Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. This marks the beginning of Lent. Being Mennonite I have never really observed this season. In college I played at observing it a few times. I gave up soda, but not all sugary drinks, or Bailey's but not all alcohol, or I chose the practice of having Sunday's off from the self-denial. It was very one tiered too. I did not participate in the prayer, penitence and alms-giving tiers of the Lent season. Only my pseudo-attempt at self-denial.
This year I feel like I need to refocus. I want to do this Lent thing right and I really want to get something out of observing Lent this year. I want to remember and explore what Jesus has done for me. I want to experience some real self-denial and co-suffering. I'm not thinking that giving up some type of food or entertainment is, in any way, going to let me experience the type of suffering that Jesus has endured. But, being as self-gratifying and undisciplined as I am, I think that this will be a really good learning experience for me. In thinking about co-suffering, Sofie is close in my thoughts here too. She does not know how much she really is suffering. She is malnourished. At only 6 inches shorter than Livi, she is nearly half her weight at 18lbs. I am her mother and I think it is quite fitting for some co-suffering to take place.
Prayer has been a lost practice in my life. In recent years, I have openly said that I do not pray. I do not think that this is entirely true anymore. I think the prayer has been very bastardized by the church for me and I didn't know what true prayer was. I believe that I always was praying, just not in the Evangelical sense of the word. I think I was practicing it more in the sense of worship and experiencing God through life in general. Don't get me wrong, I think that there is more to prayer than this and that is what I am hoping to explore through this Lent. How will prayer take more of a role in my life and how am I going to model that for Livi? I want to explore prayer as spontaneous utterances, not just self-serving as I have been taught. I want to find or develop a creedal statement for myself. I want to explore old hymns that I had once loved so much.
I think I'm generally good at acknowledging my sins but find the reconciliation part to be a little difficult, especially in areas where I feel righteous. I think that there is great potential for this part of Lent to really surprise and change me. I'm not sure how exactly I'm going to explore this but I think through the self-denial and prayer my journey may reveal some much needed penance that I was unaware of.
The last important part of Lent is Alms-giving. Because of the adoption, we don't really have any "alms" to give but I do have some paper work and creating for Chosen Children that I have greatly been procrastinating. This is my time to get it done. I want to take a few hours each week to sit down and accomplish and create what I feel so passionately about.
What is this Lent going to look like for me?
For self-denial: I'm going to give up red meat and poultry. I going to still allow myself to have seafood since being the cook in the family I think my husband might shoot me if I didn't at least make that. Just giving up meat would be an "easy" choice for Lent since I've been heading that way in recent months anyway. The other thought that kept popping in to my head was to give up sugar. This will be difficult for me. I debated about even telling anyone because then I have to be accountable, but I guess accountability is a good thing, right? I'm not going to be so stringent against sugar that I can't eat bread if it has a bit of sugar in it, but I'm going to try to not eat any explicatively sugary foods and not add any sugar to my teas or oatmeal. I'm going to still allow myself fruit of course and probably a bit of honey every once in a while too. I'm not sure that I'm going to perfectly succeed in denying myself sugar but I want to give it a shot!
For prayer: I want to do some reading and meditation. I'm not much for reading but there is a Henri Nouwen book I have been wanting to read. I'm also hoping that some of you guys can help me with this part. Are there any prayers, blessings, versus, creeds, songs, etc... that you would like to share with me through out this season? You could email or facebook me them. Let me know some practices that you do! I would really appreciate it!
I already said that I don't know what to do or expect for the penance part but I'm excited to see what I learn about this aspect through my self-denial and prayer. And as for alms-giving I plan to give my time and get a lot of the Chosen Children stuff done that I've been procrastinating. I do not plan too take Sundays off from Lent either. I think I would just binge on those days and it kind of defeats the idea of cleansing too. So, wish me luck!