Willow, Lent and what I should give up…

Tuesday is Meals on Wheels delivery day for me.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity, and the folks are pleasant and grateful.
By far, the highlight of my day is Willow. She is a Lab mix who lives on a farm, and is a little over a year old. And while there are numerous four-legged residents on the farm, Willow is the only one who goes in the house. Her face is adorable, but that isn’t why she has her own wingback chair in the television room.
It’s her joy. Every week I am moved by it. The absolute delight that is seen in her face, her eyes, her life. Some people believe animals do not have a soul and cannot possibly have any notion of God. I don’t know how anyone could watch Willow and not believe she is in touch with her Creator, each taking great pleasure in the other.
Today is Ash Wednesday…the beginning of Lent for Christians. It is a time to reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross and on our own journey. Traditionally, people give things up sacrificially– chocolate, snacks, alcohol, social media.  
Some years I choose to do that, some years I don’t. I was thinking about it yesterday while delivering Meals. The past year has been difficult in many ways. Unresolved financial litigation continues to drain me. A riding tractor accident cost me part of two fingers.
Often I find myself facing the day, or ending the day, with fear and despair rather than hope and joy.
The notion of doing something sacrificial hasn’t been inviting.
Then I turned onto Willow’s lane yesterday. One hundred yards away I could see her coming from behind the barn, half running, half leaping, up the hill toward me…never on the road, just beside it. When we met, she turned around and made another circle around the house and the barn. By the time I got the meal out of the bag and made my way to the door, Willow was there. Tail wagging, mouth open like a smile. She walked in with me, followed me back out and escorted me to the car – then she took off back to the barn or the work shop… and later back in the house if she wanted to sleep.
As I drove away, it occurred to me…maybe I am not called to give up something I like. Maybe, instead, it would be a great time to give up something that I fall into but shouldn’t. Fear. Despair. Doubt. Lingering over questions that have no answers.
Maybe this should be a time of turning my back on those emotions that drain me…turn my back on them and RUN the way Willow does – with wild abandon, with joy.
Fear and despair feel natural in the face of financial disarray. Doubt creeps in. “WHY” kills many hours. And the challenges are still present.
I want to write more, weigh less, do so many things that require focus, which is an elusive commodity most days.
I have been at my wit’s end. I have gnashed my teeth. I have cried and shouted and cried some more.
So maybe for the next forty days, I will try it Willow’s way.
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I could use some strength these days. And joy.
I might also benefit from running, but I don’t want to get too crazy.
Walk with me through Lent…maybe you will find some joy and strength too.
We will talk again soon…

Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!