Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lenten Choices

So it is Ash Wednesday, and being a Catholic (not particularly devout), I plan to do something extra or give something up.  I've done several things over the years, and have gotten more serious about my commitments over the years.  Sometimes I fail, sometimes I do great.

Last year I gave up meat.  It was HARD!  Like, really, really haaaarrrrdddd!  But, I did it with only two or three flubs.  Up to that time, I had only ever given up meat on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday) during Lent, and that was hard enough to remember.  Oddly, I think giving up meat completely during Lent was much easier to remember because it was a daily commitment, but it made me think about what I was doing and why I was making the sacrifice much more during that time.  Three times a day, to be exact.  The first time I flubbed last year was when we were out at an event and they were offering free pizza.  I gladly helped myself to a piece, ate it contentedly and didn't even realize I had messed up until later that evening when I was deciding on dinner.  Still, I would say that my sacrifice was much more impactful on my life and made a big difference.

A couple years before that, I decided to give up mainstream music a few years in a row and only listen to Christian music. This was also pretty darn difficult because (1) I don't particularly care for most Christian music; and (2) I used to listen to music all day long when I worked at my desk at the old law firm.  Of course, I discovered a lot of new music and even decided that I liked some of it.  To this day, I keep one of my presets in my car on a Christian radio station and Luke even asks to listen to it sometimes.  I consider that a pretty good thing. (And I should give credit to my sister Cathy, because she did this when I was a teenager and I remember scoffing in disgust).

When I was in high school one year, my mom and I (we lived alone at this point) said the rosary every night together.  It was memorable because, well, I remember it.  But I didn't do it by choice so it wasn't as impactful as the two choices I mentioned above.

So, this year I've been trying to decide what to do again.  I really, really enjoyed the meaningfulness of giving up meat last year.  And I've been toying with the idea of doing it again this year, but I have soooooo many darn events that I'm going to that it seams like I'd be a drag and maybe even insulting if I showed up and didn't eat what was served.  For example, we are having book club at my house this week and my friend is catering it - actually, now that I think about it, it will be Friday anyway so I can't eat the meat anyway.  Moving on, we are signed up for a wine dinner this weekend and two of the courses have meat.  I don't want to waste the food. (Lame excuse?)  But the most concerning one is actually during Spring Break.  We have been invited to spend Spring Break at a beach house with my brother and sister-in-law (yes, they are awesome!), and the menu consists of meat for every meal. Of course, this is exactly what I would have planned if I had made the menu during the year, so I'm not complaining at all.  But, if I give up meat, what do I say to them during that week when they are hosting me and my sweet family?  Chuck pointed out that the entire purpose is to make sacrifices like these even when it isn't easy to do so.

I've considered giving up wine, but ugh... I've done that three times in my life for my children, and I'm not particularly interested in subjecting anyone to the crankiness that would ensue from such a sacrifice.  Coffee?  Not a chance; let's get real.  Sweets?  I don't eat enough to make it a real sacrifice.  Carbs? Not if I want to continue exercising.  Restaurants?  Actually this would be good, but is it actually feasible with our lifestyle? Probably not. My mom suggested pizza, but I realized this is probably going to be a staple for my family on Fridays when we can't eat meat and my kids don't eat fish.  Of course, macaroni and cheese is always an option.  My sweet sister-in-law and her whole family gave up fried foods last year.  That would be a great idea, but it turns out I don't even realized when I'm eating fried foods.  Did you know that donuts are fried?  Am I an idiot?  A lot of people give up Facebook, but that's actually a very important part of my legal business, so that's a no-go.  What else?

So, after all that searching, I still think the "no meat" thing is an option, but I've been trying to come up with things that are more like taking on something new - like the Christian music thing.  So here are some of my ideas.

  1. 40 miles in 40 days.  This would be good because I really do hate running and I try to put it off all the time.  If I committed to this, it would mean that I would have to run even when it wasn't convenient.  And perhaps I could use that time (which is only 15 minutes max for a mile run) to pray instead of listening to blaring music. 
  2. 40 Bags in 40 Days.  This is actually a "thing".  One of my FB friends (shout out to Angela here!) posted this and it sounds awesome, but it also sounds way, way, way too time consuming.  It would be great to declutter like this - and I'm the first to admit that we need to declutter - but yikes.  That's a lot to add to an already crazy schedule.
  3. Pray the Rosary Every Day.  Harkening back to my teenage years, obviously.  But maybe it would mean more now that I'm an adult and making the choice on my own?  Time consuming? Not too bad.
  4. The Little Black Book.  I've been doing this for several years, ever since our church started providing it each Lent.  I LOVE it.  I highly encourage anyone interested to order one of these. It's a little book that guides you through 6 minutes of prayer a day.  That's it.  Only 6 minutes.  I can and will do that.  This is already on my list.  My black book is in hand. But it just isn't quite enough for me, so I need something more.
  5. The Reverse Lent Challenge. This one came across on FB this morning and I'm in love with it! Seriously, it's great.  You buy 40 notecards and 40 stamps and send 40 handwritten notes during the season to just about anyone with an encouraging message inside.  I think this would be a fabulous choice, and I'm almost fully committed except for one thing.  I'm terrible at getting things in the mail.  This is not a joke.  I have a pen pal (I've written about her before HERE), but she usually receives her Christmas present in July because I'm so bad about getting things in the mail.  Of course, maybe this would be a great time to remedy that ailment.
So, what do y'all think?  I have to start today.

And for a little happy viewing pleasure - Check out this story about a man who is 109 years old and makes sweaters for penguins. That stuff is seriously cute!


Joan said...

Well how about this: I ministered two Ash Wednesday services today (I was off and free). The best homily was given by Deacon Lupe at the 6:30 service. He began by thanking everyone for signing up for the free workout by just showing up today. That is right, the Lenten workout, consisting of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. We all know about working out to get physically healthy but do we ever get out spiritual life a workout? Now is the time. We all started by just showing up this morning (prayer), then we had an offertory collection (almsgiving), and as we were all leaving we were reminded to hold off on our big meal until later in the day (fasting). One of the readings today also talked about not speaking about the good works you do or the suffering you endure. For it is God who sees these things in private and will grant you a reward in heaven. You truly do not have to go so drastic, how about a simple prayer each morning for something in your community as you head out the door. Or maybe putting a holy water font at the door and filling it with holy water to use through the lenten season. Simple and easy, starting tomorrow won't put you in God's bad graces. He really just wants to know that you love Him.

Theresa said...

Thanks for the suggestions! So far, all I've done is the Little Black book. Feeling like a slacker!