Seasons of Life

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

There four different sets of seasons in my life.


Photo by Nathan Wolfe on Unsplash

The first set is the one I see outside. Winter, when the trees go dormant, lasting from December to January. Spring, a time of tree blossoms and new growth, from February to April. Summer with its intense growth, heat and decline during harvest, from May to October. Fall gets a little sliver in November.


The second set is the one with markings on the calendar.

Spring Equinox commencing spring March 20, Summer solstice on June 21, Autumn Equinox on September 22, and Winter Solstice December 21. These neatly scheduled three month seasons have little function in mine life beyond the debates with my husband over whether or not it is spring (…or fall or winter).


Marketing takes a different approach but its influence in most of the United States is undeniable.

Photo by Jomjakkapat Parrueng on Unsplash

In this, celebrations are flip-flopped, focusing on celebrating before the day occurs. The spring cleaning season starts in January with New Year’s Resolutions and storage containers. Valentine’s day has a celebration from mid-January to mid-February. Easter’s time is variable but comes quickly on the heels of Valentine’s day, to disappear the moment Easter Sunday has passed. Two seasons of patriotic flavor and outdoor parties last from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the pumpkin-spice season begins. Christmas overlaps with the lattes by beginning the day after Halloween. After-Christmas sales might have their own season, but it is a minor one. Holidays without a lot of marketing value are diminished while profitable ones grow in duration, to the point where some grow tired of Christmas before the time it comes. We can only handle so much stimulation.


The fourth set of seasons is the most meaningful to me. It is the religious calendar.


Advent, a time of hope and anticipation, lasting the four Sundays before Christmas; Christmas celebrated throughout the 12 Days of Christmas from December 25 to January 6. The time between Christmas filled with “Ordinary” time, with readings and rituals focused on the public ministry of Christ. Lent begins 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter with Ash Wednesday.

It is Lent now, but my catalogs tell me it is Easter. It was spring, and then a cold front began, but it still looks like spring.

Easter is on the first Sunday, following the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox and lasts 50 days. After that, we return to the simplicity of Ordinary Time until Advent.

They all overlap and sometimes contradict each other. I find in my life, exposure to advertisements and Starbucks cups emotionally inclines me to celebrate the season before I am quite ready. Frequent Target stops put certain holidays in the forefront of my children’s brains. I try to let the marketers do their thing, and I do mine and learn ways to operate in separate spheres.

My home is one area where this works through the use of seasonal décor. But, it is not all willpower. As much as I want it to be spring and as much as stores tell me to prepare for Easter, I cannot make those fruit stands open any sooner.

Some of the intentionality is needed to not be swayed by those using psychological techniques to move me to buy things I do not need for a celebration two months away. And some of the intentionality is letting go a little bit, to be willing to wait for it even though I am ready to roll. There is a unique pleasure in waiting for apple season or blueberry picking before enjoying those fruits.

The seasons, however, we observe them, offer variability to our lives through their colors, tastes and activities. With modern technology at our fingertips, it is easy to let go of the richness of keeping everything in its own time. It takes commitment to hold onto traditions, to go out and pick pumpkins even when no Jack-o-Lanterns will be carved, to buy fresh flowers for no reason except “just because.” It is one way to savor life. I hope you will join me in the practice.

Happy Spring.


Photo by krystina rogers on Unsplash

Lent: what is it good for?

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch


It begins with that day of the year when Catholics walk around with soot on their foreheads. The ashes are burned, blessed and distributed with the reminder, “you are dust and unto dust, you shall return.” I can think of more romantic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.

And yet…

What does “carpe diem” and living the moment intentionally mean apart from the understanding that we must live today, cherish every moment because our tomorrows are not guaranteed? It is the grip of that reflective reaction which occurs when someone dies. When we think of what he or she accomplished or perhaps how little time there was; we review our own regrets and gratitude.

Lent is meant for that. Although instead of doing it after a death, it does it leading up to a death, the day Christians recall the Crucifixion, a Friday called Good.

I reflect for myself: am I living a life consistent with my convictions? What can I improve?

Along with reflection, it encourages fasting. Catholics and other traditions “give up” something for Lent. Removing the excesses brings into focus what really matters to me and the things that may have become unintentionally central in my life. Chocolate? Perhaps. Snacking? Perhaps. Gossip? Perhaps. Whatever it is, when I make a focused effort to abstain from it, I do not only become free to evaluate what role it played in my life, but like the Whole 30 diet, this intensive approach seeks to break the bad habits in order to make room for the new, the things I want to be central in my life.

Prayer becomes the sustenance to help me endure and inspire me to continue. It facilitates the initial inquiry of what I want to achieve and keeps the goal in mind. Like using a charitable project to inspire marathon training. What do I want my life to look like? Not just what I want but what am I called to? How can I adjust my expectations and beliefs to fit the bigger picture, love of God and love of neighbor? Am I fully embracing the path I walk on? The formation of that vision inspires the sacrifices.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the ingredients to the season of Lent. Because much of human error can be located in the area of what we do for others and financial practices, Christians are invited to give more at this time. Like “Giving Tuesday” after the trio of shopping days: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. When there is a concerted effort in a short span of time, the effort tends to be more effective.

Equivalents exist in small examples throughout our culture. I welcome the quiet of Lent as I welcome the storage containers that come to Target’s shop floor the first of January. It is good to have seasons of focus. It is a bit too much to live life and keep everything in mind. We need seasons.

My plan is to continue with the disciplines (new habits) I have been working on this spring, to give up bread (to encourage healthier options), to do some spiritual reading, to become more consistent in charitable giving, to take more time for silence and remember to keep work days as their own thing rather than let them spill all over my home days. It is not a radical shift, though it could be if that were necessary. Lent provides the opportunity.

I am not sure our culture has an equivalent to this practice as a whole. Advertisers would have us focus on the here-and-now. At Thanksgiving, we practice gratitude. During Christmastime, we oscillate between the desire to acquire and the desire to “count our blessings.” I think we need it. Our tomorrows are not guaranteed, so when the priest will say, “you are dust and unto dust, you shall return,” I will think in my heart, “I know” and I will try to live like it.