Confession: Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I did not hear about Lent until high school. A peer of mine mentioned that she couldn't eat chocolate chip cookies because of Lent. I guess that I was too shy to ask about it, because I did not find out more until I attended a Jesuit university years later. As a Protestant Christian who was familiar with the concept of fasting (giving up something for a time in order to draw closer to God), I liked the idea of Lent. So even though I had not grown up with the practice, I gave up Facebook for Lent my freshmen year of college. And believe me, that was quite the sacrifice at the time. But honestly, I don't know if that helped me draw closer to God.
My senior year of college I decided to give up complaining while adding gratitude. I created a chart for each day of Lent and would write in something that I grateful for. (I was already cultivating a practice of gratitude and mindfulness.) This had a profound impact on my life. Every time that I was tempted to complain, I would shift my thinking to all the blessings that I had in my life. This helped increase my awareness of God's presence in the small, mundane moments of life. For example, I remember studying one afternoon at Barnes and Noble and a lady striking up a conversation with me. She asked me about my career goals (I think I was still clueless) and really encouraged me, giving me her business card. Without the practice of being grateful, I may have been annoyed by this woman interrupting my studies.
Today is Ash Wednesday. I'm sitting in Panera, watching people come in with their ashen crosses on their foreheads. I saw many people announce on Facebook that they would be giving up Facebook for Lent. I honestly haven't been really been thinking or praying about what to do this Lent. But as I recalled my senior year of college, I am leaning toward giving up complaining* again and keeping another list of gratitude. I will also continue to let go of a difficult grudge that I've held on to for a long time. I think that I will also make an intentional effort to record all the times I make a positive choice toward self-care (a constant struggle for me)--this will help me have more margin in my life in order to be more present in the moment and to be more emotionally and physically healthy.
*complaining topics include: the cold weather, my health, finances, living situation, relationship status, etc.
Gratitude: I'm grateful for a working computer that I can take to Panera, in a neighborhood in which I feel safe.
Self-care: I did not order a Chai Latte at 5pm (even though it sounded amazing!)because I wanted to make sure that I could sleep well this evening.
Confession #2: I came to Panera to get ahead on a work project. But apparently that really inspired me to write this post. ;)