Growing up in a Roman Catholic church in northern New Mexico the question was never if I was observing Lent but rather what was I giving up? Year after year the 40-day span began, post-Fat Tuesday gumbo eating, which is a mandatory family tradition, with a trip to church to receive the ashen cross blessing on my forehead. My mom would ask me every year what I planned to give up. My answers typically ranged from soda to candy or anything else sugar-related that I thought I could live without for 40 days. As a young girl, Lent was a time from abstaining from something I enjoyed and all I could do was look forward to binge eating crunchy chocolate bunnies come Easter Sunday.
Fast-forward a decade or so and things look a little different this time of year. After doing quite a bit of growing, via height and weight but also spiritually, I decided against opting into Lent. I questioned what I was actually gaining from abstaining from something sugary. Sure, it’s healthy to avoid one less sugary treat a day, but how did that connect to my faith? I realized I was prescribing to the Lenten season without really understanding why. I was giving up something only because it was expected rather than because it drew me closer to Jesus.
Since really delving deep into a church community and finding my faith niche, I’ve come to realize that Lent can be used as a time to reset, refocus, and recommit. In changing my perspective, Lent has become that time for me. I’ve chosen to take on things that would challenge me to dig deeper into my faith, my marriage, or allow me to recenter myself on the goals and values I hold dear. And I challenge you, even if you’re not a religious person, to take this time to reset.
Here are some of the things I’ve taken on or suggestions I’ve heard from others that have allowed this 40-day period to help me recenter and grow:
Wake up thirty minutes early.
This one is TOUGH for me. I am a huge fan of sleep and have always chosen it over rising early. Breakfast in bed? Count. Me. In. So why on earth would I do this? After becoming a mom, I quickly learned time alone is unbelievably precious. I rarely have time all to myself even to use the restroom. God forbid I try to sit and meditate or read my Bible! Waking up first thing in the morning before the rest of my house stirs, I can spend time praying, reading my Bible, or enjoy sitting and soaking in the glory of silence. And, despite how angry I might be when the alarm first sounds, I always have a better day because of the calm, early start.
Write a letter to an old friend.
I actually stole this idea from my college roommate (thanks, Clare!), and was on the receiving end of this thoughtful act. It brought immense joy to an otherwise mundane day and reconnected us since we no longer live in the same city. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t like receiving a handwritten note via snail mail. There is something very special about knowing that someone was thinking about you enough to write a sweet note and you never know how much that person might need a little love.
Choose to fast.
The word fast almost feels taboo since everyone and her mom are or have attempted intermittent fasting. I’m an “eat three meals and snack in-between” kinda gal, so I’ve yet to jump on the bandwagon, but because I think many of us struggle with being able to have the control to not eat a meal one day, it is very empowering. I’ve done this in Lenten seasons past by following a guide provided by my church. Despite my reluctance, I was glad I followed through with skipping a meal. I took time during a busy day teaching to recenter, say some prayers and focus on tasks I would’ve had to stay late to complete. I felt stronger mentally for having that control over my body.
Perform a random act of kindness.
We’ve all heard the stories of the lady buying a coffee for the car behind her in the Starbucks drive-thru or the man buying lunch for the table across the restaurant. You can make this big or small, but make the conscious effort to do something for someone else. You can pick up trash at the park or even just show up to work early, hold the door open and say “Good morning” as people begin their day. Choose something you can easily do to brighten someone else’s day,
*This is a neat one to do with your family, especially if your kiddos are old enough to participate/choose an action to perform.
Commit to a healthy habit.
Life gets busy and fast food makes it tough to stay healthy. Maybe you already work out regularly, cook healthy meals every night, and eat only caveman approved foods, but if not this is a great way to start in the right direction. Choose to workout three times a week or cook every weeknight. Meal prep on Sunday or wake up and go on a family walk every Saturday. Make it challenging but attainable and it might just become a new healthy habit.
The list can go on and on, and the possibilities are endless. It’s easy to make excuses to avoid taking on another task or to forgo the Lenten season altogether, but I’ve learned over the past few years that making small efforts to cut bad habits, start new ones, and begin again is truly rejuvenating. I challenge you to take a shot at it and see how much can change by the time Easter rolls around.