I was considering nature this morning. We have had some beautiful, mild, and sunny days lately. And it’s been a welcome change from winter’s harsh reality.
Soon, the earth will transform green. Buds will appear, as if out of nowhere. New life will sprout up and blossom. This fills me with hope … and I cannot wait!
Goodbye winter, hello spring
As we settle into the month of March, we say goodbye to winter’s Ordinary Time. And we say hello to spring and the liturgical season of Lent.
Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lengthen or lencten, which means spring. The Church invites us “to spring into action, to do the tasks of the season, to prepare for the new growth and graces that overflow from Easter.”
I don’t always associate Lent with spring. Sure, Lent occurs in the season of spring. But Lent doesn’t seem happy like spring. Lent is solemn, serious, and silent. Lent can be hard, while spring is carefree.
However, maybe it is worth considering a new thought process.
Hidden, quiet work blossoms forth
Before spring is sprung, what has to happen underneath and within, hidden from sight? The barren, winter landscape, which looks so dry and desolate, begins to warm up and wake up. Change is happening beneath the surface, hidden and quiet. Until suddenly, as if overnight, buds appear, grass greens, and tulips blossom. All that hidden, interior work becomes illuminated by God’s glory!
Likewise, Lent is the season of my hidden, interior work. While in the desert or in the barren winter garden, the prayer, sacrifice, and penance that I do allows for deep change to occur. Until the quiet transformation, beneath the surface, blossoms forth into new life.
The life I live, no matter the season, matters. How I live, what I do—hidden but to God—matters. To change into His likeness, one degree at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18). To continue to strive for holiness more and more each day (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Just as I hope for spring, I also hope for Easter. And what happens to arrive there is nothing less than a miracle, transformative and renewing my life … and the entire world.
And so, I hold onto the promise that Lent and spring bring. But first, I say goodbye to winter by honoring all that I learned from December through February.
Five things I learned this winter:
1. I get very excited about Advent. Why don’t I feel the same way about Lent?
When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I notice a considerable amount of Advent-related posts. They are filled with anticipation and hope. I love the season of Advent! It captures my attention, ignites my imagination, and beckons me “to come”—free from distraction and without reservation. After all, the season of Advent looks forward to Christ’s coming at Christmas. How can you get more exciting than that?
And yet, the feast of Easter is even more important than Christmas. For on Easter, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, who conquered death and opened the gates of Heaven for me and for you, once again.
So, why do I feel less excited about Lent? Why is there almost a dread or nervous feeling in my heart, as the season begins?
Sure, sacrifice and penance are not fun. But aren’t both Advent and Lent preparatory? Aren’t both seasons intended for us to consider what needs to be cleaned out or rooted out, in order to make more room in our hearts for Jesus? Isn’t Jesus, whom I adore in the manger, the same Jesus, who suffers so greatly and asks me to accompany Him to the cross?
This is something I am pondering, something I am learning. And this has led me to feel more peaceful about Lent this year. I have actually welcomed it with more openness than I ever have before. It still feels quieter, more still, more solemn than Advent. But it feels right and good.
2. Mary and Joseph lived “Thy will be done.”
The Holy Family teaches me how to make room in my life for God. And it’s not an easy lesson.
Think of what Mary and Joseph endured in the first days, weeks, and months after they said “yes” to God. The trip to Bethlehem, giving birth in a stable, and fleeing to Egypt until who-knows-when was hard, and it required much. What did that cost Joseph‘s carpentry business? How did they get word to their family? Where did they find comfort and community in a mostly pagan country?
Mary and Joseph lived “Thy will be done.” Words that can become rote and commonplace to me, yet, they bear so much. For at the heart of those words is obedience, trust, surrender, and knowledge from the Holy Spirit that everything that happens in our lives points us toward God’s will, which inevitably is to be with Him for all eternity. He uses it all to help us to Heaven!
How do I make room for God? And for His will?
3. I find refuge in Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
I didn’t grow up with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in my house, and there wasn’t one in my parish. As a young girl, I didn’t even hear the words “Sacred Heart.” The one exception: my grandmother belonged to the “Sacred Heart Auto League,” and had an emblem on her car.
Sadly, I grew up in a generation that set aside (sometimes purposely and sometimes unknowingly) some of the most beautiful Catholic devotions, including devotion to the Sacred Heart. It wasn’t until young adulthood when I slowly began to discover Catholic devotions. And I was instantly captivated by the simple but deep way they invite us to grow in love for the Lord.
Still, it wasn’t until this January that I began connecting with the Sacred Heart devotion. As I wrote for the 2020 Prayer Pledge over on the Blessed Is She blog, I discovered that I have been finding refuge in the heart of Jesus for awhile now. I just did not make the connection between my personal encounter and the Catholic tradition. I love the journey of faith; it just never gets boring!
4. Winter takes a toll on me.
January and February tend to be dark, cold, and gloomy, and I feel tired, isolated, and a little blue. I can easily wish winter to hurry up and end, so the warmth of spring can bloom. But God is not in the “wishing away.” He is in today. And He invites me to live in the present moment—even when that moment is cold and dark—with intention and purpose.
This winter, I eased my case of the winter blues by seeking refuge in my parish’s Adoration Chapel. The true presence of Jesus—along with the silence, colorful stained glass, and soft candlelight—calmed my restlessness and renewed my spirit.
And my experience with the winter blues propelled me to write two articles on this very topic: 1) Simple Ways to Beat the Winter Blues and 2) Scripture Verses to Pray When You Have the Winter Blues.
5. Sometimes, I just need a break.
These words stopped me in my tracks:
“Let us make best use of the fleeting moments. They will not return.” (St. Marianne Cope)
This winter, I found myself going to the chapel on more than one occasion, seeking what I simply couldn’t find scrolling through my news feed or driving through Starbucks: a peaceful heart, a quiet mind, and a content soul.
And in that sacred, silent space, Jesus reminded me that He doesn’t need a specific liturgical season (like Lent) to call me away from the things that distract me from Him. He is outside of those time restrictions. He calls me at any time—even in the middle of January—to step back, focus on what is physically right in front of me, and consider the new possibilities. He asks me to stop wasting the fleeting moments that won’t return, stop looking for the magic bullet and instant satisfaction, and stop comparing myself to “them.” In turn, He invites me to move in His direction, lean into His embrace, and pay closer attention to what He is doing within me.
So, I stepped back from social media, especially Instagram, and it has been a good thing.
What have you learned this winter? Please share your life lessons in the comments.
Joining this post to Emily P. Freeman’s seasonal “What I Learned” linkup.