I wrote a piece for Luther Seminary ‘s Enter the Bible blog about Prince Harry and his courage, using Hebrews 10.
Inspired by my high school friend, I decided to look at the books I read this year, and thought I would share some highlights. I highly recommend her blog too, but here is her post about her books https://dontstopbelieving.me/my-year-in-books-2022/. She shares recommendations on books, beauty, and a host of Memphis pride. I have added some of her books to my reading list for 2023.
According to my Goodreads, I read 44 books this year. That is more than last year, and I definitely listened to some of them. I will put the “must reads” at the top and the ones I didn’t love as much at the bottom of each category. I’ll share a tiny bit about each, and I will let you know if I listened to them instead of reading.
Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Best book I read this year, hands down. I am still thinking about it, months later, and want to reread it.
The Arc of a Scythe series by Neil Shusterman. I listened to The Scythe, The Thunderhead, and The Toll, read by Greg Tremblay. I have just downloaded Gleanings on Audible. Science fiction isn’t always my jam, but these young adult novels take place in the future, where humans no longer die of natural causes. Instead, scythes must end lives. We learn how scythes are chosen and taught. Fascinating ethical questions are raised by this series.
I listened to several books by Elizabeth Strout: Olive Again, My Name is Lucy Barton, Anything is Possible, and Oh William! The last 3 are in the same series. All of them are narrated by Kimberly Farr, and I enjoyed her voice.
I have been a fan of PJ Tracy’s Monkeewrench series, and I read Ice Cold Heart, the 10th in the series. They are a mother-daughter duo, but now the mother has passed away. I also read Return of the Magi. This was a short book -only 170 pages. I was intrigued by this short novel of a different genre. It was a great December read.
The Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland. My youngest daughter got me addicted to these middle grade fantasy books. I have finished the entire series now, and they were fun and a hit among her friends. I know boys and girls who have enjoyed this series!
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. This is the first of her Hercule Poirot novels, and also her first published novel. I felt that I had been missing out by never reading her. It was a quick read, and fun.
The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity. I will read anything she writes!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is eccentric, but it is a beautiful story about the need for human connection.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner. Fun summer chick lit. I like Weiner and have read several of her books.
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton Told from a child’s perspective, the story of an apple orchard, family dynamics, and changes that they endure together.
The Supermodel’s Best Friend by Gretchen Galway. Fun chick lit, took no brain power, predictable, but sometimes that is a nice escape.
All Things Bright and Beautiful by Amber Belldene. This is the 2nd in the Reverend Alma Lee mysteries. I enjoy reading about a clergywoman written by a clergywoman.
Angry Housewives Eating BonBons by Lorna Landvik. Landvik is a Minnesota author whose books I have enjoyed. This one is about a group of housewives who are neighbors. It chronicles their friendship over time, beginning in the 1950s. Their book club picks are listed at the beginning of the chapter. I enjoyed a historical look at life in Minneapolis.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This book had been on my “to read” list for awhile. Though it is long, and a lot about training dogs, it kept me interested. I did enjoy the fact that it took place in northwest WI.
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. Leif is a Minnesota author. I didn’t love this book as much as Peace Like a River, but it had interesting characters.
Burying the Lede by Joseph LeValley. I read this because the author’s daughter is co-host of one my favorite podcasts, Dieowa. This mystery also takes place in Iowa, and is the first in the series about journalist Tony Harrington. I will definitely read more.
Louder than Words by Kathy Kacer. This is another middle grade story about a Jewish family in a small Ukrainian town during WWII. I felt that if my young reader was going to read about a challenging topic, I should read it, in case she wanted to discuss it. This is the 3rd in a series, which we didn’t realize.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab I commend this book to you! And if you are on Instagram, I recommend you follow her. Her no nonsense plain explanations make boundaries feel doable. She has a new book, Drama Free, that is on my list.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I listened to this, and it was beautiful. She uses her training as a botanist with her indigenous learning. It made me think about plants differently.
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron. My therapist had me read this book, and I was not surprised to learn that some of my quirks come from being a HSP. A friend loaned me the one about children, but I am still in chapter one. You can see if this book applies to you at http://hsperson.com. After that, I read The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Widsom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self by Benita A Esposito. It was interesting to hear her story, but it was more memoir than self-help.
The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self and Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck. Both of these books had exercises that I found helpful as I try to discern what is next for me.
Discovering the Inner Mother by Bethany Webster. I also follow her on IG. I liked how she discusses mothering ourselves not only personally, but also some of the cultural implications of the patriarchy that cause a mother wound. This is a book about claiming self-love rather than blaming. “Revealing how women are affected by the Mother Wound, even if they don’t personally identify as survivors, Discovering the Inner Mother revolutionizes how we view mother-daughter relationships and gives us the inspiration and guidance we need to improve our lives and ultimately create a more equitable society for all.”
The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation by Melody Beattie. I knew I needed to revisit codependency, but I didn’t want to read Codependent No More for like the tenth time. I appreciated how she shares some of her personal story in this book, the stories of others, assessments, and the analysis of certain codependent behaviors.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. The author narrates this book, and I have listened to several of the parts multiple times. My primary care physician pointed out to me that I hold my breath often, unconsciously. This was a fascinating study in breath, and how essential breath work is.
The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron. One of my friends recommended Pema Chodron, and then we both ended up reading this book at the same time. Helpful. Pema is an American Buddhist nun.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This is an involved study of how one woman’s cells changed our medical history. Sadly, it is also about her family and how little they knew of what was happening.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Clearly I did not read the description before buying, because I thought it was fiction. I did not love all the description of falconry, but the story of grief came at a good time for me.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. This is one I listened to, and it is read by the author. I thought the beginning was funny, but then it kind of got annoying.
Thanks for reading! What books do you recommend I add to my list for 2023?
In 2000, there was a live action remake of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Honestly, I prefer the original cartoon or the remake in 2018. The best part of that 2000 film, in my opinion, was the hit “Where Are You Christmas?” You can read about the origin of the song at https://www.wideopencountry.com/faith-hill-where-are-you-christmas/. The video below plays the whole song, and I am only including a few lyrics.
Where are you Christmas
Why can’t I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can’t I hear music play
My world is changing
Does that mean Christmas changes too
I have been in a season of growing and changing. Hopefully, we are all growing and learning all the time and not staying stagnant. However, with change comes some grief and challenges. While I am thankful I am not the same as I was a year ago, there is also a releasing that is necessary. For example, I am no longer saying “yes” to everything. In fact, I am trying to be more intentional about saying “no.” No, I don’t want to leave my house past sundown. No, I don’t want to shop. No, I don’t feel good about giving gifts to all those on my list who truthfully have too much, when there are so many in need of basics. No, I don’t want to participate in Christmas/seasonal activities that we have in years past. No, I am not planning to go to church on Christmas Day. No, I will not work during Advent/Christmas this year. Saying no feels good and is right, but it means I am having to give up on all those things I used to say yes to doing during the holidays.
My girls are older. Their Christmas expectations have changed. They had trouble coming up with anything for Christmas lists. While I am thankful their wish lists are short, I am also aware that they are very spoiled and have more than they need. I am too. What I need can’t be purchased.
I find myself asking Where are you Christmas? Where is my joyful spirit? Where is the fun in finding gifts that I used to have? When did it become a chore? (Full disclosure: Gift giving has never been my gift.) Why didn’t I want to decorate this year? Why did I choose to keep some ornaments in their boxes? Why does my teen have to lecture me on why watching all my favorite Christmas specials annually is “excessive?” Where is the desire to make plans? Where is my desire to attend worship?
Christmas is here
Christmas is here
If you care, oh
If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time
Maybe I have been too busy searching for all the external parts of Christmas. Maybe the transformation I have made has changed Christmas, and maybe that is not a bad thing. Maybe we celebrate Christmas differently this year, and that is ok. We have certainly had one-off Christmases in the past. Every year has not been a duplicate, based on if we have any family here or not. Then there was the chemo Christmas, where I made it through Christmas morning before the steroids wore off, and I had to go back to bed. That’s not a Christmas I prefer to repeat! Nor was the Christmas I had the flu.
While I may not feel the joy of Christmas yet, I will focus instead on the love. I love everyone on my Christmas list, and giving gifts is one way to show that love. I loved watching my youngest decorating the tree, because it is one of her favorite parts of Christmas. I love how my oldest manages the daily countdown to Christmas. I love looking at the ornaments and remembering the origin of each one. I love opening Christmas cards, and I even love designing ours, and the assembly line the girls and I have for preparing to mail them.
I am going to keep saying yes to those things that fill my introverted, homebody self happy. I will try to keep saying no to all those obligations that don’t feel right this year. Every day on the calendar does not have to be full of Christmas activities. It is ok if this year all our memories are at home. I hope the joy of Christmas eventually comes, but if it does not, that is ok too. I will focus on the love.
One of my favorite sermons was written for Advent in 2008, while I was expecting our first baby. It was later published by the Young Clergy Women International in their online Fidelia magazine in 2012. You can read it here or I have included it below.
That was such a magical Advent for us: waiting for the baby Jesus and awaiting the birth of our own baby in April. It felt so meaningful and special, and I am so grateful to have been encouraged by my superior to use my physical body as a part of my telling the story. I had never done anything like that before, and would have never thought it could be so helpful.
This year, I am not much in the Christmas spirit. I went looking for this sermon to remember that happy time. Maybe it will help someone else to read it too.
Hopeful Signs: An Advent Sermon on John 1:6-28
We expect some of the same things around Christmas: the same message, the same songs, the familiar traditions of it all. We still have to work to prepare the way of the Lord. For my family, this Christmas is different. Advent is different. Pregnancy has made it so, and I have come to understand that Advent is very much like pregnancy. Let me explain.
First, Advent is pregnant with hope. I am a visual representation. A baby is full of potential and possibilities. There is so much hope for the future, as we dream about what this child will be like and realizing that she may be nothing like what we are thinking she will be. What are you hoping for this Christmas? If you’re hoping for presents under the tree, it might not be the same as last year? Hoping for perfection, probably be disappointed? Hoping for something different? A Christmas miracle of healing? Meaning?
Even as we are full of hope this Advent, we have to manage our expectations to know what is realistic so that we are not disappointed. It did not take too long after we learned about this baby for me to learn that pregnancy is not all fun and games. It is a painful, annoying, stressful, fun, exciting, awesome, amazing experience. Some pregnancies are happier than others…too many involve sickness, complications, relationship issues, etc. People have been overwhelmingly joyful at our news. Strangers come up and talk to me. It monopolizes many everyday conversations. It is a common experience that binds us together. Pregnancy is a long time, for others not long enough. It provides a range of emotions: fear, joy, excitement, nervousness, illness, and tiredness. Advent offers a range of emotions too. There’s the joy, excitement, and nervousness about how it will all come together, and tiredness from doing it all. I think Advent can be summed up by that line in the Christmas carol, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” from O Little Town of Bethlehem. The waiting gives us time to experience all the hopes and fears of both pregnancy and Advent.
Secondly, Advent, like pregnancy, is not all about you. This pregnancy seems to be all about me right now. I have never been asked how I’m feeling so often. Never have so many strangers been interested in me, and in touching my belly, and sharing their good and bad pregnancy and delivery stories. But it is not all about me; it is much more about this baby. Even before we learned our good news, I had started taking folic acid to prevent birth defects and scaled back on caffeine. Once we found out, I really worked on my diet and eating healthier and started taking prenatal vitamins. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that I was no longer in charge of my body. This little baby has a lot to say about when I sleep or not, when I eat, and how much energy I have. My life, my daily routine, has changed dramatically because it’s no longer all about me. With Advent, it is also easy to think it is all about us. We have so much to do. We have so many gifts left to buy and wrap. We have to write our Christmas cards. We focus on OUR waiting/preparations rather than on Christ’s coming. We focus on our hopes rather than on the hope of Christ.
John the Baptist knew that it was not all about him. He was clear on his identity, who he was and who he wasn’t. In the Gospel reading, we hear that John the Baptist did not give the answers that the leaders were hoping for. They wanted him to be all these things, (Elijah, the Messiah) but all he would admit to being was a voice in the wilderness. He came to testify to the light, but he was not the light himself. In other Gospels we can read more about John’s own miraculous birth, what he wore and ate, and more about his ministry. But here, the main point is John’s identity. “I AM NOT” the Messiah….what he isn’t. In Advent, we have to take care to not get a Messiah complex: so busy trying to be all things to all people. Scurrying in Advent instead of waiting is dangerous.
John the Baptist came to testify to the light: Christmas is not about the tree and presents, but those are just a way to point to the gift of Jesus. Or, maybe they become distractions so we don’t have to see the homeless, the hurting, the hungry. We have to remember our identity as Christians, the reason for the season, to restore justice, and release the oppressed this Advent. This season is all about Jesus, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. We should be giving Jesus gifts by giving meaning to all his children by sharing the Good News of Christ.
Finally, Advent, like pregnancy, should not be rushed because it happens too quickly anyway. We can’t skip ahead to Christmas, or we are missing out. Similarly, those expecting have to enjoy the adventure and not wish it away. As much as I want to meet this little girl, I also want enjoy the adventure of being pregnant. It is a miracle, and an awesome experience to think that there is a baby in my tummy. What a gift from God! I receive a daily email from a site that gives me an update on the baby’s size, explaining what is going on with my body, and other hints and tips. I love that email, each day and it reminds me of opening a little window in an Advent calendar. It’s just another peek into what is coming, a hint at the whole picture. Every day you get a little closer.
My prayer for all of us this Advent is that we experience it as a joyful journey. May we all keep our eyes open to hopeful signs this Advent season. In the name of the one whose coming is worth waiting for, Amen.
As part of my treatment plan for breast cancer, my oncologist prescribed me Tamoxifen for ten years. Tamoxifen is an “old” drug, meaning that it has been well-studied, and it’s cheap! It is an estrogen suppressant. You can read a study about how being on it five years has fifteen year benefits here. I have been taking it since I finished radiation in 2016. I have completed 72 months, and I’ll continue for 48 more.
For someone with estrogen-positive (ER+) breast cancer like me, Tamoxifen is the “usual” treatment post-chemotherapy and surgery. Because I’m post-menopausal, I could switch to a different hormone therapy, but the side effects are basically the same. Now that I’ve adjusted to it, and I’ve read many of the studies, it seems like Tamoxifen remains the best option for me.
There are many side effects that I experience. Hot flashes, night sweats, fluid retention, itchiness (I often scratch myself until I bleed while sleeping), fatigue, downy facial hair, and joint pain are the ones that affect me most. It can interact with certain other medications, so I am limited sometimes in what I can take. Even grapefruit can interact! I have to be careful with supplements as well.
The scariest side effect for me is the thickening of the lining of the womb, which can lead to cancer. My Grandmother had uterine cancer, so I discussed this particular risk with my oncologist at length before I began taking it. Recently, I had some symptoms that sent me to my internist. She ordered a pelvic ultrasound, which noted some thickening of the endometrium (the uterine lining). The radiologist’s remark was that it was consistent with how long I had been taking Tamoxifen, so I no longer worried. Still, my internist wanted me to follow-up with my gynecologist. When that appointment (finally) arrived, I was expecting a discussion and potentially a physical exam. However, she believed I needed a biopsy, mostly out of an abundance of caution. I did not realize that the biopsy would take place right then and there. One good thing was then I had no time to worry about it. However, it was uncomfortable, and I almost passed out after it was over, which is apparently normal. Luckily, I did not have to wait too long before receiving my results. No cancer. Thank you, God.
This was yet another example of how my journey continues. This time I didn’t even want to share about the biopsy. I mostly just stayed internally focused and waited. I realized that I wasn’t scared to have cancer again, but I did not want to put my family through another cancer. As someone who has both been the patient and the family member, it was easier for me to be the patient, because then I felt like I had some agency and control.
I apologize to those of you who are finding out in this blog, rather than directly from me. It was not my intention to hurt you or keep things from you. In the moment, it felt like I needed to focus on me. When I learned it wasn’t cancer, it was easy to dismiss and pretend it wasn’t a big deal. Now that I have some distance, I realize that me minimizing it does me no good. I don’t write this for sympathy, (I’m fine!), but just as one more piece to the story. I am grateful for a vigilant medical team, even though tests cause me anxiety. Gratitude doesn’t even begin to describe the relief I felt when I learned I was ok.
As I take my Tamoxifen each morning, I am thankful for the many studies that have been done on it. I appreciate that taking it makes me feel like I am actively doing something to prevent breast cancer from returning. Finishing another bottle and counting down feels like triumph.
I may complain about my side effects and worry about a possible recurrence, but my underlying feeling is gratitude.
This month I have been consumed with a garage sale. The prep took 3 weeks of sorting, making decisions, and letting go. The actual sale was 3 days of sorting, making decisions, and letting go. It was all worth it, and now I am exhausted.
My girls don’t really play with toys anymore. When K was B’s age, she still did, but now B doesn’t, probably because she would have to play alone. It was sad to see some of the toys go, and others, like Monopoly Jr., I was ready to part with. The purge was big, the amount of trash and recycling was big too, and I am sure there is more to do.
I had a harder time letting go of picture books than the girls did. For me, many had so many memories of bedtime snuggles, giggles, and bonding. Some I had to keep. More I could finally add to the pile to give away.
Besides the need to rid our house of all the excess stuff, I was motivated for the sale because of my goal for this year. On my birthday, I kept hearing the song “Come and Find the Quiet Center” in my head. It is #2128 in The Faith We Sing, if you have that hymnal. You can listen to it here. Specifically, the lines from the first verse:
Clear the chaos and the clutter
Clear our eyes that we may see
All the things that really matter
Be at peace and simply be.
This is my intention for this trip around the sun. The garage sale was a step in clearing the clutter. It was shocking some of the things we found: an infant sled and swing in the attic! Things we thought we had already passed on to others. Broken toys that needed to be tossed. Puzzles that are way too easy for my teen and tween.
The chaos is going to be more challenging work. I want my mind to be less chaotic and more at peace. I have been in therapy off and on for twenty years. I highly recommend it!!! Therapy is my favorite, even when the sessions are tough. I am always learning. My current therapist and I have been working together for four years. While I can see my growth, some goals haven’t changed. I am certainly more at peace today than I was four years ago, but now I crave even more peace.
Two years ago I left my last ministry position. It was a necessary change for me personally and for my family, but it was tough. In many ways, I still grieve that choice, even though I know it was the right decision. The time has passed quickly. I am not ready to take on another position yet, nor do I have an idea of what my next employment will look like. This in-between unknowing creates chaos in my type one brain that wants to know everything yesterday.
I know I write a lot about grief, but there is a lot we are all grieving. Covid-life caused all of us much grief. Returning to “normal” has caused some of us grief, because it is a new normal, not a return to the ways things used to be, because we have changed and the world has changed. I’m even grieving toys and picture books, despite having not touched either in several years. It is the sign of a new stage. I love where we are, and yet I miss those little girls too. I miss the silly and the imaginations. I already miss summer, even though we have a few days left before school starts. I don’t miss the items we sold, and yet the process of the garage sale still caused grief.
The last two days I have been physically exhausted. It seems like I am more tired than should be normal. Of course I judge myself whenever I need that much rest, and then I worry I’m getting sick. In reality, I think I am recovering from the physical and social work of the sale, as well as all that grief. The joy of being rid of everything is certainly there too, but it was a lot of work to prep. I am not sure if I recommend it, only because of the amount of work. When I go downstairs now, I feel peaceful. We have cleared the clutter. The excess toys and furniture are gone and the room is open and feels bigger. I no longer feel stressed on my way to the laundry room. It was all worth it.
Do you have clutter you need to clear? In your house or your mind? What about chaos? I may be writing more about this as I continue to work on this goal. In the meantime, I’ll be humming and repeating “be at peace and simply be.”
This last year or so I have focused inward, and my outward focus is mostly limited to those with whom I live. I feel like I am about to emerge from that time, but I’m not completely ready yet. This time has been a gift, and it has also been odd. Covid-time came at a great time to me personally. It gave me a great excuse to withdraw and focus inward. Last fall I discovered the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May.
This winter I listened to the book twice, and read it once. The book interested me because of the Soul Leaders Retreat I attended a few years ago that focused on each one of the seasons. I knew I was in the season of winter, and I knew I had found the right book when I read May’s definition of wintering. She writes, “Wintering is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” It describes well the transition period I have been in for the last 20 months. Further she asserts, “Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but it’s crucible.”
While one of my goals has been healing and grieving, another primary goal is figuring out what is next for me. I soon realized that the answer was not going to come quickly. The work I have been doing is necessary for the answer to come. As May claims, “Transformation is the business of winter.” She says that “you’ll find wisdom in your winter, and once it’s over, it’s your responsibility to pass it on.” I hope to do just that. My winter is not quite over, but I do think the light is lengthening and spring is coming.
I recently read Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck. In her map of the change cycle, I am very much in Square One: Death and Rebirth. I was able to complete the book’s exercises up until and including that part. And then I just had to take notes and return it to the library. However, thinking through the exercises like: If I were sure I’d succeed, I would… or If I could be certain it was the right choice, I would… did give me some insights.
I celebrated Easter with Joy, and I believe in Resurrection and new life. However, I am also comfortable with the fact that my transformation is still in process. I am still cocooned, no longer a caterpillar, but not ready to break out with my new butterfly wings. Stay tuned.
Here is a link to a Bible study I wrote about faith and healthy boundaries. It can be done alone or with a group.
This weekend my older daughter performed in her middle school production of Annie Jr. She played an orphan, and she loved her role. My husband and I went to opening night, though by then she had already performed the play for each grade at school. We could not have been more proud.
Her facial expressions were perfect, and in the finale, I could even pick out her voice. All of her hard work paid off. The entire production was impressive. I was grateful that my mom and Marty’s mom were able to come, and her aunt and uncle that live here, as well as many friends. I told her after opening night that I felt a little like the Grinch at the end of the movie…I felt like my heart grew two sizes, as it swelled with pride.
When I was in 6th grade, I too was an orphan in my town’s high school production of Annie. I love that our preteen selves got to have this experience. It brought back a lot of happy memories for me, and of course we have been singing Annie songs since she fell in love with the 2014 movie verson with Jamie Foxx. It was fun to share my memories with her, and compare choreography.
She is already counting down until her birthday, and so I know exactly how many days until she is a teenager. Time is fleeting. My grandma used to always tell me time went by faster as you age, and now I know she was right.
I often tell my therapist that when I grow up, I want to be like my kind, curious, centered, brave, independent daughter. I hope these next few years as she grows and matures, she is able to hold on to the joy of her younger self. I pray that we can maintain our positive interactions, and that she will trust me with her thoughts and feelings. Though I know I can’t protect her from the challenges that lie ahead, I hope she always knows that Marty and I are her biggest fans.
In the Christian Church, Lent is a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Sometimes people give something up, fasting from a specific food or activity to help them focus on God. Others take something on, like a spiritual practice, to bring them closer to God. It is often used as a time for people to prepare for being baptized and/or becoming members of a church.
The timing of Lent varies from year to year. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Lent begins 40 days prior, always on a Wednesday known as Ash Wednesday. Many people celebrate Carnival, Mardi Gras, and Shrove Tuesday in the days and weeks leading up to Lent. A time of excess and celebration is in stark contrast to the penitential period of Lent. In many churches, Christians receive the sign of the cross made out of ash on their foreheads. They wear it to remind them that “from dust we have come, and to dust we shall return.”
Ash Wednesday is my favorite day on the liturgical calendar. I love the symbolism of it. I love how my thumb and fingers get totally black from drawing crosses on foreheads. I love wearing the cross on my forehead. Each cross ends up looking as unique as the one who wears it.
Every Lent, I think my life is going to be changed. More often than not, my life has not changed much, but for those years I allowed myself to be transformed by the power of God, my life changed dramatically:
1997- as I answered the call to ministry
2001 -as I re-answered it when I decided to enter seminary
2003- as I sought the healing I needed to deal with my parent’s divorce
2005-as I realized that somehow in the midst of dealing with a new job and my mom’s cancer, I had become a minister.
2009 – pregnant with my first child and wondering if I would make it until Easter Sunday without giving birth (I did)
2016- Undergoing chemotherapy treatments
2020 – Realizing I was burned out and needed to step away (spoiler alert: the pandemic hit, and I unlearned the lesson as we all learned how to do online church)
I remain hopeful each year during Lent that I will allow Jesus to transform me into who God has called me to be rather than clinging to my own desires to stay comfortable. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). May Lent 2022 be a time of transformation.