Letters & Thoughts on Lent

I am a huge fan of handwritten letters. I like sticking the stamps on the envelope and sending them off to a friend, just as much as I like seeing them in my mailbox.

The art of letter writing has been somewhat lost, if you ask me. Social media and online spaces make it more convenient to text someone or browse their feed to find out what they’re up to. Who writes in cursive anymore? Do people still collect stamps or stationary?

This is embarrassing, but once I realized I was spending hours (hours!!) on my phone everyday, I cut back on my social media intake quite a bit this year. I’ve done lots of spring cleaning — “unliking” a bunch of those facebook pages from way back when, “unfollowing” accounts I don’t know personally or people I don’t know well, and being much picker about who gets to fill my feed.

Coming out of the black cloud that often is facebook and instagram, I feel so much better. My anxiety went down, I felt more relaxed, and my ability to concentrate skyrocketed. I started exercising and reading more.

With a few clicks or finger strokes we can instantly chat with our friends from kindergarten or that one friend we met at summer camp. And while I’m all for staying connected, I believe social media weirdly obligates us to constantly stay in touch with more people than is realistic. Suddenly, friendships appear valid only if there’s a mutual online relationship. This makes me sad. This false sense of obligation weighs heavy on my mind.

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Lent is a season where we’re invited to examine our lives and our hearts. It’s a chance to identify the unhealthy distractions and obligations around us and prayerfully let them go. Some things are harder to let go than others, that’s for sure. (FOMO is real!) But it’s not meant to be easy. As we anticipate the death and resurrection of Jesus we have the opportunity to actively (individually + corporately) reorient our passions and priorities to honor the eternal ramifications of the cross.

Maybe you missed the first few weeks of Lent. No worries then, wherever you find yourself, you’re invited to enter this space of reflection. Lent isn’t a six-week program that must be completed start to finish. There’s no trophy or point system. So please, pull up a chair and catch your breath. Let’s slow down and remember the Story together.

If you have an online presence, I encourage you to find time to apart from your feeds. You might like it. If you used the time you normally spend scrolling to write a letter, who would you write to?

Building a Home

Aaron and I are in the midst of a “no spend” month. We’re only putting money down for regular bills, gas, and groceries. It sounds straightforward and it is really, except for each time we’d normally eat out or jump to buy something (impulsively) at Target. Turns out those occasions are more common than we thought. Oops?

As much as minimalism is trendy right now, it’s not exactly so dreamy when you’ve been “forced” to live on little. We are thankful for what we have, (which is more than others in the world) but we are also especially human and get distracted fairly easily.

Building a home, life, family, etc. takes time. Decorating or even furnishing on a budget becomes a point of despair if you don’t pace yourself and if your improvisation skills leave something to be desired, maybe your meals do too. Social media adds insult to injury with images or advertisements of people “doing it right” all over the world in beautiful homes with designer-dressed children eating organic mac and cheese.

We might be guilty of staring over the fence and mumbling our complaint-prayers that usually start with “if only”. I should be the first person to confess that my heart and mind are so impressionable when it comes to Instagram feeds and anything 20% off. But the pressure to live the lifestyle of a well established grandparent is backbreaking for a young twenty-something newlywed. Comparison, as we’ve often heard of it, is a joy-stealer.

Maybe you find yourself, like me, easily materialistic and envious of others. It happens. But no matter how put together people (accounts, feeds, etc.) may seem, there are scars and stories you don’t see. Think of what you tell others via your virtual reality versus the ever growing laundry chair/pile, dirty dishes (rarely, of course!), or unfinished books.

There is no real formula for the perfect anything. I don’t believe we ever reach satisfaction on this side of life. We learn to be content (aka thankful) in the present with a hopeful watch over what the future may bring. (1 Tim 6:6-7, Matt 6:33)

Life is very temporary and I don’t want my joy to be misplaced. My marriage will eventually outlast any belonging I own and after that my relationship with the Lord will most certainly outlast my marriage. (2 Cor 4:18)

This month, this season of my life really, has encouraged me to find the real treasures of this life: celebrating the Lord’s provision for both nourishment and shelter as we put groceries away, sleep warmly, and wake up loved. Recognizing this, there is little else I need or want, even though a clean house is a semi-reasonable request, no?

The season of Lent is coming up around the corner and whether or not you observe the church calendar, you may ask yourself where your joy is found. Our sacrifices won’t be the same this year, but I hope that whatever we choose to put aside or resolve to do that we understand that Christ-found hope and joy changes everything.

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” – Pope Francis