One of my favorite times of the year is fall. Living in Phoenix, however, this season doesn’t hit until mid-November…and the only difference is the weather cools off…a little…(finally). But when it does, and everyone breaks out the sweaters, beanies, and pumpkin spice lattes, there’s nothing better. 

Desert living makes for a sadly boring autumn, but I have traveled to other places. In fact, I grew up in Los Angeles, and I remember in our backyard there were 3 GIANT maple trees. Minus our (super awesome) treehouse, the best thing about these trees was the leaves in the fall. I remember my older sister and me when we were little, struggling to manage the (to us) humongous rake, scrounging leaves together, and eventually giving up before my dad would come out and finish the job in .03 milliseconds. Then the fun part: jumping in. Ah, those were the good old days. I can still remember the scent of fallen leaves, rosy cheeks, and the overall joy my sister and I experienced. 

But looking past the fun and cozy mood of fall, what makes this season is the leaves. This week, I’m going to dig into what makes the seasons change, and why leaves turn color. 

Believe it or not, there is not a worldwide tree conference every year where all the plants get together and decide what day they are all going to turn their leaves. Trees get their energy from the green chlorophyll cells in their leaves, then they use this energy by converting it into food. This process is called photosynthesis, and trees detect how much glucose (their food) they produce. Autumn starts on the autumn equinox, or the day that hours of day and night are equal. After this day, there are more hours of darkness than light, so the tree’s sustainability pattern makes sense: when the days start getting shorter, less food is produced, and the tree can’t survive. This is when the tree gets ready for dormancy, or winter. 

When trees detect less sunlight, it stops photosynthesis, which means the chlorophyll cells break down into, believe it or not, clear compounds. This reveals the color of other cells in the leaf- the source of the beautiful fall hues we know and love. The tree switches from producing chlorophyll to producing special sugars to act as an all-natural antifreeze for protection. Additionally, since the leaves are no longer needed, all nutrients are drawn from the leaves into the stem and the leaves dry out and eventually break off. They fall to the ground, eventually decomposing and providing nutrients for the soil. The tree then braces itself for the cold months ahead. 

Just like trees, we go through seasons. Sometimes we can detect a change, yet other times a metaphorical snow storm is dumped on us with no warning and we are left in a lost and confused state. Or maybe you have a lingering chill, that one thing that keeps eating at you, never leaving you alone. 

But look at the trees. God gave them a defense. When they realize a change, they act, they face the storm, and protect themselves from adversity. God has given us similar options. As children of God, we are able to be proactive about life changes. Every time something takes us off guard, be intentional about turning to God. He is our defense, our adoption into his family gives us a refuge from life’s seasons. Proverbs 18:10 states:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.

So when life shows you it’s worst, remember how the trees respond. Proactive defense. When we are faced with a trial, we should respond in the same way. When faced with any decision or difficulty, the best thing we can do is spend time with God. Spend an extra 30 minutes in the Word. Ask a friend to pray with you. Look up some sermons on YouTube. Just being in God’s presence and learning about his great love, protection, and control he has over us can calm the turmoil. If you are really willing to surrender your plan and give God the wheel, he will lead you out. See, the trees know they can’t survive winter on their own. They have to put up a defense. So I encourage you to, each day, strengthen your defense with God’s love. Only then will you be able to emerge, wiser and empowered, for the next season.