Preparing for Lent

So I’ve been working on our Lenten series: The Abundance of Enough. Lent is 12 days away… *breathes into paper bag*). I helped my bestie a few years ago as she was doing a series of the same title. I’m a good “bounce ideas off of” person and I helped with some visuals for the series.

This year our stewardship theme was “More than Enough” and as we thought about bringing stewardship practices into a year round commitment I came back to this theme. In preparation I’ve been reading books like: The Way of Simplicity, Plain Living, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go and An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture.

Yesterday, I read and collected scriptures and prayers for the series. As I did this I was interrupted by staff in the office and emails from people because Thursday was the first day our office was open after the snow storm (and my 8 year old who was on her 5th day off of school). I also juggled personal finances, attempting to scrape up enough money to make it to payday. I was not successful.

SO I focused on something where I could be successful… Whenever I prepare for Lent I begin to think about my lenten practices. Several years ago I started taking lenten practices very seriously. This year, I will be asking our church to do the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, and I will be joining in.

I’m all for the practices where I ask, what can I take on spiritual/give up spiritually. These are important, but I have found the more ancient ways of deprivation to be most helpful for me in my practices.  Especially as a middle class American.

As I was reading about the Cistercian spirituality of buildings I couldn’t help but think of the Reformed tradition and our churches, they are purposefully plain. This has been my inspiration for the last few years where I have worn all black, no makeup, no special hair products, and no jewelry (search the blog, I wrote about it extensively).

I thought about what it would mean to remove decoration from my home and my office. It was an interesting thought, but as I looked around my house I kept going back to the word “abundance”.

I live in a suburban home with an abundance of space. Don’t get me wrong it’s not huge, but it is a good size, more than we need. I have a closet full of clothes that I walk into and “search” for something to wear. I have 2 refrigerators, a deep freezer, and a pantry full of food and still “need to run to the store.” I have shelves of movies, netflix, amazon prime, and cable, yet still complain, “there’s nothing on tv.”

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I’m a slave to abundance, a slave to options. Why do I need all this? Will there ever be enough?!? We live in a constant state of the food of Thanksgiving and the gifts of Christmas on a daily basis.

It’s time to simplify. I canot serve 2 masters.

Even though Lent is less than 2 weeks away (where’s that paper bag), I’m going to start today, because eating out should be a special event with my economic state, not a habit. Because I don’t need any more clothes, or whatever crap it is I want to buy. And honestly, I could feed our family on whatever is in our house for more than a month, so I will.

I will not buy groceries until we’ve eaten what we have (exception: fresh produce that I eat and NOT throw away, dairy products, or eggs). I might have to get creative, but I will do it. We will eat leftovers and not throw them out. I will use things until they are gone and not for one meal until I forget about them. Also, the paper plates are going away and the laundry will be put away. It may not seem connected but part of the issue is things are bought (socks) because I haven’t folded laundry and paper plates are used because we haven’t washed the dishes.

Abundance is a luxury I don’t want to afford. I want to do better. We already recycle and compost in our house, we grow our own food in the summer and herbs all year round, now this Lent, I’ll take another step to a more simplistic way of life.

I’m also playing around with fasting and silence one day each week, I’ll keep you posted on that…

 

 

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I Cheated, I’m a Cheater

I’m so sorry God, I am a cheater.

I committed myself to 40 days. 40 days of all black, no makeup and curly hair.

But then I had an event…

ImageAt first it was a simple thing, a navy dress.

Then brown boots, all within the realm of reason, right?

I pulled my hair back, but it didn’t quite look right.

I put on tinted moisturizer… (and it felt good)

Then came the lipstick and mascara. (and it felt really good)

The smell of makeup, the feel of the brushes, next came blush.

I tried to stop myself, I really did.

But then the hairdryer got pulled out. “Just to smooth it a little” I rationalized…

But it just felt so good to “fit in” again. To play the game of beauty and what is attractive to the world. I know you could care less, that Lent is not about my stupid practice, that you really don’t need to hear my confession, that I’m only trying to make myself feel better. But it matters to me, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and for 40 days set aside the world that tells me otherwise and live into that promise. So I’m sorry God, today I am back in black, no makeup, curly hair and all. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am. Thanks be to God.

Back in Black, Baby!

So here’s how it goes. Last year my Director of Christian Education (the fabulous, amazing, all powerful and hilarious), Katie Cashin (find her blog at The Very Hungry) and I went on a Lenten Journey together.  We stripped color from our wardrobes, makeup from our faces, and product from our hair. And we’re doing it again.

If Katie blogs about her experience I will post it here, but here are my musings from last year: Moving into DarknessYou Are EnoughBlack Shows Everything and True Colors

It was a profoundly moving experience.  

ImageHere are the rules and a few exceptions for myself: Funerals (makeup) and when I am in Cuba (because I don’t have black summer clothes), and pajamas. Because of these exceptions I will NOT be taking Sundays off.  I will wear all black, navy blue, or dark grey (all with little to no pattern) for 40 days.  I will not wear makeup. I will not straighten my hair. I will limit my jewelry to my wedding band and silver studs. Only Black shoes will be permitted. I am not allowed to buy any clothes or shoes as I have to use what I already have. I have set everything I own for this journey aside in my closet and all the other clothes get “put away”.  

But why again?

Well, again, see the blogs above. But last year was a profoundly moving experience. I had to be as “close to as God intended” I had to “make due with what I was given” and because I didn’t have to think about what I was wearing or who I was going to impress with the way I looked, I only had myself to rely on. So much in our society tells us that we need to dress to impress and always look my best.  My funky jewelry tells people I’m eccentric and my shoes show people I’m not afraid to mix styles. I admit, by the end of the 40 days last year I was SICK of the black, but the real practice is: How much time do I put into these expectations of the world, “prettying” myself up, when all the while ignoring my Creator? Even the 5 minutes it takes to pick out an outfit. The 10 minutes to dry my hair and put on makeup, and the hour it takes to pick the right earrings to go with this ring (okay, a little exaggeration, but really jewelry takes the longest for me…).

I will be doing other lenten practices too. ReThinkChurch’s Lenten Photo-A-Day (follow this blog or on Instagram) and Fat Pastor’s Thank You Notes (not like Jimmy Fallon, but maybe…). These lists are both from last year, but I will be following them anyway.  

Wish me luck! 

True Colors

Sometimes when my kids are really tired I can sneak in a song that I like to sing while putting them to bed.  We do the basics, the nursery rhymes and whatnot, but sometimes I will throw in a little something for myself.  One of my go-to songs is Cindi Lauper’s “True Colors” (yes, I know Rod Stewart sang it also, but I choose to ignore his version). 

Over this Lenten season I gave up color in my wardrobe and wore all black, and yes, on Easter morning when I stopped the practice I felt like this…

ImageYes, it felt like I was seeing color for the first time.  I was at least seeing myself in color for the first time. Those six weeks felt very long, and I was fine, absolutely no complaints the first three weeks, and then I admit it was tough.  

But in the last 4 or so days here’s what I have learned/discovered.

1) hair dryers make a lot of noise. Seriously, I kind of liked getting up and out of the shower and what my hair did, it did. Now I dry my bangs and the top/front of my hair- no I do not dry the bottom or the back (seriously, who has time for that?).  And the hair dryer is REALLY loud! So loud I think I might cut all my hair off…

2) I don’t actually like make-up. I wear makeup on Sundays and it never quite looks right.  Maybe I don’t know how to properly put it on or something, but the line between plain Jane and Vegas showgirl is finer than people realize, at least it is for me. The exception to this is tinted moisturizer, I like the redness out of my skin.

3) I like my jewelry. I really do. I particularly missed my wedding ring (I wore a simple band). But I really missed my earrings, however every time I look at myself I feel like ALL I can see is the jewelery.

4) My clothes are pretty plain. Ask me to give up patterns for Lent and it would not have been a chore. Seriously, I have greys and browns and creams, all solids.  But that is actually kind of okay. 

So what did I learn? Well I’m still learning. 

This was an experiment in creativity, where would my creative outlet go to if I didn’t have it through clothing, etc. But as usual, it was about so much more, it was really a quest in self-worth.  It was a time of self discovery and I admit, I miss it a little.  I liked the simplicity.

1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV) says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

This is a constant struggle in our culture, in my life of career and self importance, and ego. (BTW- don’t read too much farther in this passage, it leads to arguable places, but this part is good). I am enough as I have learned through this process, but living into that will be a lifelong journey.  But my worth will not come from clothes, hair, jewelery, or make-up. Ever.

You are Enough

Last week I was on a clergy retreat and I haven’t blogged in almost a month because honestly, I have very much enjoyed my Lenten practice. I kind of like the all black- it fit my mood for Lent and honestly not wearing makeup, fixing my hair or spending the time to pick out my jewelry has saved me a lot of time! But what I didn’t realize until last week was that all during Lent I had been surrounded by people who already knew me, knew my personality and creative spirit.

Until last week… I went to a retreat called CREDO which in Greek means “I believe”. It is a clergy retreat created by the Episcopal church that the Presbyterians copied (with their permission). It is by random selection (through the Holy Spirit) the people who are invited and brought together.

We received a sheet of all who were to arrive and as I looked through the names I saw one familiar name, a woman I went to seminary with, who I haven’t seen since graduation day. I was nervous. I am a skeptic of new things and new people. It’s a weakness, I wish I could see things as adventures, but not so much.

Here’s a deal, when a bunch of clergy get together there tends to be a “bitch fest” of our lives, our congregations, our denomination, etc. and there was some of that, but this week was amazing.

In all honesty there was something I was worried about that I felt a little shame about. I didn’t know anyone, save one. How were the cool people going to know I was cool? How was I to exert my awesomeness when I was in all black, no makeup, no jewelry, no fixing my hair, etc.? (I know, I know, I’m self-absorbed).

The first night I hung with Jan (seminary buddy who is super awesome) but slowly as I was having conversations with people around the breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables something started happening. The people who will be kindred spirits, we found each other anyway because…

I am enough.

I don’t need the jewelry, or the clothes, or the hair a certain way. I am enough. I honestly didn’t expect this out of this Lenten practice! It was started to see where our expression and creative energy would go if we didn’t have clothes, etc to do it. I never expected a profound moment of self discovery- surrounded by strangers who became beloved brothers and sisters by the end of the week. I never expected that God could do something THIS amazing out of this practice. Through my Lenten practice through the gift that was this past week God whispered in my ear and because I was stripped away, I heard loud and clear. “You are enough.”

“I am enough/You are enough” is something we say to each other, but I never believed it. When I’m having a spiritual crisis I struggle about being enough for God, in my work I worry about being enough for my staff and congregation, at home I worry about being enough for my family. I am always striving to be better, and I was taught this is what we are supposed to do, and I still, even as I write this, I am thinking “and that is a good goal!”

But at what point do we step back and say that striving for better is a never-ending process, that maybe we should stop striving for better and start being enough. Being enough doesn’t imply that you’re done, accomplished all spiritual, mental, and physical growth. Being enough is about knowing that you are loved and whole where you are and how you are in this moment. And by the grace of God, you will grow and change, and then by the grace of God you will still be enough, always and forever be enough, just as you are, fearfully and wonderfully made (psalm 139).

I think the best reflection of this Lenten journey will be after Easter when I go back to “normal” but for now at least this lesson, much like myself, is enough.