Three Ideas for Things to Try this Lent

by - Monday, February 27, 2017

I love Lent. Ash Wednesday kicks off one of my favorite seasons every year, not only because it leads to a glorious reunion with chocolate weeks later, but because it really offers so much spiritual focus, and it always reminds me that being a Christian is a full time gig, so everything we do has real spiritual effects.

Every year, the Boy and I give up our favorite treats- chocolate for me and fried food for him (sometimes with other things added to the forbidden food list). We also try to increase our discipline in going to church, because it can be easy to slip out of the habit when you are super shy, and talking to strangers early in the morning is part of the deal. It becomes a really wonderful time that we complain about every step of the way.

from Mary Beth Johann's facebook page
Today, a picture floated around on Facebook suggesting that rather than giving something up abstractly, we could all physically give something away every day during Lent. I LOVE THIS IDEA. So genius! This suggests clothing specifically, but it makes another way to self-assess the areas in life where you hold on to things that don't do you any good (kind of like a hoard of chocolate, I carefully store in my belly).

Not only does that cut into the capitalist narratives of ownership that I firmly believe get in the way of our being good Christians, but it also feeds gifting and secondhand economies that help us re-use rather than fill the world with even more stuff. I marvel at these ideas, where generosity towards others and good stewardship collide, and I genuinely feel blessed about the encouragement that this is so often the case. How cool that when we treat each other with kindness, we treat the world God gave us better as well!

So this made me wonder, what other things could we give up for Lent to be better Stewards? These are the best ideas I could think of.

1.     Make Gratitude a Part of your Daily Routine- Many of us feel grateful every day, but it can be harder to put that gratitude into words or action. It’s worth it to do so. I actually started this blog many moons ago because I was absolutely miserable at grad school, and I needed a space to be as happy, colloquial, and grateful as I wanted to be. Only good things have come from it, and I am resolving to bring back the three things I am grateful for this Lent.  You could write your own three things daily- in a journal, online, heck do it in the comments of this blog and you will basically make my life! You could start the 100 days of happiness challenge, because happiness and gratitude are deeply intertwined emotions. Want to take it to the next level? You could decide one thing you are really grateful for (food, an education, a happy childhood) and look into opportunities to volunteer so you can help someone else have the same thing. Pray about it, and I think a Lenten project where you turn gratitude into action might be amazing. 

Why It’s Great for You- Life will easily supply frustration, sadness, and your share of bad days (I mean, for goodness sake, today is all about how we came from ash and will be ash again). You can’t do anything to stop the crappy things from happening, and when they come, you have to deal with them. The best way to maintain balance and joy in our life is to focus on the good things we do have, even in the midst of a bunch of junk. Your life will never be worse for feeling grateful, and resolving to make it a habit only takes those positive emotions and moments to a new level.

Why It’s Great for the Earth- When you love what you already have, you spend less time wishing for things you don’t have. I know it’s a platitude, but sometimes clichés get legs for a reason.

Secondly, to me, a big part of gratitude is taking care of what you have. When we feel like we can just trade what we have in for a new one, we may be less apt to take care of it. I want to show God I am grateful not only by saying thank you, but by treating his creation and his people as precious, worthy of respect and care.

2.      Meatless Monday- We started this last year (Meatless Monday and Seafood Sunday to be exact, since we live in Seattle), and I think it’s a fun and relatively simple resolution to take on! Don’t eat meat one day a week during Lent. If you are Catholic, you already do one day- so step it up to two! See, easy!

Why It’s Great for You- First of all, you may have noticed that buying local, ethical, or organic is expensive. TRUTH! We may have had a chicken-buying incident that I thought would be the end of the green-living road for us. It was shocking. One of the best mantras to save when you approach life this way is to think about buying better, but also less. Meatless Monday gives you an opportunity to explore other options for protein (nuts, beans, eggs) that are usually much cheaper! It’s a way to sneakily put some money back into your budget for the other days ( I also recommend recipes that spread your meat portions further, like lasagna or pot pie or soups).

The other bright side is that it is healthier for you! Meat, though it is a great source of protein, is also a big source of cholesterol, fat, and other less savory treats. Many cultures, including ours, also tend to eat it in much larger portions than are healthy or necessary.

Why It’s Great for the Earth: Meats, especially beef, require a ridiculous amount of resources, water, and energy to make. On McDonald's website, they point out that cattle farming accounts for the largest percentage of their energy use. Think about how many McDonald's you see with their lights on in the middle of the night. Not even a dent in comparison. Beef is responsible for a huge amount of CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use. They also are often treated unethically in ways that ended my love for hamburgers long ago. Taking it easier on these meats, even if you aren't willing to give them up, conserves energy and resources for other things! 

3.      Cut Out Some One Time Use Objects for your Routine- Once you start to look, it’s a bit like a horror movie; plastics are everywhere! This pesky material can be found in every room in our house. Our food comes wrapped in it. Our soap is housed in it. Our stuff is made of it. It is everywhere! It can be recycled, but so much of it isn’t. Cutting all plastic waste from your life is a huge task, but I bet you can cut one. And if you are going to cut one, edit out something that has been nagging you about your own habits. Finally splurge on a reusable water bottle, and kiss those plastic ones good bye. Bring Reusable bags to the grocery store and stop using those one-off plastic bags. Just stop with the horrible children's snack pouches, which are used once and tossed. Are you a coffee drinker? Time to bring your mug with you. 

The list here could go on and on, but you know your life. Which plastic do you and your family cling to that you could do without? Pick something you aren't going to use for forty days, and stick to it. If you forget your coffee cup, you don't get coffee. That's 40 coffee cups out of a landfill! Just bring an apple with you, instead of the apple-filled plastic sack you will toss before you know it. Choose one thing, and just try life without it. Just turn down plastic straws- it won't cost you anything! 

Why It’s Great for You- It's no secret- plastics are horrible for you. Even BPA-free items have BPS, and that is turning out to be just as bad for your intestines and endocrine system. We keep trying to not notice, because it's just so easy, but it is a huge challenge for your family to work one of these items out and see hwo it goes (surprise! not so bad).  

Why It’s Great for the Earth- Have you seen the video with the garbage mountains on the beach? Heard the news that plastic will outnumber fish before we know. This is some truly devastating news, but the good news is we can start turning it around. Let this be a space where we all learn something this year. 

Good luck everyone! 

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