I usually write a post about Lent, or, at least, Ash Wednesday. Oops. I'm sorry, blog. I remember you and I think about you, but it's usually after I've fallen face-first into bed and don't have the energy to get up and write something.
But look! My reality TV is paused and I'm sitting down to write a post!
And it isn't hateful.
Yes, not as much Facebook during Lent. But, meh, that's more because it's a convenient brain break.
I've mentioned in a previous post about my experience with Ash Wednesday and Lent. This year, I was determined to make it to an Ash Wednesday service. After coming up short finding childcare for the noon service, I found out that our local Catholic church began giving ashes at 7:00 on Wednesday morning.
Well-played, St. Henry's.
So, before my kids were awake, I hopped in my husband's truck and found a spot in the busy parking lot of the church. Let me say, I'm not Catholic. I do not observe Lent to the same standards that some Catholics do. But, a really great thing about our town's Catholic church is that they open the giving of ashes to the community--Catholic and non-Catholic alike (they are a sacramental and open to everyone). Come one, come all. If you have a bare forehead and a penitent heart, we've got ashes for you.
I followed a line of people quietly into the sanctuary and stood until it was my turn. I bowed my head as the priest murmured those precious words, Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return, dipping his thumb into the small cup of ashes and making the sign of the cross on my forehead. I quietly found an empty pew in the back row and knelt to pray. While I missed the fellowship and homily that accompany a proper Ash Wednesday service, I found myself enjoying the moment of quiet, peaceful reflection. A deep breath and a sigh. Respite, really. A moment to focus my thoughts on the beginning of the Lenten season--these forty days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, Easter morning.
I find that I am always ready for Lent to begin. The weight of winter's cold and claustrophobia begin to set in once the holidays are through and January has ended, and I find that my heart is usually ready for a refresher. Lent is poignant for me because it aids in helping me keep my focus where it needs to be--on living my life in constant awareness of what Christ has done for me.
When it came to choosing something to "give up", I found myself struggling a bit. When I first began to observe Lent, I would give up dessert or something that was a "treat" or "vice" in my life. Then I started giving up Facebook because it took up so much of my time. But this year my heart was unsettled at what to choose. Giving up a treat didn't resonate with me as it had before. I realized that giving up treats is actually beneficial to me, and I'm not sure if Lent is supposed to be "beneficial" in that way. The sacrifice is supposed to be ... inconvenient. Is giving up dessert or coffee hard? Sure. But is it inconvenient? Not totally. Try as I may, those things are, in the end, only "extras" in my life, not what I consider to be necessities (insert all kinds of "yes coffee is a necessity" comments ... trust me, I get it). But I wanted to choose something that was almost ... annoying to give up, if that makes sense. It needed to leave me wanting.
So, in the end, I chose to give up meat, with the exception of fish. I try to prepare healthy meals for my family and we don't always eat red meat or poultry, but it's definitely a part of our diet. My plan is to continue to cook the meals I usually cook for my family, including the meat, and I have to just pick around it. For me to make my family go vegetarian wouldn't exactly be a personal sacrifice! If there isn't meat in the house, I'm not tempted to eat it. I need to be tempted. It needs to be ... inconvenient. I want to be reminded of what I am giving up, several times a day, to wrangle my thoughts and keep them where they need to be, focusing on what Christ has done for me. The spiritual discipline where I hope to see growth is in service. My goal is to express gratitude or do an act of service for someone every day during Lent, whether it's writing a note, an e-mail, bringing someone coffee, etc. In my own little world it's easy to be selfish ... or, maybe, just self-centered, since I stay at home and my world does kind of revolve around my family. I need to practice tangible ways of intentionally reaching outside of myself, appreciating more the people God has placed in my life. Service. Gratitude.
So, there you have it. My thoughts for this Lenten season.
Have a lovely day!