A Lenten Journey Surprise

As I’ve done the last few years, I prepared for Easter with a Lenten fast from alcohol and sweets.  What was different this year was that much to my surprise my 16-year-old son decided to observe a fast as well.

lenten-journeyHow it all Began

About the same time that Lent began, my son and I started a new bedtime routine.  We read a daily devotional and then prayed together.  On the evening of Ash Wednesday, he asked me about the ashes on my forehead which led to a conversation about Lent.  (By the way, observing Lent, or Ash Wednesday, is not exclusively for Catholics as some mistakenly believe.)

The next day after school he announced he was giving up video games for Lent!  My heart leapt for joy at his sacrificial offering.  I don’t remember what I said that night.  I didn’t ask him about giving anything up himself.  When he told me his decision the next day, he was excited.

My husband and I have had discussions with our son about the amount of time he spends on video games in the past.  Sometimes those discussions turned pretty heated, and he’d lose his gaming privileges.  We’ve also suggested alternative ways of using his leisure time.  Nothing else ever seemed to interest him.

And that's not all of it!

My son’s video game collection–and that’s not even all of it!

However, as Lent started my son was excited to share his choice—and even recognized how hard it would be.  Those first few days he admitted to me that his thoughts would turn to gaming.  He learned to turn his attention elsewhere — sometimes to God, and other times to his studies.  Those thoughts diminished over time.

The End of the Journey

As the 40-day journey grew closer to Holy Week, we talked about what he would do after Easter.  Would he return to his old gaming behavior?  Would he continue his fast?  I shared with him my previous Lent experiences—ranging from returning to immediate gratification with candy on Easter Sunday to abstaining for a prolonged period.  He has opted to return in moderation.

What excites me about this year’s pilgrimage to Easter is not so much that he stopped gaming, it’s that he (and us together) started a great ritual of connecting at the end of the day.  I would often forget, and he’d remind me to join him for our devotional and prayer time.  He also started reading the Bible again and occasionally writing in a journal.

My son and our dog, one of his best friends.

My son and our dog, one of his best friends.

In God’s Timing

I know a lot of this is only possible because my son made a decision to try medication again for his ADHD a few months ago.  He is a changed person.

The medication has given him access to areas of his brain that before were preventing his behaviors from aligning with his desires.  It has allowed him to establish new homework routines, focus on his studies, become more social and succeed in school.  In turn, he is now making more adult decisions and able to find a part of his self that was inaccessible before.

I’m very thankful that we went down this road with him.  I’m grateful that he persevered over the last few years.  I praise God for His timing in all of this (yet again!) and how my son is actively pursuing his relationship with Him.  I’m also glad that I was able to model something to him in the past and that he caught that behavior on his own.

Surprised by God

I had hoped that my son would actually write this post for me (another thing we talked about during Lent), but he is busy with his studies.  He did, however, quickly volunteered to help with the photos and captions.

Surprised by GodWhen I asked him what he’d like to share about his Lenten Journey, he said, “It was a beneficial experience for me.  It helped me to know God better and do well in school.”  That’s a lot to get out of a 16-year-old who is filled with new hope and finding his way in life.

As far as my fast, I’m still abstaining—for now.  I’m embracing the joy of getting to know my son in a deeper way.  That was my Lenten surprise.

Did God surprise you on your journey toward Easter?  I’d love to hear your story.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

 

Was The Sacrifice Worth It?

Last year I entered into the Lenten season with much anticipation and reverence as I started to explore Jesus from a more contemplative perspective.  I spent much time in prayer and meditation.  I also fasted from alcohol.  It ended up being the most amazing 40-day spiritual journey of my life.  And so I decided to make many of those changes a permanent part of my everyday life. 
As I entered into the Lenten season this year, I was expecting the same kind of holy ground type of experience.  That’s not exactly what I got though.  I fasted again this year, but this time it was from alcohol and sweets.  I increased my prayer and meditation time which had become a bit inconsistent over the past year.  That’s where the similarities ended. 
lent cross
This year, Lent coincided with a period in my life when I was being called into a major leadership role in ministry.  After three years away from serving in ministry leadership, I had forgotten how prevalent and pervasive spiritual attacks can be.  (A friend told me today that is also why God doesn’t allow women to remember the pain from childbirth.) 
This has probably been the most difficult spiritual journey of my life.  I know that if I hadn’t been heavily investing in my time with God and seeking His will for my life as part of my Lenten practice, that I wouldn’t have fared so well during this trial.  I needed that quality time alone with God to give me His peace and to strengthen me each and every week.
Lent is technically over, but for me the spiritual disciplines of the last 40 days are not.  I did already have a few sweets and my body quickly told me it didn’t like that decision.  And at least for now, the alcohol is still on hold. 
So was the sacrifice and fasting worth it?  Absolutely.  As God continues to call me to serve Him in ways that stretch me outside of my comfort zone, I will continue to seek His wisdom and discernment on how to do it not on my own self-sufficiency, but according to His will.  It’s the best chance I have of living a worry-free life.
On to the next 40 days—and Pentecost!

On Reverence

There is no doubt that the events of the last year in my life have drawn me closer to God.  I know this may sound strange, but when I returned from my mother’s funeral, I was on such a spiritual high.  God had shown up for me each day I was there, giving me much needed closure, giving me strength to get through each day, giving me the words to write my mother’s eulogy and to speak it and giving me insights into my identity that I denied for years.
As I began to accept these revelations about myself, I continued to explore my faith and seek God’s wisdom on how to walk this new path of spiritual growth that He was lying out for me.  Surprisingly for me, this path put me back in the Catholic Church.  At first, I was very confused by all of this.  I grew up Catholic and turned away from the church as a teen when I gave my life to Christ and joined a Protestant Church.  But for some reason, God was wooing me back and His vehicle was the Catholic Church.
This period of wooing and exploration coincided with the season of Lent.  So last year, for the first time in my life, I made several decisions that allowed me to really listen to God and approach Easter with a fully repentant and willing heart.  My main Lenten decision was to attend mass and prayer time every Wednesday in the Catholic Church.  Each week as I left the church, I noticed God giving me some word or insight to cling too.  I also left with incredible peace—a quieting of my mind to the worries of life.  
lent-spiritual-preparation
As I observed Lent from a sacrificial and willing perspective, I also came to enjoy a deeper relationship with Christ and a reverence for the Lord.  Growing up in the Catholic Church, the liturgy and tradition seemed stale and impersonal to me.  But as I attended these services with new eyes, I was able to appreciate the reverence that is demonstrated by the priest and the parishners.
Last year’s season of Lent was so amazing for me as it gave me time to really focus on Jesus without distraction.  I still go to the Catholic Church most weeks and definitely miss it when I don’t.  I have met some very devout followers of Christ in the Catholic Church.  It has changed my way of thinking about the Body of Christ.  It has affirmed and strengthened my relation to my Spanish family as well.
Last week, when I attended the Ash Wednesday service at the local parish, I reflected on this next season of Lent and the reverence that I now have for the Lord.  Last year, I was hesitant to have those ashes put on my forehead and a bit embarrassed to be seen.  This year, I attended a ministry meeting at my church and didn’t even flinch when asked about it. 
I know God has wired me differently than other people.  (We all are.)  I’m letting God point me in the direction that I should go.  Do I question it at times?  Yes, but thankfully not as much as I used too.
For this season of Lent, I challenge you to find reverence for the Lord in whatever way God has wired you to connect with Him.  May He create in you a clean heart as you live out these next 40 days and beyond.
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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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