The Lent Season

What is the Lent Season? Lent is a 40 day fast in imitation of Jesus's fast in the wilderness before beginning ministry. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday (following Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday) and the last day is Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is symbolized by black cross drawn in ashes on the foreheads of those who are observing the first day of the penitence. The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday and are often applied alongside a prayer of repentance. So if you saw anyone with black smudges on their foreheads last Wednesday, it wasn't toner from the printer!

Since I am not Catholic, I don't wear the ashes on Ash Wednesday. However, I do begin a fast and a focus on a closer time with God. This year, I have put parental controls on my social media. For 40 days, I only get 40 minutes to update/post/and respond on all my platforms. I have only been doing it for less than a week and it has been very eye-opening! I am inclined to scroll and get sucked into the blackholes. My mind literally just goes blank sometimes... I go on Twitter to check the score of a game and before I know it I'm on Facebook taking a quiz to see what kind of casserole I am. ???

I don't think it's wrong to do things that let your mind take a break. But we should never enter anything as powerful and influential as social media without having a guard up. If the purpose is to just check in on the world, great, but there have to be some rules. Many people do a great job with this already, but I plan to make some rules based off my pattern of behavior rather than just shooting for a time constraint.

1. Look at social media when I can be alone or when no one needs me. Confession time-- The only times I EVER get mad at my kids are when they are being mean/disrespectful and when they are interrupting me. My kids know to not interrupt me when I'm doing things that could potentially hurt them like cooking or vacuuming. But when I'm taking the casserole quiz, it just looks like I'm standing there doing nothing. I shamefully confess that I have lashed out at them out of sheer annoyance because I want to scroll social media. Our house is always buzzing with kids, wheelchairs, noisy toys, and music so I don't get annoyed very easily. The annoyance comes from wanting to go braindead on Instagram when I could be participating in life some other way.

2. Ask myself what I'm doing. Have you ever walked in a room and thought why did I come in here? I'm sure you have if you're a parent. But, have you ever forgotten your purpose and start walking around the room in attempt to trigger the reason and then all of the sudden you're knee deep in cleaning out your drawers 5 minutes before the kids go to bed? That's what social media does to me. Maybe I had the right intention, but I let a comment or a video distract me from what I was doing. If the intention is just to check up on the world, set a timer or something!

3. Clean up what you follow. What I look at needs to encourage and convict me. The tricky part is that some platforms allow you to simply unfollow. Other's you're unfriending, which is tough if the negativity is coming from someone you know. Still, you need to ask yourself why do I follow this? If you're trying to spend less money, don't follow the rich and famous. If it's an election year, maybe it's time to hide some people from your newsfeed until the election is over. When you see that stuff, pay attention to how it makes you feel and ask yourself if it helps you. There is no rabbit hole like drama! I've noticed that the time limit actually helps me select what stays and goes. If my time runs out and I have that upset/mad/annoyed feeling, then I spent time on the wrong things. If you know time is limited, I think you will pine for things you want to see and be able to delete/hide what you don't.

Old habits die hard but I can already say I'm reaping the harvest from simply remembering myself and my purpose before I start my 40 minutes.

I've added a new section on the home page about marriage! This is a spot where you can hear from both Josh and me about how we are trying to set intentions and encourage others in their relationships. This section has encouragement and truths from both of us as well as some great resources that have helped us grow as individuals

I don't know if you saw, but we came up with the #LeapDayChallenge. I mean how cool is Leap Day? A whole extra 24 hours! We did this Leap Day challenge to take a "leap" in faith, awareness, and kindness. Since the world is always in need of those things, it's never to late to participate.

I have started writing about leadership. I post a lot of these articles on LinkedIn. As you've probably figured out, I am all about growth and personal development. When I think of how my faith has been built, it's been through God calling me into a leadership role. Here's what I have written so far:

Does Your Past Serve Your Pride or Your Purpose? A Look Into Leadership With Some Help From Navy Seals

If You're Not Yourself, You're Nobody...So Why Conform?

When Anxiety Rises, Motivation Falls

Here's the thing, you may not think any of this is quality reading/viewing material, and that's okay. The most important side effect is also the most unexpected-- I'm actually building myself up. Putting my intentions, convictions, and goals into writing helps me more than it helps anyone else. And since I'm the only one who has to live with the consequences, I think I need to replace the social media scrolling with time to be creative. If creativity is priority the social media becomes a place of positivity instead of a black hole.

Last, random thing---what I really hope this Lent season introduces you to is the principle of tithing. Maybe after 40 days without something you’ll feel a freedom that allows you to imagine a life where God gets the first of everything everyday. Josh and I did not regularly start tithing until about 3 years ago and it has made a huge difference in our lives. Not only is it completely possible to live off of 90%, but I truly believe that God blesses that 10% more than we ever could. There is something powerful about the spiritual transaction of a necessity to God. It's a declaration of our dependence on Him but it's also a contribution to God's kingdom. Listen, in order to play this game called "life on planet Earth," we've got to find a way to do God's work by using man's provision. No amount of spirituality will exempt anyone from submitting to the dollar. But, what if intentionality set first by giving the first fruits of our labor to the Lord is the key to both freedom in our finances and thus, our lives. By all means, do research on what your church does with tithe money. We are fortunate enough to attend a church that allows us to select whether we want our funds to go to international missions, youth ministry, etc. But, regardless to what we give to, the part about tithing I love is this:

1. This money is not mine, it's God's so I have no issue giving God what is already His. Even if our church or a mission misused my money, I participated in a spiritual transaction. That sin of misuse is on them.

2. When life is falling apart, our tithe is an automatic part of our finances. It requires nothing of me mentally or emotionally, thus when I can't show up in prayer, service, or worship mentally or emotionally, that tithe has still been given in obedience whether I'm at my best or not.

3. My word for this year is legacy. Legacy is a word I chose in response to a pretty tumultuous time in my life-- I had a very hard year at my job which caused my staff to fall apart and my grandmother died. Thirty years from now, if someone were to look back and ask how I was able to make the difference I made, I would want to say it was in response to one of the hardest times of my life. In order to do that, I have to choose obedience over wants. God knows exactly how hard it is for us to part with something we worked for. And for that, He will never let it be in vain.

Freedom, in anything, lies in our discipline.

Happy Lent Season!

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