learning to love Lent

Not growing up liturgical, I’m relatively new to the seasons of Advent and Lent.

But I love them. I love the focused intensity of those weeks. I love the depth and richness they can add to Christmas and Easter.

I find Easter is far more joyful and celebratory if I’ve gone through the preparation of Lent first.

I don’t usually “give up” things for Lent but rather try to be more focused and intentional. I try to reflect more deeply on Jesus’ sacrifice and my need for Him and grace and the gospel.

I find Psalm 51 helpful as I examine my heart and life.

I also think Isaiah 58:3-12 speaks to the whole idea of what seasons of fasting ought to look like. (Hint: God’s more concerned about our hearts than our outward show. And it isn’t always what you fast from–you can fast to something as well.)

I’m using several studies and reading plans for Lent this year. I won’t bore you posting them all here, but I will highlight a few.

Resources:

  1. Lenten Study This gives some basic background on Lent then readings from the Bible starting on Ash Wednesday.
  2. His Mercy Is New. This gives a few verses from Matthew to read, write, and pray over each day. Also check out 31 Verses That Lead Us to the Cross. Love the concept of really just chewing over a few verses at a time.
  3. Lent Verses for Reflection.
  4. Prayers and Liturgies for Lent. I love this site. So much beauty here.

I’ve printed some stuff from other sites to go over with the girls. Today’s devotional included a reading of the Lord’s Prayer from Matt. 6 and a short responsive reading.

My Lenten fast:

I read last year that if you do choose to give up something for Lent, there are some guidelines to make it more meaningful. I’m not legalistic about it, and I’m not going to tell anyone how to do (or not do) Lent, but I admit I found this post to be good food for thought. I also like the companion post that you’ll probably fail at whatever your Lenten sacrifice is–and that’s kind of the point. It’s a constant reminder of how desperately we need grace.

I like that.

So this year, I’m tackling what has recently become a rather bad habit in my life: poor meal planning.

Particularly supper.

I used to be a good meal planner. I knew what I was cooking for supper each night. I was a grocery shopping ninja, feeling us for relatively little.

Lately, I’ve been hit and miss with the grocery shopping. I’ve been tired, and I haven’t felt well, and I don’t know what to fix anyway. Nor do I care that much. And my my very understanding husband offers to pick up something quick for supper. And it’s easy, so I agree. And then there’s no money to grocery shop, and I’m more tired, and I feel worse, and it’s all just overwhelming.

So I want to give up fast food. Or at least unplanned fast food. We can work some fun outings into the budget. I just want to get back to being intentional with meals and having a plan and not taking the easy way out.

I also want to try something I saw on Facebook: finding one thing each day that I don’t need anymore so that at the end of 40 days, I have 40 things to give away to others who could use it. I’m think I could get the girls involved with this.

So…your turn! Do you do Lent? Hate Lent? Not really sure how you feel about Lent? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts!

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thinking about the seasonal depression

I ran across an article awhile back regarding SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I just kind of mentally noted, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and went on with life.

Then January hit. And the bottom dropped out of my mental health.

My worst bout of depression was post-partum. But I do struggle with “winter blues” as well. A full-spectrum light bulb and a high octane vitamin D supplement usually enable me to survive until spring.

Not this year.

Several things happened at once. I was trying a new type of progesterone supplement (bad idea; I’ll be going back to my old one). I had to replace my light bulb. And we had a snowstorm that left me housebound for days.

I reached a point where I just wanted to sleep all the time. Or cry. Or sleep and cry. And eat.

I wasn’t functioning very well. If at all.

Eventually sunshine returned, and I remembered the article I’d found weeks and weeks before.

I decided to read it again.

I’m even more fascinated now. I first learned of cognitive therapy in college, and I’ve always felt drawn to it. It’s a highly effective form of therapy, especially in combination with anti-depressants or other medication.

And I had the crazy idea that I could fit it in with my Christian faith. The Bible tells us to meditate on Scripture and to “take every thought captive.”

Someone else had that same crazy idea and did a study on it.

So I’m recovering now. Still taking my vitamin D. Still using the light bulb. The snow melted,so I’m getting out more. Even weak winter sunshine helps.

And I’m doing a devotional chock-full of Bible verses specifically for depression. I’m also making my own list of verses and passages to think on, recite, etc.

I still want to learn more about the specific cognitive therapy used in the SAD study, but for now I’m going to stick with what I’m doing. And I think I’ll be okay.