I spring up as we tumble into fall

It feels as though summer just began, and already we are tumbling like windfall apples toward autumn. The trees are beginning to turn to their scarlet brilliance, the farmers are rushing to gather last crops of hay before the hard frosts.

The plants that spent all summer growing strong are leaning over, turning their rusty brown, and lying their backs on the cool earth. It is the time of year for bonfires, sweatshirts and unearthing the deep down quilts from their summer closets. The front room is littered with bins of clothes as we switch our wardrobes over in preparation for the long Wisconsin winter.

This year, the butterflies are lingering, monarchs still blazing orange in the long grass and little yellow and blue swallowtails looking as though they had just cracked the chrysalis. The two kittens still home with us are learning to catch mice, although they'd rather play with their prey than eat it. We who hate shoes are still hanging on to our sandals, wearing long pants but refusing to shutter up our toes for the year.

My faith works in opposite of the seasons. This is the 4th autumn of cancer. I am still fighting it. The side effects of treatment drag my body down, but my mind and my soul are ever growing, ever more strong, ever more seeking. I remember the first November, when I went into radiation hibernation for a week, then spent two with my grandparents - them now gone ahead to heaven and my parents working hard to make their home into a vacation spot for the generations. They call it Sk√łnnestad, Danish for "beautiful place". It lies in their sleepy hometown on the coast of Lake Superior, and they paint it in muted grays and blues, choose yellow comforters, lay maple flooring. A new beginning for a new November.

I won't leave for cancer scanning again till January this year. Last year, just before the holidays, and it was too much - too much to think about cancer so much, too much to be away from family. This year, we wait an extra month. My tumor markers have stayed stable all year, and will be checked again in October, in the height of autumn. My night sweats and hair loss tell me something is awry, but so far I receive no answers. By the time my scan comes around, I will be deep into my first hockey season since I had my first baby. I buy larger breezers to accomodate the extra inches, and skate hard till my lungs burn down the road where there is fresh tar.

God tore me down to my foundation this summer, a long road of construction I've been walking since last October, peaking this summer with hospital stay after hospital stay to treat the sudden onset of a black hole of depression unlike anything I've weathered in the past. I am slowly coming alive again, my laugh returning, my anxiety waning, my fingers able to make music again. While the earth sheds life for sleep, I am shedding dark for light. I wear a shirt too tight just because on the back it says, "I'm alive like never before". It's true. God is putting some amazing structure onto my foundation, and it looks nothing like my faith of before and more and more like Christ. In stripping me of my Christian "home" - my church - He is showing me that He and I are inseperable, that He will never strip me of His presence. Even when I could't look in the mirror for fear of the hatred I had for my reflection, He loved me. In the most tear-filled nights, He soothed my soul. He allowed me to come to the brink of myself, and now He is pulling me back into His arms.

And so, this autumn, we lift our arms in praise, we sing to Him in thanks, the tears flow for joy instead of sorrow.
...bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)
I read this passage at a child's funeral - the Caleb we named ours after. I see his parents, who came through what no parent can imagine, and they are indeed a display of His splendor, almost ten years later. All this we've come through - my cancer, Amelia's brush with death, her ongoing special needs, the loss of our child, the chaos of infections, my doctoral studies, depression, anxiety, financial trouble - He is teaching us to lean on Him so hard that He can graft us on, never to be separated, part of His planting for the display of His splendor.