Autumn often comes to us in a kindly manner and wrapped in a glorious kind of beauty. There is a mercy in the way that Autumn begins, and it is a mercy I want to always take note of because it is easy to miss, and easier to forget. Spring and Autumn are my two favourite seasons. All my favourite colours are contained in them. But they both contain my favourite light. These two seasons – late Spring and early Autumn – are what I most identify as Heaven-like and they both make me long for Home. Spring is the deep promise of what is steadfastly coming. Resurrection. The promise of new life coming back from the dead. The restoration of beauty to the land long bereft of green and flowers. Late Spring is the assurance that we have survived another winter. It is lighthearted merry-making kind mercy marked by a certain kind of light. Light that awakens dormant plants into life again and sings them into growth. Late Spring is the dressing of Joy coming. I was born in late May and my husband Peter and I call that time of year in Colorado the magic hour of the seasons. A season of what photographers call the “golden hour” – morning and evening twilight.
Autumn brings a different kind of golden hour, a kindly light meant to hush plants and trees to sleep, and light offered as a reminder of a darkened days coming. Autumn is beauty mixed with mercy as shadows lengthen. Autumn’s mercy is a faithful and tender reminder that the seasons change, and it is now the season to prepare.
Autumn is the season for gathering in.
It is the kindly time given to us to gather in our harvests from summer gardens and crops, from work performed in the heat of productive days, and to gather in our loved ones into our welcoming homes. The days for working fields are coming to the appointed resting time. It is time that historically we filled our storehouses with the goods that we had grown, preserved, and put aside for the season when nothing would be growing or harvested. Autumn is the season we gather in thanks for the good things gained in Spring and Summer, and the mercies we have been given throughout our labours.
This year I cannot help but think that as we harvest the fruit of whatever our ‘summer’ labours have yielded, and as we gather in our loved ones into the warmth and comfort of our safe homes before winter sets in, there is another gathering in we each need to do. We need it for ourselves and for each other. All of us can see now the deepening twilight in the world around us everywhere, and just like preparing for the certainty of approaching winter, we now need in this season to gather in evidences of light. When winter comes, the cold and the lack of green growing things is burdensome. If we live in places where snow falls and accumulates, it can be a struggle. But the hardship of winter is not the cold, greenlessness, or snow. It is the Dark. It is long dark nights, the shorter days, the less cheery light. And it is, of course, the waiting. When the darkness is great, it is difficult to remember light or the effect that light has. It is all too easy to forget the meaning of Light or its power. For many of us, the darkness of winter, grief, or circumstance isolates us and makes us feel alone. Whether in a season of nature or the circumstances around us, the great fear when dark sets in, is that it will never leave and that the Light will not come back. Ever.
Here is where we find perhaps the sweetest mercy of Autumn. Right here in this season is where we are kindly reminded to gather in what we need to sustain us during the coming months when the earth must rest and we must wait. For as much as we need food and warmth and water, surely do we need light. Light. Autumn is the time to gather in evidences of light and keep them just as earnestly as we keep food in our pantries, and fuel for our houses.
There are a thousand evidences of light in this world, no matter how grim and grave it is. We see it preserved in the books we love, in the gardens we tend, in the music that carries our souls, in the art we craft, in the prayers we offer. Nowhere do I find, however, evidence of the light so purely and beautifully expressed as I find it in the faces of those I love ~ family, friends, kindred kind, and brave souls carrying courage and good cheer into a world groaning for deliverance.
Sometimes it gleams brightly like a star in a black sky through the message of encouragement at a critical moment. Sometimes in the faithful comings and goings of a spouse doing the “ordinary” good things of tending a marriage and home without applause. Sometimes it is the unexpected generosity of others coming alongside us and sharing our labour when we expected to carry it alone. Sometimes it shines glittering piercing shadows through someone’s laughter and good humour. Sometimes it gleams out at us in the midst of bleak daily news in a story of kindness or heroism. And sometimes it twinkles like diamonds and laughs at the darkness through brave and beautiful works of art, works often rooted in heartache and crafted through tears.
As I am gathering in my evidences of light this Autumn and carefully putting them into the storehouses of my life, I give thanks for such proofs that “the Light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1.15) I see evidence of this Light in my beautiful daughters and how generous, brave, and kind they are as grown women, each one doing the gracious and good work that they were made to do. I see evidence of the Light in my good husband who faithfully carries out his responsibilities for the sake of others that he would so much rather lay down and put behind him. I see evidence of this light in the ever astounding and humbling generosity of friends who give of their time, skills, and resources to make beauty for others as an offering of courage. I see evidence of light in the way beloved friends and fellow Cultivators generously made the video “Cultivating Oaks of Righteousness” which we are sharing publicly with you in this edition Cultivating. I see it in the kindness and willing collaboration given by a friend I have never met who painted for my eyes to see what I could only describe to her. Amy Grimes captured something in this painting only the Lord could have known that I longed to see – the exact faces and different races for a tiny circle of friends lighting their candles from a single point of flame and in so doing, making their shared light burn all the brighter. I see evidence of that Light gleaming through every written word, every offered image, every act of tech skill that brings this edition of Cultivating to life. I know the bravery, the sacrifice, the distractions, and the difficulties facing each of my Cultivators. These ones are my joy and proof of Light even as the world darkens. The beauty of their growth, the sweetness of their camaraderie, and the comfort of their faithful commitment bear witness to me every day of the Light I know I need to sustain me when I feel lost in the dark. Each one bears witness to this:
“So Jesus spoke to them again, saying I Am the light of the world; whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)
As Autumn gathers in around you, friend, I urge and encourage you to take stock now of where you see evidences of light in your own life. Where do you see witness borne to it? How might you gather that into your own storehouse and shelter? How might you also bear witness of it to another in need? How might you best nurture and tend the evidences of light in those you call beloved?
May your Autumn be full of evidences of light and goodness, tales of courage, and good cheer. May your storehouses and hearts be full. As we gather in together in this good season, let’s watch for wonder and be ready for it when it comes!
The featured image is of the beautiful third installation painting from Amy Grimes titled “Gathering In” for the commissioned “Lighting Candles by Starlight” series. It is shared here with permission – but please note: it is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced in any form.
Prints will be available for purchase soon!
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.