Fall Reflections

By Stacee Helton

September 23, 2023

Fall is finally here! It’s my most favorite season, and not just for the hot cocoa and s’mores around a bonfire (although I LOVE both of them!). I love to see the leaves change color, just before they turn loose. It is simply beautiful, and I also love the picture that gets shared on social media this time of year that says “The trees are about to show us how beautiful it is to let things go”. As we’ve talked about before… it's a work in progress, but I am learning that this is very true. This week, I’ve spent some time thinking about a different kind of fall. It wasn’t beautiful, but it definitely brought much change. Today marks 45 years since my mother took a tragic fall from a wagon, during our church hayride. It would be her last fall, in every way. 

We were both young; she was 22 and I was 4. So many things changed that day, for all of us who knew her. I went to live with her parents, and even though I had them, I was still a motherless little girl. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t close with my Grandma; quite the opposite. She jumped in and filled that role as best she could (which was pretty great, if you ask me), even though she fielded a lot of  questions from my curious classmates, when she came to take her turn as “room mother”. They always wanted to know if she was my mom or my grandma. She would simply say, “Well, I guess I’m both”... all the while, privately reminding me that she was, in fact, not my mother, and that I already had one who loved me very much. 

Over the years, my grandparents would remind me about her. I was told of things she said and did, and honestly… I thought she must have been perfect. Folks typically remember and talk about only the good things when someone passes away, and my grandparents were no exception. The sad reality is: I wouldn’t remember her beautiful face today, were it not for pictures. When each of my kids reached 4 years of age, I can remember thinking, “We’ve had all these memories, and experiences. I can’t imagine they would ever forget this, or me”. But it does happen to young little minds. I have a few memories of the day of her last fall. Very few. I’m so thankful that God gives us the blessing of time, to make many happy memories to equal (and sometimes even replace) the not-so-happy ones. Learning to let go of the really hard memories and trust God to redeem them, and to bring about new and wonderful ones is indeed a beautiful thing.

Fall is still my favorite season. And honestly… change isn’t all that hard for me. In fact, I tend to embrace it. Even during the hard seasons, where things feel out of control and might bring change, my life is still full of many, many blessings. God does not leave us hopeless, and He doesn’t leave us abandoned. It’s one of my most favorite things about Him; He doesn’t leave! His love and grace and His beautiful mercy is new, every single day. May you face all the changes that come your way during this season of your life with confidence, and absolute assurance that He is right there beside you, waiting to catch you. Enjoy making wonderful Fall memories!

Take A Look

By Stacee Helton

September 9, 2023

The year was 1988. My 14-year-old self could be found riding my bicycle, swooning over Ralph Macchio and Kirk Cameron, memorizing all the commercials on tv, such as “These are the amazing Lee Press-On Nails… they press on in seconds” (I once knew that entire commercial, and could recite it on demand), and singing with my whole heart and soul into my makeshift microphone (aka… my curling iron) Whitney Houston’s version of  “The Greatest Love of All”………”I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way”. Those were such fun memories!

Music has always been important to me. In my younger years, I had several cassette tapes in a case that looked a lot like a miniature briefcase, including my very first tape: Men at Work. I didn’t even know who they were when Grandma presented it to me, all wrapped up for my birthday, but my cousin had told her I would like them. They were alright… but I really came to enjoy The Bangles, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany and Michael Bolton, and then I discovered Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), and found a love for Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith and 4Him, among many others.

Recently, our church held a conference for the youth in our town. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, and we had a great turnout of teenagers in attendance on a very hot August Sunday afternoon. Leading up to the event, we were challenged to post daily thoughts, scriptures, pictures, etc,  all themed to the day. One day, we were asked to share our favorite song. Well… for this music lover (who already has a tendency to be quite indecisive) the idea of choosing just one favorite song proved to be quite difficult for me. I thought about that choice for the majority of the day. In fact, I went to bed, still having not made a decision. The next morning (which was Sunday, and was also the morning of the actual youth event), I finally convinced myself that it was OK to just pick a good song, because pretty much… they’re all my favorites!  I had a line playing on repeat in my head that week from a current song on Christian radio called “Any More” by the band Cain, so I chose that song. The line says “Take a look at the cross, then you’ll know it for sure. I couldn’t love you, I couldn’t love you any more than I do right now”. 

I shared the song on Facebook, tagged the event, and went on to get ready for church… all the while, still singing that song. That same line that I love (“take a look at the cross, then you’ll know it for sure”) hit me in a completely different way, and my eyes started filling with tears. A memory from my 14th year came rushing in, and I almost had to sit down, as the events of that day all came back to me.

My grandparents and I had been camping at a campground for a long holiday weekend, as we often did. This was my favorite campground, because it had a pool and a waterslide (which I absolutely LOVED) and an arcade where I learned to play Pac-Man. I often had a cousin or friend come with me, but on this particular trip, no one was available to tag along. My grandparents spent most of their time visiting with similar-in-age family members, pitching washers and making homemade ice cream, and this weekend was no exception. I remember feeling especially lonely, while sitting inside the camper listening to Huey Lewis and the News on the radio, and wishing so badly that I had a friend to talk to. I had been feeling some of my friendships changing, as they often do, with the switchover from junior high to high school. Other interests were coming along for many of us (boys, sports, band), and making time for friendships was actually taking some effort for probably the first time ever. The loneliness I was already feeling back home was only exaggerated at a place that was usually so much fun, but not when you were there alone. Still feeling sorry for myself, I went to the bathhouse to take a shower. I walked in, and found it to be very dark there. One dim, single lightbulb was working, and it was on the toilet side of the room, not over the showers. I went ahead and showered in the dark, (which only added to my sad little mood) and I prayed. “Lord… I am feeling left out, left behind and lonely. I need to know that things will get better. Could you please find a way to let me know that you’re here with me, and that you see me?”. 

I opened my eyes, and on the floor of the shower stall was a tiny gold cross, shining in the dark. Maybe someone had lost it. Or maybe my dear Heavenly Father had placed it there, just for me. Either way, I had found it, right when I needed it most, because God is good, He cares about the things that concern us, and I needed a precious reminder. “Take a look at the cross, then you’ll know it for sure”. I still have that little cross, and am attaching a picture of it here for you to see. I took it to show my youth Sunday School class that same morning, and reminded them that God cares deeply about them, and will always find a way to reach them. That’s my reminder for you today, too. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the cross… then you’ll know it for sure!