Appreciation for life

written by Andrea Bowers

Sigh…

This is my favorite time of year… (looking wistfully out the front window staring at the naked trees and the yellow grass).

It used to be my favorite time of year because my birthday falls in early November, just two days after Halloween. As a kid, it was the best thing to me to be able to keep the party going at least through the weekend. Costumes. Sugar. Friends. Need I say more? I think not…

When I grew a little older, those things were still fun but of course, not the same. Birthdays were celebrated differently, Halloween was celebrated differently, and I was a different person. My priorities had developed and I grew to love this time of year for the changes it brought more than the amount of sugar I was allowed to consume.

I know, I know, change isn’t really something that everyone loves but I have been fascinated with it for a while now.

Change isn’t always easy, but to me, Fall is an easy change to handle.

In California, where I grew up, the environmental changes were less visible but still felt. Darker nights, cooler weather, greener grass, warm winds, school, and anticipation for what was to come…family gatherings and Christmas! All wonderful things to look forward to.

We moved to the Utah desert when I was 15, going on 16, and there were changes there too if you looked for them, but if you didn’t look, they were easily missed. With exception to the darker nights, colder weather, and the giant mud puddles after a day (or night) of rain.

After graduating from High School and spending the summer in California with my friends, I moved to Provo, UT to begin college.

I moved to this thriving little college town in August and was just one of many little buzzing bees that made up this industrious little city. So many changes were taking place for me at this time and so much growing up was being done, that I hardly ever looked around. My job was to get from point A to point B and being so new in the area, that took all of my energy.

One day I realized, to my great astonishment that my apartment was literally at the base of a mountain. This occurred to me after I’d moved in and gotten situated and If I’m being truthful, I don’t think I noticed the mountains were even there until one morning in late September/Early October, almost two months into the adventure! I was so focused on trying to learn to navigate my new life, I really hadn’t looked at the whole place.

This particular morning though, as I walked out of my apartment, after a rainy night, I would’ve been blind not to notice these mountains, standing in all their glory right at my porch. I felt them there, the same way you feel the presence of someone standing in front of you before you look up.

So, not wanting to ignore them, I looked up, and stopped and caught my breath. They were absolutely picturesque this cool wet morning. All of the dust had long since settled, the world was saturated with water and color. The rocks were dark grey with white marbling, there were tufts of forest green on the mountains. I saw clouds sitting halfway up the mountain as pure and white as cotton balls pulled horizontally, just suspended there in the air.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, never had I witnessed something testify of God’s power as beautifully as this mountain standing before me. Never had I been so close to something so spiritual and yet so tangible. After that morning, I decided I’d begin to look around a little more as I traveled, not at the city streets but at God’s creations hiding in plain sight.

Paying attention to small things increased my wonder and my awe and my appreciation for God and of the seasons. I found that I’d have to restrain myself from droning on and on about this little tree that lived near the river that was dropping its orange leaves all over the park and how beautiful they looked right before they fell. Or boring my audience by telling them about a bird that captivated me for twenty minutes while I ate lunch outside. I suppose I began to feel so small in this world with so many of God’s creations and as time has passed, that feeling of wonder has only increased, especially during season changes, and for me, especially during fall.

These days, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that God would let me live here among these interesting creatures, in this beautiful place, that he would even trust me to be a steward over them. The fact that he considers me as precious as a lily and a sparrow delights me and weighs on me. Can I be as gentle and brave and beautiful as a lily who, in its own small way contributes to everything within its sphere, giving it’s all until it’s last paper leaf falls? Can I be as courageous and cautious as a sparrow as it seeks out it’s daily bread? Can I be as true to God as a tree, always reaching toward heaven, trusting that it’s food, it’s leaves, it’s sunlight will come, and if not, God must be ok with that and time and lack will only take it home?

I think I can learn and try and work and pray and that God helps me through all of it, just as he does with all of his other good creations and to Him, I am so very thankful for this understanding.

I am thankful for this time to experience this Earth. I realize that every day is a gift and a blessing to me and I try very hard to remember that as I work through my day’s worth of curriculum, whether it be to learn how to love better, forgive easier, think of myself less, or look to him in trial, he gave me the day and trusts me to manage it.

I think I thank him every day for the heart that still keeps its rhythm and the lungs that still bring in life-saving air and let out dangerous carbon monoxide, for a clear and ever-expanding mind, a willing spirit, and for the Savior that brings me peace and rest in the face of this weary world.

I try to remember to thank him for my body, it’s pretty good at getting up and getting things done and I know that’s a privilege I may not deserve but I’ll take with gratitude each day and try to show him thanks for it in many ways.

I try to count my blessings but I get distracted as I ponder and get carried off in my thoughts about how blessed I am and get to thinking why?

Why does God bless me so?

I’ve decided it’s love and this love is my most treasured blessing. Without the love of God, I know that I would never exist and neither would you. I feel even more privileged that I can feel it, I know so many who can’t or don’t or won’t, and my heart aches for what they can’t, don’t, or won’t get to feel.

Even though they don’t recognize it, it’s still there, like the sunshine or the mountain I enjoyed the shade of but didn’t see for months and that’s the most beautiful thing of all to me, that God doesn’t withhold his love when we may seem unworthy of it or unwilling to admit it’s there. The sun shines on all, the rain falls on all, the love of God encompasses all.

So, this Thanksgiving season, I think about the changes that are taking place in our world, in my life, in the lives of those I love, and I am grateful, oh so grateful for seasons. Seasons of the weather and seasons of life and the changes that come with them but I’m also so very grateful for the things that stay static, the things that are unchanging, like the love of God, and the redemption and resurrection of our Savior. As constant in the sky as the North Star, we can always come back to these things and navigate our lives from them at our center.

I feel so blessed this holiday season and I hope you do too. Warm wishes to you.

Hold your people in your heart and hug them tight if you can and thank the Lord that he’s blessed you with every single one of them. We just couldn’t make it alone.

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