I am no stranger to ashes.
I whisper a love song to the ashes of the bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh every time I leave the church. Those precious ashes of mine, tucked behind a marble wall, settled in peace.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy Lenten season. A day to remember that from dust we are made, and to dust we shall return. A day to reflect upon the sin that separates us from God and His infinite grace to wash it away and love us back to Himself.
The miraculous mercy that grants me another day on the earth is a mystery to me; an undeserved and wonderful gift. It is a marvel to me that a person can rise from the ashes of heartbreak and death (mind, body, soul) and come to thrive in joy and love.
As I sat in our chapel this morning, reflecting upon my own sin, it occurred to me that for maybe the first time, I did not feel immediately compelled to catalog every last sin I've ever committed. It caught me off guard, actually, that my first admission of guilt wasn't my most obvious and grievous sin against God and my husband.
What that tells me is that not only has God forgiven me, but I've forgiven me, and my husband has forgiven me, and (possibly most astounding of all) I've fully accepted that forgiveness with no further feelings of guilt or shame.
It took time. The realization I had this morning was nearly four years in the making. But consciously accepting forgiveness, in every way? This is freedom. And we can all have it. If you're still in the weeds, stumbling through to acceptance and forgiveness (and acceptance of your own forgiveness), keep going. Do the work, stay the course, keep the faith. And if you need help, turn to someone who can walk with you each step of the way, reminding you who (and whose) you really are.
Despite the sweet freedom I felt and experienced today, of course there is much other sin to reflect upon; namely pride and ego, and how impatient and untrusting I can be of God's plan and timing for my life. This is the purpose of Lenten sacrifice, why we "give up" things during Lent: it's to "die" to our own selfish desires and instead turn our hearts back to the One who created them in the first place.
This year, I’m following Sarah Bessey’s Forty Simple Practices for Lent. The goal of the practice is mindfulness, consistency, devotion, and simple sacrifice. I stumbled across it by accident, and it just felt right. If you’d like to join me, here’s the link to the post describing it all, including a beautiful printable one of her readers created. I double-side printed and stapled mine, and tucked it inside my purse to carry with me: 40 Simple Practices for Lent
We are all miracles, you and me. We're given breath and life for this exact moment in time, to accomplish exactly our own divinely ordained purpose, fully equipped by God with all we need to do our work in the world.
This life is fleeting; we're here just for a moment. The time we have is too short to cloud over with guilt, shame, regret, anxiety, depression, or fear. This is the perfect season to intentionally fill our minds and hearts with all that will combat those demons: forgiveness, hope, light, acceptance, trust, and peace.
Our lives are worth the pursuit and acceptance of those gifts. They’re already ours… we just have to invite them in, embrace them, and believe we deserve them. Because we do. We not only deserve these beautiful gifts; we need them to live fully into the abundant life to which God calls us.
Because I, like you, intend to use my one wild and precious life for goodness; for something wonderful, until my final moments when I join my little one (and all those who have gone before me) and return to the dust.
Thank you God for your provision, your mercy, your grace, your sacrifice, and your limitless love.
HP, J <3
I’ll be living here on the blog, on our Happy Mail Club (subscribe and come join us already!) and our Heartfully Present Facebook page for Lent, where I hope we’ll keep the conversations going. I’m committing to intentional daily writing and prayer and connected conversations... hopefully with you.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.