Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Do you love the fall leaves? The beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows are a perfect reminder of God's wisdom in creating this world with its seasons. It's also a wonderful time of year to be reminded of God's provision, and to be thankful for everything he's done for you and your family. In this way, the leaves serve as a reminder to us all. That God's sovereign hand is in all and over all (Colossians 1:16-17). Even the changing of the leaves in preparation for winter. And in this season of Thanksgiving I want to help you prepare for winter in the best way possible. So here is three steps to making sure you stay mentally sound until spring. You'll be well on your way if you can Pick Up the Mess, you can Reflect, and you can Rest.
Pick Up the Mess
It's been a busy year. A busy "harvest". You've been running the kids to every event under the sun. You've been going to every grandchild's ball game. You've been growing your business and growing your ministry. And all that work leaves a mess. The proverbial leaves are falling into place and covering your lawn. And if you take the time to stop and reflect you'll see them. Because it's the natural order of things. Your growing season is coming to a close, and try not to be fooled by the hustle and bustle. Because everyone needs to stop and prepare for the season ahead. It's imperative for your mental health.
But picking up those leaves can be quite daunting. Especially if you have a lot of trees in your yard. Which means it's going to take an organized effort to accomplish the task. In reality, raking leaves can be annoying. You have to rake the leaves into piles. Or use my preferred method of blowing them into piles. And then you have to dispose of them in some way. I prefer mulching. In fact, I love mulching leaves. I'll mulch them with my lawnmower into a bag. And then I'll mulch them again through another mulching machine to get them as broken down as possible. Finally, I put them into compost pile to sit for the winter, and when spring comes I'll cover the flower beds with a dense, nutrient rich, leaf mulch. It's satisfying to know my efforts in the fall will lead to the nourishment of beautiful growth in the spring.
Of course I'm not talking about actual leaves here. I'm talking about all of your projects. All of your relationships. Anything that required growth this past year. And you may not have a desire to break down leaves into mulch like me. But you do have a desire to create and maintain beautiful things in your life. We all do. We were made for it. It gives us purpose. And when we clean up the mess created from creating, there are godly character traits deposited into our hearts and minds. The traits of peace and orderliness. Two traits that exemplify who God is and what He has done in your life. As I mentioned above, the seasons are a great example of God's orderliness on Earth, and how it creates harmony in our lives if we allow for it. Furthermore, for those who are not Christians, an orderly and peaceful life is a light and a sign post to a God who provides relaxation and freedom from a chaotic world. And so we are called to live our lives with this in mind. Bringing peace and order wherever we go, and to whatever we do (1 Corinthians 14:33).
So with this in mind, it's time to organize all your efforts for the year into piles. I like to call them PURPOSE PILES. They are the things in your life that give you purpose and a reason to live. I personally break my world down into relationships. Using Ephesians 5 and 6 as a guide. So my piles are Relationship with God, Relationship with Spouse, Relationship with Kids, Relationship with Work, and Relationship with Ministry. Each pile is full of nutrients that will need to be broken down and reflected upon. And through that reflection you'll be able to rest.
Reflect and Rest
In Pulling Weeds, Fertilizing Trees I wrote about applying the spiritual fertilizers of faith, hope, and love in an effort to spur intentional growth into our lives. And after every season of creation and growth comes a season of reflection and rest. Much like God did after He created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:1-3). When you reflect, you soak in the nutrients God has given you spiritually. You reflect on God's goodness and His provision, and you reflect on the lessons you learned from your season of growth. Of course, not every moment during the season was kittens and rainbows. There were some really difficult times too.
You learned some hard lessons, and those need reflection as well. They may have been a nuisance in your life at the time. Heck, they may still be giving you a run for your money. But God is in the business of turning nuisance into nutrients. And we have to create the space for him to do that. Reflection is that space. And so as you look at your nuisance piles. Begin to analyze them and answer 3 questions.
What purpose does this pile serve?
What lesson did God teach me about this pile in this season of life?
What do I want to do with this pile after Christmas?
Once you have answered these three questions for the pile, you will close the loop on that pile until next year. Which means you will not worry about it or plan to change it in any way. And if it comes into your mind, you will tuck it back away and take heart in knowing it will be right where you left it when you return to it in January 2023. That may feel scary, but this breaking down and leaving alone is an essential element in your mental rest for the holiday season.
*Some piles can't wait. You may be grieving or you may need to address difficult people or difficult issues during the holiday season. If this is your life, I put a section at the end of this post just for you.
As you close the loop on each pile, you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. Now is the time to enjoy the life God has provided you and your family by blessing the fruits of your labor. Thanksgiving has begun, and your enjoyment will come by being thankful and taking pride in what's been done. Like looking over the fall foliage in a Smoky Mountains post card. You will look over your life during the season of growth and be proud of what God has accomplished. You can stand in awe of the amazing things He's done, and be thankful for the beautiful landscape He's taken the time to create through you and in you. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, Solomon provides great insight into this cadence of God's creating nature that abides in each one of us. He recognizes that there is a season for everything under the sun. And included in those seasons, are times for breaking down and building up. As well as a time for enjoyment and rest.
So there you have it. You yard is clean, and you can see your own post card as you look out the window into your lawn. Your key to enjoying the holidays this year is to organize your piles, reflect on them, and then rest in the glory of what God has done in your life.
I have concluded that there is nothing better for people, than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they live, and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil, for these things are a gift from God.
A Special Note on Grief and Difficult Conversations
You may be looking at some of your piles and feel deeply troubled by them. Maybe there was a death in your family this year, or a divorce, or maybe you lost your job. Or maybe you had to put a boundary up with someone you love so you could enjoy your holiday. Don't ignore this pile or close it down too quickly in an effort to achieve rest. If you have a grief pile, it needs to be treated differently than the rest of your piles. It will need special care and attention. Grief and sadness are for loss. And our losses are meant to be wept over. And so your questions for a grief pile will be different. Here they are: What will I miss most about this pile? What did God teach me through this loss? How can I find hope through this loss?
When dealing with grief, we have to allow ourselves to be sad. And so the questions are geared towards giving you that opportunity. Give yourself the space and the room to be sad. Some people prefer to do that alone. Some people prefer to do it with trusted friends and family. I say give both a shot and see what works. Just make sure your friend, family member, pastor, or counselor knows what it means to weep with those who weep. Because you can't force sadness and you shouldn't overlook it either. Sadness is a reflecting emotion. Which means in order for it to be effective, you must sit with it and own it. Let it wash over you until you feel the emotional relief that comes from a good cry. Then you can rest.
Difficult conversations are another story. They often involve the emotion of anger. And anger is not a reflective emotion. It is an action emotion. Requiring us to move and act towards an injustice. If this is the case in your life this holiday season, I highly recommend seeking the advice of a professional counselor or friend who is good at having difficult conversations and not blowing up their life. It takes skill and is a discipline that needs to be learned. If you're motivated to have that conversation sooner rather than later. I recommend Cloud and Townsends How to Have a Difficult Conversation. It will be well worth your time. Also, feel free to leave a comment on the post and one of our counselors will be happy to reach out.
About the Author:
Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery.
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