It's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season.
Lent made a lot of sense in northern climates which lived (and ate) by a agricultural calendar. By the middle of February-beginning of March, people probably started to run out of things that they'd put up at the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It was a good time to use the natural rhythms of the year, to fast and make positive changes in your life with reflection.
When I was growing up, fasting meant "giving up something for Lent." As a kid, that often meant giving up candy or your favorite TV show. I never had the guts to give up reading novels, like one of my nieces did one year... As an adult, I am more likely to try to do something positive rather than giving up something. I suppose I am giving up time.
Lenten Promises are a bit like New Year's Resolutions, because you are gearing up for Easter, a different kind of New.
I find that Lent kind of sneaked up on me this year - I haven't given much thought to either what I could give up or what I could do that would be beneficial to my community or myself this year. In a lot of ways, I feel like I have been living in Lent for the last seven months, since my husband separated from his job (except that he's home and lots of things are easier - like feeding the animals and getting kids to appointments that happen during work). There aren't any new books, or clothes, or anything like that. I even have to think twice about that second gallon of milk for the week.
It's really okay, though. Only one kid kind of whines about it every so often, but mostly because he lived on cereal before I stopped buying it. Otherwise, I point out (and they agree), you have clothes, you have a house, you are not starving (I make lots of muffins and waffles and yummy snacks), you have been able to save up and buy the extra things you want by your own work - you are not lacking.
It does make it hard to "give up" or "add" something for Lent though. I work at work, then I come home and work at home, I say my prayers at night, and sleep, dreaming of more work and wake up feeling like I put in a full day.
I am just going to have to get more creative with this Lent stuff. Maybe making an extra effort to finish that rosary instead of falling asleep in the middle :). Or maybe I can say a rosary in the car on the drive home, instead of thinking about what I should cook for dinner. Or maybe I can go out of my way to be nice to that person who makes me feel so uncomfortable at work. Hmm....that last one is particularly uncomfortable - I prefer to avoid her as much as possible. I guess I found my Lent thing. Arrgggh.
I have to admit, I am really not fond of Lent. The minute Ash Wednesday rolls around, I start feeling somber, and it deepens as the six weeks go on - but I tell you, Easter is always glorious! (I do take a small break for my birthday, which is ALWAYS smack dab in the middle of purple, somber Lent).
Looking forward to Easter, already. Easter and spring - new life in all kinds of ways. New seeds, new garden beds, newly fresh growing things, new chicks, new lambs.....