Diocese of Oxford

Letter from Andrea – February 2024

Dear Friends,
February is special this year for a couple of reasons. Although February is the shortest month, this year we get another day thanks to it being a leap year. It is a month where we will celebrate love on Valentine’s Day and on the same day, we begin our Lenten journey with our Ash Wednesday service.
We have another special event in our household this month, we will be celebrating a new arrival. Jason an elderly assistance dog will be coming to retire with us. Jason is now 12 and has been supporting Jane, a good friend of ours, who has Multiple Sclerosis. He is a remarkable dog who has a whole host of skills from loading the washing machine and collecting money from a cashpoint to answering the door and helping Jane to dress. He has been invaluable to Jane in many ways and has enabled her to live independently at home for many years.
We first met Jason some 10 years ago when he began supporting Jane and he developed a special bond with Ade. So when it was time for him to retire we received the call asking if we would rehome him. He was originally being trained as a guide dog but was found to be too enthusiastic and greedy so switched to become an assistance dog. Jason has been a loving companion for Jane and I know she will miss him greatly. We hope that he will quickly settle and feel at home with us in his retirement.
A dog’s home should be a safe place, a place where they can relax, where scents are familiar and sounds are predictable. Dogs are completely at home in their own bodies they don’t wear masks or pretend. They trust that they will be welcomed and accepted. Being fully aware of God’s presence is synonymous with being fully at home when we are alone with God. We too are invited to make ourselves at home. In that place, we understand that there is nothing we can do or say that will ever shock God. We can relax, and lay down any preoccupations, anxieties or worries. When we are fully at home with God, we return the gaze of love and trust knowing that we are always welcomed and accepted.
So perhaps the connection of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday isn’t so strange after all. Lent enables us to begin again a journey to becoming more fully at home with God. It is by being more at home with God that we develop the deepest most profound relationship of love with the divine, leading to a real sense of belonging and peace in God’s presence.
May you find a deeper sense of being at home this February, knowing God’s presence and peace with you as you journey through February.