A Time Before There is Winter

It’s the second week of advent and edging closer to winter. It’s been a beautiful autumn here in the Northeast, the one season that I have missed the most. Autumn is beautiful in San Francisco mostly because it is the only time in San Francisco when there is consistently warm weather and an abundance of sunshine. Autumn in San Francisco means great concerts, a fantastic outdoor music festival (Hardly Strictly Bluegrass) and plenty of opportunities to laze about on the beach. It’s a warm welcome after a dark, foggy, and chilly summer.

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There is something magical that happens once the leaves begin to change. The apples become ripe for the picking and the squash is ready to be harvested. The temperatures begin to drop and there is a recognizable crispness in the air.

Of all the beautiful sights and smells of autumn, the changing of the leaves is my favorite part. Essentially, autumn’s falling leaves is death and hibernation. It is the end of blossoming buds in preparation for winter’s frost. Autumn kindly transitions our body and mind for winter. Imagine what a shock it would be to our system if we did not have autumn. We would be entering into below zero temperatures from 90 degree heat. We have the beauty of autumn to ease us into the harshness that comes from biting chill of winter. This transition from green blossoms to barrenness reminds us not all seasons last forever.

It is fitting that I entered into a transformation of my own during the autumn. I left San Francisco in a bit of hurry due to unexpected turn of events that unraveled rather haphazardly. I found myself leaving San Francisco the way I came, with just a few suitcases in hand. This transition was not an easy one for me. For starters, I was walking away from a parish community that I grew to love and friendships that were just beginning to blossom. I was also an adult moving back into my parents home and it reminded me that even though I left, the world kept spinning. My nephews and niece have grown up to become their own people and my parents are a bit older than they were before. Life kept moving forward without me.

One day this fall, I sat outside on the porch with my morning coffee and looked out at the trees behind my parents’ house. I said a silent prayer asking God what I was supposed to do while I waited for my new life. Then I remembered something Fr. Mike Schmitz* said on one of his videos  for Ascension Presents, ” What is the task you need to be doing today?” I sat for a moment and pondered what I might do for God today as opposed to just sitting outside waiting for winter. What can I do now? That day, all I did were simple tasks like making sure my Grandma didn’t get lost while taking a walk (she has dementia), taking the dog out, praying, looking up scholarships for graduate school, and helping my mom set up her wi-fi. Whatever task we have at this moment whether it be helping at home, studying, paying the bills, loving our spouse- that is what we are called to do.

Fr. Mike speaks in another video  about discernment. In this video he talks of the Annunciation of the Birth of Christ to Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke One ( very seasonally appropriate) and how, once the angel revealed to Mary that she will become the Mother of God, she said, once she asked clarifying questions, “let it be unto me according to the scriptures” and then the angel was gone! See, Mary understood what God was calling her to do because being a Jewish girl, faithful to her God, she was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah that would predict the birth of Christ.

Fr. Mike explains that, like with Mary, God is with us. Our certainty is not that God will spell out every step of our lives at every moment. No, our certainty is that we can trust Him and know that He is with us. He gives us autumns in our lives, so that we may be prepared for winter.

While I pondered in silent prayer why God had me in this strange life transition, it was revealed to me that I may not be where I want to be, but I am exactly where I need to be. This autumnal time in life has been a period of prayer, contemplation, and preparation. As I will be studying theology in the Winter, these past few months have given me time to dive deeper into my faith now, so I will have a solid foundation for my studies later. This is how God works. Use this time in your life NOW to prepare yourself for what God wants you to do in the future.

* Fr. Mike Schmitz is the chaplain at Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at  UMD (University of Minnesota Duluth) and also serves Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth.  You can find some of his homilies at http://bulldogcatholic.org/homilies-archive/ and the videos he created for  Ascension Presents  can be found on the Ascension Presents station on You Tube. There’s a lot of great material on Ascension Presents and I encourage you all to check it out!

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