Snow, ashes and forced pauses

I ran yesterday morning, not long or far, but I was grateful to be able to run. After a year+ of fighting an injury, I’m starting to run consistently, and that’s a gift I do not take for granted.

I know, too, that if I had not moved from North Carolina to California, I would not have been able to run yesterday. Or today. Or tomorrow. Raleigh is covered in ice, and if there’s one surface I refuse to run on, it’s ice (not to mention that 18º is my minimum temperature for running even on the driest road).

I hear that snow is falling there now, adding to the layers of snow, sleet and ice—a pretty sight if you can watch it from the warmth of your home, but miserable if you have to go outside for long. A howling, bitter cold is coming next.

Here’s NOAA’s seven-day forecast for Raleigh:


There’s the kid part of me that already misses snow days. Photos on Facebook show sledding and snow falling and the world blanketed in a glazed white. Schools stay closed, while families stay inside and read books, watch movies or play games. They make smores and hot chocolate and cinnamon buns.

My dog has always loved snow days, especially when it snowed enough to fully bury her tennis ball and turn it into a popsicle to dig up over and over. I know she doesn’t remember what she’s missing, but I miss it a little for her, the unbridled glee she felt on those days. Here’s a shot of her from one of our snow days last year:


Part of me doesn’t miss these snow days, though, especially as cold as Raleigh is right now. Aside from the inevitable cabin fever, there is fretting for my husband and others like him who have to navigate icy roads to get to and from work.


There’s the knowledge that children who rely on free or reduced lunch programs at school are going hungry. And there are the cries for help from homeless shelters bursting at the seams with dangerous white flag nights one after another. For too many, snow days mean fighting for life. (If you’re blessed with plenty, consider a donation to Backpack Buddies or the Raleigh Rescue Mission?)

Because of the icy roads, churches are canceling Ash Wednesday services. In its cancellation notice, my Raleigh church invited members to mark the occasion at home or with neighbors. I hope many of my church family will take them up on that suggestion.

Snow days force a stop in our regular pace of life, and maybe that’s something else I miss.

So much distressing news across the world has me reeling more than usual lately: 21 Christian Egyptian martyrs; three muslim students (all shining young Americans who grew up in my hometown) shot dead in a senseless act of rage; continued extremist violence in Nigeria; even anti-Semitic activity at nearby UC Davis. I cannot make sense of any of it.

The snow blanketing the roads doesn’t cover these troubles, but it does force a pause, a community’s collective inhalation. And it provides still, quiet moments to help us decide where God is calling us to spend our energies next.

The same could be said of the ashes that mark us this first day of Lent. They do not hide our faults, but they do encourage a change from our normal routine and an examination of how we are to prepare for the season ahead.

Sometimes it’s in the pauses that God can move us the most.

To my friends in snowy places, how are you pausing? To my friends who cannot imagine living in such cold places, what encourages you to pause?

6 thoughts on “Snow, ashes and forced pauses

  1. I am so glad that on day 4 of this “forced pause” I stopped in to read your words. I love some of the same things about the first several snow days. Tromping around with a sled on day one was a great pause with my daughters. Hanging out and cooking in the kitchen a bit more leisurely is another. Also being thoughtful about Lent and what to add/subtract happened yesterday. I truly enjoyed your words today.

  2. Hi, Hope.
    Your post is meshing in my brain with the Pope’s Lenten message. He’s challenging us to give up our indifference for Lent. I was moved by that and your post is giving me ideas on how to start. Thanks for pointing out the Backpack Buddies program! Now I have a lot to think about and act upon.

  3. Hope, I love reading your Blog and the questions you present to encourage your readers to stop and reflect upon God’s calling to each of us. Often it is difficult for us to understand just exactly what are we hearing in that message from God? How are we being moved as God’s children to continue his work and share his teachings of repentance, forgiveness and loving our neighbor? How do we reach out to those in need of God’s healing? I do not have an immediate answer to some of these questions. What I do know and understand is God calls each of us to stop, be still and listen….and perhaps by doing so, we will find the answers as he speaks to us in the silence that surrounds us. Holding you and Chris in prayer during this Lenten season. Welcome to our neighborhood! 😉

    • I think/hope God appreciates us asking the questions, even if we don’t know the answers. I hope you’ll find some answers to your specific questions during this season. Thanks for your prayers — during Lent and always! 🙂

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