On the Necessary Dread of Lent

by | Feb 11, 2016 | Lent


Pushing the grocery cart into the store, I unzip my coat, press red gloves into pockets, stop and pull a small piece of paper out of my purse; a handwritten list of items I need to purchase. After scanning the list, I look up and what I see makes me gasp.

A stack of open boxes holds bundles of daffodils . . . . in February. Aren’t we still in winter?




When we moved to London last March, we pulled our suitcases into a virtually empty house. A couch of mismatched cushions and worn bedside table in the living room and a borrowed table and four red plastic chairs in the dining room. Cardboard boxes in the corner held lamps left by a friend.

In the center of the table, a glass vase holding an abundance of cheery daffodils was backlit by shards of sun streaming through a tall window. A simple gesture of welcome was like Christ kissing me on the cheek.

Daffodils are pushing through the ground and waving hello everywhere in London due to warmer than normal temperatures. Brits fear that the premature alacrity nature is boasting means spring will be less vibrant; ruined with one icy exhale of winter.

But for me, those flamboyant yellow mounds are a reminder that hope is not fickle and God is just.


Last week, on a sunny Saturday, I planted English Primrose in my virtually empty garden. A worm wiggled through a scoop of earth in the shovel and I realized that even worms look different in England.

Yesterday morning I wore an apron and carried plates stacked with warm blueberry pancakes from the kitchen into the dining room.  Nine people sat around the table we purchased before my daughter’s second birthday, eighteen years ago. Daffodils fill vases on all three floors of my house.

“Do you think these pancakes turned out better than last year?” someone asked me while chatting over a sizzling skillet.

“Yes, these turned out perfect. The buttermilk is thicker than I’m used to in the US but I’ve learned to anticipate the quirks of this stove with months of practice.”


Today is the first day of Lent. The day we mark our foreheads with ash and remember that we are dust.

Tonight in London, there are rumors of frost after the sun goes down.

The daffodils and Ash Wednesday remind me that life is a circle of seasons and seasons don’t ask for permission to begin. They only ask me to wait, accept them, and then live.

As I walk out my turquoise door, onto pavement, yellow ruffles on daffodil stems sway in the wind. Change doesn’t happen unless we are willing to experience the details of life differently.   And that is why I  dread and need the season of Lent.

For more about Lent read The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway and Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement by Kris Camealy.


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  1. Kris Camealy

    I feel much the same about Lent. I wonder how dread and anticipation can hold hands in my heart, the way they do. I know God is good–His promises more certain than the reappearance of spring bulbs, but I know the cost of discipleship.

    Praying for you this Lent, and always Shelly. God is near. I can’t wait to hear how He speaks to your heart this season.

    (and humbled deeply, to see my little book mentioned here–that is generous grace indeed!)

  2. Celeste

    “Change doesn’t happen unless we are willing to experience the details of life differently”
    Reading this at the moment, my morning I realize how right you are. Thank you for your reply and prayers to the last write up. I have needed much prayer lately.
    We have snow drops pushing their wee heads up through wet soil. I saw crocuses on someone’s lawn yesterday. I for one am ready for Spring, looking longingly at my seed packets. I feel the need to create, to push a dry seed into the darkness in order to experience life. To bring something fresh, something new
    into my life. As I write these thoughts down I am thinking over your words and their reminder that I am not in control. I want to be and I think that is my problem. I have been relying on what I defined as secure. Maybe I am that seed.

  3. Nancy Ruegg

    My goodness, Shelly. You know Amy Young AND Kimberlee Conway Ireton?! I met both of them at a retreat last fall, and am greatly enjoying Kimberlee’s Circle of Seasons this year. (Must read and reflect on the Lenten chapter this week!) SO appreciate your insightful statement: “Change doesn’t happen unless we are willing to experience the details of life differently.” Will copy that into my journal to ponder upon later, in light of difficult changes in the past, and how experiencing various details differently helped me through transitions. Such reflection will undoubtedly prove useful when the next change occurs!

  4. Nancy Smith

    Spring is in the air here in Texas, the weeds have sprouted early overtaking nearly every spot where anything grows. I love that seasons arrive on their own schedule, another symbol of things that are out of my control and in His. Your picture of the Saucer Magnolia with blooms about to burst open reminds me that mine is just about ready to do the same. The daffodils are everywhere here in my small town, I shall think of you when I see them. God is Good and His reminder to us of His Great Sacrifice in the spring when the earth is coming back to life touches my soul, my heart, my faith every year.

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