I attended my first Ash Wednesday service three years ago and for the past two years, we took a smiling family selfie with our ash crosses on our heads once we got home, but this year I didn’t feel much like doing that. I’ve written before here on the blog and in my newspaper column how I didn’t grow up in a church, even thought my parents believed in God. Nor do I believe in/agree with organized religion that condemns, judges and criticizes. My faith is raw, personal and hard-earned. It’s something I protect, am proud of and rely on heavily to get through my every day. While I do go to church and am involved in my church on multiple levels, my faith is so much more than that.
It’s sacred quiet time every day with my thoughts and God.
It’s using specific essential oils such as Frankincense and Myrhh to connect myself to ancient civilaztions of believers.
It’s sitting outside on a quiet day mindfully listening and smelling nature.
It’s learning about Buddhist and Hindu practices and anything that helps me slow down and hear the whispers of the heavens.
It’s deep prayer and meditation.
It’s reading, writing, journaling.
It’s laughing, questioning, crying.
And something about grieving my mother over the past seven months has made my faith even stronger and deeper. So this past Wednesday when the ashes were crossed on my head, I felt somber, melancholy. I no longer felt like taking a cheesy selfie because the season of Lent is not about being happy at all. It’s about repentance, abstinence, self-denial and reflection. I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to fast from during Lent. I thought about gluten or wine or red meat.
Then it dawned on my what I need to give up. I need to give up worrying about tomorrow. I want to live in any present and truly walk with complete trust in my faith. So while I also plan to give up red meat, that’s not my focus during this Lenten season. My focus is quieting down, slowing down, being mindful of the small moments and quiet voices in each day.
So on this Ash Wednesday, I took a selfie that reflects how I feel inside. Wednesday was a long, rainy day so my hair is frizzy and there’s mascara under my eyes, and there’s obviously zero filter used on this photo, but it’s is real and honest and to me, more accurately reflects the season as a whole.
How about you? Are you someone who observes this time of year? Even if you’re not driven by the traditional reasons for this season, perhaps it’s something your soul and mind need as well. Perhaps during your time of quiet reflection, you may strengthen your own spirituality or find one for the first time that’s uniquely you.