Lent Graces: week one

As a firm believer in the benefits of consciously being grateful, I’m going to add a post of small graces to my weekly Lenten obligations. I’ve done this before¬†and while gratitude is part of my regular prayer life, I think it’s good to write them down… to mark the moments and look back on them later when needed.

Where have I found grace this week?

  • In a new kid who came to youth group this week at the invitation of someone else. He came up to me afterwards to ask when the next meeting is scheduled because he really liked the night. A night with a good balance of focused Lent reflection, laughter and conversation.
  • In the ability to get up to my Lake a few weeks in a row now. This Achilles recovery is keeping me from hiking but it’s so worth the drive to stand on the shore and experience the changing Lake on a regular basis.
  • A new book study for Lent that has already changed the way I’m seeing life.

I don’t know what it is but I’m so ready for this Lent… for the opportunity to think about my priorities and change/grow for the better.

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What are you giving up for Lent?

When I was a kid giving something up for Lent was a big choice: chocolate? pop? television? It had to be something that felt like an indulgence – or maybe something I could complain about often.

I grew older and latched onto the idea of doing something extra for Lent. Reading books about scripture or faith. Praying a certain prayer each day. One year I put a box in my office and each day dropped in something that I didn’t need – it was both doing and giving up.

Now I tend to try and do both the giving up and the doing extra. I’ll be honest though, the giving up part seems silly. I know, I know there’s something about strengthening your self-discipline but for someone who is self-disciplined all the time? It seems unnecessary. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m drawing any closer to Jesus or remembering his sacrifice in some special way because I’m not eating snacks in the afternoon.

But Lent starts next week and something does, in fact, need to be done to honor the season. In preparing to lead a youth ministry night, I came across the 1 – 1 – 1 challenge for Lent. That’s what I’ll be following:

  1. Give up one thing
  2. Pick up one thing
  3. Focus on one sin

Here’s hoping for a fruitful, strengthening Lent. How will you be honoring the season?

My new friend Louie

Every time I’m out on the bike trail between 7 & 8 in the morning, I see some familiar faces. There’s one man in particular who always walks the same stretch – no matter what day of the week, I see him. He walks with a bit of a bounce to his step…. like he’s just happy to be out enjoying some exercise. And he always, always has the loudest, most cheerful good morning.

I saw him this morning on my way north as he was heading south and we exchanged our typical “good mornings” and “beautiful days.” I decided that if I passed him again after my turnaround, I was going to stop to introduce myself. I went on my merry way for a few more miles, turned around and saw him up ahead. As I neared him I almost chickened out “This is so out of character… are you really going to ride up on a stranger and just introduce yourself?!?” But I pushed those thoughts to the side, took a deep breath and shouted out “Coming up on your left and I have a question for you!”

I slowed down to roll alongside and told him that I enjoy seeing him out whenever I’m on the trail: “I’d love to say good morning by name. My name is Barb, what’s yours?” He stopped, extended his hand and said “It’s so nice to meet you Barb, my name is Louie. No one ever stops to share their names even though us regulars see each other all the time. That’s real nice of you. Real nice.” I thought that might be it but he started to talk. So I shifted gears and rolled alongside him for what turned out to be fifteen minutes of delightful conversation.

Louie worked for the steel mills for 44 years and the day after he retired he started walking on the trail. He now walks five miles every day “rain or shine – even in the snow.” He’s 69 years old and will turn 70 in November and is grateful every day that he’s healthy and active enough to get out.

I now know he’s a Colts fan and one year shortly after Christmas he found a brand new money clip with a Colts logo on it on the trail. He carried it with him for a week and asked everyone he saw if it was theirs but it wasn’t… and it had less than $10 in it so he didn’t report it. Every time he gets it out of his pocket it makes him smile.

He has a brother who just retired from being a mailman and this spring he helped him move down to Florida. He misses him. He has a niece in the area, another in Nashville and a third down in Florida.

He asked about my family and how long I’ve lived here. He’s a “region boy” who grew up in Whiting. He joked that I was probably a little shaky and nervous about sending my oldest to college in a few weeks but that I shouldn’t be because it will be the best time of her life.

When we got to his car, he extended his hand again and said he’s looking forward to seeing me on the trail again soon. “I’m excited to be able to call out to someone by name. I sure hope I don’t forget it but if I do feel free to smack me on the head as you ride past and shout it out – that will make sure I remember.”

Me and my new friend Louie… I’m looking forward to talking with him more and I’ll be sure to ask what he thinks about the Colts when the season starts.

One word

I’ve started listening to a new podcast called Abiding Together. It has a beautiful voice and at approximately 30 minutes is just right to listen to on a walk. One of their episodes was about picking a word for the year. Sort of a theme for your personal year and, in this context, your prayer life.

I’ve heard of this notion before but never really been interested in doing it. But they brought up the idea of a word for a season – in this case for Lent – and that struck a chord. That seems more tangible to me and a good way to focus what has felt a bit like a scattered Lent so far. So I started thinking about it as I walked and listened.

I thought I had a word but I wasn’t sure. I said a prayer about the idea and left it in God’s hands. And then the word that I was considering popped out of someone else’s mouth the next day in my Lenten faith sharing group. So I started to think about it some more and how I could apply it.

space

As in creating an intentional space to grow. To pray. To think.

Metaphorically pushing aside the clutter of thoughts and to do lists and demands on my time and creating space. I imagine this space as blissfully quiet. It’s warm there. And sheltered. And peaceful. I’m sure I can see water. I think I like this space. Now the challenge in front of me is taking the time to create this space on a regular basis.

Freeing up some boundaries

Last weekend in our uncharacteristically balmy May weather (in February) my 12yo son got a text from a friend. They were playing basketball at the elementary school (within walking distance) and wanted him to come out. So out he went – that’s nothing new really, the elementary school has been within his play boundaries without an adult for a few years now.

Next thing I know he’s wandering around with this same group of kids and walking to McDonald’s and to another neighborhood school to play. He asked before he left. He texted to keep us updated. His adventures were all within 1.5 miles of our house and we live in a small town so I wasn’t worried for his safety since he was with a group. (I mean not any more worried than is appropriate when talking about 12 year old boys and their sometimes goofy behavior.)

It just seemed awfully sudden that I have three kids that can now wander about at will.

My 15yo got her driving permit a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been doing lots of driving practice. She’ll be eligible for her license at the end of the summer so by next school year she’ll be reaching out to new boundaries on her own as well.

As I type this my 18yo and her friend are driving down to Bloomington for the weekend to hang out with friends and experience some college life. (Go Hoosiers) That’s the farthest she’s driven on her own; though with college around the corner, it seems an appropriate boundary to free.

All of these new adventures seem appropriate to me. At the same time they feel like someone threw a glass of cold water in my face. My kids are more like young adults than kids. They are spreading those metaphorical wings everyone talks about and strengthening them to fly away. But it seems like just yesterday that they were like this…

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Who taught them to be so adventurous anyway?!??!