God’s Love at Work

Jesus Loves Individual by Danny Hahlbohm (Flickr)

Jesus Loves the Individual by Danny Hahlbohm (Flickr)

One Ash Wednesday, I made up my mind to lose those stubborn five pounds.  I set out to simplify the family meals and eliminate snacks, sugary sodas and desserts.  Before I could get the pantry cleaned out, my brother-in-law called to ask if our family would help him get his daughter and her 3-year-old son out of town.  And out of a marriage situation of drugs and abuse. Thus began our Lent of Love.

Theresa and Joey arrival three days later challenging my schedule, my meal preparations and my Lenten resolve. The Lord had not told these two hurting people to give up Cokes and chips and brownies for Lent — any more than he had told me!  My children needed the comforting snacks in the pantry more than ever as they helped me rearrange our home to welcome two new people.

Unexpected sacrifice

The unexpected sacrifice of making room for them in our lives began our family style Lent of Love.  God, who is Love itself, kept us alert to his presence in boundless opportunities to serve. Their need for love followed us wherever we turned, led us where we needed to go and jumped out at us from behind a door.  Little inconveniences became little joys, like watching out for Joey whose favorite place to play was up and down the stairs in his first two-story home.

Lent that year meant loving Theresa. Loving her in everyday ways as she and Joey adjusted to a new city, new surroundings, our schedules and our way of life.  Loving her by helping her find a job, a day-care center and later an apartment. Loving her with God’s love.

Love at work

We saw the fear and sadness in their faces and body language slowly transformed into trust and hope. We took them to Mass and to prayer meetings and they absorbed the love of the Lord until they were full to overflowing with gratefulness. We saw Love at work.

When Theresa got her first paycheck she filled the pantry and refrigerator with all the items on that week’s grocery list.  I got home from grocery shopping to find no room for the same items I had bought. We laughed and cried and hugged each other. Then we stuffed cans and bottles anywhere they would fit.

We would take long walks together after supper and sometimes she would cry because she didn’t have the family she saw laughing and talking at the dinner table.  Theresa didn’t always agree with our counsel, but she knew we all loved her and wanted the best for her.

God’s timing

Their visit lasted exactly through Lent. We helped them move into an apartment on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

I didn’t lose weight, but I lost forever my presumption that I could dictate what self-improvement program the Lord would help me with during Lent. The best change we can make, with God’s grace, is learning new expressions of his love to freely give those he puts squarely in our path. His love gave us our Lent of Love.

I learned the deep and permanent connection between Love and Lent. The connection is stronger than family ties.  It’s the joy of giving that comes at the far end of willpower crumbling into frustration that drives us to call out for God’s help, then let go and watch Love at work.

When we give our Lent to the Lord of Love, we take him at his word. “Glory be to him, whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Eph  3:20)

What unexpected challenges are making this a Lent of Love for you?

(© 2013, revised 2017  Nancy HC Ward)

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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19 Responses to God’s Love at Work

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  4. Janice says:

    What a beautiful story. How much God had planned for you was very inspiring. It was such a weird coincidence that it happened at Lent, no? I hope that through your example, Theresa will draw closer to God too – and little joey!

    • Nancy says:

      Thank you! We visit them when we can and their experience with us always comes up as a truly special time in their lives.

  5. Nancy says:

    Comment received so far on this blog when the com box was disabled for a time.

    thank you for sharing that heartfelt Keeping Love in Lent, God Bless and have a Love filled Lent from Shannon @ Loving the Semi Country Life
    What a beautiful witness to Love and Faith! I constantly have to remind myself that it is God who is in control, and be more patient and open when little challenges come my way. Thank you for this Lenten lesson! ~ Valerie
    I loved these lines: "The best change we can make, with God’s grace, is learning new expressions of his love to freely give those he puts squarely in our path." and "It’s the joy of giving that comes at the far end of willpower crumbling into frustration that drives us to call out for God’s help, then let go and watch Love at work."
    One of my challenges this Lent is to be more accepting and forbearing of some new people I recently met who sometimes rob me the wrong way. Beautiful sharing.  ~Teresa G.
    What a beautifully told story, Nancy. Thank you for sharing. I love your blog, and look forward to reading your other posts.  ~Ultreya
    A very inspiring story! This must have been a quite deep spiritual experience for you and for your family to live, especially in the lenten season. There's no greater joy than the joy of giving. Giving is a sacrifice in itself. Making room for your guests in your home and in your life, and sharing with them everything you have, is, in my opinion, a great gift and a true offering for the sake of love – for the sake of God.

    Blessings to you and to your family.  ~Adib Mady Words on Heaven

    What a beautiful story of love, and reminder of what Lent is really about. When I was little, my mom always told us, "Man proposes but God disposes," meaning that God wants us to come up with ideas, make decisions, etc., but he sometimes has a different plan in mind that he will put on our path. I sure he is very happy with the way you and your family responded to the need he placed in front of you. I hope Theresa and her son have both healed and are doing well – I'll be sure to say a prayer for them! I read your "About" page too… I share your love for writing!
    From Ellen (Eyes On Heaven)


    • Michelle says:

      Wow!  That was definitely a Lent filled with involuntary penances!….and definitely a lot of blessings, too!  What a beautiful witness:)


      • Nancy says:

        Yes, it was a Lent we will never forget because Love (God’s name) was ever with us in surprising and endearing ways. We all grew spiritually in ways that were expected during the 40 days and glorious when Easter came.

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