The Autumn of Life


Megan Smillie // Tales From the Trenches

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October 8  

Fall is making a slow but steady appearance here in the South. Like a shy maiden, she flirts and teases, advancing with gentle rains or hefty breezes, only to scorch in the afternoon heat our hopes of long-sleeved bliss. We Texans are ever-eager to wring out the most from her cooler temperatures by engaging in an overabundance of outdoor activities. Indeed, this is our outside time, and after what seems to be a never-ending summer, fall simply cannot come soon enough.

The coming of fall in our home is a bit less . . . magical. Like a tornadic whirl of hurricane-force winds, it begins with the first day of school in late summer (and can I get an “AMEN” for the new level of insanity this year’s first day of school wrought)? and doesn’t subside until well into February, long after the dawn of wintertime and the last shred of Christmas tinsel has been unceremoniously sucked up by the merciless vacuum. Some people dread the doldrums of February. I welcome them with open arms and a sigh of relief like a long-lost friend. 

But right now, in some sort of sick vortex of panic, stress, and teenage hormones, we are simultaneously in the throes of preparing for Homecoming week (Texans make mums . . . go ahead, Google this and be amazed/horrified. I’ll wait— *grin*) as well as doing a major renovation on the teens’ bathroom upstairs. Oh, and just for extra kicks, the first grading period is coming to an end. Throw in a nightly dinner plan for anywhere between four and eight people, depending on who happens to show up at our home, volleyball season, and laundry for what seems like twenty-three people, and you have the perfect recipe for burnout and despair. 

On a particularly hair-raising evening, as I sat at the kitchen table with mounds of papers to grade, I surveyed the chaos around me. Backpacks, books, notebooks, notecards, and my stack of papers adorned the kitchen table. My youngest was vehemently pounding out his latest piano piece in double-time so he could be done with it, while my teenage gals baked cookies for the next day’s bake sale. Their music was blaring while they doubled over in hysterics at something one of the many friends they brought home from their volleyball games had said about what happened during their busy day. My husband came in, raised his eyebrows, and joined me at the table. Two, separate, away volleyball games on opposite ends of the metroplex had necessitated a “divide and conquer” strategy, and we were just now able to see each other and compare the day’s notes. 

I looked at my husband in despair and realized I had a choice. I could rant. I could complain to high heaven about the noise, the mess, the chaos, my never-ending to-do list, or I could sit back, relax, look deep into my life, and find the joy. Teenagers exude much angst to be sure, but when they are joyful, they are joy-FULL. And everyone and everything in their world is right and good and perfect and amazing. I closed my own gradebook and decided to take a page from their book of life. 

In my moments of feeling overwhelmed and utterly unfit for this life of service God has called me to, I pause. Find the joy, I tell myself. Find the purpose, the meaning to all I do and all I am expected to do. And it’s right there—in the chaos of the mum supplies taking up half of my living room; in the smell of cookies and peals of hysterical laughter; and yes, even in the Sonata of Mozart being pounded out in protest by the cutest nine-year-old ever. 

For I am, without a doubt, approaching the fall/autumnal-time of my life. Still in the trenches, but ascending to the peaceful wide-open plains as my children are mostly grown, I have these last few years of craziness and then a silent winter of contentment and peace to live out my days—God willing. At the very least, high school sports and Homecoming mums will not dictate my week’s plans, and cajoling teenage girls into cute modest dresses won’t occupy my every waking thought. The mess of late-night baking will magically disappear and the raucous music along with it. 

But the JOY. May that continue to whirl around me in tornadic hurricane-force winds as the autumn of life descends. And honestly? May it please descend slowly, as fall does in the South. We only pass by this way once. I’m not quite ready to give up these late nights of cookie-baking, hysterical teenage laughter, and loud music . . . not just yet.

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