It's Ash Wednesday, which signals thee beginning of Lent and the process of preparing ourselves for Easter where we will celebrate Christ's sacrifice for us by submitting to die on our behalf and his subsequent resurrection three days later!
Growing up my family attended Methodist churches until I was in high school. We participated in fasting for forty days over Lent in imitation of Christ's forty days of fasting in the desert in preparation for his ministry. I have one distinct memory from when I was in second grade and gave up chocolate milk for Lent (my drink of choice at school).
I don't have any other strong recollections until I was in college. In my junior year I recommitted myself to Jesus (I was baptized at the end of my junior year of high school but I spent the first few years of college floundering). That spring I was leading a women's small group and suggested that we all participate in Lent by fasting from something and helping each other stay accountable.
I think most years since then I have either fasted from something or added a practice to draw me closer to God even though I have attended non-denominational churches (which generally don't talk about fasting during Lent).
In the last couple of years I have really begin to miss the traditions of Advent at Christmas and Lent at Easter that I grew up with. My husband also grew up Methodist so we have continued to practice them at home together.
Some years it has been a real challenge, especially the years I have fasted from dessert (I haven't done that in a while because my daughter's birthday always falls during Lent and that seems cruel). I love chocolate and sweets! But it has really helped me to be reminded regularly of Jesus and what he did for me.
This year I struggled a bit to figure out what to fast from. I have been feeling a little pudgy but Lent is not about losing weight so I didn't want to stray from its purpose in remembering my need for Jesus. I ended up choosing both a fast and an added practice. I am fasting from all beverages except water. My added practice is to meditate on (and hopefully memorize) a Bible verse each day.
I also found a local Methodist church where I could receive ashes as I begin this season of Lent. It felt a little foreign as it's been so long but I am glad I did it.
Do you fast from something at Lent? If so, what has been your most challenging fast? Do you fast from the same thing every year? If not, do you have a different way you like to prepare for Easter?