A Love Letter to Lent

Dear Lent,

Every year, I feel like I fail you. You are 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) for me to really restart my faith. This year, in particular, I feel like I didn’t do enough. I should have tried harder. Prayed more. Given up something more challenging. I’m just not as different now as I hoped I’d be. And yet, I had my priest encourage me to look at what God has done this Lent, not what I’ve done. When I look at you that way, I see how beautiful and fruitful and unexpected you have truly been this year.

Today is Holy Saturday. You are drawing to a close. Tonight and tomorrow we will stand in our churches and proclaim an earth-shattering truth that we’ve heard so many times, it doesn’t shake us. We’ve gotten used to it. But it is still true and it is still utterly amazing. Christ is risen.

I remember, probably a decade ago, I came to a realization during Holy Week that Jesus actually died. Maybe it was seeing the bodies of my uncle and great-grandmother at their funerals that convinced me how astonishing that was. That Jesus was really and truly dead. His soul left and what was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb was nothing more than a body. This realization felt stupid; duh, Clare, you’ve heard this at every single Mass you’ve ever been to in your life. But God assured me it wasn’t stupid. It was important. It was good. What would the Crucifixion be worth if Jesus had just been kidding?

Last night for Good Friday, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ for the first time. It’s hard to explain how powerful that was for me, but I’ll try to put it this way: As I watched Jesus being scourged nearly to death, suffering unimaginably before he’d even taken up His cross, the thought that kept going through my head was, “I don’t feel worth this.” And what God continually responded to me with was, “This is how much I love you. This is how much you are worth.” Whether or not I believed it or felt worthy of it, I knew it was true.

As I type this, I’m listening to ‘Pieces’ by Amanda Cook on repeat. I think this song captures what Jesus was expressing with every step, every drop of blood of His Passion. He gave Himself fully, completely, holding nothing back – for me. That ‘for me’ statement is true for all of us. For me, as though I were the only one in the whole world. Jesus would have gone up on that cross and died the definition of an excruciating death if I was the only sinner in existence. He would have gone the whole nine yards whether or not I ever loved Him back – whether or not I even believed in Him.

Unreserved, unrestrained, your love is wild Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed, your love is proud to be seen with me
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Uncontrolled, uncontained, you love is a fire
Burning bright for me
It’s not just a spark, it’s not just a flame your love is a light
That all the world will see
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Your love’s not fractured, it’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious
It’s not the restless kind
Your love’s not passive
Its never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps it promises
It keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred
Cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish
You love is pure
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us 

You have been a very good Lent, whether or not I feel it. Throughout these 46 days, God shook me down to my deepest wound, challenged me, grew me and blessed me beyond anything I could ever imagine.

So, thank you. I’ll see you again next year.

Love,

Clare

 

More like this:

A Love Letter to Anxiety

A Love Letter to Advent

A Love Letter to God

 

Blogmas 2017 – Day 25/31 – Merry Christmas

Christmas is here! Hurray! So far I’ve gotten to wake up to my first Christmas in my own apartment, talk to my older sister who is out in Arizona (where she is freezing to death because it’s 48 degrees, poor thing), had a delicious lunch, and played with my three youngest siblings.

As I sat down to write a blog post just now, I went back to my tumblr to see if there were any memories from Christmases past that I wanted to share. This is what I found.

12/23/16

Can you ever just tell when someone is painfully lonely? Tonight I waited on an elderly gentleman who just started telling me about himself. He began by saying he’d been doing his own grocery shopping for 19 years. Eventually he said he was divorced. He just kept coming back to his main point – that he did everything for himself – his cooking, cleaning, doing his laundry, everything. Because he was ALONE, and when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you. At first I was annoyed, because it made me uncomfortable. What am I supposed to do with your troubles, sir? I’m just here to ring up your groceries. But I looked at him and I realized – this man is LONELY. I asked him if he would get to see any family for Christmas. He very adamantly said no, because, like he said, when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you, even though they don’t know the whole story. I told him that was too bad, when people decide to take sides with something like that. He said they do, they really do. I listened to him and I said what I could to just let him know I was happy to be talking to him. He opened a window into his life, and I saw the story of a man whose friends and family sided with his wife when they got divorced, and so he was left alone in the world. As I wished him a Merry Christmas and watched him go, I said a prayer for him. I recognized in him a great hunger to be seen, known, loved – a hunger I couldn’t fill. I couldn’t be a friend to this old man. I could only be a very kind, helpful cashier at a grocery store to him. I hope my kindness made his day a little brighter. 

His name is Larry. Please pray for him, and everyone who is isolated or feels alone this Christmas. I pray they will all receive comfort from the Christ Child. 

Thank you, God bless. 

Clare

I’m glad I wrote this down. It’s easy to forget moments like these, important moments, where God reaches into our lives and touches our hearts, teaching us to love a little bit more like He does.

Something I learned throughout Advent was that God truly meets us in the middle of our mess. Jesus was born into a messy world that was so unprepared for Him, Mary had to give birth to Him in a stable. But still He came. He came and made the stable, the manger, the mess, sacred. Worthy of Himself.

As He does to our hearts when we welcome Him in, regardless of the straw and the cow poop and all the other things filling us up to capacity. Whatever space we make for Him, He will come and fill and make beautiful.

I pray Larry, wherever he is this year, will find Christ in his mess.

emptymanger.jpg

I pray the same for all of you.

Merry Christmas!

Clare

 

Check out the rest of Blogmas 2017

Blogmas 2017 – Day 3/31 – A Love Letter to Advent

Dear Advent,

For a lot of my life, I hated you. Not exactly true — I didn’t hate you, I was afraid of you, and fear likes to masquerade as hate. It’s because every year during the first couple weeks of Advent we talk about the Second Coming, the end times. I know people who love hearing about that — it even gives them hope. For me, it was almost debilitating how much it frightened me. I don’t know how my head and my heart learned to associate you and the end of time with so much fear, but it did. 

Slowly, over the last few years, there’s been healing. There’s been relearning. There’s been an overflowing of God’s mercy towards me that has taught me that I matter, that God knows me and loves me personally and wills my good. At this point in my life, there is still fear. But just a tiny bit stronger than the fear is hope.

Nothing makes sense without love. Without knowing that God loved me, you were just something to remind me to be afraid, very afraid, that I better shape up because that was my only hope.

But I am loved. Infinitely. Wisely. Unselfishly. And that puts you in perspective.

God came to us as a helpless baby. He will come again as a mighty King. That is what we’re waiting for.

Today I reflected on something I have only recently learned — that you are a season of joyful waiting. Waiting is not something I typically associate with joy. But I thought about women are pregnant, waiting to meet their new baby. That waiting may involve sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and suffering. Still, what they wait for makes the waiting worth it. 

What we wait for is beautiful. What we wait for is good.

Thank you for coming around every year to remind me of that.

Love,

Clare

A Love Letter to God (Love Letters, 1)

Dear God,

Thank you. Thank you for loving me to here, for loving me into existence, for loving me first. Everything I have and am is because of you.

I am still only getting to know you and, even after a lifetime, I feel like I will still not know you very well. You are so deep and wide, so big, and I’m so little. I feel like I will spend my whole life mesmerized by the prints on your thumb, all the while thinking it was your face.

And yet, when I get to Heaven, when I see you face to face, I still believe I’ll recognize you. I may be afraid and trembling, but you’ll reach out and caress my cheek with your thumb, and I’ll know. All along, you were there, holding me.

I don’t deserve it. The perfect care you have taken of me all my life, your faithfulness, your sunshine and your stars — everything is a gift and all I can do is sit back and whisper, “Thank you.”

And somehow, it is enough. Somehow, I am enough. You see me coming from a distance and you run the rest of the way. You have waited through all of time and eternity to love me, so I will just stand still and let myself be loved.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love,

Clare