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In My Arms: Life and Dust

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I’m not a morning person, but yesterday morning I could have fooled you. I was full of ideas, questions, and energy. Ash Wednesday had arrived.

I had been really excited for Lent ever since I decided to practice intentional stillness and silence. If you’d like to know more details about my commitment you can read about it here. However, Wednesday arrived and I started to get a little bit apprehensive about my Lenten intentions. As I put on my make-up, I started chatting with God.

God, what are we gonna do? Where exactly am I going to go in order to cloister myself away from noise and distractions every night? It is still pretty cold outside. I know I said I would give two hours of every evening, but two hours is a long time, and so I’m just wondering if maybe I should have split those hours up a bit. I mean, I don’t have a watch so how am I going to know when my time is up? My cell phone will be way too much of a temptation, to have next to me, so that’s not really an option.

I pulled the mascara wand through my lashes, and stopped talking to God for a moment. I sighed, and felt a little bit discouraged with myself.

Hm. I’m already talking with you about the problems I foresee with what I’ve promised to commit to, and I haven’t even started yet. I really do need to be quiet. I really do need to empty my mind, clear out the distractions, but it is going to be so messy, Lord.

7:45am. Time to head to church. I smiled to myself as I carried my son out to the car and buckled him in the car seat.

At this time last year, I was anticipating my first communion, confirmation, and the birth of my little boy. Last year I walked into church with him in my belly, and now he is in my arms. I held him closer to me.

During the mass, my son and I went to receive our ashes. Crosses were traced on our foreheads. Yes, in my arms I was holding life, but someday his body will be dust, as will mine. Sobering thought.

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This world is temporary. Do I live my life that way? No, sadly I don’t. Sometimes I live as if this is all there is.

It is good to have purpose and dreams. It is right to grieve loss and to allow my pain dignity. It is okay to find enjoyment and pleasure. I should aspire to love and to serve. Yet, when I lose sight of the fact that someday I shall be dust, and everyone I love will be dust; I allow life more power than it warrants.

In this Lenten season, may I become more aware of my mortality, and may I become more aware of the eternity that is found in Christ. That I would know the Divine in a new way through silence and stillness, and that I would be willing and able to walk through the pain and joy that may come while experiencing the quiet.

Readers, if you engage in Lent, what are your plans for this season? If you don’t have any plans for Lent, but have some experiences with stillness and silence, please share them!

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  • Gail

    Instead of getting on the internet when I first get up in the morning, I decided that I am going to be quiet for a half hour, maybe pray, or read some psalms… Years ago I spent at least an hour a day in prayer, but to be honest, I was doing so out of pressure to measure up. Now, it is just baby steps. Besides I hope that every time I turn my thoughts to God it is indeed a prayer to His ears, I tell myself that so I don’t get bogged down by the ticking of a clock. All that said, I realized yesterday & today- holy macaroni I am addicted to the internet thirty minutes felt like forever. I applaud your 2 hr fast. God Bless!

    • Gail

      p.s. your little guy is adorable!

    • nstrust

      I can definitely relate to engaging is spiritual disciplines just to try to measure up to expectations or after a retreat or sermon “high”.

      Oh. My. Goodness. I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling that time seems like it is moving so slowly! I was basically going crazy last night.

      • Gail

        Two hours would make me crazy! Not to discourage you, I have an inkling that more good stuff along with writing material will rise up out of the your practice of being still! As the main man said: “Be still and know I am God”

  • Nancy

    I never made a commitment to an amount of time I would give to contemplative prayer. I quit when I am done. I began the practice during a season of crisis in my life and have never stopped. I started with just 10-15 minutes because that was all the time I felt I could take without feeling guilty about shirking other responsibilities. Starting small made me want more. It was my favorite time of day and soon escalated into half an hour and more. I coveted more time. Now I regularly spend a couple hours a day and love it.
    The book Opening to God by David Benner has been very instrumental in teaching me the art of “Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer”. I love what I have learned from this man I will be forever grateful to him.
    Love the pics!

    • nstrust

      How true it is that contemplative prayer is an art! I need to re-read Benner’s book. Such a great one.

      Do you use any concrete objects during your contemplative prayer times, Nancy?

  • Nancy

    I use whatever I feel will inspire me at the time. No rules. Sometimes it is a song, other times a reading or a place like the yard or park. At times a dark room with a candle. I always believe God is present and waiting to comfort, forgive, help and reveal things to me. I never feel an obligation, only opportunity.

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