Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ornaments of hope: Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday morning.

And so Lent begins, though I still wait for the ashes to cross my forehead tonight. The day began in darkness, tired, with quiver of anticipation, and it will end, too, in darkness of ash.

We're embarking on a journey today, you and I, God.  Us and him. All who hunger for more.

Ever since I noticed those glorious, ordinary birds singing in the trees outside our bedroom window, my heart has held an ache within its walls. I haven't know what to give 'up' for Lent this year, but the birds awakened me to what I want to give.

Just fifteen minutes more in the early morning, fifteen less minutes of sleep, to pray through daily Lenten prayers, but more than this - to sing

Singing helps reset my vision, for truly the birds do not sing only when the sun is shining and the clouds do not pour rain. They sing from a place of seeing and knowing and being just who they were meant to be that has little, perhaps nothing, to do with what they see or how they feel.

Oh, that I would become more like these songbirds.

Let it begin here. Quiet, froggy, sleep-encrusted here.

This season, that moves through darkness to darkest night to light of hope, I don't know what it holds for me this year - for every year is like reading the same book through slightly different eyes - but whatever it will be, I need it.

I need to be renewed.
I need to de-clutter.
I need to see outside myself.
I need to become smaller.
I need to know Christ's wounds.
I need to love the wounded.
I need to taste the hope of resurrection.
I need to venture from darkness to light.
I need to sing.

I need God.
. . . . . . . . . . . 

Ash Wednesday evening.

I felt my dust disintegrating, those few hours between work and Mass. All the stress, the things gone awry, the rain pelting cars in the stampede of traffic inching along, the quiet tension in the car screaming at me: "All is not right!"

Yes, remember that we are dust and unto dust we shall return.  How life brings me to the brink of disintegration, to the end of myself, and after my (often inner) kicking and screaming, I see clear through the haze of it all - how weak I am and frail. A child worn out.

How utterly dependent on God and yet, so often fighting this. A child worn out from crying and fighting, gathered in her Papa's arms.

I wanted us to arrive at this Mass peaceful, prepared, focused.

I wanted a meaningful conversation ahead of time about our intentions for this season.

I wanted to put aside all the stress and noise of our lives - our life that so often feels on the verge of unraveling at the seams - and enter in with ready hearts.

Instead, we arrived having barely spoken a word to each other in the forty-five minute (maybe four mile) trek in the car. We arrived hungry, not from fasting but from not having time or money to stop for dinner. We arrived with faces somber, not from the weight of what we were entering in, but from the weight of life. All the noise and stress followed us inside, right at our heels, and settled annoyingly beside us in the pew.

I could barely focus on what was being read or sung, my mind caught in a ping pong match.

But - and I thank God for a "But"-  I sat there in this grace to be human, of acknowledging this is, in fact, how I always come to God. Helpless. How fitting, too, for this day of ashes. That I enter this season of fasting, prayer and charity just as I am: worn out, burdened, needy, dependent, hungry. That I enter aware of this, drawing near to Christ.

That I enter in expectant of change, renewal, deep deep down in my soul.

The choir closed us in a song of ashes and dust, how we begin here and to here we will return. The last line of the song carried me back outside into the rain, beside my still-quiet husband:

"And the Lord will bear his children home..."


This is the first ornament of hope hung on my tree. 

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. . . . . . . . . .

This is my unofficial blog series for Lent, "Ornaments of hope," where I want to learn to sing like the birds and hang these songs as 'ornaments' on the trees.  I don't know how often I will write, but I'm committed to writing out this forty day journey in some way.  And you? I know you're on your own journey, and I'd love to hear about that. But if you resonate with any of this, I hope to see you around here this Lenten season. Singing with the birds and hanging our ornaments of hope as we journey from darkness to light. Maybe we'll even form a choir.

Linking up with Jennifer for Tell His Story.


  1. Awareness of our need is indeed part of the beautiful grace it is to be human. I love the way you said that and the way you showed it.

    Looking forward to your series, friend.

    1. Thank you, Kelli. It's a grace I'm only now learning, and slowly at that, but it is a beautiful thing. It's so nice to see you here. I've missed you.

  2. Love this idea of ornaments that we hang on our tree. Such a beautiful soul.... light peering through the broken spaces, like dawn creeping up in the morning and its fingerling light dispersing the dark. I look forward to reading this journey with you.

  3. Your comment is so poetic :) I love this imagery of light dispersing dark, dawn overtaking the night, light through cracks. So much hope here, in these spaces. I feel so grateful to have you with me on this journey - and to be with you on yours.

  4. "I sat there in this grace to be human, of acknowledging this is, in fact, how I always come to God. Helpless. How fitting, too, for this day of ashes. That I enter this season of fasting, prayer and charity just as I am..." Why do I so often try to put my need "aside" when to be fully loved and known in my need is what I most desire? Thank you for putting words to this experience so beautifully. All my love. What a great series, my friend.

    1. This is such a great question: "Why do I so often try to put my need "aside" when to be fully loved and known in my need is what I most desire?" It's a hard grace for me to accept, this grace to be human and to receive God's love and acceptance of me in the thick of it. I'm right there with you.