By Ann Mann
October is such a beautiful month. I have always loved this season of change. As I was driving back from a meeting in North Georgia, I noticed that the leaves are already putting on a show. Tucked in between the evergreens are every manner of deciduous tree, and they are all changing.
The beautiful burgundy of the oak leaves, or the yellow leaves on the birch trees, it is hard to choose a favorite. They are so beautiful I want the changing leaves to stay a little longer. But once the process starts, there is no stopping it. Soon, those same colorful trees will be bare.
As I admired the leaves, I was reminded of this season of change brought on by the loss of my husband. He was born in October. He would have been 67. We were married in October, 39 years ago. Two more firsts in a season of firsts that I was not ready to face.
So how do you cope when faced with a reality you did not choose? For me, I find comfort in my faith. There was one particular morning I simply did not want to get out of bed. Every morning, I am faced with the reality of my loss. So, on this morning, I was close to giving in, and pulling the covers over my head. But hiding is not the answer.
On this same morning, I had appointments to visit three of our homebound members. My sweet friend, and partner in ministry, Cyndy Roberts leads what we call our “Friends at Home” Ministry. For those who can no longer attend church, we bring a treat several times a month, along with a visit. We were slated to visit three of these friends on this particular morning.
Something amazing happened. As I sat with these friends, my heart was strangely warmed. I felt God’s presence. As I tried to comfort them, I found they were comforting me. The grief will never leave me, but I am choosing not to let it consume me. By turning my eyes, ears and heart outward, I was no longer consumed by my inward pain.
It is a choice I make every single day. Some days it is harder than others. Just this past week a colleague lost her daughter to aplastic anemia. This sweet young woman leaves behind a husband and three young children. And at the end of this same week, one of my best friends lost her mother to a sudden heart attack. Wave after wave of grief.
Then you see reports on the news about the utter devastation in Florida from hurricane Ian. It would be easy to think God has forgotten us. But nothing could be further from the truth. God remembers, and God acts. A great example is Genesis 8:1, where it says, “God remembered Noah.”
At this point in the story, the earth had been flooded. Noah and his family, along with all the animals needed to sustain creation, were on the Ark with no land in sight. Then God remembered Noah and sent a wind to dry the flood water from the face of the earth.
In the same way, God remembered me. And calls me to remember what he has done. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to take the weight of our sin and sorrow. In the last hours of his life, as he ate the last supper with his disciples, he reminded us that we are called to serve others in his name.
In using our hands, our feet, our words to live out God’s love for the world, we find the secret to surviving this changing season. It is in giving that we receive. As we remember this life-giving truth, may it move us to action. It is this spirit of giving that helps me not only survive but thrive in this season of change.
(Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org,)