cross with flowers at church entrance

40 Days of Lent and My Own Personal Season of Disappointment

It has been a rough couple of weeks for me. There have been numerous disappointments over the past month. Things that I took for granted would happen, and then they didn’t.

Things that were a pretty big hit to my confidence and self-esteem. Things that were a hit to my faith.

I’m not talking about your casual, run-of-the-mill disappointment. I’m talking about the devastating feeling of being punched in the gut when you learned the news. I’m talking about the kind of disappointment that requires a mental health day (or two) off of work. The kind of disappointment that makes you think, “what’s the point!?”

Why would God let this happen? Why did he keep ignoring my prayers? Did he just forget about me, or did he not care about me anymore?

It’s been interesting because this season of disappointment and doubt has corresponded amazingly well with the season of Lent, which began on March 2 this year: Ash Wednesday.

I went to my first Ash Wednesday service this year. In the faith tradition I grew up in, we just didn’t observe Lent. I had never even heard of it until I went to college, when suddenly people were talking about giving up caffeine or chocolate for the 40 days before Easter.

I think some people feel very uncomfortable stepping outside of their own faith traditions, but I have found it beneficial to keep an open mind, and see if there is a potential spiritual benefit in partaking in other faith traditions. Lent is not even that far of a stretch for me, it’s still a Christian tradition, just not the brand of Christianity I was used to.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we sang hymns together and had a time of private and public confession of sin. It was a time to focus on our mortality, and our thankfulness that Jesus died for our sins. It was a time to be grateful for the grace of God.

I thought about giving up something for Lent, but nothing seemed right. I started out the season of Lent with a lot of hope, but found myself unfortunately collecting disappointment after disappointment. Our church had created a podcast especially for Lent, where members of our church shared prayers and Scripture and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. Many people talked about how much they loved the podcast, and how uplifting and meaningful it was for them to listen to it each morning.

But I found myself less and less able to listen to it as the weeks went by. I felt like my faith was failing as I watched and waited (and waited some more) for my prayers to be answered. And then they weren’t.

Read More »
2022

My Word for 2022: Forgive

After writing my last post, it got me thinking a lot about forgiveness. It’s been a topic that has been surfacing again and again in the last few months, and I’m thinking that I need to take note of it. 

I have a hard time with forgiveness. I’m sure everyone does to some extent, but I realized recently that my personality is wired to make it extra challenging. I’m an Enneagram 1 – and Ones are described as having a “strong, innate desire for fairness, accuracy, and order. They tend be bold advocates for the rights of others and when healthy, may challenge the status quo to make push for reforms and equality.” 

The book The Road Back To You calls Enneagram 1s “Reformers.” But another word that is also accurate is “Perfectionist.” Ones don’t like mistakes. They want things to be fair. Getting taken advantage of, or seeing another person get taken advantage of, is extremely aggravating for Ones. Ones often have issues with resentment and unexpressed anger.

All of that mixed together in one personality can make it very hard to forgive. I think a lot of Enneagram 1s also find it hard to offer forgiveness to themselves, due to their constant inner critic. 

Fairness and justice are wonderful things. Being an advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves is awesome – and hooray to Ones for upholding those values. 

But it sure makes the world a hard place to live in sometimes. Life is not fair, it’s not always just. People are selfish and make mistakes. 

My personal focus for last year was “spiritual bravery.” I wanted to have more faith and courage in God. I wanted to release my desire to control everything all of the time. It was a good focus, and I’ve grown in faith and spiritual courage this past year. 

As I thought ahead to 2022, even though I was not super excited about it, all signs pointed to one word: Forgiveness. 

What were the signs, you may wonder? I had recently attended a Bible class at my church, and the teacher made the following statement:

“If you read everything that Jesus said in the Bible, and there’s not something that bothers you, you’re not paying attention.”

Randy Harris
Bible

He was specifically referencing Jesus asking us to forgive others, even those who don’t deserve it. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Then less than a week later, I found myself in a situation where I was really angry with a friend and needed to forgive her. I thought of a lot of reasons not to, and tried to rationalize with myself that she didn’t deserve for me to forgive her yet again. But then I remembered that Bible class, and I remembered what God calls me to do: forgive others. 

If I’m honest, I don’t want this to be my focus. (And that’s part of the reason why I am confident this is supposed to be my word for this year!) It’s going to be a challenge, and something that I am confident I will fail at many times.

But I know I need to be more intentional about fostering forgiveness, and I need to practice it more often so that hopefully down the road, it won’t be as difficult as it feels today. Honestly, I think the only way I’m going to make any progress at it is going to be through the grace of God, and his transforming power.

If you’ve grown up going to church or reading the Bible to any extent, you’ve probably heard many verses and sermons about forgiveness. So at this time, I won’t go into all the reasons why, from a Biblical perspective, we should forgive. (But if you’re interested, I found a site that goes into depth on 10 reasons why the Bible tells us to forgive – or you can always grab a Bible and do your own studying.)

My top reasons for wanting this to be my focus for this year do revolve around God and personal spiritual growth. But even if you don’t consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, there are still some great reasons to forgive others.

Read More »

How I Simplified My Parenting

I am a big fan of minimalism. The fascination started out for me mainly in the area of physical possessions. I very much like the look of less stuff. There’s hardly a better feeling to me than decluttering a room and getting rid of unnecessary things. It’s freeing. It makes me feel calmer, less anxious. Marie Kondo is my hero.

But the idea of minimalism and simplicity is about more than physical objects. Every aspect of our lives can be simplified.

To me, simplifying means cutting out the unnecessary and making time for what really matters. So in the case of physical stuff, as Marie would say, only keep things that “bring you joy!” This means you have to actually take time to figure out what exactly brings you joy, and what things are possibly worth giving up. As Ron Weasley would say: you need to sort out your priorities.

I recently decided that my parenting needed an overhaul – a simplification, if you will. I knew there were important things that I wanted to do as a mom, but it seemed like there was never time to do them. It felt more like I was trying to get through each day, rather than enjoying the precious moments with my child that I would never get back.

I’m a full-time working mom, so on the weekdays it really doesn’t leave a lot of real quality time for me to have with my son, Calvin. He’s 4 years old (4 and a HALF, I’m sure he would want me to say.) In the mornings, it’s a race to get all of us ready and loaded up in the car to get to daycare and work on time. In the evenings, it feels like a race to get dinner fixed for everyone, do the dishes (if they get done at all), and maybe have a bit of time to be together before it’s time to start getting Calvin ready for bed.

BEFORE simplifying our parenting…

We let Calvin watch t.v. in the evenings after getting home from daycare. We had previously agreed upon a set amount of t.v. he was allowed to watch (3 episodes), after he cleaned up his room. Well, by the time he cleaned his room and watched all his episodes, lo and behold, it was pretty much time to start the bedtime routine. We had even (I’m embarrassed to say) been letting him eat dinner in front of the t.v. most nights because otherwise there was not enough time for him to get all three episodes in. I felt frustrated – I knew that it was important for us to be eating at the table together as a family, but there just didn’t seem to be enough time.

Plus, there always seemed to be unfinished tasks that needed to be done: the dishes, folding laundry – and letting Calvin watch t.v. was useful in that it allowed my husband and I time to finally get some of those things completed. (At least that’s what we told ourselves.)

Read More »