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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday

We had a great Mardi Gras at our house last night. We invited another family we know from homeschooling over (funny story, this other couple and I grew up in the same town, graduated in the same year, were friends with some of the same people and went to rival high schools, but did not know each other and met here) and we ate and ate and ate until we could eat no more. I actually had Rich pack up my last doughnut to freeze, because I just could not eat even one more. I made yeast risen potato doughnuts (recipe to follow) with lemon glaze and some Tunisian doughnuts some of which we rolled in cinnamon sugar and the rest we filled with strawberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar.

Rich got a little creative in the shaping of some of the doughnuts and we joked that we could tell our friends that they were the traditional Mardi Gras shape of the doughnuts and that they had to be eaten in a special, ritual manner, and since they did not come from a liturgical tradition, they'd have no idea. We didn't, because of the whole dishonesty issue and we thought it would be a mean trick. But we told them of our plan when they came in the door, they thought it was hilarious. So all of us gorged ourselves and the children were thrilled because they could eat as many doughnuts as they wanted and play outside even after it was late and stay up playing games with their friends.

Which brings us to today.

This is a more difficult Ash Wednesday for me than it has been in a long time. Maybe the most difficult. Normally, I look forward to Lent with its sacrifice, penance, self-examination and even the fast. It is a time to prepare for the resurrection, for judgment, a time set aside to pray and fast and be tempted as our Lord was. Even when I can't participate in the fast, I take it as a time of spiritual discipline, growth and learning, usually substituting some other penance for the fast. This year, I found myself resenting the idea of the fast. It finally occurred to me that it was because I wouldn't have been fasting if we hadn't lost Rayan. Even though I normally miss the fast when I don't do it, this year my participation is tied to losing our baby. It is just another way the grief sneaks up on me. On top of all of this, three of our children are pretty much down for the count (two were a bit lethargic yesterday, one improved, the other worsened and two more were down today), so we are not likely to make it to the Imposition of Ashes tonight. I may go by myself anyway; I think I need it.

However, since we take Lent (and Advent) as a time in our school year to focus more on our religious instruction, we are still doing several things to impart the meaning of Lent to the children and prepare them for the Paschal feast and mystery. We are again making our crown of thorns:

We will be planting our own Golgotha, which should be green by the time Pascha arrives. We're also using paint chips to count down the days until Pascha, matching the colors on the strand to the liturgical colors. This will be our second year of doing 40 bags in 40 days as well, by which we sort through our home to find a bag each day of things that can be given to others to bless them, while also doing a little Lenten cleaning and decluttering, helping us to detach from the things in this world.

God always teaches me something new, and usually not what I prepare myself for, each Lent. Please pray that my eyes and heart would be open to Him. If I have sinned against you or offended you in any way this year, please forgive me and pray for me, a sinner.

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