by Becky Ritchey
As the present now will later be past . . . the times they are a-changin.
by Bob Dylan, copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.;
renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music
Fall is my favorite season of the year – it’s my springtime. It’s a time when I feel myself coming alive after the oppressive heat, humidity, and bugs of summer. I look forward to trees ablaze with color, cool crisp mornings, and cozy nights beside a pungent fire. Every year, I relish decorating for autumn with the vigor most people have for Christmas. Last weekend I hauled out my considerable collection of fall silk flowers and created a festive wreath for the front door. My annual pumpkin display is posted out front (my husband doesn’t understand why every year I let a fresh pumpkin “sit outside to rot”). The leaves haven’t begun to turn yet, but today I spied a maverick cluster of crimson amidst the green on my sweet gum tree. Hurry, autumn!
As summer morphs into vibrant fall, I find myself feeling mighty nostalgic. My mind drifts back to a year ago. Life sure has changed. I treasure the gift of memory that God has given to humans. Presently, my memories are a wellspring of rejoicing for God’s goodness in the past year.
One year ago . . . I was overwhelmed with yardwork and financial concerns. In late September, Steve left Virginia to start his new job here in Kansas. We had just put our house on the market and I faced constant yardwork, keeping the grounds and gutters free of endless leaves and pine needles (50 leaf bags in two weeks!). Finances were too tight to hire someone to help so I managed it mostly alone, injuring myself in the process (one woman from church helped out for a day and in early December my little brother flew in from Illinois). We supported two households on a tight budget. With only three potential buyers in two months, things looked pretty dismal. But after being unemployed all summer, at least Steve had a job and we could meet our financial obligations. I worked for Project Light part time, which also helped. In November Steve found a house in Leavenworth, I Skyped my approval, and just before Christmas I arranged to pack up all our stuff and join him in Kansas. I left our empty Norfolk house and drove three days with my beagle, Buddy, in a packed car, arriving on my new doorstep Christmas night. We began 2015 paying two mortgages and two sets of utility bills, deeper in debt, but at least we were together again.
Exactly a year later, the house in Norfolk (sold in May) is becoming a distant memory. The sale also enabled us to get free of some long-standing debts. In a few days, Steve is getting the promotion he was promised when he was hired. We love living in small-town America and love our beautiful house in a quiet, friendly neighborhood. Every day when I see my sunroom, I can hardly believe God gave me that room as the desire of my heart. This fall, if we need help raking leaves we can afford to hire someone. And thank God, there are no pine needles in my yard! We’re in a good church and I’m making new friends in a women’s Bible study and evening life group meeting a few minutes from our house. I’ve met lots of Christians here and have friends among my fellow volunteers at the outreach center in downtown Leavenworth. I’ve also found a good hairdresser close to home (an obvious priority).
Although that season a year ago was very painful, I know God never left me. The overwhelming blessings in my life right now help to sweeten the bitterness of last fall. At the time, I couldn’t understand why I had to go through such a hard season, but as I was preparing to leave Virginia God showed me one of the wonderful things He had done. In that difficult time, I’d grown closer to my best friends in Maryland as they showered me with true Christ-like compassion and friendship. They welcomed me and Buddy, celebrated my birthday, invited me for Thanksgiving, and even surprised me with financial help. (Gotta love people who allow your dog on their furniture.) God also showed me how He used those circumstances to heal a deep wound from many years ago, giving me much-needed closure on a painful chapter of my life.
Thanks to the blessing of memory, I can testify that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)