I'm not really sure what to write about Lent. I had never even heard of it until...well, I don't even know when, but I think sometime in the past 10 years it was first ever introduced. And when I say introduced I don't mean in the way of participating in it. I think it was just in actually hearing the term and subsequently the explanation of what it was. Honestly, it sounded like not-so-much-fun. All of a sudden Mardis Gras made sense. I know all of this might seem really weird. But really all of the traditional Church calendar has always been very foreign to me and so thinking about it (Lent, Epiphany, Fat Tuesday *okay, so that's not really in the Church calendar, right?*) has just been something that never occurred to me. Plus, no one I knew was really familiar with these concepts or participated anyway.
Not that I am really familiar now. However, I did participate in my first Lenten season in 2009 - when I first gave up Facebook. That was a freeing experience. However, I have since rejoined and recently quit (again! for good!).
Last year, I decided I would participate by giving up sugar. In my twisted thinking I viewed that as a way to make myself closer to God, by breaking my intensely powerful bond with the thing I loved *almost* most of all. I envisioned no longer being a slave to chocolate, cake and cookies and made a vow to God that I would rely on him fully and not food. Do you see the pattern of addiction cycles in my life (Facebook, food, the need for approval and who knows what else...)? My grand Lenten plans collapsed on themselves maybe 3 days in. And I felt such condemnation, from myself regarding what a failure I was...I FAILED GOD, DURING LENT!
(just a note: I feel very vulnerable sharing all of of my personal weirdness with the Internet, but I.Just.Keep.Typing...)
So this year, it was out of my mind. Lent...not even on my radar. Then, pastor Luke Hendricks talked about it at church on Sunday. He happened to mention that it's pretty much better to NOT participate in Lent if you think you can use it as any possible means to make God love you, approve of you, make yourself closer to God. Wow. So, that kind of addressed some previous issues for me. At the same time, he presented it as something of importance and the imitation of the determination which Jesus exhibited as he "set his face" toward Jerusalem, where he would walk a hard road of heavy burden bearing...for the sake of his intense love for us. So, I started asking God, "Can I participate in this season that is about 'removing something I take pleasure in, for a time, in order to make room for joy', WITHOUT it becoming this legalistic, saving-myself-from-myself mechanism so that I can present myself spotless before You, God? Can I just simply do or not do something, for a time, and just tell You that I love You, while doing or not doing it?" (I know, I think AND write in run-on sentences!)
The first little thought that popped into my mind, in response, was...get this..."Give up sweets for 40 days!" hahahahaha...WOW. Am I predictable or what? I felt, not-so-good, about that. It smacked a little too familiar. But then, another thought started to fan into my mind...."What about working in your yard for one hour, each day, in the dirt, making preparations for a garden? What about giving up one hour of...just face it, Katie...sheer laziness-during-Claire's-long-nap time to just work outside and prepare a place to grow vegetables for your family, friends, neighbors? And do it, perhaps, with a heart of gratitude, love and present-mindedness towards God?"
And that idea has kind of stuck. I'm pretty excited about it. I keep trying to examine my motives, asking God to help me proceed, without checklists or formulas or presuppositions that this has anything to do with making myself closer to Him. That's rubbish. He is always near. However, maybe I will hear Him a little more clearly or understand His presence that is already near to me anyway, if I can just take time to do something that is quieting for my spirit and (at least for me) does have a tendency to make me more attentive to how ever-present He really is in His created world. And hence...in me.
Or maybe, it'll just look like me working in my soon-to-be-garden, getting fresh air, practicing a posture of love and gratitude towards God and going on with my day...without a bunch of spiritual mushiness :)
I will end by leaving pictures to hopefully make this reading semi-worthwhile. We have been in our home for almost a year. In fact, by Easter, we will have lived in this house EXACTLY a year! During that year my parents helped me progress in some really great (but A LONG WAY TO GO!) before-afters of our backyard. Blood, sweat and tears! Well, not really tears but definitely some blood (blackberry bush vines) and lots of sweat. And more to come!