November. How does it strike you? What does it evoke for you?
In some ways it is not at all my favourite month, in others it will always be special. I was born in November and while I was growing up, November always meant magical moments of anticipation for me. November was special. So much so that I felt annoyed and even offended with the sentiments in Sara Coleridge’s Months poem because she made November sound so unappealing.
Dull November brings the blast, Then the leaves are whirling fast.
That hardly paints a pretty picture does it?
When I was a child, November meant so much more than gloomy days. There was Bonfire night, my Mum’s treacle toffee, fireworks, ghoulish games on dark evenings, Autumn fayres at school and the compulsory toffee apple (that is a tradition I would have happily lived without). But the culmination of all these delights was my birthday, the mysterious goings-on behind closed doors throughout the day ( at least, that is how my childish brain perceived it), the command to keep out of the way until all the birthday splendour was ready and finally the long-awaited prize of being the birthday girl, blowing out the candles on one of my Mum’s delicious homemade cakes and opening my presents. They were special moments and always worth waiting for. The magic of them has somehow stayed with me and November comes round faithfully each year to remind me of it. Since I got married and had children I have added a few of my own traditions to this season, including pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, pumpkin soups and pumpkin desserts and occasionally even pumpkin carvings. But funnily enough my birthday remains the highlight.
Nowadays my birthdays are somewhat different. For a start I have to bake my own cake, if I want one, and somehow I can’t bring myself to put candles on it to mark the passing of the years. To be fair, my husband makes a heroic effort every year to make my birthday a really special day from the moment I wake up until I go to bed. Poor soul, he has learnt that a birthday got off to a bad start can cause major depression for me. The mere sound of the word November is enough to strike fear into his soul. So he works hard to make me feel special on my special day. But cake baking is not his forte. And for me each birthday is a reminder that life is different now. Living in a different culture has meant adjustment for me in my birthday expectations. Slovakia is not a card-giving culture and this adjustment brought some tears for me. I remember the card-lined mantles of my childhood and the absence of this small thing has caused some sadness over the years.
But I still love November.
I have a love-hate relationship with the weather in November. I love the unexpected sunny days when the few leaves still hanging on the trees and the greater abundance on the ground delight my eyes with all imaginable hues of yellow, red, brown and gold. I love dark skies and torrential rain.I like the odd blustery day, especially when I can look at it from the cosy safety of our living room window. I don’t like the endless greyness, when it never gets properly light and the air is damp and cold. There is a lot of that in November in Košice. But I like what the weather does to the inside of our home. I love the sense that as the evenings draw in, we draw closer to one another, we light the lamps and the candles and we create warmth in our home. As the months march on towards the end of another year, the world outside becomes greyer but we bring colour and light to our home. November and December are exceptionally colourful times in our home. As the world outside grows more barren, we find ways to feast our eyes on the bright lights of home. It is a beauty we would never see if we had perpetual sunshine outside. Nor would we be so tempted to gather around the hearths of our homes. It reminds me that there is beauty in every season.
I am going through a November season in my life at the moment. Health problems and other problems have painted stormy skies for me for this season. The absence of some friends and the fading of other friendships have landed me in a lonelier place than I have known before. I have more questions than answers and life has rarely felt more difficult. I long for sunny days and untroubled skies but there is no guarantee that my season of rain will be over soon. Can I find some colour and warmth in these days? Is there comfort to be found when comfort seems to have been stripped away?
I know the comfort is there because God says it is but I am finding it slowly, and with difficulty. I am looking too often in the wrong places. I am looking for sunshine and missing the hearth light He is offering me in His presence. I am losing myself in the storm because I am focused on the rain, instead of walking towards His light.
How can I keep walking towards Him in this season?
I walk towards God every time I choose to hold onto His Word, rather than be swept along by the emotion of the moment.
I feel alone but I remind myself that God is always with me, that there is nowhere I can go where He will not be with me, no circumstance that can separate me from Him and no darkness too great to hide me.
I feel overwhelmed by my dizziness but I remind myself that God has promised to be enough for me, to be my provider and that I can do all things through Christ Jesus.
I feel weak but God has said that He has made me more than a conqueror through Him who loved us.
I feel like God is far off but Scripture tells me that He is near, that He loves me and that He loves me and that He loves me. How do I know? Because He demonstrated His great love for me even while I was far away, hostile towards Him, when He gave me His greatest gift, His very own son.
I am learning to watch for these small flickering lights in this dark season. God has filled His book with lights like these, lights enough to make even the darkest night sparkle and eventually explode into light. But I must learn to look in the right direction. Perhaps if I look hard enough and long enough, I will learn to love even the dull Novembers of my soul.
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12