I think we all know what Lent is - the 40 days prior to Holy Week and Easter that symbolize Christ's 40 days wandering in the desert and being tempted by Satan. The season is observed as a season of penance when we reflect on our sinfulness and mortality, and the sacrifice that Christ made to save us. As part of this, many people give up something during these 40 days. Food and beverage sacrifices are very popular - caffine, alcohol, chocolate, deserts - but anything that you like will do. I've given up reading, perfume and scented lotions, listening to CD's, and polishing my nails to name a few. However, I haven't given anything up for the past couple of years and in fact, I'm not giving anything up this year either. Why? Frankly, it's because the theme of sacrifice has been too regular in my life for a season observation to mean much to me right now.
Let me explain. Most people know that my life has changed drastically over the past couple of years. Sure there were some things that weren't by choice, but the truth is that most of it was based on decisions that Rick and I made: We chose to adopt 2 more birds and to get more involved at church, I chose to publish my writing and to become an independent author, and Rick chose to do website work on the side. These aren't decisions that we made lightly. We did pray about them and talk about them, and in the end we decided that the timing and season in our lives are right for these things. However, the fact remains that there are still only 24 hours in a day, and we can only do so much. That meant that, for us to have time to dedicate to these great new things in our lives, we had to make a decision to let some old things go. For example, I have made the decision to give up:
1. Cross stitching. This was tough because I enjoyed it, but the fact is that it's very time consuming - and so is drumming up publicity for my writing. Since I still have to work full time I had to make a decision: Would I rather see my writing grow or my ability in this craft grow? Being a writer has been a lifelong dream for me so of course, I chose to dedicate extra time to making my writing work. I don't regret it, but I do miss stitching and hope this is a seasonal sacrifice and I'll be able to bring this hobby back into my life someday.
2. Watching TV. I'm down to watching only 1 weekly show regularly (Supernatural). I'll try to catch some things here and there if I have a snippet of time, but it's rare. The truth is that I'm usually so busy with other things that I don't really miss this. Or maybe it's because I've conditioned myself to not pick up the remote so quickly over the past months.
3. Vegetable gardening. One of my favorite things in the summer was making tomato and cucumber salads from what I grew in my own back yard, but when I got contracts to publish Blurry and Anywhere But Here last yea, I know I simply didn't have time to plant and maintain a garden, no matter how small I tried to keep it. Plus, I tried it the first 3 summers we lived here and it was never very successful. Oh well, the local Farmer's Market was glad for my business last summer!
4. Participation in several websites including Authonomy, Writing.com, and Open Salon. As I joined places with a greater outreach like Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, I found myself on these sites less and less - to the point that I made the decision a month ago to be true to myself and back off. My focus just drifted to other areas. While I still want to keep improving as a writer, I must focus on getting in contact with readers too. They are, after all, why I'm writing in the first place.
I won't lie - it was hard to do this. The cross stitching was particularly painful to give up because I really did enjoy it, and I didn't want to admit that perhaps it was something meant for a season and not for life. But the truth is that I only have time for a few things in life, and I made a conscious decision that other things came above it, like church and writing. There's so much to do in life and our time and energy are limited, so we have to set priorities for ourselves.
Every now and then, you have to ask yourself what you want to see bear fruit in your life and dedicate yourself to that. Right now, I want to see my faith, home/family, and writing bear fruit, so that's where I must focus for now. And I am, but it means letting some other things go for a time while these things are at the forefront of my life. Maybe some of these things will come back someday and maybe they won't. Who knows what the future holds.
Yes, it has been a "season of pruning" in my life. I've had to cut many things, and I do believe it will lead to growth in the areas I've determined are important for now. But frankly, I've given up a great deal. I've seen too much go up in flames on the sacrificial altar to have giving up more, like perfume or fried pickles, speak to me now. Sacrifice has been speaking to me in a whole different way of late, and I just don't think I'm spiritually in a place where I can really "get it" now.
That doesn't mean that I don't observe Lent. I believe it's an extremely important season, and in fact I've chosen to observe it in a different way the past couple of years. You might not know it, but giving up something isn't the only way to observe this season. You can also take up a new project to observe it, like joining a Bible study, taking up an exercise program, or starting a new project. Last year, my project was to finish up unfinished projects around my home. This year, it's to make progress on our effort to get our yard fixed up. So there are other ways to do it.
Yes, I believe that accepting something to improve my home and life is the way for me to go this year. Praise God that we have a choice, and many ways to observe this important season of penance.
That's all today. Take care and happy Friday to you tomorrow.