Autumn in Elmer, Louisiana conjures images of red International Harvester combines and green John Deere tractors, alternately bringing in the crops and churning under the earth. Journeying the country roads in my mind, I witness the stands of browning corn and the fields striped with the deep chocolate ribs of soil ready for its post-harvest rest. Mild weather means my windows are down and the scent of fall pounds my senses. Driving along in my memories, I notice the subtle color change as October becomes November—the summer greens mellow into the yellow-studded golds of the pecans and sweet gums. Every now and then, a soft orange or deep purple sneaks into view, but predominantly, the autumn hues of this earlier time are softer, gentler somehow—if I didn’t take care and look carefully, I would miss the in-between of summer and winter. The fall of my youth surprises the observer with quiet color rather than bursting into vibrant splashes of more northern autumns that feature in the calendars on Mom’s kitchen wall.
Looking back, the leaves did change with the season, just not in the obvious ways of my Carolina neighborhood where all the crayon colors can be seen as I drive along the streets. My car’s motion makes eddies of the fallen leaves as I pass, and the sight fills me with the happiness of change.
Change. It truly is inevitable, and my mind goes to sweet people who have moved into glory these past weeks. What treasures their friendships were! How much fuller my life is for having intersected their lives.
Casey Medlin, athlete, community servant, Mills Home alum, 105-year-old centenarian—I never came into his presence without feeling the joy that poured from his grateful spirit. Gerald Phillips, farmer, mechanic, Cameron Boys Camp benefactor, honorary grand to my daughters—unfailing kindness and counsel to all who came his way; I miss his warm smile and open door policy. The mellow season gives me space to grieve at the passing of dear ones, my sorrow falling with the leaves in soft hues gently releasing their hold on branches.
This season, I am surprised that the year’s Carolina color carry me to faraway Louisiana memories—in a most challenging time, our state’s current autumn takes on that mellowness of another time and place. Remembering pleases me. I allow my mind to wander as I near the Mills Home campus of Baptist Children’s Homes in Thomasville. Maw Maw’s mums and the wild ditch flowers, Paw Paw’s row of crepe myrtles opening the drive up to his front door are the same festive hues of the old trees gracing the entrance to campus. The tiny leaves that spread along the pavement look like those that fell into Dad’s Dodge pickup from the chinaberry tree overhanging the driveway. And all the falling colors in front of my car as I turn into the parking lot take me back to the lane of the church where I first trusted Christ with all the changing landscapes of my life.
Harvest and autumn go together like past and present. Remember those hymns we all sang at this time of year? All the songs poured from thankful hearts recalling the bounty the Lord God sends from His earth, worked by human hands it’s true, but needing the Creator’s touch to provide all that’s needed. In my home congregation at New Hope Baptist Church, the singing was not so much melodious as powerful and strong, sending our thanks way past the rafters and into heaven’s own wide spaces. Our grateful spirits knew from whence our help came, and we heartily belted out thankful notes.
This season looks different from recent years, and the approaching holidays might feel out of the ordinary, more quiet perchance––mellow. But with hearts full of praise, we will gather in spirit and return thanks to the Author of every good thing. Autumn ushers in change, but we trust in an unchanging and almighty God!
Homeword is written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor