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Creaking Into Lent

“This is one of the things I like about this place!” remarked an older (that means at least my age) woman in the locker room at the pool. “Everyone is groaning in the same way as they try to get dressed after swimming.” And indeed, as we try to pull winter clothing onto damp, stiff, and achy bodies, we do sound something like a chorus of pained animals. I know that I myself am looking forward to warmer weather, when I will be able simply to pull a loose dress over a wet swimsuit and be on my way.

It occurs to me that, this year, the sounds of struggle and frustration emanating from the locker room remind me of the beginning of the Lenten season. If you are a churchy person, then you may know Lent as the 40-day church calendar season of preparation prior to Easter. Some years we glide into it: Advent, Christmas, a few weeks in between, and then the solemnity of Lent. Some years we eagerly await a time of relative quiet and prayer. Some years we are filled with energy as we resolve to make of THIS Lent a time of renewed effort on behalf of justice in a troubled world.

And some years, as I am finding this week, we are struggling. Our spiritual selves feel like those inflexible knees and hips over which jeans no longer slide, or like damp skin to which our leggings stick. We aren’t quite sure how we got into this mess in which bodies and spirits alike feel creaky and sore, unmotivated and resistant.

Perhaps that’s why we need this season to come around each year. Each winter we are someone who we weren’t last year, and we need to be re-grounded in a story that invites us to return to its core, whether we are sleek and mobile or rigid and stuck. Whether our spirits dive effortlessly into the pool or creep down the handicapped ramp, Lent is for us.

Always, we begin again . . .

Always, we begin again. That’s what the towering figures of faith say about the spiritual life. The small figures say the same thing!

The pandemic took all of us in directions we did not expect. So many detours and roundabouts! In my case, just as the pandemic began, my husband and I became fulltime caregivers for our 10-month-old granddaughter who, along with her father, moved in with us. Suddenly we were back to baby gates and changing pads and all sorts of other accoutrements of early childhood, as the Little Girl moved from sitting to crawling to cruising to walking to running, all in about five seconds. Today she lives a few blocks away with her parents and older brother and goes to daycare/preschool, and we are gratefully still involved in all of their daily lives.

But, oh . . . the changes. I retired from parish ministry, returned for a part time call, and retired again. I watched as other retired friends purchased vans and camping equipment — the one sort of travel still safely available. I laughed with companions on Zoom as we grew bored with the same old leggings and tops, the endless reading and tv watching, the interior walls of our homes, and the steering clear of others on walks and in groceries. And, although the baby and toddler care took up most of my time, I also had the privilege of continuing to meet online with a few people seeking spiritual conversation and care.

Today I find myself launching a renewed effort to engage in spiritual direction. I’m filled with gratitude for those who have hung in there for the past three years, and eager to meet more of you, in person and on Zoom. (We’ve learned that geography is no real barrier, haven’t we?) So I’m updating everything that I do in that regard, including this website, and hoping to include a post or two every week. Let’s see where these next years take us!

Image: Algonquin Provincial Park ONT Trail

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