If you were to ask me my favorite season, I would definitely answer fall. And while that answer is true (I cannot resist the apple-pumpkin-cinnamon smells, nor the crisp-cool-cozy-flannel feels), I get to this time of the calendar — spring! — every year and am reminded of just how much I adore the warmer temperatures, blooming trees, budding plants, and longer days of April and May.
This year, spring has felt especially meaningful as what is going on with the ecological world has aligned perfectly with the liturgical season of Easter, at least in my corner of the world (southern Pennsylvania). Our first truly spring-y weekend — you know, that one where the air is fragrant with lilacs and you can finally leave your cardigan inside as you step into the sun — occurred on Easter, and in the weeks since then, our local fauna and foliage have exploded with energy. The message of new life that the Easter season brings isn’t just a theological or philosophical one right now; it’s a physical reality, experienced by all of my senses.
With both the outside world and the messages of the liturgical season on my mind at the moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of new life recently. It’s a hopeful concept to consider, so it’s one that I’m embracing as I journal and reflect during my daily quiet time. To me, this is the pedagogical genius of the church year: it reminds us to devote mental and emotional energy to sitting with and exploring important life topics and experiences.
With that, here’s what new life is looking like in my life right now:
Fresh perspectiveI have had a period of struggle with two significant relationships in my life for the past several months. While I think that these two individuals and I have always had a somewhat difficult time understanding and appreciating one another, the dissatisfaction within the relationship seems to have reached a critical level this past calendar year, which led to — at least on my end — resentment, anger, grief, confusion and anxiety. On top of that, I had absolutely no idea what I could possibly do to ease the tension, or honestly, if I even wanted to do anything. It was a bad place in which to be, and I didn’t want to be there, but I also couldn’t see my way out. That’s where new life this season comes into play. Like the grace of Easter itself, I felt like I went to bed one night feeling as ill-at-ease about the relationship as I had for months, and I woke up the next day filled with acceptance, peace and hope. The relationship woes have not been cured or eliminated, but the burdens of anger and anxiety have been lifted from my heart, and I feel able to acknowledge the part that I have played in the struggle, willing to accept the limitations of the other party, and ready to keep trying.
Motivation to try new recipesOkay, analyzing my cooking habits through the lens of the liturgical season might seem a bit heavy handed. But, as St. Frances of Rome said, “Sometimes she must leave God at the altar, and find him in her housekeeping.” And what can I say? After months of feeling totally uninspired in the kitchen (I cannot tell you how many times I have glumly stared into my pantry and decided, once again, on breakfast burritos for dinner), the energy and inspiration to try new recipes and break out of my cooking rut feels God-given! Feeding my family is one of the many ways I care for them, and enjoying unique tastes and smells is one of the many ways I experience delight in God’s gifts. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do both of these things.
Optimism about the futureI’m probably one of millions of people who can say that the pandemic that we’ve all been through disrupted not only my current life but my expectations of the future one as well. For my family, this disruption mainly looked like uncertainty and change on the employment front for both me and my husband. Given that I’m a type-A, five-year-planning kind of individual, this uncertainty did not register well with me, and I have spent much of the past two years fretting about what our family’s future will look like. I felt sadness, loss and disappointment in almost any configuration that I could imagine for our future. But, all of a sudden, in these past couple of weeks, I’ve added a new feeling to the mix: optimism. The reality of my family’s life right now is that it looks very different than my husband and I imagined it would when we got married eight years ago, and change and loss have touched our lives in ways that we probably wish they hadn’t. But new life is greeting me this season by giving me hope for the future alongside the grief, as well as a heartfelt sense that we are going to be okay, whatever happens.
Throughout the Easter season, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is risen. And for me, that involves not only considering the physical resurrection that took place over 2,000 years ago, but also looking for ways in which I am seeing a “rising up” — new life! — in my day-to-day reality. Thank you, God, for fresh perspectives, for the ability to learn new things, and for hope. Thank you for love that conquers all, for peace that surpasses all understanding, and for hope that endures. Thank you for new life.