I am not Catholic, but I celebrate Lent. Nobody else in my family (with the possible exception of the Catholic relatives) makes a big deal out of Lent. In fact, my husband is dead set against it, for the same reason he hates New Year's resolutions. Cody believes if you need to change something in your life, you just do it right away. However, the season leading up to Resurrection Sunday has become very meaningful to me since I started college almost a decade ago. Some years I give something up; other years I add a discipline to my life.
I am careful to choose something that will help me to walk more closely with Christ, but not something that needs to be a permanent change. So I will never give up something I know to be sinful for Lent--that is something I will work to eliminate from my life no matter the time of year. I also will not give up something that I cannot realistically do without--for instance, chocolate--for a whole month or more. I don't want to set myself up for failure. Finally, I won't add something I should be doing all the time (such as prayer or Bible study) because I don't want the end of the season to be an excuse to stop doing that discipline.
My freshman year of college was the first time I celebrated Lent. I am thankful to my prayer partner at the time (Rachel) who helped me to see that a Protestant could indeed observe the season. It was also the most difficult logistically. I had to amend my promise to God because I could not completely avoid the thing I gave up. I chose to give up secular music (including songs that were not explicitly Christian even if sung by Christian artists, e.g. no Steven Curtis Chapman love songs). Obviously, it was impossible to cut all secular music from my life, as I realized as I waited in the student lounge to meet some friends later that evening. BET music videos definitely don't count as Christian music! So I told God, "Well, you know I meant well. I promise not to listen to secular songs on my own." Now I don't think there is anything sinful about listening to secular music. I quite enjoy it. I don't want to give it up permanently. But that year as I prepared my heart for Resurrection Sunday, my personal playlist was focusing my mind on the risen Lord. It was very powerful!
The following year, I gave up watching TV by myself. This was another one that had to have a caveat, and only partially due to the inevitablity of walking into a room where someone was watching TV. That Lenten season was less powerful; less of a sacrifice, as I did not have to give up my favorite shows. I watched all my faves with my mom; and I would not give that up because it was important to her that we spend that time together. However, it was still a good discipline for me, because I was wasting less time watching random shows alone. I spent the extra time reading, planying board games with my parents, praying, listening to music, and studying. I think maybe I even cleaned my room (I know I cleaned it at least once that year).
I honestly don't remember what I gave up the next year. I think maybe I forgot to celebrate Lent. Whoops! Thankfully, we are "saved by grace through faith, not by works lest any man should boast."
2006 was another powerful Lenten season. I love to write, but I do not discipline myself to spend the time writing...really, anything. Also, I had a brand new boyfriend who tried to convince me that it was legalistic and hypocritical to celebrate Lent. I think he's mellowed out some over the years ;-). So I decided to ADD a discipline. For each week of Lent, I was going to write a letter to someone in my life whom I wanted to encourage. The first letter was to my Czech penpal/spiritual daughter, Susie. I wrote a letter to a former crush, thanking him for his friendship and for realizing that we were not meant to be together (and telling him all about the new man in my life, because he was the type to actually be happy for me and give me godly advice). I wrote a letter to said boyfriend...it was rather sappy, and as we'd only been together for a few weeks, I think it terrified him. I wrote a letter to my best friend, who was away at college. I wrote a letter to a little girl at church whom I was mentoring. I wrote a letter to a young woman in my campus ministry who was going through a difficult time. It was neat to reach out to others from the heart and gifts the Holy Spirit gave to me.
The next year I gave up reading novels--something I spend a lot of time doing-- and read only textbooks, theology books, biographies, and the Bible. This was a stretching time for me; I learned a lot of new things about God and about the world around me because I didn't waste time with fiction.
The first Lent that I was married, I gave up caffienated beverages. I do not say caffiene, because I still ate chocolate in its solid form. But I did not drink hot chocolate, soda, or tea unless it was caffiene free. That was probably the most painful Lent ever; for more reasons than one. To begin with, I was something of a caffiene addict. I could not get through the day without a caffeinated soda or a cuppa for breakfast. I had to learn to depend on God, sleep at a decent time, and cope with headaches. But I am sooo thankful the Lord led me to give up caffiene, for if I hadn't, I would to this day be wondering if caffeine was the cause of the greater pain I faced that Lenten season. On Maundy Thursday of 2008, I lost my first child to miscarriage. As it was, I blamed myself for his (her?) death. As it was, I dropped out of school. As it was, I became suicidal. If I had been addicted to caffeine at the time, I would still believe that I had murdered my baby. However, Beans' brief life and death made that Lent the most meaningful of my entire life. For the day after my miscarriage, my husband and I attended the Good Friday service at our church. I understood, perhaps for the first time "how great the pain of searing loss" our Father faced as He watched the death of His Only Begotten Son.
I can't remember for sure, but I think 2009 was the year I gave up Facebook. My timeline seems to support that theory.
I think I was too sick in 2010 to remember to do anything for Lent. I was just puking my guts out and praying to still be preggo by Good Friday, considering that I'd lost a baby during each Lent I had been married.
Last year, I added something. I know I did. I just can't remember what. Did I write letters again? I think maybe...or I did something around the house that is normally Cody's responsibility. Or both. I'm not sure. I had mommy brain. But I know I did something...I think.
This year I am giving up fanfiction. Because I love fanfiction, but I spend entirely too much time reading it when I should be reading my Bible, doing chores, or hanging out with my hubby. And because I spend entirely too much time writing it when I should be writing original novels that I could actually, I don't know, maybe publish?
Do you celebrate Lent? Why or why not? If you do, how do you do so?Keep it Kute!