Google describes the purpose of Lent as: “the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”

I did not grow up in a faith tradition that observed Lenten practices, but for the last few years, I have attended a non-denominational church that does offer various options to include this as a practice. Along with giving up something, there can be an adding on something.

I’m following the Celtic Lenten Path since my husband is leading it. I’m going to add in the Pray as You Go app in my mornings instead of surfing the internet prior to work. This is a meditative prayer and scripture app.

The DENIAL part of this experience; ideally for me – this would be very little FB (app not on phone for now), more reading books or writing, less mindless internet surfing and less mindless eating, searching for more quiet pauses in my day. Forty Days. And then to decide what practices stay.

Lent provides a time to pause, to reflect, to confess, even as the rest of life swirls around and interferes with our intention to pause.

Shared History

I recall feeling lost and inadequate in this faith walk. What was I – sixteen? I rarely felt like I was doing it right, whatever “it” was and whatever “right” was. Just trying to do what I was told were the things that would make me a better Christian. But what are the rules again, and why can’t I get past this continuous struggle? Teenagers don’t know that this is just part of learning life. When it came to faith and God, I just never felt good enough at it and it felt easier to leave it.

He remembers me as rebellious. My “troubled years”. I remember relief and feeling as though I was finally able to breathe. I do not recall feeling rebellious. Just resigned. The solution at the time – I just won’t BE a Christian. There. No guilt for not doing things right because it doesn’t matter now. No one asked why or what happened. I did not talk to anyone about it.

Image result for calvary assembly of god southington ct

Since I liked to write in a journal, I probably wrote things down, but those journals were long ago destroyed. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see them now? I do have a long history of just handling “it” on my own, and there was not a big focus on figuring out teens and their needs in evangelical church in the 70s other than getting them “saved from going to hell”. I needed more than fire insurance, but didn’t know what exactly or how to look, or who to ask.

Now I’m in my early sixties, he in his late eighties, they live in their apartment downstairs. Often during our visits, he discusses the past – and sometimes our mutual past. He brings up feeling grateful that I made it out of those rebellious / troubled / backslidden years. He says he didn’t know what to do, so he just prayed. A simple solution that I’m grateful for. Like all parents – we often don’t know what to do. I smile and explain that there was really no big rebellion and tell him he got off easy in the crazy teenager department. He pats my arm, and is sweetly so proud of current me, so “blessed” to have me as a daughter.

We do have very different perspectives about what was happening during my “rebellion”. It makes me a little sad that this is what he remembers of teenager me. Now if he remembered me as OBNOXIOUS once in a while – yeah, I remember that.

The faith journey, deconstruction, reconstruction goes on even still.

The Celtic Service

He and I had talked about it for about a year, intending to try out the Celtic Service at the local Episcopal church. We have now attended two of these services.

This is a quiet, solemn service, with beautiful instrumental music, unfamiliar (mostly) hymns; there is rising, sitting, rising, a program to help the uninitiated with knowing when to respond with “Lord, Hear Our Prayer”, and this Eucharist has no cracker or tiny cup of grape juice, but has a wafer to dip into the large goblet of wine.

One priest opens the service (male) and one priest offers the homily (female).

St. George’s is an affirming church, welcoming all, and has women in positions of leadership. Jesus is present, love is present. The Word is read. Prayers are prayed.

We will return again. It’s interesting to have such old practices feel so new and fresh. Let’s see where this journey takes us.

Favorite Reads in 2019

My FAVORITE read this year is In the Shelter by Padriag O’Tuama *also read two or three of his poetry books*

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audio)

I will finish up The Only Plane in the Sky – a 9/11 Oral History by Garrett M. Graff but I’ll count it on 2019 reads. (moving – especially on audio)

Holy Envy by Barbara Taylor Brown (audio)

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey

Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes (audio)

Inheritence by Dani Shapiro

Love You Hard : A Memoir of Marriage, Memory, and Reinventing Love by Abby Maslin

The Good House by Ann Leary (audio)

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Christmas Cards and Letters

(Written on my church blog – mirrored here.)

In an era of social media, are cards even necessary? Maybe not so much. But I think many of us still enjoy receiving or sending Christmas cards or photos. How about a real Christmas LETTER!? But oh, those Christmas letters – it seems they can inspire enjoyment — or cynicism.

I’ve long been in the camp of enjoying sending and receiving Christmas “Year in Review” letters and family photos. I got started writing my own Christmas letters after we moved away from friends and family in 1989. I was already a letter writer (pre-email) and this was just a natural continuation of that practice. I would include a holiday picture of our family, hard fought for since getting four kids to smile at the same time could be challenging. 🙂

It can still be fun to go to the mailbox to find that rare piece of REAL mail in an envelope with a stamp! Nearly as fun – opening an email that is a real “letter”. It’s great to have a few family photos from friends near and far to place on the refrigerator for a few months as reminders of the blessings in the friendships we have.

After years of printing out photos throughout the year for family photo albums, I find myself rarely getting hard copies of photos at this point. All of the smiling faces and beautiful records of vacations are trapped on computers or phones or on hard drives for the most part. But I encourage you – it’s worth printing out a few family photos to put in frames or place on the fridge. (Gift idea!?)

When it comes to the Christmas Letter – yes, I still compose one to send out to a few by email, along with some jpg photos tacked onto the end. It may be sent primarily to the friends or family members who are not as connected to social media platforms, or by request. And then – I print out a copy for me. After creating this annual letter for nearly two decades, I have a folder with my copies and it has become a record of our family’s happenings and what we’ve experienced year by year.

For those who still like receiving cards, photos, and even THE LETTER, maybe do your own to send out. Or maybe just do it for you – pause and contemplate the hard moments, the joyful moments, and everything in between. Type or write it up and attach some photos and start your own file. Remember your past year for a few moments; reflect, give thanks, maybe pause to mourn, and prepare for the the beginning of a new year when all things become new.