Ashes (and a Giveaway)




Last night I fell asleep with an ashen cross on my forehead, careful not to smear on the pillow. I dreamed of flying through white ash falling like snow, of a warm flame that doesn’t burn, and a fire in my chest. When I awakened, there was barely a smudge where the cross once was, but I still felt its mark on me.

We have begun the Lenten season, a time traditionally devoted to self-reflection and repentance. Some people like to make a particular sacrifice—coffee or chocolate or wine—but I’ve been so unmoored lately, feeling the loss of things out of my control. I haven’t been able to find a rhythm since Teddy left us in the fall, since losing a valued occupation, since changing direction in life.

This place of shaky legs is most uncomfortable. In saying this, I am reminded of something my pastor said last night in the Ash Wednesday service. “We thought about playing music as people travel through the reflection stations. It’s a little uncomfortable to move around the sanctuary in silence. Then we thought, maybe it’s good to be uncomfortable once in a while.”

I’ve never been drawn to the nomadic; always keep an eye on the destination. But these days I’m not sure where I’m going and it feels like failure to me. During Lent, I am reminded that Jesus made that long walk to the cross for me. I know I should live every day—every moment—with this truth on my forehead, but I don’t. Perhaps an ashen cross is a good reminder.

I’m trying to live into a knowledge that life is about the journey. It feels a bit like aimless wandering at times. Not very sensible. But then, what does that word mean, sensible? Jonathan Edwards spoke of the “sensible idea” as a way of knowing God.

This is the means by which we are able even to begin the task of knowing God. God can never be fully known as an object of intellection, he argued, but must be loved through a deeply visceral and participatory way of knowing. Edwards insisted that it is the impassioned mind, the loving mind, the mind made open to all of its senses that thinks most clearly.” ~Belden Lane, Ravished by Beauty

By this definition, my wanderings are very sensible indeed. I look for God in all my humanity—scent of snow weighing down air, taste of salted caramel tickling the tongue, feel of skin against my lips, birdsong, glimpse of red flickering through barren trees …

Edwards says this world is a theater for God’s glory. Instead of thinking of my one wild and beautiful life as a destination, I shall think of it as a play. Impromptu. Fair and glorious in all its twists and turns.

This Lenten season I’m giving away some lovely books. This week, I have a copy of Kristen Welch’s Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. The book comes with a global family kit, a resource to help parents learn more about different cultures. Kristen and I met through our agent, Bill Jensen. Her story is really quite amazing. If you haven’t read her first book Rhinestone Jesus, you’re missing quite an inspiring tale! For a chance to win a copy of Kristen’s new book, just leave a comment on this post. I’ll announce the winner (and another giveaway) on Monday, 2/15.





  1. Tammi says

    Hi, Laura! I have this book and am enjoying it. Love Kristen and her ministry! I would like to win this to give to a friend. The Family global kit is a wonderful bonus.😃

  2. Joyce Jarrell says

    Hi Laura- I don’t have this book but would love to win 😊 This Lenten season I am not “giving up” anything but I am doing a “jot it down” kind of thing where I send s card or note of some type to someone every day.

  3. Susan Perry says

    Hi Laura, I would love to have this book to give to my adult children. I have also felt a little unmoored recently due to a job change. It has made me reflect again on the fact that I am not my job. Exploration is tough but good when we open ourselves. I hope your journey goes well too.

  4. Marci ingram says

    Laura I love you dearly and appreciate your honesty. I too don’t deal with change and know how many big changes you have gone through this year. But I do agree the journey is as important as the destination. Sometimes our wandering and waiting seems worthless but yet God uses this time to refine us, strengthen our faith and make the destination that much more treasured. I just read Kristens devotion and she referenced her new book. What a wonderful read I’m sure it is, one I would love to do! May you continually feels Gods hands on you during this season of change in your life! Love you my precious friend!

  5. says

    Before seeing your post I tried to order this on Amazon. It’s sold out right now. As my dad sits in a straw hut in Uganda I try to explain to my thirteen year old girl why the name brand shoes she wants add no real value to her life or the Kingdom of God. I’m wandering too and feel like I’m failing. Believing He is enough. Dayenu. More than enough. I love you friend.

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    Laura, I would say I’m sorry for your wilderness wandering (because I have known the pain and confusion of it, and I don’t want that for you–in my humanness. I love you and want things to be joyful). And yet, because I have been there and in many ways am there, I resonate so deeply with all you have written. And I know the pain of letting go. So I want you to know how much I empathize. And yet I have also unearthed such rich treasures in darkness that I am anticipating such a treasure trove for you. So I am in some ways, I’m even excited for you, standing on tiptoe to see what God is doing with your beautiful life, one HE treasures so much. Rest in Him dear one, and remember the Cross. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Yes, it is a sign of death, but without it, there is no possibility of life and purpose.
    Sending so much love and care,
    PS Please don’t put me in the drawing. I thnk the book would be savored more by one who has children younger than mine. 🙂

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