Category Archives: Lent

Clearing A Path

March 15, 2023

It took almost two days for the storm to wind down to a few floating flakes. Twelve hours into it, I took a shovel to the four inches of snow piled up on the front porch and the ten inches on the walkway. When another half a foot accumulated a few hours later, my husband cleared the porch and walk. The next morning, the walk was buried in another foot of snow. I pushed through the snow blocking the door and went out for round three of shoveling.

It took a lot of bending and heavy lifting to clear a path the first time, and all that work disappeared as the snow continued to fall. All that was accomplished with three rounds of shoveling was the restoration of a way in and out of the house. Such work is usually only noticed when it hasn’t been done, and the path is blocked.

I experience centering prayer in much the same way – a lot of work without much in the way of discernible accomplishment. But it keeps the way clear, getting me beyond my own small internal world and allowing me to welcome others into it. And that is no small thing…

The Path Through

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: some tangible gain for my every effort.

Loving what does: anything that gets me beyond my own small world – and allows others into it.


It’s not quite five in the morning and I’ve been up for awhile now. The wind is howling with a storm coming in, and an internal restlessness accompanies it. I have no plans for the coming day, so it’s as good a time for a sleepless night as I could wish. I’m thankful for that, and thankful that it doesn’t happen often.

Poetry seems like a better option than Netflix, so I turn to Robert Nathan’s A Winter Tide to find an old favorite:


It would be wiser, since we live in fear,

To use our sorrows to correct our ways.

If winter be the color of our days,

Then learn of winter to be still and clear.

The greener spring, the new and happy year

Is not for us but for birds to praise;

It is the snow that over autumn lays

Its quiet hand that is our teacher here.

For see, it has its lessons for the soul:

Look how the tree with piety keeps fast

The bud and blossom hidden in the bole.

So bear the winter with its frosty blast,

And seek, beneath the season of our grief,

The spring unending and the waiting leaf.

[Nathan, Robert; A Winter Tide, III; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940, p. 5]

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: fear

Loving what does: Learning of winter to be still and clear

For Now

The wellness class activity was going online comparison shopping for the dinner-for-four ingredients, trying to reduce the cost of the meal by thirty percent. Next was advanced conditioning in the school weight room. A quick climb up the stairs to supervise an independent work period followed; then it was time for meal planning, round two. That was my first day. My second day was stepping into a couple of different rooms so that teachers could do critical assessment paperwork and Zoom meetings. I answered a few questions, helped learners complete their assignments, and did my best to offer assistance where and when it was needed. I didn’t plan any of the activities, I didn’t know any of the learners, and I had to ask for help finding the rooms. None of it was what I went to school for, or what I’ve done in the past in any professional role. Day three as a substitute high school teacher will likely be the same: going with whatever comes along, asking for directions when necessary, and honoring the time and needs of leaders and learners.

Substitute teaching feels a lot like life. Lots of things are out of my control, and where my help and skills are needed are in things I did not devise or expect. I’m not in charge in more than a temporary sense, and it may not turn out as advertised or expected. But I got to meet some wonderful young people; I met caring men and women who show up to foster the lives of others in many different disciplines and with widely different approaches. Patience was needed, and a willingness to ask for help from whomever happened to be around when I needed it.

It’s not what I expected to be doing at this point, and it wouldn’t have been my first choice. But much of what has been holiest and most meaningful came out of the plans and needs of others. That seems to be the beginning of what grows into something I choose – or that chooses me.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: My limited view on what I think I’m supposed to do at the moment.

Loving what does: Serving God and neighbor where I can in this time and place.


A few years back, we had five couples over for dinner. One couple was new to the group, our friends from a neighboring town. A glass of wine and a few appetizers into the evening, a story about a friend of theirs came up – something about singing John Denver’s Take me home, country roads in a bar halfway around the world. Turns out, eight out of twelve counted this same man among their friends.

I was reminded of this again last night. In conversation with a couple who landed in Vermont via the upper Midwest, we found dear people and beloved places in common.

Many of us have played six degrees to Kevin Bacon (George Hosker, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon), but I’m not sure with the larger implication in mind: that there are person-to-person Ley lines connecting us to each other – powerful, sacred, and rarely seen or appreciated. In this strange and interconnected reality, none of us are disconnected. Blind to the connections, perhaps, but never living in isolation.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The misconception that anyone on this planet is truly unrelated.

Loving what does: The adventure of finding those person-to-person Ley lines.

Minot Forest Path by Jared Fredrickson


For now we see in a mirror, dimly…Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known… ICorinthians 13: 12

Canterbury Road

Perhaps because I cannot see everything, I appreciate what I can see – and recognize that even on the clearest of days I cannot see it all.

Vermont Fog
Night on the Green Mountains

What limits my vision may help me love what I can see, even when I know I am not seeing everything. What limits my vision may also help me love what I cannot see. After all, if what I see is any indication, imperfect as it is and imperfect as I am, what I cannot see is bound to hold something mysterious, imperfect, and lovable.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The assumption that I need to see all that life offers in its entirety before I can love it.

Loving what does: Everything.

High Street in Snow

What Once Was

Adelle’s is a funky coffee house in Dover – or it was until it was sold a couple months back. Trader Joe’s in Hyannis is one of my favorite places to shop – or it was until I moved to Vermont. Purdue is my brother Bill’s graduate school – now his alma mater for over a decade.

Adelle’s, Trader Joe’s, and Purdue Mugs

The Purdue logo disappeared off my mug years ago, leaving no trace that it was ever there. Nothing that fulfills its purpose over many years remains in its original condition. Yet, I still call it my Purdue mug; its history and origin have remained in my mind long past the outer signs of them.

I’m not sure this is a good thing, at least not as a general rule. Refusing to recognize the state of something as it is in favor of what it once was can be a form of reality denial. This isn’t so important when it comes to a coffee mug, but when it’s about people it becomes much more so. If I refuse to see the changes in those around me, I may not honor who they are in the present. Trying to make decisions for my twenty-something sons as if they were still children; refusing to recognize when aging relatives need help; trying to live as if I were still in my thirties rather than my late fifties. If I see what was instead of what is, I am blind to the precious gift that life offers now. Ages and stages change for all of us. Perhaps the key is to love each person in every age and stage rather than get too attached to the ages and stages themselves.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: a particular age and stage – for myself and others.

Loving what does: the person who grows in and out of ages and stages.


Most mornings, my breakfast is the same: granola with milk or yogurt, and a cup of coffee. The granola goes in one of my blue bowls. My coffee is on a three mug rotation.

Breakfast Choices

The bowl is just the right size for granola – a gift from my older son. The mugs vary in size, with a different width lip on each; all three were gifts as well. When I drink my coffee, I think of the person who gave me the mug, and I am thankful for their presence in my life. I don’t need a mug to be thankful for the ones who gave them, but they are an every third day reminder of someone I love.

Mug Options

It’s unwise to get over-attached to breakable things that are in constant use, or to mistake the mug for the person who gave it. If all three break tomorrow, it would be the end of three mugs – not the end of the world or a loss of the people who gave them to me. I think it’s well worth the risk of breaking them to keep them in constant use. After all, what good is a mug that never makes it out of the cupboard?

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: too closely associating an object with a person.

Loving what does: thinking of the people I love, and being thankful for them.

For the Birds

Back Porch View

Long before I moved into this home, someone put stickers on the windows and doors. Not the removable kind meant for windows, but the kind that you might put on binders or wire-bound notebooks. They were promotional materials for international travel programs, complete with phone numbers and website addresses. They were placed in the middle of the glass doors and side window panes, blocking an otherwise beautiful view of the Green Mountains. Once the furniture was in place and the majority of the boxes unpacked, my husband and I devoted several hours to removing them.

On the next sunny afternoon, I heard thumping on the back door and an occasional tap on the side window. It was birds. They were flying under the porch ceiling and bumping into the glass doors, doing their best to take what looked like a clear flight path through the house to the front yard. The purpose of the stickers suddenly became clear.

Back Porch View Looking In

I replaced the stickers with origami – something applied with a piece of scotch tape and easily removed. I can change them in a few seconds whenever the mood strikes, and future residents of this home can do the same. A little obstruction in the view is a small price to pay for the beauty and safety of birds in flight.

Side Window Origami

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The particular means of caring for non-human neighbors.

Loving what does: Keeping the birds safe, and remembering that this world was made for them as much as it was for me.



You can’t see it, but the wind is whipping around, carrying snowflakes sideways before they fall to the ground. I can see them fly, accompanied by the sound of my back porch chimes. But the snapshot, accurate depiction that it is, reveals none of these things. It’s beyond the scope of my camera’s ability. A single instance in time simply can’t offer the depth of the living reality that surrounds it.

I’m not surprised that a still shot can’t give me an immersive and expansive experience of today’s snowfall. Yet, I am sometimes tempted to reduce a person to a particular act or phase – surprised that the still shot of their lives that I’ve taken with my internal camera is just as limited as the one that took the picture above.

All those snowflakes, invisible in the photo, accumulate over time. Patterned by the wind and landscape, they cover the ground and transform the wintry world. All this from tiny flakes amassed over time.

If such is true of snowflakes, could it be less true of any of us? Our moments and years, invisible to my snapshot judgement, accumulate over time. Patterned by our internal and external landscapes, they form and transform us and the world in which we live.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The snapshot judgements I make.

Loving what does: The unique beauty of a life of accumulated experiences.


Abiding Love

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three. And the greatest of these is love.

I went to a graveside service Saturday, committing to the ground a father and son I’d known for nineteen years. What these two men left behind was a testament to who they were. The love everyone had for them, and the love for each other, was a quiet, palpable presence among us. Toddlers playing, new people who will become integral members of this family soon enough, and the friends who became family long ago are all part of the love these two men left with the living. They abide in God’s eternal love, and they left behind an abiding love that gives all of us a glimpse of what is to come when the partial gives way to the complete.

Gracious God, I am so grateful for Ben the father, and Ben his son. Thank you for their lives, and for the abiding love they leave behind. Amen.