Friday, April 18, 2014

Rethinking Easter

Last year our family spent Holy Week in Guatemala.  There were no Easter bunnies, baskets, eggs or candy.  It was the best Easter that I've ever experienced.  Every day there were alfombras (sawdust and flower carpets) lovingly crafted in the streets.  In the afternoons and evenings processions would wind through the town to celebrate each day of Holy Week.  We celebrated Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. 

Without the events of Good Friday, there would be no Easter.  Without Jesus' painful death on the cross, there would be no resurrection celebration or assurance of eternal salvation.  Today, we celebrated the gift that we were given when Jesus died for us all on the cross.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."  Isaiah 53:6

Please enjoy the work of many hands, little and big, in honor of Jesus' death this Good Friday.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

7: Reflections on Fasting

There have been times over the last 7 months that were hard while others were invigorating.  I have triumphed and failed.  There were even moments when I just wanted to cheat.  I mean who would know?  Brandon won’t really rat me out will he?  (Yes, he would have.)  The greatest benefit over the last 7 months is that I’ve had the time to contemplate our lives.  Many pieces have stuck and we were challenged.  My whole family joined me during several months.

Month 1: Possessions
I felt like a rock star this month.  I love to purge items and clean out.  Clearing out wasn’t so hard, it was actually thinking about how much stuff we had.  I had so many things that I didn’t use.  How much money did they all represent?  I felt so much guilt over the excess that we had.  Truthfully, as I sit here and look around there is more that I’d like to clear out again.  More that we haven’t used.  Keep in mind that we did a second purge recently to cut down on toys following the holidays.  It seems like a never ending battle.  I want our home to reflect pieces that we love and have meaning.  No longer do I care if it looks like a page out of a magazine.  It’s the pages of our life.

Month 2:  Food
This month was torture!  I probably wanted to cheat the most during this month.  My list seemed so well planned but I quickly realized that there just are not 7 foods that I want to eat for an entire month.  I am a spoiled brat.  For me, food is not about nourishment, it’s about enjoyment.  I missed being able to cook the foods that I wanted whenever I wanted.  Even now I think of how spoiled I am.  Just last week, I served black beans, rice, and a tortilla to children.  They didn’t get a choice because the menu doesn’t change.  For some, it was their only meal that day.  I had twice as many options during my month of fasting…

Month 3:  Clothes
Wow do I get ready quicker in the morning when I have so few options!  Don’t get me wrong, I like my full wardrobe but this wasn’t that bad.  As I was packing for Guatemala two weeks ago, I literally reminded myself that I went an entire month with only 7 garments so I needed to pare down to fit more donations.  If I limit my total wardrobe size, I tend to make smarter choices.

Month 4:  Media
I didn’t realize just how much media I consumed until it was gone.  No more Facebook, tv, daily blog reading.  I must admit that I was probably much more productive because I wasn’t take a break to check Facebook or watch just one show in the evening.  Even last week in Guatemala, I didn’t miss the tv.  Cutting down on the electronic influences in our lives is probably a good thing.  I can read more, play games with the kids, and have real quiet time.  But, I’m not giving it up completely because I do enjoy watching certain shows and just relaxing over mindless shows.  I also will not purposely forgo the entire college football post-season anymore.  Missing all of the bowl games was probably one of the things I missed most.

Month 5:  Waste
We were fairly conscious of our wastefulness prior to this month but we did make some changes that stuck.  I’m still toting my own reusable bags to the grocery store.  Honestly, they’re bigger and sturdier than the plastic ones.  Cloth napkins still don our table and lunchboxes because why create more trash?  We don’t use the timers anymore but we’re still trying not to waste water.  We can probably still do better but most of the changes stuck.  I don’t like the idea of having heaping trash cans.

Month 6:  Spending
Cutting down our spending outlets to just 7 places, which included internet banker, was another way to make me think about just how lucky I was.  We actually complained that we couldn’t order pizza.  Really, I know how to make that.  I was annoyed that I hadn’t thought ahead to put money on the girls’ lunch accounts.  In reality, we didn’t even use all 7 of our places.  On the last day of the month we realized that we hadn’t used one, so we order supper from Buffalo Wild Wings.  Even in our fasting, we were still rich in opportunities.  Just goes to prove that we don’t need all the options we have, we just really enjoy them.  It was also nice to have a smaller credit card bill at the end of the month.  That’s one habit that I’d like to keep up.

Month 7:  Stress
I like to do things well if I’m going to try and the last month was the hardest month for me to actually feel like I could conquer.  Maybe that was the point.  I was practicing for an entire month on pausing to be aware and thankful during my day.  I was taking the focus off of myself and putting it onto what God wanted me to acknowledge at that moment.  I was blessed during my trip to Guatemala to experience moments of clarity, only found through the Holy Spirit.  Moments, that only a few years ago, I would have laughed off as absurd. 

We’re still in our oversized house, with our ample possessions and opportunities, but I think we are all more aware of the world around us and our responsibility to do more and do better.  Hopefully we’ll have an exchange student in the fall to help us fill this house a little more…