Autumn is one of my most favorite times of the year.
I love it when the temperatures start dipping down. The smells of hot cider and anything baking with a touch of cinnamon practically make me giddy. And the very fact that I get to wear comfy, cozy sweaters once again? Please. I’m just about beside myself.
Yes, there is much to love about autumn with all of its simple pleasures. But there is also a tendency to shift our focus indoors (and inward) during these upcoming months.
That doesn’t mean our lives have to shut down or become dull or dreary. Au contraire. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this time of year that will energize us. And at the same time, there are also ways we can enjoy and reach out to others. …
1. Go outside. And do something. When was the last time you spent some quality time outside? The great outdoors is calling you. So get out there. Rig up a hammock in your backyard and take a nature nap or cuddle up with your kids as you sway to and fro. Attend a young friend’s outdoor sporting event and cheer him or her on. Help rake leaves for or with a neighbor or an elderly friend. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or at a nearby park or around an outdoor track. Breathe in some fresh air. Get the blood pumping. Take note of the leaves that are changing (or hopefully soon will change). Thank God for the gift of nature and make time to marvel at the beauty of his creation.
2. Eat. Or drink hot beverages. It's a fact that we all eat more (and perhaps gain a little more) in the cooler months of the year. So let's just embrace it! Ask your new neighbors over for a home-cooked meal. Or surprise a friend who’s had a hard week and bring him or her a loaf of freshly baked bread. Make a casserole for new parents and help provide these sleep-deprived people with several days’ worth of meals. Even if you’re not Julia Child or Jacques Pépin (Really, who is? Aren’t we all just trying to Rachael Ray our way through most days?), be daring and try a new recipe. Or if you’re not "culinarilly inclined," maybe just stick with hot chocolate, freshly brewed coffee and some store-bought cookies. Food lightens the mood, breaks down barriers and brings people together. And when you take the time to make something for someone else, it says that you care. It’s personal. And it’s meaningful. Plus, you just may discover you have a hidden talent for baking. Or crock-potting. Or food warming!
3. Connect. Have real-time conversations! Put down the portable, personal communication device. And step away from the computer. It’s not time for humans to hibernate or isolate. Fight against the urge to withdraw and stay secluded 24/7 when it’s getting chilly outside. Go somewhere warm and bring your friends along with you—whether that’s by your own fireplace or at local coffee shop. It’s good to spend some face time with people. Engage and have some lively or thought-provoking conversation. Or break out the board games. Connect! If you’re not socially inclined, try getting together with just one individual and see how it goes. Get to know that person who the Lord has been putting on your heart. Ministry and fellowship just doesn’t “happen.” Get in there and make it happen. Use your spiritual gifts to impact others. And see how your life is enriched, expanded and blessed by the very presence of people.
4. Listen. Enjoy the sounds of the season. More time indoors can pave the way for more time to listen to music. It stirs the soul. It speaks to us at a level that perhaps nothing else can. Think about your favorite musical genre. Your favorite band. Your favorite artist. Your favorite instrument. What really gets to you and inspires you or lifts your mood or causes you to relax? Make time for music in your home, in your commute to work or in your off-hours. Get to know your own personal music library once again. Has it been a while since you’ve listened to a certain project? Or is it time to broaden your musical horizons? Ask your friends what they enjoy listening to in the fall and trade iPods for a week (you're sure to gain some new understanding of each other). Or begin your own “Music Appreciation” class and try listening to something you’d never thought you’d try before and see what you think. And then if you’re really adventurous (or annoying, depending on what your friends or famly have to say about it), start looking ahead to Christmas and break out the holiday selections.
5. Read. And then read some more. Summer activities take us outdoors and aren’t super helpful in encouraging us to crack open a book. As you cozy up in your favorite armchair or the nook of your sofa on an autumn’s evening, why not turn off the tube and discover a good book? Is there a title you’ve always wanted to read? Get cracking on it. Would you like to read through the Bible beginning in the new year? Why wait? Start now. Or form a book club wtih some of your friends. Discuss what you’ve read together. Have fun picking apart someone else’s literary greatness (or not so greatness). Read your favorite childhood books to the littlest people you know (Remember how much you loved being read to when you were younger? Stories came alive when someone read them aloud!). Or how about reading through a novel with someone whose eyesight is faltering? Be their eyes, and help them to see what's on a printed page.