In Which I Learn the True Meaning of Lent

I’m about to tell you something that will no doubt confirm the sneaking suspicion in your mind that I am a complete ditz.

“He gives grace to the humble.” OK, here we go…

My Confession: I used to think that Ash Wednesday was the anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helen and when I saw people in the grocery store on that day with ash smudged on their foreheads, I thought they were remembering those who perished in that disaster.

How I came to this conclusion must have something to do with an early childhood impressions. The souvenir bottle of Mt. St. Helen’s ash my mother kept on a little shelf above Daddy’s recliner in the living room was my first definition of ‘ash’. Hearing of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is it not too unnatural to think I would associate it with the souvenir? I was raised about as far from the Catholic church as one could be—descended from French Huguenot ancestors and attending non-denominational churches for most of my life. Can I be blamed for my ignorance of liturgy and church history?

I’m so glad my gentle friend, Kris, finally set me straight. I who thought Lent had something to do with a topless mountain in Washington. With exquisite prose and dramatic authenticity, Kris’s book “Holey, Wholly, Holy” introduced me to the idea, purpose, and beauty of the Lenten season.


“Though the season of Lent occurs once a calendar year, the reality is, as Christians, we live the Lenten experience again and again. Daily, we experience the grief that often comes with self-reflection and the recognition of our imperfections, the sorrow of confession, the joy of atonement and the blessings of grace through the resurrection.” –Kris Camealy

This book is not simply an expose on an old church tradition. It’s the story of Kris’ own deeply refining Lenten journey, and a reminder to us of the beauty found in surrender. It has been an inspiration to me to delve deeper into the refining fires that come, trusting that they’re designed by a loving God to bring healing and beauty to my very soul.

“This is a not a time to turn and run, thought that may be our instinct. This is the time to stand still, to listen to what He’s whispering, and to allow Him to strip you of the covers you’ve been hiding under. Trust me when I say you’ve not got anything He hasn’t seen before. Stand in this fire, let Him purify you—this is how He loves us. This is the process of sanctification.”

For me, this exquisitely written book was like a movie that ended too soon, until I remembered that the real story is what will happen when I embrace my own Lenten season. If you have always wondered what the big deal was with Lent, or maybe looking for fresh perspective on a familiar tradition in your life, I highly recommend “Holey, Wholly, Holy”, available in paperback or for your Kindle.

P.S. Lent begins Feb 13th this year. Do you observe Lent? This year will be a first for me!

Kris gave kindly gave me a copy of her book to review; these thoughts are my own, as always. Kris is a personal friend and a fellow member of my mastermind group, as well as a talented story-teller and word weaver. I am so excited to share her first book with you all!

8 responses to “In Which I Learn the True Meaning of Lent”

  1. Lisa Avatar

    I am very interested in this book – thanks for sharing! I grew up in a non-denominational church that did not even celebrate Easter or Christmas (in a religious way!) and thought those Catholics with ashes on their foreheads were weird! Fast forward to today and I attend a reformed church that does recognize the Lenten season. We started observing it as a family a few years ago and LOVE it! It really builds the anticipation of Easter. (Yes I celebrate that in a “religious way” too now. 🙂 I still have much to learn about it though, so I think I better go order this book!

  2. Natasha Metzler Avatar

    I don’t think I ever heard of Ash Wednesday until I was nearly an adult. Which is the only reason I didn’t follow right in your footsteps. 🙂 I grew up in the wilds of Alaska were “liturgical” worship only existed in this one little tiny Russian Orthodox church at the end of “East End Road”. It was a long, long ways from me. Lol.

  3. Catherijn Avatar

    Heehee, this made me smile! I’ve had a rather different experience, being Catholic… as children and teenagers we always had ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday and had to deal with any number of people telling us we had dirty marks on our foreheads, then trying to explain, then taking all the abuse that Catholics tend to get in Britain when they “dare” to raise their heads above the parapet. Interestingly, the ashes-on-the-forehead thing doesn’t happen in continental Europe – they scatter ashes over our heads instead, which is less visible, and strikes me as more Biblical (no-one should know by our outward appearance that we are fasting, etc.). We always “do” Lent, in any case, but our family is part of the move towards “positive” Lent, i.e. doing something extra rather (e.g. extra family prayers) rather than giving things up.

    1. Trina Avatar

      I love the idea of doing something extra, Catherijn! Thanks for sharing.

  4. kateri Avatar

    This made me giggle as well. I suppose it was a perfectly logical conclusion. Otherwise why would normal people walk around with smudges on their foreheads on day of the year? 🙂

  5. Jess Avatar

    I have to admit, this gave me a bit of a chuckle 🙂 Having a father who grew up Catholic, we’ve always “done” Lent in someway. In our own home, we typically eat no meat on Fridays.

    I’m hoping to get to read Kris’ book soon.

  6. Elisabeth Avatar

    Actually, fifty seven people died in the St Helens explosion. Only four of those were inside the restricted area – David Johnston (USGS geologist), Harry Truman (stubborn hermit who lived by Spirit Lake) and two amateur volcanologists in the area with the permission of the USGS. Everybody was well out of what they though was harms way – many camping and hiking. If it hadn’t have been a Sunday, the death toll could have easily tripled, due to loggers in the area.

    Anyway. I live in Washington State and find the history of St Helens to be fascinating. Harry Truman is perhaps the most well known death, but it was not the only one.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Thanks for sharing this info, Elisabeth! I corrected my post. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *