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.

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tree in middle of water - peaceful

Using My Time Wisely: Sabbath (pt. 2)

THIS IS A TWO-PART BLOG POST WHERE I INVITE YOU TO JOIN ME IN TWO VERY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON HOW TO USE OUR TIME WISELY. PART 1 IS INSPIRED BY THE BOOK 168 HOURS AND I FOCUS ON TAKING A CRITICAL LOOK AT HOW I ACTUALLY SPEND MY TIME. PART 2 (this post) WILL FOCUS ON WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE FOR MY FAMILY TO TAKE A WEEKLY SABBATH, TAKING INSPIRATION FROM THE BOOK SACRED RHYTHMS.

Why A Sabbath?

At the same time I was reading the book 168 Hours, I was also reading the book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. It’s a book about spiritual disciplines, like the practices of prayer, solitude, self-examination, and Sabbath. Some books on spiritual disciplines can make you feel guilty for not doing all the practices all of the time, but I appreciated that this one didn’t. It asked you to reflect upon which practices might be most helpful to your spiritual development at the current moment.

When I got to the chapter on Sabbath, I immediately had the thought I always do, which is “who can actually have the time to do a Sabbath these days?” I have been wrestling for years with the idea of reserving one day a week for a Sabbath, but have always felt like there was too much to do to make it a reality.

Back in Bible times, the Sabbath meant that people stopped working from Friday evening until Saturday evening, a full 24 hours. It was a hearkening back to the 7th day of creation when the Bible says God “rested.”

For me, the Sabbath means that I am giving back to God my time, and I am trusting him with it. I trust that I can spend 24 hours not working or checking things off my to-do list, and that everything is still going to be okay. It definitely felt like a discipline because this ended up being a very hard thing to do – as I mentioned in my last post, I already don’t have enough time to get everything I want to accomplish done. Could I really give up one day a week, to just relax and rest?

I decided I wanted to try.

Sacred Rhythms book cover

In her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton makes two points about the Sabbath that I thought were critical:

“Sabbath is not solitude – it’s a time for being with family and loved ones”

“Sabbath is a time for whatever delights or replenishes you”

The point of Sabbath is not to focus on all the things you can’t do. It’s to take 24 hours and only do things that bring you energy and joy, to focus on the things that really matter (the Quadrant II things!) It should be a time that you look forward to each week, a whole day of things filled with the purpose of delighting you!

When I thought of Sabbath that way, I desperately wanted it. It’s so easy to feel burned out at the end of each day, and for go-getters like me, it can actually be nearly impossible to force myself to relax. I always find things I could or should be doing, instead of doing something fun or relaxing. And as my last post taught me, I often spent more time on chores and cleaning the house than I did on quality time with my family.

Choosing Our Sabbath Activities

Before trying out a day of Sabbath, I decided our family would need to decide what Sabbath looked like for us. What kinds of things delighted and replenished us?

I knew what didn’t replenish me, I quickly made a list of things to avoid:

  • work
  • email
  • errands
  • chores/cleaning
  • social media
  • t.v.
  • budgeting/other administrative tasks

Then I thought about things that would bring me joy or rest and came up with this list:

  • exercise/walks
  • travel
  • cooking/baking
  • naps
  • reading
  • family outings
  • blogging/writing
  • art/games
  • spending time with friends

I loved the freedom to be able to interpret the concept of Sabbath on an individual level. What is restful and delightful for some, won’t be for others. In general, I wanted our Sabbath to focus on family time activities, as well as personal “me time” activities that I can’t always find time to do during the week.

I wanted to mostly avoid screens during this time, but decided to make a few exceptions to that rule. For example, our Sabbath begins on Friday around 6pm, but that is when we typically have our traditional pizza/movie night. Since it’s something we are doing all together as a family, I decided it can count as a Sabbath activity. For Dean, video games are something he considers delightful, so we decided to allow him time to play, as long as it was something he could enjoy with the whole family.

Once I had set up the ground rules, I realized I was going to have to work a little harder on the days leading up to our Sabbath to make sure we could actually enjoy the day. Normally, we would do laundry on Saturday, so I had to make time to do it earlier in the week. We also usually do grocery pick up on Saturday mornings, and so now we would either have to do it Friday afternoon or wait until Sunday.

Friday afternoon before our first trial Sabbath, I spent a lot of time cleaning the house and putting away clutter. But I was enthusiastic about it. I was ready for a whole day to not worry about cleaning or chores or other boring “adulting” tasks.

The Sabbath Begins

We kicked off our Sabbath watching Star Wars: A New Hope and eating pizza. We put Calvin to bed, and as the evening wrapped up, it didn’t feel that much different from a regular day, except we avoided social media.

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Spiritual Bravery: My Focus for 2021

Only recently have I been the type of person to pick a word or phrase to focus on for the upcoming year (as opposed to more concrete resolutions), but as I’ve thought ahead to what I want my 2021 to look like, my mind kept bringing up the word “faith.” 

What do I mean when I say “faith?” I mean belief in God or a higher being, and trusting that God is actively working in my life, that things in my life are happening for a reason – and enjoying the peace that comes with that conviction.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been very mindful that my faith feels like it is lacking. It’s most noticeable when I am around someone who has strong faith – whose faith influences their daily decisions and isn’t just something they talk about in appropriate religious contexts. 

Religion is something that has always been a part of my life – I grew up going to church every Sunday, and in general have always been a rule-follower and someone who is concerned with “doing the right thing” and being a “good person.” But religion and faith are very different.

Like many others who grew up being religious or going to church, there comes a point in your life when you start to wonder why your church/religion does things the way they do, and if you actually believe those are the right things to be doing in the first place. Depending on what conclusions you come to in answering those questions, this can be a pretty scary or even earth-shattering time of life. 

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