Our toddler son moved his toy workbench outside and swoosh, a bunch of dried leaves came swirling out from behind it. We hadn’t noticed that the fall winds had blown some of the first of the fallen leaves behind the bench.

Recently, I’ve seen more and more signs that fall is here. There have been a few days where a sweatshirt or coat was a good idea. On my drive to and from home, I see more and more farmers in the fields working hard at harvest. Of course, the pumpkin spice, fall and Halloween ads are everywhere.

Our son loves to wander around in the neighborhood and open spaces by our house. While we walk, I’m noticing more and more trees that are starting to turn colors. I love the fall colors.

As I watch the leaves turn yellow, orange and red, I am making mental notes about places we could go walking where the scenery would be beautiful. It’s interesting, though, to realize these beautiful colors are actually a reflection of death.

Carl E. Palm, Jr. writes in the Suny College of Environmental Science and Forestry, “…[I]n the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.”

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Soon, the leaves will fall off, and there will be nothing but twigs left. This beautiful transformation of green leaves changing to orange, yellow and red leaves is actually a step in the process towards death. Of course, then we will have winter and that season has a special beauty of its own, too, but it is ironic that so many of us look forward to this time when, in fact, the beauty exists because life for these leaves is diminishing.

Last year I stumbled upon this quote, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” (Author unknown). What a timely and important message it was for me, and, a year later, I still find it to be relevant.

There are many things I need to let go of, and I would imagine you might find yourself in the same situation. As a parent, I need to let go of what infancy and toddlerhood were “supposed” to be like or what I thought it would be like in order to fully love what it is actually like, despite the limitations we face due to the pandemic.

As a spouse, I need to let go of the “I told you sos…” and keeping score of who has done what. In my life, I need to let go of judgements I’ve made about people so I can be open to the ways they have changed. I need to let go of the “I should’ves” and “if onlys…”. I need to let go of trying to measure up to what I think are the expectations of others so I can better listen to who God is calling me to be.

Isaiah 43: 18-19a says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

As I walk around this fall, I am trying to reflect on the things I need to let go of and think more deeply and fully about how I, with God’s help, can become the person God is calling me to be. I’m trying to focus on the present joys. I’m trying to focus on kind and encouraging things said by others.

As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 states, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Therefore, I am in a season of “letting go” and focusing on enjoying this season for what it is and not wishing or trying to make it different. By suspending my comments or judgments I can hear better who people truly are. I’m trying to rejoice in what has been accomplished instead of dwelling on what hasn’t been done or completed or finished.

Join me in this discernment. Happy fall!

Jeanette McCormick is pastor at Worthington's First Lutheran Church.