This is Lent
I’ve been praying for God to reveal how and where He wants me to meet him this Lent in my prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
For some reason, I keep returning to the image of my bed and hearing the words: This is Lent.
So God wants me to make my bed? This is my penitential act? So my sacrifice or offering is cleaning my room, dusting the surfaces, and making my bed?
Interesting image for Lent.
I saw all the signs Lent had been approaching for weeks, but it snuck up quickly. I felt unprepared.
I didn’t have a plan.
How could I have a plan?
I can barely plan anything.
My plan is to surrender to this life of holy interruption.
After stumbling in and out of the hospital and into Ash Wednesday, the days have been quite a blur. Everything has been moving so fast.
It was clear with our unexpected trip to the hospital, where I slept on the uncomfortable couch, I wasn’t prepared for Lent. I was sad I was forced to miss Ash Wednesday mass. You may remember I sprained my ankle two years ago on Ash Wednesday—some kind of Lent that was too.
A friend offered to bring ashes to our home by God’s grace. She knew what it would mean to me/us to start Lent sealed with ashes. I was surprised at how her gesture moved Jon as much as it moved me. His heart and eyes are very much set on God these days.
I spent most of Wednesday deeply cleaning our bedroom, letting go of many things—including unnecessary demands and expectations, folding and putting away laundry, dusting every surface and blind, and polishing every window and mirror, all while giving extra care to my recovering guy.
The layers of dust certainly heightened my awareness of “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”(Gen 3:19)
This is Ash Wednesday.
This is Lent.
I was surprised I had the energy to accomplish that task after days without adequate rest. Still, I felt called to use the little I had in me to complete this chore as an offering for Ash Wednesday, not out of obligation but out of obedience to prepare the way.
Also, sometimes, returning to ordinary things in a not-so-ordinary life feels natural, necessary, and healing. I still have a life to run outside of medical necessities. I embrace the ordinary and mundane rhythm of cleaning and folding. It can be made a prayer in itself.
Our room really needed cleaning down to every last fiber of dust on every single window frame. There was so much dust.
After returning home from the hospital, we switched sides of the bed for practical reasons. It made perfect sense I would spend time focused on cleaning and reordering this space especially given we would be having visits from our medical team.
During this week’s visit, Jon’s PT giggled about my clean room, my love of pillows, and that our bed is always made. It was obvious the room was tidier than a week earlier.
It was an offering. As St Therese says, “love is the sacrifice of the soul.” I know what it means to Jon to keep order where possible. He appreciates the room is clean. As for the extra pillows, we like/need a soft place to land and rest from all the weary things.
Discerning my 40 days of Lent, I kept seeing my bed and room in my mind. I pondered why I kept returning to that. What was God telling me I needed to make the bed? Why do I keep recalling an image of our bed and hearing, “This is your Lent.”
I had a feeling it was about more than making my bed or cleaning my room. I was ready to accept all the grace I would receive in living my Lent in whatever way was being asked of me. Though my life already feels like Lent-we’ve been asked to give up so much already.
Wrapped in abundant grace.
“Hail Mary Full of Grace.”
“O Mary, Conceived without Sin, Pray for Us Who Have Recourse to Thee.”
Speaking of grace, I lost my Miraculous Medal last week in the hospital as transport rolled Jon through the halls to the ER. I heard it hit the floor and bounce under a machine. Though I paused for a moment and considered it, I had no time to go back and look for it. I asked God to bless the person who found it. Was this my giving up?
Though sad that I dropped it, my focus needed to be on something far more critical at the time. It was a treasure and a visible reminder of my inner devotion to Mary and her son, Jesus. I have worn this one around my neck for a very long time.
I knew it could become a distraction if I allowed the search for and longing to find it to take me away from the vital things in front of me—Jon’s care. My priority is Jon and my kids these days. I cannot let worldly treasures and other things become a distraction.
It was clear all was not lost.
Turns out Our Lady of Grace had me covered anyway.
I got home, and a Miraculous Medal showed up in many places, including another treasured one I found among the dust of my dresser. I also found a bag of blessed Miraculous Medals given to me in the summer of 2021. They had been lost too.
Our Lady of Grace and Her Son, with or without Sacramentals or medals, is enough for me.
All was not lost, even if I felt lost in the middle of all of this.
Our Lady continues to remind me she and Her Son are with me—they pointed me to where I needed to be as I cleaned the layers of dust around my room and day. Since returning home from our hospital, I found miraculous medals and prayer cards to match in many places. You may not believe how many were left in my path and all the signal graces I received the last few days.
We think we lose one thing, yet we are given back tenfold when we trust.
Yesterday (Friday), I read the day’s reflection in Conversations with God about mortification and our daily tasks.
"The source of the mortifications God asks of us is almost always to be found in Our daily work. Mortifications right from the start of the day: getting up promptly at the time we have fixed for rising, overcoming laziness from the first moment; punctuality; our work finished down to the last detail; the discomfort of too much heat or cold; a smile even though we are tired or do not feel like smiling; sobriety in eating and drinking; order and care for our personal belongings and for the things we use; giving up our own opinion...But for this we need above all to follow a particular piece of advice: If you really want to be a penitent soul-both penitent and cheerful-you must go above all stick to your daily periods of prayer, which should be fervent, generous and not cut short. And you must make sure that these minutes of prayer are not engaged in only when you feel the need, but at fixed times, whenever it is possible. Don't neglect these details. If you subject yourself to this daily worship of God, I can assure you that you will be always happy." — Conversations with God.
These words resonate. Maybe these daily tasks are where God wants me to meet him this Lent. In the prayers of the mundane and ordinary is where I can draw closer to Him.
But then there was clarity and wisdom as clear as my newly polished windows.
Before I even opened my eyes nestled in my bed this morning, I thanked God for another day and asked Him to show me His face and to help me understand where He wants me to meet Him during Lent. And should it be His will for me to write, please give me clarity and the words so I can honor Him. I have searched my heart for words for many things for the last several days. But silence fell over me—until now.
Here we are.
I have given up so much and have been at the foot of the cross under Mary’s mantle for months and months now. What else could God possibly expect of me for Lent? I am learning a lot about expectations—mine and others’—on this brain cancer journey. That is a story for another day.
But I wonder if God is really expecting anything from me. I ponder if we can create unattainable expectations and practices during Lent. He wants our hearts to unite to His more than anything. We can meet Him in the smallest deed.
Today, Saturday, as I write this, is the first morning I didn’t have to wake up for anyone or anything, including any little 4-legged furry things. This isn’t usually the case, and certainly wasn’t while in the hospital. Interruptions are their thing. I woke up naturally and saw the most glorious sunrise.
Praise God, I had a whole night of uninterrupted sleep. I could wake up slowly and pray with intention for the first time in what feels like forever. I really needed this deep healing rest.
There was true clarity and confidence at this moment from God about journeying through Lent. But haven’t I already been living Lent?
With stillness in the house lingering around me while focused on the Holy present moment, I was able to capture what God was showing me about this Lent.
While seeking God’s face in my mind and resting in the comfort of His tender face, I lingered there, basking in His loving gaze as the rays from the sunrise warmed the room through my mostly dust-free blinds.
It all made sense.
The Inner Room
I heard a voice whisper, “Go into your inner room and pray.”
Whenever I heard that scripture referenced by a priest who referred to it often, I imagined my bedroom closet—which still needs dusting and purging—as the inner room where I would pray.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He told them: “Go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6).
This “inner room” is not a physical place. It is an interior place in our hearts, the deepest part of who we are. It’s a quiet place where we can meet the Lord so intimately. There couldn’t be a more intimate room than our bedroom. God wants to meet me in my inner room there.
The inner room is my heart, and the ideal time for me to meet God and hear His voice is when I am at rest and have yet to move from the peace and stillness of my bed.
No wonder I kept getting an image of my bed while discerning my Lent.
As lovely as it is, it isn’t just about the bed being made or the room being dusted. It is about the need for rest while caring for the one who shares that bed.
The inner room is my heart while I am resting in my bed.
This is my Lent.
My Lent will be rest.
God wants to meet me in my rest. He wants me to experience deep healing rest.
On Ash Wednesday, He met me in the dust. He gave me the time, space, energy, and freedom to prepare our bedroom, allowing my heart and Jon’s to receive deep cleaning and healing rest as we wander the desert this Lent.
He is giving me permission, maybe a commandment—”Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”
While I thought I was preparing and cleaning this room for practical reasons, the Lord showed me that it is in this sacred space, this inner room—our bedroom and my heart—where I will meet God and deepen my relationship with Him and receive the peace, comfort strength only He can give during this Lent so I can continue to walk alongside and stay strong for Jon as we walk through the desert.
After a raw and powerful encounter with God Thursday, guided by a conversation with my spiritual director, it was affirmed that I did not need to give up anything for Lent.
I have given up and sacrificed many things that allow me the freedom to draw closer to God. Some things by choice, some by following God’s Will, and some things imposed on me entirely out of my control.
I am grateful to have 40 more days in the desert because we are a people of Hope. We are part of this great Salvation story.
We are Easter People.
Before you jump out of bed each morning to start your day,
make your bed—or not,
care for loved ones
dust the dresser,
and wipe down the blinds and polish the windows, so the light shines more clearly without layers of distractions and dust,
stay there for a moment,
and seek the face of the Comforter and Healer in your rest.
If you are weary, go to your inner room, closet, or bedroom. Go to God in your heart, seek His face, and rest in Him.
He will help you prepare the way.
He will make you clean and maybe make you clean things too,
He will make all things new.
He will give you rest.
His mercy, grace and love never ends.
This is Lent.
We are taking this Lent season to soak up all the prayers, rest and care for what is right before us. Jon needs it. I need it more than I can ever express. There is never enough rest. The kids need it, too. We are all processing so many different big emotions and scenarios. Caregiving is not for the faint of heart, especially when caring for you the love of your life, spouse and father of your kids.
Given everything required to support all of Jon’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs, his spirits and positive attitude still remain unmatched. He is my hero, but I know He is tired.
Please keep lifting us in your prayers as we navigate the days ahead. We need wisdom, understanding, comfort, courage, peace and rest.
As I finish typing this post on God wanting rest for our family during Lent, I feel compelled to share that I continue to be in awe of how God places people in our lives and the timing of how prayers are answered. His goodness is beyond our comprehension.
There are many moments on this brain cancer journey where life feels dark, but light shines more brightly in the dark. The light shines more brightly when we say yes to opportunities to show kindness, generosity, understanding, pure good, and love.
A prayer request for our family’s desire for respite has been answered incredibly kindly and generously—few words can describe it. It leaves our family speechless and maybe shedding several tears as we process it. Would you please pray for all involved in this private intention? There are so many parts to this story I pray I can share someday. A book is writing itself.
May we never ever doubt the kindness of people.
May we be open to receive.
Though we look a bit weary, here is a sweet pic from Ash Wednesday before we received our ashes and just before the college kids hit the road back to school again. Seems fitting to share it today.