A Little Lent Check-In

Spring has fully sprung here in Connecticut. I am a New Englander at heart who feels a bit cheated by the seasons this year. Our worst snowstorm came in October (and it was a doozy, knocking out power to our entire town for more than a week), after which we had a wimpy, coldish but not really that cold, nearly snowless winter. Now, we seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to summer. I’ve been working with my windows open after sending the kids off to school in shorts and t-shirts.

But while the weather says “Memorial Day,” the calendar still says Lent. With Easter a few weeks away, I thought I’d report on how my Lent disciplines are going. As I wrote in this post, I’m focusing this Lent on building new habits to replace destructive old habits, through some specific new behaviors. Here, a report on each discipline and how I am faring:

Do a household chore or exercise before settling down to work with the laptop in the morning. For the most part, I’m doing this. Sometimes the chore is very brief, such as loading up the washing machine or going through the previous day’s mail. Sometimes my lap swims are the sort where every stroke feels like a huge effort and, instead of feeling energized and fit when I’m done, I’m just thanking God that I’m done. But this habit is definitely helping me ensure that when my work day ends and the kids come home from school, I can point to a couple of non-work things I’ve accomplished instead of feeling that I let too many hours slip away in aimless laptop cruising.

Work at the kitchen table instead of the couch. I’ve only been partly successful with this one. Yes, I am more efficient when I sit at the table. But I get very uncomfortable due to my various joint pain issues. So I end up back on the couch.

Change my medication schedule to avoid extreme sleepiness leading to too-frequent naps or mindless Internet surfing. I’ve actually changed my medication regimen altogether (with my doctor’s help, of course), and it’s helping in many ways. I still struggle with some sleepiness as a side effect, though that is getting more manageable as I get used to the new routine. I still sometimes rest mid-day if I’m feeling sleepy, sometimes reading or taking a short nap. But sometimes I’ll get up and take a walk instead. So it’s a mixed bag.

Pray the hours. I’m doing the morning prayer office about five days out of seven, and adding the noontime office two or three days a week. So I’m not performing 100 percent on this discipline, but I’m still praying more, and more regularly, than I have in years. And I can see how it is helping me feel more connected—to God, to my own inner life, to the words I repeat in church week after week, to those I pray for. I consider this discipline a success even though I’m not quite fulfilling the “daily” part of this discipline.

Don’t spend money on non-necessities. As a family, we’ve largely failed miserably on this one. It’s been helpful to be able to rein in the kids’ requests for little things—a new iPod song, a candy at the drugstore checkout. They have largely accepted the rule without complaint. But we have ordered pizza or other take-out food three or four times, often due to a crazy evening schedule or one parent’s illness. I ended up buying the kids a bunch of spring clothing  to take advantage of sale prices, knowing that the online retailers I shop from will often run out of items fairly quickly and often don’t restock the same items. It has become crystal clear that we have utterly accepted the common American fallacy that we “need” things like brand-new clothes when the seasons change and ready-made meals to make our hectic lives more convenient. Clearly, we have more work to do in this area.

How about you? Any self-discoveries, successes, or failures this Lent?

P.S. For those readers who have followed the saga of our rescue dog, Eddie, I offer this update: Eddie went to a new (we hope permanent) home this past weekend, with a hospice chaplain and his wife. Their year-old Irish Wolfhound was lonely and needed a companion. Eddie got along well with the whole family, human and canine. I am grateful for all who prayed and sent hopeful thoughts Eddie’s way—as well as relieved and ready to welcome a new dog who will be a better fit for our family.

 

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About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.


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