05 March 2014

ash wednesday & lent

My first exposure to the liturgical calendar was in college when I worked at our family business. The girls in the kitchen were all Catholic. They all made a sacrifice for Lent, and since we were friends, they assumed that I would make a sacrifice, as well. And I did. I liked the idea, plus we were friends. Since college I've given up something for Lent each year, including Diet Coke, chocolate, cheese, Facebook, desserts and television.

(Then there was the one time I gave up hitting my snooze button. It sounded like a good idea based on the success my friend, Betsy, had the year before. For me? Major fail. Major.)

A few years ago, I began working at an Episcopal school. For the first several months I really struggled through the weekly chapel services. It was just so different than anything I'd grown up with. Things were read. Prayers were spoken aloud, together. There was a prayer for everything. For this girl who couldn't successfully get through a responsive reading at the back of the Baptist Hymnal, it was very different. Plus reading prayers seemed quite impersonal and lacking in meaning. But then? Chapel became easier. I looked forward to it. I started to really love the readings by verse, as well as speaking prayers that are spoken by so many others in the Episcopal church who pray the same thing on the same day. The liturgy went from odd to okay to more-than-okay to meaningful and powerful.

As much as I began to enjoy chapel services, it took me about three years to walk forward on Ash Wednesday for black ashes to be smeared into the shape of a cross on my forehead. That year, the bishop began his homily. And the Lord began to do a work in my heart. Here's an excerpt of what he shared:
Why ashes? They are a sign of repentance, of sorrow and remorse for sins, of the elements from which we are composed and to which our bodies shall return. They are a way of getting in touch with our basic humanness. Ashes are messy. Sin is messy. The cross was messy. The flogging and the thorns were messy. ... We cannot hide our identity. The ashes mark us. The universal Christian mark of baptism is not always a visible sign, but until we wash the ashes off, our Ash Wednesday worship visibly marks us as Christian. Christians ought always to be visible ambassadors for Christ--acts of love, justice, and kindness should make us continually visible.
That homily, that day marked the first time I had ashes smeared on my forehead. It was and is and outward symbol that I am sinful and messy. I like the idea of acknowledging that, of confessing that. 

I walked away from the service this morning with ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead. It caught some by surprise who didn't attend the service. It actually caught me by surprise the first time I saw myself in the mirror. The ashes were dark and imposing, even though my hair covered a portion of the cross. 

This is the first year in a long time that I hadn't decided what to sacrifice for Lent. I stopped drinking Diet Coke in January, so that's out. I've been quite disciplined in my nutrition lately, so that seems too easy. Of course I could give up social media, but that seems so cliche. I prayed about it throughout the day. The one question I continued to dwell on throughout the day is: how will I wake up different on Resurrection Sunday?

This is the first time I won't sacrifice something, rather I'll add a spiritual discipline. On Easter I want to wake up knowing Christ more, loving Him more, hoping to be more Christ-like. Though this has been accomplished over the past few years by sacrifice during Lent, over the next 40+ days, I'll focus on my relationship with Christ. I'll be more structured than simply reading my bible passage for the day. I'll read and journal, pray and meditate on the Word. If you don't typically observe Lent, this is an easy, non-scary way to jump in. Here are a few resources that you might find useful: Journey to the Cross, The Gospel CoalitionShe Reads TruthAnn VoskampPraying Lent, Creighton University.

"Lent isn't about forfeiting stuff as much as it is about spiritual formation."
--Ann Voskamp

04 March 2014

march goals

In January, I set out with the goal of being diligent. It is my one word for the year. Mainly because I like to resort to lazy. I can't think of anything I enjoy more than sitting on my couch, watching television for hours on end. I mean, I like doing other things, but binge-watching a series on a weekend is my favorite thing ever. This is only an issue because of everything else in life. We like to have friends and meals and clean clothes and clean sheets and a picked up house. On top of that, there's a job that makes me do things like get dressed every day. 

I've been super focused on nutrition the past couple of months. So of course I feel that everything else is crumbling because of the planning and cooking and cleaning. On Saturday, I was overwhelmed at the thought of every cabinet and drawer and closet that needs to be sorted. I'm at the point where I'm just tired of STUFF being in my house. I feel certain I'm not the only one who does this, right? So I started what I'll call the Everything-Must-Go Purge of Spring 2014. And you know that means things look worse. Because in a purge, things get much, much worse before they get better. Now there are piles in the floor of my bedroom and living room. And the great debate begins: donate or garage sale. Because I could use some cash for new flooring. But it's just so much work. Hashtag: first world problems.

In March, I'll be working through the Great Purge. Here are some other things I'd like to do, remaining diligent throughout:

1. read three books
2. walk the azalea trail
3. see Veronica Mars (the movie)
4. purge 200 items

03 March 2014

the day we all hoped for

Today, March 3, is a snow/ice day in east Texas. Again, in March. Cuh-razy. You should know that all winter we hoped for an unplanned day off--a snow/ice day--but it never happened. It snowed/iced to the north, south, east and west, but never in Tyler. It was so very disappointing. Every almost snow/ice day I wanted to throw a tantrum when I had to dry my hair, put on my makeup and get dressed.

To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I've had two cups of coffee and have a second pot brewing. I'm currently watching kelly & michael in my pajamas, under a blanket, hair pulled on top of my head, my sweet puppy snuggled close. I just tossed some steel cut oats on top of the ice for the birds so that they don't starve today. And I tried to take a picture to share, but it looks less than spectacular.

Side note: my computer has been dying a very slow death. It's about nine years old. And it's a Dell, so it's lived about 7.5 years longer than life expectancy. Apparently it's the most sturdy Dell on the planet because I can't break it, even when I try. [Not that I've tried...if my husband reads this.] Currently the sound is on mute, but there's static-y noise coming through the speakers, so as I type it sounds like Morse code or that something--or someone--is trying to communicate with me through a dying Dell computer. I'm not sure who that would be, but they like to communicate mostly through the keys on the right side of the keyboard. 

During the snow/ice storm last night, the lights flickered a few times and the cable went out for about 20 minutes. Which. Oh my word! The Oscars were on. Now, I've only seen two of the nominated movies: Gravity and Despicable Me 2, but I love the Oscars. And I didn't want to miss Ellen hosting. Thankfully, we were spared.

Today, I'm catching up on the DVR and continuing the Great Purge of 2014 that I started on Saturday. I'll drink lots of coffee. And make sure the birds have plenty of food.