in which [it is Lent and] I’m anticipating life

It’s Ash Wednesday today. This is my 10th year observing Lent, these forty days a time of fasting and repentance, of remembering we are dust and to dust we shall return, of remembering the depth of my need for Jesus, of anticipating both death and resurrection. In years past, I’ve fasted from Facebook or blogging or certain foods or coffee. One year, I added in a bit more discipline around prayer. I usually observe the daily offices during Lent and this year will be no different.

But Lent isn’t about magic ashes, nor is it about giving stuff up in a sanctified New Year’s resolution for Jesus-people wanting to break caffeine habits or drop sugar. No, it’s about making space for mourning and justice, about anticipation and new life. Lent is making room for the death and the resurrection, and it’s about miracles and life.

But here now, first:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

This is the fast I’ve chosen this year.


If you’ve read here for any length of time, you’ve seen the theme of “water” crop up many times. From baptism to new life, water to wine, walking on the water, the storms and stories, the cleansing and the life, water has always been my favourite metaphor for life in the Spirit.

For Valentine’s Day, we’re building wells in Bubanza with our SheLoves tribe. (And did you hear? Water is arriving today – check out my Facebook page for a picture!)

And so for Lent this year, I’ve decided to participate in Blood:Water Mission’s 40 Days of Water through the Deeper Story community.



For forty days, I will only drink water and I will also donate the money I would normally spend on my daily coffee or afternoon tea or weekend white wine to building a new well in Uganda. (I’m savouring this last Starbucks Americano right now, oh, Lord, you better believe it. My preciousssssssssss.)

As Nish wrote:

“For the 40 days of Lent, we have the opportunity to participate in glorious anticipation.

We anticipate the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter, God fulfilling His promise that all would be made right and new… and we anticipate the arrival of clean water for thousands of people in Uganda, who no longer have to fear death from simple health problems like diarrhea, parasites and water-borne illness.


This Lenten season, let’s anticipate LIFE as a community.

Life in resurrection, life in redemption, life in a simple glass of water.”


I also like to take time to pray more intentionally, particularly for my family, the Church worldwide, and my friends during Lent.

So can I pray for you?

If so, let me know in the comments. I can hold you up to Jesus, I can stand alongside you during Lent. What’s on your heart today?

  • EstherEmery

    Beautiful pictures. Beautiful example. Beautiful you.

  • Tara M. Owens

    I would be honored to have your prayers for the Lenten season. Particularly around writing, and the book. I need strength, belief in my own voice, perseverance and real faith that Jesus is with me and for me and asking me to undertake this.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You’ve got it, Tara. Pryaing now and I have you on my list, too.

  • Charlotte

    I wish I could do something for Lent this year (I’ve never observed) but i just can’t. My life is a mess. I’m dealing with a lot of difficulty and a lot of pain. I’d consider giving up something but I have nothing to give up. I wanted to attend an Ash Wednesday mass like I did last year but I couldn’t. And I’m mad at myself that the current circumstances of my life are preventing me from doing anything. Thanks for letting me ramble and complain in your comments box. :)

    • BendableJesus

      Your willingness to just be able to turn your face in God’s direction in times of great pain or trial is the most incredible gift you can give Him. That fact that you are here today proves that’s the case. :) Praying for you today.

      • Charlotte

        Thank you so much for the prayers.

    • EstherEmery

      You could try…for a little bit…here and there…giving up being mad at yourself. :)

      • Charlotte

        I need to do that so much. I’ve spent so much time being mad at myself for a lot of things. I could use the break.

        • Sarah Bessey

          That was a good word from Esther, Charlotte. But I am praying for grace received, too.

          • Charlotte

            Thank you Sarah, I appreciate your prayers so much.

      • Sarah Bessey

        That’s a good word, right there, EE.

  • Monique Vining

    You can pray for my family. after eight long years of renting we have been approved for a home loan. We have made an offer on one, just awaiting if the owners accept. Just pray that the right house becomes available if we don’t get this one and that the move is smooth. and did I mention Bethany is moving to Arkansas in April to prepare for college this fall? Lots of changes in the Vining family!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Very exciting, Mon! Very cool. How is Bethany old enough for this, eh? Gracious! Praying for all of you and your new home ahead.

  • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

    I’m joining your 40 Days of Water fast. Thank you for hilighting it here. I’m pregnant this Lenten season so I’ve been struggling for a tangible and safe way to fast. What a blessing to get to share this one with you. You could pray that I will continue to keep my mouth shut as my husband continues to question/rail at God. My word this year is gentle, so if you could pray that I would be able to be gentle with him as well, I would really appreciate it.

    • Sarah Bessey

      I am praying, E.

  • Marie

    You can pray for my church family – a small church in South Africa which is on the brink of something wonderful, and is meanwhile undergoing some frightening spiritual (and physical) attacks. You can pray for the safety of our leaders and congregants, for their wisdom, and that the work will not be stopped.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying right now, Marie. I’ve also got you all on my list now, too.

  • sarah

    First things first: thank you for this sassy and well-spoken reminder that Lent was never intended to be a spiritualized version of New Year’s resolutions for Christians. AMEN sister. We desperately need more leaders speaking about the tension between mourning and anticipation of redemption (because I think we’ve forgotten the meaning of lament altogether in the modern church).

    And now, a prayer request: after a year and a half of wasting away in an office job I hate, I’m taking the leap and planning to give my notice in… (referring to countdown clock created with a handy online tool) 43 days. I’m a brand-spanking-newly-wed and feel totally crazy and irresponsible for intending to quit my job without any plan whatsoever for the next step, but something in my bones tells me this must be the first step. So. My requests are twofold: first, that I would find some part-time work, which would allow me to contribute financially to my new little household, while simultaneously having some space to BREATHE; and second, that I would have patience with the seeming silence of God over questions of “What’s next?” and “What is my purpose?” It has been disorienting and frightening to wait for direction in my story when it seems everyone else has some movement and momentum in theirs.

    Thank you for asking. And thank you for all you offer to your readers, and the church. We are grateful.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You’ve got it, Sarah. Got you down!

  • Amy

    You can pray for my husband and I to be led to do God’s will, no matter where or what that may be. We are feeling SO called in this time of transition and every day are praying for guidance. Thanks to blog like yours, and Jen Hatmaker’s, our eyes have been so opened to the need in this world and I have been shaken from my comfortable life. Pray for guidance and courage for us, please.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying, Amy – you’re at the beginning of a gorgeous new chapter, I think.

  • Crystal McGrew

    I had been praying about what to “give up” and felt the Lord calling me out of my comfort zone, but not sure what it was. Then I read this post and I read the site, and the Lord is calling me to join in. You can pray for my effort, because as a mommy of a 1,2 and 4 year old I am not sure how I am going to give up my caffeine and sugar! Pray that this time will help me understand my blessings and that I would grieve for a broken world where so many are thirsty, not only for water but for the Living Water.

    • Sarah Bessey

      That’s exciting, Crystal! Praying as you walk it out – I’m with you. It’s hard to give up the coffee!

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  • Erin

    I am figuring out what lent looks like for me.

    You can pray for me. My engagement ended last week, and I must let go and heal and believe that God will redeem my heart. It is a struggle to walk this out.

    • Sarah Bessey

      That’s a hard road, Erin. I’m sorry. I am and will be praying.

  • Mary1912

    Three quick things: I really want to find out my place in God’s kingdom. I’m feeling useless; like there is no place I belong. Also on a more material level–we really need a new mattress and couch. We can’t afford these things, even on credit. Pray God provides them. Also pray for Steven’s hands. He has terrible pain from pinched nerves. Pray for healing. Thank you for offering to pray!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying, Mary – got it all down.

  • James Prescott

    Sarah, thanks for this post. A challenging and thought-provoking word about Lent. I’ve given up more than one thing for Lent this year, in tune with my ‘word for the year’ (professional), I’ve cut out chocolate, coke and take aways to steward my body better, and watching DVD’s to steward my time more professionally. But one thing I forgot was to to take up some kind of daily prayer. I’m participating in a catechism with my church and a daily reading of Psalms, but your post has stopped me in my tracks – and maybe next Lent, I may try something which makes more of a difference to others rather than just for me. Thanks for this.

    In terms of prayers, thank you for your kind offer. I would love you to pray for me, for courage (especially in my writing, but in life generally), and also for healing and resolution for a lot of hurt going on inside. Thanks Sarah, I really appreciate it – you prove again you truly are a woman of valour.

    Be blessed, and I will keep you in my prayers.

    • Sarah Bessey

      I’ve got you down on my list, James. Praying now…

      • James Prescott

        Thanks Sarah, really appreciate it. Be blessed!

  • Connor Park

    Please do pray for me: for liberation from fear of community, for the message I sent across the International Date line that will have great meaning for my future, for ears to hear, and a voice to speak and answer the call with Yes.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Gotcha down, Connor. You’re covered.

  • Grace Elizabeth

    I am joining you on this one. Only water for 40 days. Because you gave me the deeper meaning to Lent that I wanted, why has it been made so plastic? And because sometimes al you can think is YES and I NEED to do this. Thank you Sarah. You are so beautiful.

    • Sarah Bessey

      So glad you’re joining, Grace!

      • Grace Elizabeth

        I’d love to say I’m glad too, but the truth is THIS IS HARD. There is a carton of Tropicana in the fridge, and my Gran bought me a chocolate milkshake. And Starbucks keeps calling my name. Perseverance.

  • Kristin Lee Williams

    I am fasting this Lent and part of that fast will be drinking only water. I will definitely miss my coffee but I think I might miss having Friday-night-wine-with-my-husband even more (did I admit that out loud?) I don’t know if it is cheating but I’m planning a little fast break for our 11th anniversary. It just doesn’t seem right not to really celebrate that special day.

    Another part of my observation of Lent this year, and this part I’m really looking forward to, is that I’m going to read through my Bible during these 40 days. I mapped it out last night. It’s approximately 25 pages each day, which probably means I won’t be reading anything but my Bible. But I know it will be so good. I normally read it in small chunks so this whole story approach should be interesting. And hopefully transforming in some way.

    And now a little prayer request: my family is going on a little trip starting tomorrow. It’s the first airplane voyage with our 6 yo and 4 yo. Pray for safety, for sanity, for fun. And pray that my lovely, rambunctious children don’t drive their great-grandparents crazy (as that is who we are journeying to visit). I know it will be great but we are staying with my somewhat frail grandparents in their relatively small house full of breakable things and it is the middle of winter so there will be fewer outdoor opportunities. Be still my heart.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You did admit it out loud, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s a great idea for your reading plan, too. I’ve got you all down but wanted to make sure you knew that i did read your comment the day you put it in and prayed then. How was the trip?

  • Miss

    Lent is so quietly wild, isn’t it?
    This year, I wanted to dive into the 40days challenge, but am not. Instead, Lent this year is all going to be about keeping my hand wide open. I’ve been on this purge kick with my stuff for a while, but found that I was holding myself back from those I love most. I was imposing too many ‘shoulds’ on a lot of everything. But I only have a few weeks left in this calendar year with my soldier home with us. I want to celebrate, drink, laugh, eat, do all the things my family loves to do together and live extravagantly in the moment and enjoy that precious bit of togetherness with the bits of time we have left to do that. So, yeah, I guess if you’d pray that it would be so, that would be sweet and appreciated.

    • Sarah Bessey

      “Quietly wild.” Love how you put that, Miss. Love it. And I’ve got you down, I’ll be praying.

  • Linda

    A prayer for my brother having a mental illness

    • Sheri

      My sister struggles with mental illness too. Very very sad to see someone so vibrant and full of life changed to feeling scared and paranoid 24 hours a day.

      • Sarah Bessey

        I’m so sorry, Sheri, I’ll add you and your sister to my list, too.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying now, Linda.

  • Judy Swords

    I want to give up holding back from God, letting Him help me with all, not trying to hold onto things myself.
    Prayer request: a free pass for you, use my time on somebody’s needs that really touch you & who really needs that extra -guess its my version of pay-it-forward prayer. Thanks for all your thoughtfulness.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You’re so kind, Judy, but just for that, I’m writing you down on my list anyway. 😉

  • Jackie Turner

    I would be honoured if you would pray for the healing of my broken, broken, broken, broken heart. Thank you :).

    • Tara M. Owens

      I will pray, too, Jackie

    • Sarah Bessey

      I’ve got you, Jackie. Praying here.

  • Jennifer

    thank you for another beautiful reminder of Truth. i’ve been in a long season of doubt and depression and struggle and the back and forth of running from and then running back to God… and He seems to be kicking things into overdrive lately… drawing me back to Him again and again… prayers are appreciated greatly… for my surrender to all that He is doing… thank you…

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying, Jennifer. Gotcha covered.

  • pastordt

    We move my ailing, confused my mom this weekend. Nearer to me, which is both good and hard. Complicated relationship, filled with love. She is so stressed and I am, too – so prayer for grace, protection, safety, settling. Thank you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Oh, Diana – praying! Got you both down.

      • pastordt

        Thank you, sweetie. She’s in, the pictures are hung, & I’ve had a two hour nap!!

  • Joy Lenton

    Bless you, Sarah, for making us think more seriously about the real meaning and practice of Lent. I love the variety of ways you have found to make this season relevant and personal over the last 10 years and fully applaud your desire to drink only water this time. It also speaks to me of the life giving presence and overflow of the Holy Spirit. May you truly experience that overflow and abundance in your own life as you seek to bless others by your fast.
    You very kindly offered to pray for us. I would love to have prayer for physical healing from chronic sickness and greater confidence and courage to pursue and develop my writing. My husband needs prayer for healing from mental health problems, depression in particular.
    Please can we pray for you too? Do share any specific needs you may have for yourself and/or the family. You are such an inspiration and blessing to many. I thank God for you being a woman of valour and a person of great depth, passion, integrity and compassion. Blessings :) xx

    • Sarah Bessey

      I’m praying for your illness and your confidence * courage right now, Joy. Also have you down on my list, and your husband, too. And thank you for your prayers and support.

  • anastasia @ eco-babyz

    We are blood:water mission supporters :) Something so simple that we take for granted, I can’t imagine having to worry about finding water for my own children every day!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Me, either. Makes me repent even of my whining about no-coffee. :-)

  • Olivia

    I did the “40 days” challenge last year. It was agony, but it definitely made me think about and challenge my dependence on caffeine and to consider what it means to give up what is in fact a luxury for the sake of other’s necessities. Good luck! (I had a hellish caffeine headache for the first half-week. That was one of the worst parts. the first two weeks are comparatively easy, once the headache wears off, but i found it got a lot more difficult after that.)

    Also, I just moved back home with my mom at the age of 23 after starting a graduate program and realizing it was just not the right fit and then withdrawing after completing a semester’s work. I am looking for a job – I have a promising interview next week! – which is challenging for me because I am really, really bad at selling myself as a candidate. Something about selling myself as such feels dishonest and phony. To be sure, I’ve always found it difficult to “talk myself up”, but it’s suddenly become the most necessary thing in the world.

    I’m also trying to do that pesky thing called “figuring out what to do with the rest of your life”. Really, I just need prayer to learn to trust God, even when I have very little idea of what’s happening next.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying right now, Olivia -and I’ve got you down on my list, too. Bless you.

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  • ChristieEsau

    Sarah (sister), thank you for yet another beautiful piece of writing. And eshet chayil to you on this challenging 40 days of anticipating life! Prayer for my movement into a stronger, more consistent practice of reflective writing would be MUCH appreciated (

    Abundant blessings.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Absolutely – got you down, Christie!

  • Pure Ness

    Sarah, while I read your blog regularly, I’m pretty sure the last time I actually left a comment was on your Lenten post last year. I asked you to pray for my heart and our attempt for another child (
    In the past year, my heart has come far, but the child I was granted was miscarried after only three short weeks of life. After some needed months of just focusing on my current family, my husband and I knew this year that it was time to try again. This time, my heart knew I needed to share with my church family. We stood there in front of them and shared the story of all our lost babies and how much we wanted one more child. I finally asked them all to pray for us, for me, for a baby. We were surrounded by Christ’s body and covered with prayer.
    My hope has been lifted, as have my fears. The higher the hope, the harder you fall when it doesn’t happen. Even as I write, I could be pregnant. I’m struggling every day to hand my fear to my Father, to rest (my one word) in him, to trust his goodness and love for me.
    Will you pray for me? For the baby my heart cries for, and for my heart to find peace in him if we face more loss.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Praying right now, luv. And got you down on my list, too.

      • Pure Ness

        Thank you, Sarah. I will let you know what happens.

        • Pure Ness

          A brief update – because I need prayer now more than ever. I’m pregnant again. And this one has actually started out differently than so many of the others did, and I find myself hopeful that this time it might be different, and the hope is terrifying. I’m struggling everyday to handle the emotions and fears that come with this, and I’ve only known for one week. If this goes the way I hope it will, I will have to deal with all of this for many, many weeks. I desperately need God’s people to lift me up, and to learn how to open my hand in order to hold his.

  • Nicole Gilbertson Wilke

    I needed this reminder, that Lent is not about passive fasting, but rather about active anticipation and participation. As one who grew up Baptist, it’s only been in these last few years that I’ve begun to be drawn more intentionally to Lent. I am learning.

    My husband and I lived in Africa in 2009-2010. We are pursuing moving back to do orphan care, and are in talks with 2 incredible organizations right now. Things have been running on Africa time (slowly), and we were embracing that. It is a tremendous transition, and we are content to wait on God’s timing. Then, within the past 10 days, I started a job, we lost and buried our 2-year-old niece, and he was [temporarily] laid off, even as he spends copious amounts of time studying for the test that will bring him to the next level in his profession. We were content to let Africa evolve on it’s own until we received several reminders (signs?) from God on Saturday. Including hearing from both organizations (after not hearing from them for weeks). AND they both want to talk THIS week. The reality is that we are tired and still grieving. So, so very tired at that deep, emotional and spiritual level. And yet we feel we must move forward. We both think God is having this happen at this time because there is NO WAY we can do this on our own. There is NO possibility of this being on our own strength. [I get chills even as I write that!] We have to trust Him and let Him be in control. And my husband is so gifted in this, but I am not. I want to organize how we pray and I want to fast and tell our prayer team and involve 5 million spiritual disciplines to tip the balance in the likelihood we might not screw it up. This is a big, life-altering decision, you know. But I now see that God is saying, “All those disciplines are good, but they are no replacement for trusting me.”

    So, I ask for this: please pray I would release “control” and trust His goodness. That I would KNOW He will not forsake me, and that this is His story, already written, and that He is simply inviting us to be a part of it. Pray that I would walk with confidence in this process, knowing that even in my sinfulness, I am not big enough to screw up God’s will, and that He would unfold this beautiful story of showing us how to love kids without families well.

    Thank you for offering.

  • Kate

    Alas, I know we are nearly halfway through Lent, and I meant to write weeks ago, but here I am finally following through. My heart and desire for this season (and this year, really) is for Rest. Rest and Healing. Both deeply needed. I am 33. After 35 years of marriage, my parents separated (4 years ago), divorced (2 years ago), and both remarried new spouses as of this past November (my mother to “the other man” and my father to a virtual stranger). It’s been exhausting, unnerving, destabilizing, and sad. Shortly before that familial unraveling, I experienced a broken engagement…I was still in the throes of processing that loss when my mom left my dad. Suffice to say, it’s been a rough series of years, shadowed with grief. Not without a lot of wonderful friend, therapist, and church support, but rough nonetheless. But, now that the divorce is done and my parents are remarried (and my ex actually got married recently too), oh-so-cautiously, 2013 is feeling like a shift to me. Like perhaps I am finally surfacing and walking into a clearing. Like there is space to breathe again. I’m hesitant and a little scared to trust that intuition, yet it has persisted for several weeks now. So I am sharing that with you, to ask if you would mind adding me to your prayers. Rest and Healing. Come Lord Jesus.

  • Victoria Cole

    This is a testimony that i will tell to every one to hear. i have been married four 4years and on the fifth year of my marriage, another woman had a spell to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the kids and we have suffered for 2years until i meant a post where this man Esango Priest have helped someone and i decided to give him a try to help me bring my love Husband home and believe me i just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 48hours as he have told me, i saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why i am happy to make every one of you in similar to met with this man and have your lover back to your self. His email: he is a good man and straight forward human

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