all in—the sights, smells, tastes, feelings, and sounds. I know he is making something new, even in this season of harvest, this close of autumn.

Because he is always, always making things new.

You’ve been reading with Catherine McNeil from All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in this Messy, Abundant World. Get a copy or read a free excerpt of chapter one here. Head over to to get to know Catherine and her writing on faith, motherhood, and many other beautifully messy topics.

[i] Paraphrase of a translated Antoine Lavoisier quote found here:

[ii] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

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