Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Lent Begins. For those who may not know, here’s what Wikipedia says about Lent:
Lent in the Catholic tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conventionally, it is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. The forty days represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.[1][2]

This practice is common to much of Christendom, being celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans.
Being raised Mormon, I didn’t practice Lent. I was aware of it, however, because on Ash Wednesday some of the kids at school had smudges on their foreheads. The morning of Ash Wednesday began for my faithful Catholic friends with a visit to their churches. During Mass the priest would dip his thumb in Holy Water then in the ashes of the previous year’s Palm Sunday palms, which had been collected and burnt. He would then pronounce a blessing in Latin as he placed the ashes on the forehead of the faithful with the side of his thumb, in the shape of a cross. It was not appropriate to wash the ashes off on Ash Wednesday, though the regular wear and tear of the day smudged and weakened them until it looked like a mascara smudge up above the eyebrows.

Looking back I nod my head at myself, reminding that life gives me lessons every day. Sometimes I am aware I am learning; sometimes not. Lately I’ve lived by the mantra: You can’t not grow. Similarly; You can’t not learn.

For years, unaware of the Catholic ritual, I judged those kids in school as untidy. Sloppy in their facial hygiene. It wasn’t until high school that I found out these were devoted and faithful people, who had risen early and altered their schedules to attend Mass, and whose youthful pride did not overshadow their devotion. I remember passing one of the cheerleaders in the hall at Thomas Jefferson High, her beautiful hair flouncing, her arms crossed in front of her as she held her books, talking comfortably with her friends as she walked. I noticed the smudge under her bangs. I felt an immediate pang of admiration for her that revisits me at this very moment as I remember it.

Ash Wednesday in the lunchroom was a bit more frenetic, in pace and sound; people talking about what they were giving up for Lent. Usually it was something like soda pop, or chocolate. Some gave up things like dancing, or sleeping-in. I heard of one kid trying to give up smoking even though his parents supposedly didn’t know he smoked. Mostly it was food they gave up, which made it notable in the lunch room.

Near that time my best friend Betsy would be observing the Passover season. We would nibble on Matzoh bread spread with peanut butter for lunch then, as she wouldn’t eat leavened bread in that season.

I remember wishing I could wear a smudge on my forehead to show my faithfulness. Or a Yamulka like my Jewish friends when I attended their B’Nai Mitzvah. (that’s plural for Bar/bat Mitzvah.) Once I asked my Bishop why we didn’t wear crosses. I had determined that I was different. I allowed myself to be set apart from the others in my school who practiced the casual comforts of the 1970’s. I was a devoted Christian wasn’t I? But there was nothing that would evidence to the general public that I was a believer.

“We don’t wear the cross because we cherish the atonement more than we celebrate the death of our Savior.” The Bishop tried to explain in simple terms for a teenage girl. “We focus on the fact that He rose again, not that He died. It’s not that His death means any less to us, but that his resurrection means more.” He looked down at me and smiled. “Let the light in your eyes be your symbol.”

I am a Mormon girl, with deep faith in Jesus Christ as my Redeemer. And while I do not practice the religion of my husband’s Catholic family, I respect it deeply, knowing that the Savior on whom they lean is also the Savior upon whom I lean. I am a believer in restored ordinances. I look forward to the invitation that remembering the meaning of Easter gives me, and everyone: to find Him and worship Him as the only means by which we can return Home safely and completely. So while I don’t feel compelled by my religion to practice the sacrifices required in the Lenten season; I have chosen to sacrifice in my own way.

For three years now I have chosen to make one of those personal sacrifices a token of commission rather than omission. I commit to sacrifice my leisure in an effort to dig deeper in myself. One of those ways of digging deeper is through personal writing.
For the next 40+ days I’ll be using the online Random Word Generator to give me a jumping off place for this writing. I call it Word Of The Day (WOTD). I allow myself to look at three words, usually nouns, then I must choose one of them and use it to trigger ideas in my writing. I try to incorporate my senses and use of metaphor, honing my writing skills as I do it. More often than not it ends up I go to a place in my memory, so in a way my WOTD becomes a sort of personal history, though the chronology is askew.

I publish these writings here in my Blog for two reasons: the first being that it makes me accountable. If it’s being published, even just to my family and closest friends, I feel accountable to get it done every day. Secondly, it gives the people I love a chance to see into my hidden places, and at the same time seek those hidden places within themselves.

I invite everyone to join me in the WOTD exercise. Here’s the link to the Random Word Generator I use:

Fat Tuesday is over. Happy Ash Wednesday.
See you tomorrow.


  1. His light does shine in your eyes. it always has. i have followed that light most of my life. you are a good sister. caring, devoted, creative, loyal, thoughtful, sensitive, fun and so forth. i watched as your kids follow that light. i now love seeing your grandkids follow your light. it is brighter than ever. thank you.

  2. Hooray for Lent! I'm excited to read your posts. AND, I've felt motivated this year by you to make my own little goal for Lent. I'm excited. :)

  3. I cannot join you in the exercise. It's too much of a commitment, silly as that seems. I have to wait till words find me. Aunt Libby is right about you, by the way. I hate this time of year precisely because you do this - because reading you is something I want to do, but in quiet, and I am never quiet, so I am always behind. And reading you makes me feel a little shallow in my own dance - and sharp - your prose is so mellow-colored, even in pain. It is a patina, I believe, made of love and time.

    So write on. And I'll trail along as I can -