The year I turned 25, I gave up chocolate and caffeine simultaneously...never again. That, nearly broke me. I've tried eliminating sweets, carbs, alcohol, cursing, yelling at my kids, binge Netflix watching, Facebook, you name it, I've given it a Lenten go.
I've never been good at removing food items or electronics or cursing or wine or....well,....I probably
should try harder. Recognizing my material weaknesses only seems to make my Catholic guilt shine brighter. So instead of feeling like a consummate loser, three years ago, I made a decision to
write a letter of gratitude every day for 40 days honoring the people that I can't imagine life without.
Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten season and so I dutifully got my pen, paper, stamps and candle out. I try to carve out a sacred space (okay, I turn my dining room table into a mini sanctuary) to reflect and to share my love and ultimately, my gratitude through the written word. When I'm done (I know it sounds contrived), I sit with the letter and try to pour a sense of me into it, so that when it's received and read, it's absorbed with the full impact of my appreciation for our connection, my prayer for their life and my hope for the future.
I write both letters that are mailed and letters that are not. I learned this a few years ago. Sometimes, writing to those who have left me in one form or another is equally as sacrificial and cathartic. One letter in particular, I wrote to my grandmother who has long sense been gone, but who resides in my heart...the writing of the words to her in this time of reflection was both powerful and meaningful.
Lest we get bogged down in what we do or don't do during Lent, I do believe that it's a time to be mindful in whatever way makes sense to you of what is truly important. For me, the world is filled with distractions, too many to name really. And at every turn, we're begged to check out from that which we feel, which causes us pain or brings us ultimately closer to our own lives, those we love, and to God.
So, if there is a moment or 40 where we can say, no distraction, not now, not in this time and space...well, then it's a worthy pursuit to draw closer to that which we are called to be...loving, grace-filled, serving, connected people.
That said, I don't believe for a minute that you have to be Catholic, to go on a Lenten journey, because as the amazing Anne Lamott professes in "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith"....
“It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some
kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the
hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I
found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships,
prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these,
they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
Here's to finding your space to be in silence, mindful of what matters to you, right now, always.