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Lent. and taking ourselves to the challenge.

By March 10, 2014 March 13th, 2014 13 Comments

Recently I was running on the treadmill. Hating every second of it. Listening to an Able James podcast (they rock). Because podcasts and One Direction’s “Story of My Life” is the only way I get through such misery. (how embarrassing.)

Able was interviewing Mark, a Navy Seal and the author of the Seal Fit blog. His tagline? FORGING MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

The Seal was talking about physical challenges – which I was obviously having on that treadmill.

“Take yourself to the challenge,” he said. “If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. And you won’t be ready for it.”

The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

So I puffed and huffed, knowing that the treadmill was really about mental toughness. I took myself to the challenge. It nearly wrecked me.

But not quite.

I stepped off, one step closer to 26 miles at the base of the great Rocky Mountains. I can only hope that because I’m prepared, I won’t be wrecked.

By the way, I don’t believe that “taking yourself to the challenge” applies only to physical feats. Your challenge will be different than mine. It could be-

  • Motherhood
  • Potty training
  • Fatherhood
  • Writing
  • Patience
  • Killing a Spider
  • Alcohol
  • Emptying a Mouse Trap (um. me.)
  • Keeping Mouth Shut

Oh, the list goes on and on.

Which leads me to lent.

Do you celebrate? I thought 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.”

The thought of lent has been on my mind for days. I’m especially interested in the idea of 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.

Darn it, I already missed the Mardi Gras thing.

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 it often creeps up on me. I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies.

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 – It’s hard.

A hard, hungry day where my stomach growls like that giant plant in Little Shop of Horrors…FEED ME SEYMOUR, FEED ME!!! (Yes, I’m a spoiled American.)

I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes, prayers are answered, and yes, miracles occur.

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 5th and will end forty days later on Thursday, April 17th. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.

April 17th is also the day I fly to Salt Lake City to run. Hmmm.

Typically my Catholic friends give up something for forty days, like chocolate or sugar or coffee.

I found this information delightful as I’ve been giving up something every single month for my experiment of A Year of Living Without. I’ll be living lent for 365 days! Perhaps I have some Catholic in me.

In observance of a holy period around the world, I decided that 40 days of a little more holy would be good for our family.

Which led me to the forsythia bush. Yesterday afternoon I tromped through a couple feet of snow, and whacked at the snow-covered forsythia. At this moment, the bush is nothing but sticks. But I gathered the forsythia sicks and stuck them in a vase by the kitchen window.


If spring won’t come to us – we will take those sticks to the challenge! Every morning, no longer in fear of subzero temps, the buds will open ever so slightly. is it safe to come out yet?

Forsythias can be forced to bloom when brought inside this way.

The forsythia reminds me of Easter. Of Life. Of Resurrection. We will watch the blooming yellow and be reminded that spring might actually come to  New Hampshire! even while the earth is still cold and dark.

I like the idea of lent because it makes us uncomfortable. It pushes us to do something a little bit hard.

Perhaps like the forsythia, we can force ourselves to be a little more holy. Maybe it’s in our mothering. Perhaps it’s at work. Perhaps it’s completely personal. A little more quiet in a world that won’t stop talking, peaceful in an unpeaceful world. We can be centered in a place of chaos. We can find God in a Guatemalan dump.

Can I find holy, make holy in a home filled with frenzy, stair sliding, nerf guns, and barf? I’m gonna try, darn it.

Ideas I’m digging:

  • Sarah. 40 bags in 40 days, going from room to room purging house of unneeded STUFF. Oh yes, I like.
  • Muse and Meander. Another way to look at Lent. What not to give up.
  • Ann Voskamp. printable lent scriptures, pictures, and thoughts to hang on your very own Easter lent tree.
  • Meredith. She’s keeping a gratitude journal in lieu of giving something up.

I hope that by the end of this holy period I will be lead to the well where there is water that actually fills me up.

“nobody needs anymore saltwater of empty religion, of self-help, of some pop psychology veneered with a bit of Bible.” – Ann Voskamp

Do you practice lent? Why? I’d love to hear.

Love, the lenten rookie.



  • Carrie Rubin says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought lent was a Catholic holiday. I only recently learned otherwise. How embarrassing. Of course, I just admitted that on the Internet. Super. 😉

  • Dana says:

    I thought Lent was just a Catholic tradition too. And I didn’t know about the Mormon “Fast Sunday” either. Atonement and sacrifice seems to be a common thread in most religions. I don’t observe Lent, but I can certainly appreciate the meaning behind it.

  • Thanks for the share, Amy. I think you’re right–clarity often comes during the hard times. And I love your idea about the forsythia branches. We’re still covered in feet of snow…but I’m going to see if I can adapt that idea when spring actually gets here.


  • Kate says:

    Such a great article. We are on the same plain as always. I am trying the Lent thing this year. The thing I am giving up has led me to an addiction so I am trying to concor, or at least learn to control i, for the next forty days. So far so good. I have tried this in the past, but have always failed. Some how my little earthly trial is easier to overcome when I think about my Saviors sacrifice.

  • Sarah says:

    My kids have this little calendar and each day has a “something extra” to do- simple things like “say thank you to mom and dad” or “give 5 extra hugs” as a way to remind them to be the best person they can be during Lent. Using that idea, instead of giving something up, we try and implement something positive into our daily routine such as more reading, extra patience, helping others… things of that nature. I love the idea of sacrifice and we don’t eat meat on Fridays as is customary), but I don’t want the kids thinking that Lent is just an excuse to go on a diet like so many do.

  • 4amwriter says:

    I too thought it was a Catholic holiday, and therefore believed myself to be ineligible. 😉 I think it would be tough to accomplish, but the reward at the end so worth it.

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    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.
    BTW, I hate the dreadmill too, and as I admitted on Dana’s blog recently, my guilty pleasure embarrassing song is “Now or Never” from the High School Musical Soundtrack.

  • I used to give up sweets & soda as a teenager during Lent. I should really do the same as an adult. And the dreadmill is my nemesis. Ugh. And Story of My Life…let’s just say you’re not the only one harboring this embarrassing secret!

  • I remember attempting to observe Lent as a kid, but it was never really successful. Or if it was, I’d “given up” something that wasn’t really a sacrifice (e.g. “I’m giving up mayonnaise for Lent!” “You hate mayonnaise!” “So?”). This post struck a chord with me. There are a few things I’m working on personally right now (more stretching, reducing needless snacks, more patient with mothering) that I think can be aided by the spirit of Lent. Thanks 🙂

  • Pingback: Lent - maisymak

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