Lent. And Taking Yourself to the Challenge. Part II

Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

The girl can run the hills

Do you celebrate lent? In 2014 I first wrote about my lenten experience. I was trying it 40 days before I flew to the base of the Rocky Mountains to run a marathon. Glad that’s over.

This year my brother, Patrick, and I are accountability buddies. There are no marathons in sight. He gave up caffeine: “the first week was rough but I’m feeling better now.” At the moment he’s…struggling. I refuse to accept his defeat. Get back on that Lenten train, buddy!

I gave up some of my addictive technology practices: I can only check phone/email/computer at four specific times a day. Sound easy? Well, it’s not! I’m a chronic user abuser. I get so much email! To stay on top of it, I check when I’m bored, when I’m not bored, when I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, when it’s been over an hour, when I’m waiting for a play to start, etc etc. Since I like to BE PRODUCTIVE ALL THE TIME I feel antsy just sitting. So, this has been a great challenge.

Well.

It’s been life-changing, she said dramatically. YES IT HAS. Now. I check email once in the morning before awaking children, once at lunch time, sometimes after dinner, and once after I put the kids to bed. Writing this feels ridiculous because it’s still A LOT. But it’s working. My mind is less frazzled. I feel calmer. I’m getting more important writing done. I’m actually cleaning more. Hallelujah, her husband said.

I even daydream more. I no longer keep my phone by my bed so I can’t reach over and check it when I can’t sleep or want a dopamine hit right before sleeping. I feel like I have so much more time! It’s also led to me deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletter I just don’t have time to read, leaving only the most important. It’s a really, really good feeling.

I’ve experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms. Where at first my brain was anxious and antsy, feeling the need for a phone hit, only to BE DENIED, I’m now a little more whatever. It can wait.

Thanks to KJ’s advice (of NYT Motherlode column), I installed the app Moment, which tracks the amount of time I’m on my phone (the kids also installed!) and RescueTime on my laptop. Both are free and have completely revolutionized my thinking, time, and productivity.

All because of lent!

Sometimes I’m tempted to cheat – I remember I have to write a really important email RIGHT NOW. So I do something else: I write it down on paper. And on my next tech moment, I write the email. The sky has not fallen yet.

I thought lent it was a Catholic holiday, but actually, it’s a Christian tradition that many different religions practice. I know this because I Googled, “Lent for Dummies.”

I love the idea of lent, of how it can be a holy period that leads up to Easter.

In the Christian tradition, after the great party of Mardi Gras, where everyone sins and has their riotous fun, there is to be 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and periods of fasting.

Well, I think we’ve had some riotous fun, and wouldn’t it be nice – and doesn’t the world need – some time for the holy? My heart is breaking for Syria and the people of Allepo. The images of children…aside from donating money, what can I do? I pray mightily. There is great power in prayer. Miracles, even. I have felt them in my own life.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. – Doctrine & Covenants 8

Lent’s significance is supposed to be heightened during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

In our house we always celebrate Easter, but I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies. Yuck.

But the spirit of lent is something I’m familiar with.

In the Mormon religion, each first Sunday of the month is designated as “Fast Sunday.” This is a time of prayer, scripture, and going without food and water for 24 hours (as health and circumstance permits.) It’s voluntary and, for a society that really likes food – really hard.

I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes.

Why, I wonder, must we suffer to come closer to the divine? All I know, is that as we descend, we are somehow lifted. It just works.

This year the calendar says that lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Thursday,

April 13. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.
In my 2014 post, my friend, Julia wrote in the comments:

I am Catholic, and I must say you covered the bases pretty well. We fast so that we can make more room for God in our lives. In my house, we always give up sweets/desserts for Lent. I call it detox. Now that the kids are older, they are feeling the sacrifice more. (Example: 12 year old daughter gets into van after school yesterday and says, “Sebastian brought cupcakes to school for his birthday.” Glare. “And for pi day on Friday (celebrating that wonderful mathematical construct) everyone is bringing in pies.” Another, more venomous, glare.
I smile. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” I say. This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. I hope. The Catholic Church also encourages Christians to use this time for increased prayer and works of charity- anything that will increase the amount of love in the world. Goodness knows we need it!
I’m also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.

Just love this.

We give up something good for something better. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. And in a world that hates to be uncomfortable and has become increasingly more self-centered, we could use a bit more sacrifice. For our family, our marriages, our neighbors. Ironically, it ultimately benefits our own selves.

So. Have you taken yourself to the challenge? My daffodils have:

Daffodils are insistent

Are you practicing lent? Do tell!

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4 thoughts on “Lent. And Taking Yourself to the Challenge. Part II

  1. Cecily

    My sister and I are celebrating lent together–and that is how we are thinking about it, as a celebration. We are privileged to live in a world where we can choose to give up something (me, chocolate; her, ice cream), and we are privileged to be able to follow the belief that our sacrifices will bring us closer to God and Jesus Christ. This year I slipped up twice: once eating a frosted marble cake (I thought it was just a yellow cake), and once when I put Nutella on my waffle at a breakfast party. I was reminded of all the times we slip up in life and can choose to get back on the train or give up. (I chose to get back on the train–I hope I always will!)

    In my home, we combine my celebration with a week-long anticipatory celebration of the coming of Easter. We start with palms on Palm Sunday and end on Easter morning. It makes the celebration of Easter so much more meaningful.

    Reply
  2. Julia Tomiak

    Amy, I’m glad you found my comment from 2014 helpful, and thanks for sharing it again in your post.
    This year we have given up sweets again; I also gave up Coke (I’m sure you’re happy). Every time I think, “Man, I want a Coke”, I try to pray instead. My #3 gave up video games because he realized Clash Royale was turning him into a Gollum.
    Lately I’ve felt like I’m not doing a good enough job leading my family with devotions or other faith building activities. I’m praying about this and hoping I can do a better job, even after Lent is over.

    Reply

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