Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It is late – well past bedtime – and we are at church. Jeff has been out of town on business all week, and my mommy patience is wearing thin. My two older girls – the ones the world tells me should be meek and mild and obedient – are anything but and they are barely making it through the service. Or maybe I am barely making it through the service. Arms tugging and hanging, too-loud-whispers begging for bathroom breaks, busy hands digging through my purse… my heart wrestles with patience and frustration as I try to find a peaceful way to manage them while receiving the Message that is clear tonight… “Create in me a pure heart.” The irony is not lost on me.
I feel a breath of relief sneak out when the service ends, my tension subsiding, until Emma asks if she can have ashes on her forehead. Kendall catches on quickly, and they are both bouncing and asking and my head is spinning. Our church has never done ashes before – this was the first time – so I don’t know if they are “too young” or if that even matters. I end up settling on “yes” because I don’t have the energy to say “no” more than once. So we all receive our ashes and walk out the door.

The night, unfortunately, only gets crazier from there, and I find myself in an all-too-familiar scenario… smiling and waving and attempting to appear calm as I hold quick conversations with friends and simultaneously search for my girls – one on wheels and two that are purposely hiding and running from me. The more I give them “the eyes,” the more they giggle. I am now literally chasing them, and I know that any efforts to appear calm are futile. The gig is up.

As we pour into the truck, snow boots stomping, doors slamming, "the church lecture" begins. It’s the same lecture I give every Sunday morning, and the one I am sick of repeating because it clearly doesn’t penetrate. The words come out stronger than they should; my tone harsh and condemning. The apologies and sniffles from the back seat fill my ears, but the pure heart I asked for just isn’t there. I am angry and embarrassed, and we drive the rest of the way in silence.

When we arrive home, obedience comes in an attempt to win back my favor. Teeth are brushed and pajamas are on in record time, but before tucking them in, I make a quick pit stop in the laundry room. Exhaustion rises up as I pick up scattered gloves and scarves, but then I quickly catch my reflection in the mirror. And that's when I see them... the ashes.

They are black but not permanent, reminding me of the sins I am going to try and purge the next 40 days to honor the Savior who died for me. They are there to encourage me to turn those sins into beauty – the easy sins and the secret ones and the ones I can’t seem to shake and find myself apologizing for again and again and again.

They are also, I now remember, the same ashes my daughters received. The same ashes His daughters received.

Oh, Father, forgive me.  We are the same.

Humbled, I re-enter their room with the pure heart I asked for, and I embrace and apologize and explain with more love than the first time. We say prayers and repent, and while it is not perfect, it is better. Emma is at peace, but Kendall is still upset. I remind myself that dwelling is not always helpful, so I say goodnight and turn off the light.

As I head for the door, Emma asks for one more kiss.  Mustering up one last ounce of patience, I walk over to her bed and bend down to kiss her forehead, only to realize the ashes she received are no longer there. She has already wiped them clean.

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