Like a Cozy Blanket
Then (Jesus) gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. (Luke 21:29-31 NLT)
If you live in Minnesota it is hard to deny the wave of emotions accompanying the onset of Fall. It comes abruptly—at least in my experience. One day it’s still mostly summer, and only the autumn diehards are pulling out flannels, sipping their pumpkin-spiced lattes while sweltering in 80 degree sun. (I recently overdressed for a Gopher football game, determined to wear my recently purchased U of M hoodie—with admitted regret.) And then. Right around the time of the actual autumn equinox the temperatures drop and a few trees begin to show their color and you turn on your furnace and you know. It’s here.
After fifty-plus years of embodying this seasonal transition, the strange mix of vigor and melancholy never ceases to surprise me. Of all the seasons, this one (for me) triggers the widest range of wholistic senses. I am restless and joyful and sad. I crave cinnamon. I’m drawn to earth-tones. Crisp morning sunlight gives wings to my daily run. Wafts of woodsmoke trigger an impulse for hugs.
Mornings on my sunny front porch are officially on hold for a long, dark stretch of frigid months. I wake instead to the lingering scent of yesterday’s wood-burning fire, trade pajama shorts for a pair of sweats, grab a fuzzy blanket from the living room basket. My heart aches, even as I savor tender waves of sweetest nostalgia—and there is something about all of it that makes me want to snuggle close in some sort of Divine embrace. This holy tension awakens my craving for Jesus.
One of my favorite passed-down stories from my husband’s childhood is about his meno. Little boy Kyle, like so many children, had a favorite blanket. A ratty thing smelling of toddler breath and the collective odors of old apartment and out-of-doors. His mom recalls flimsy fabric woven just so between tiny fingers inserted into mouth. Occasionally “Meno” would disappear briefly on laundry day, and on one such occasion his mom remembers finding her little son resting under the clothesline, t-shirts and trousers flapping in the drying breeze, her boy securely attached to his freshly washed blanket.
I’ve never been quite sure of the specific details of how Meno derived its name. Kyle’s dad at the time was a seminary student in a suburb of Chicago. (The same seminary Kyle and I lived near during our first years of marriage—where several of our closest friends were students and teachers.) My father-in-law was known to be very deliberate in his biblical instruction of his three young sons. And while it seems unlikely he would have been teaching Greek to a toddler—small Kyle’s affectionate name for his favorite attachment was altogether fitting.
MENO is Greek for “abide” or “attach.”
Kyle was Linus-like in his meno-devotion.
Lately…the past year or so…I’ve sensed a different kind of seasonal longing. There is something in the air. Something in our cultural moment. And it has awakened in me a low-grade desperation to ABIDE. I am clinging to Jesus like a child attached to a favorite blanket.
But there’s more. I yearn for something else, too. Perhaps it can be attributed to the wooing wind of the Holy Spirit. I’m craving intimacy with God’s people. I am sensing a sort of now-is-the-time pull toward the Kingdom of Jesus.
Just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, he invited his closest friends to go for a walk with him. The disciples followed their teacher into a vineyard, all senses engaged for one last never-to-be-forgotten lesson:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)
Jesus prepared his friends for a season of transition. A season of uncertainty. A season of life in a new kind of Kingdom. The secret was MENO—abiding attachment.
Like a cozy blanket on a crisp autumn day.