It’s still dark outside. No morning hues have yet streaked the sky. I hold a cup of strong, black coffee. I sit in the recliner next to the fireplace. I open up my latest book, “Wondrous Encounters” by Richard Rohr. I read. I think. I pray. I listen.
The puppy curls on my lap.
This is my new pattern as of this week. It takes about 10 minutes. For me, the readings and reflections have signaled the start of the season of Lent.
That, and the lack of Starbuck’s since Wednesday.
I am not Catholic, or of any faith that typically observes the Lent season. But if my brothers and sisters in faith will allow me a measure of grace, I have adopted this season. I started four years ago. I give up Starbuck’s because I love it and because in the cold winter months, I drink entirely too much of their warm lattes and steaming Blonde roast. I like to stop on my way to work for a cup. The baristas are cheery. The lobby is cozy. And the view of the mountains is a calming backdrop to the chaos of most of my mornings.
This year, instead of simply giving up something, I am adding something else in. I am not merely sinking into a deprivation mode of not having my favorite caffeinated beverages. I am looking to focus my heart and my mind on a bigger picture. A grander purpose. A new thing that is about to spring forth (Isaiah 43:19).
I like seasons. Spring, winter, fall, summer–each serving their purpose in moving the Earth forward in its growth and beauty. But season’s, for me, are not only about weather patterns. They are also about sacred times and patterns of life which need observing.
The season of pregnancy.
The season of education.
The season of illness.
The season of Christmas.
The season of potty training.
The season of lack of sleep.
The season of service.
The season of rest.
Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 3, “To everything, there is a season,” echo in my head as I write these words. I’m full of joy that God created seasons—both on the Earth and in human traditions.
The Lent season signals for me impending changes. It reminds me to reflect on Christ with me in suffering and sorrow and Christ with me in the resurrection and hope for the future. By giving up something I love, if my mind then drifts to that particular pleasure, I redirect it to the true pleasure of my soul: Christ in me, the hope of glory.
To help in the redirection, I have added in the quiet time. While I have long read scriptures in the morning and held prayers times, this year, I have no other goal or agenda except to enjoy it. I want to sit at Christ’s feet and do nothing. I want to be Mary who chose the good part that wasn’t taken away from her (Luke 10:42). Sure, after the 10 minutes of time, the rush of the day will start. My son will debate with me over breakfast choices. The puppy will likely eat a tampon from the trash can. My mouth might utter a few uncouth words. I may send a cryptic, annoying text to my husband who will be frustrated by the mystery of it. Traffic will likely annoy me. Work task and school assignments will assail the quiet I’ve tried to achieve.
And all of this is part of it. The ebb and flow. The give and take. In thinking of Jesus and the events surrounding His last days, he enjoyed a supper, a song, and a serene garden…then there was a beating, a Cross, and a death.
Only then, after the calm and the chaos, came resurrection.
For me, I feel the point of the season is preparedness and remembrance. When Jesus sat at the Last Supper with His disciples, He raised a cup and broke bread. He urged them to remember. He reminded them of Who He was and what He was going to do. New life was coming.
Lent is a season to realign my heart with the heart of my Father. It is a time to pause. I’m remembering the old things and preparing for the new ones.
I am remembering how God rescued me from poor decisions….
How He showed up in my times of darkness…
How He paid bills I couldn’t pay…
How He was there, weeping with me, when I grieved loss and loss and loss…
How He heard my cries of loneliness and gave me friends and family…
How He snatched me from an unhealthy job and planted me in a place of work that is fulfilling…
How He heals my mind over and over as it races with anxiety or clouds over with depression.
These remembrances fill my heart and soul at 5 a.m. as I sip my black coffee and my puppy snuggles on my lap.
After the remembrances, I move into preparing. This year, I am preparing for the changes in my family as we open our home to foster a child (or two.) I’m preparing the mounds and mounds of paperwork involved in this process. I’m preparing for college classwork as I look ahead to graduation in 2021. I’m preparing for my next writing project. I’m preparing for some traveling to Texas in April and May. I’m preparing for my son to move into 1st grade in the fall. I’m preparing for more hectic schedules, an onslaught of family events and achievements, and the whirlwind that constantly swirls a full life. I’m preparing for God to do something wondrous in my heart that I haven’t even thought about or planned for.
Remembrance and preparations. Both are important. I can’t stay forever in remembrance only. I run the risk of becoming a stagnant saint. Nor can I rush recklessly ahead in preparing for the future and forget the richness of the past. This season calls me to incorporate a balance of both. It is not an “either/or” outcome. It is “both/and”. This season is for me to be at the feet of Jesus before I rise to walk with Him in fresh paths of grace and mercy.
I am inhaling His oxygen before an exhaling God into the souls around me. If my soul is not tended to, then I will be a useless vessel for His Spirit.
Lent may mean something else to another person of faith. Perhaps I haven’t captured its essence here. (After all, I am frantically scribbling these notes on my phone before my next appointment.) Lent may hold little significance to others who only see it for its legalism or restrictions. But, for me, during the next 6 weeks, Lent is calling me to my Father. I’m practicing the peace, the calm, and the presence of God. I am leaning into this season, thankful for all He has done. I’m wondering what He will do in the future. What new thing will He do? What lesson will He teach me? How will His love change me again? I’m drinking it all in. I’m enjoying His presence. I’m clinging to His promises when I don’t understand everything that is happening. I’m maintaining a firm hope and clenching grasp to joy.
Resurrection will come.
Meanwhile, I’m remembering and preparing…
At 5 a.m.
With a cup of coffee in my hand.
And a small puppy at my feet.