Late last night, somewhere around the fuzzy borders of drug-induced sleep, my Lent finally came to me. Everyone always talks about what you "give up" for Lent, but you can also add something to your life. I suppose, if you are economical with your time, talents, and abilities, you automatically give up something when you incorporate something else. Buy new clothes? Donate old ones. New kid toys? Give away old ones. New toaster? Freecycle the old one.
But I am not disciplined in the art of simplicity- and it is an art form. My sister-in-law was the Queen of Simple. She had what she needed, she didn't pack things away for Later, she didn't lust after new and shiny, she loved all things Neat and Tidy. There are days upon days that I think about and miss my sister, and wish I could have gotten advice from her on the art of simple, while there was still time for her to give it.
No, I'm a Keeper. I keep my babies' clothes, especially ones we've had pictures taken in (and that includes everything from pajamas to mismatched playclothes to ruffly Easter dresses). I keep my own clothes, hoping I'll fit into them again, come Someday. I keep scraps of fabric, ribbon, buttons, cardboard, rocks in case my kids and I want to do some extravagant art project (we NEED those things!). I even have, in my collection of Things Kept, an old metal colander, complete with rusted and hole-y mesh, simply because it was one of the things my mother gave me when I ventured off to my first apartment.
So, when Ash Wednesday rolls around, I am first in line to "give up" something that isn't quite as precious as it should be in order for Lent to properly serve its purpose in my heart. I'll give up four-Dr.-Peppers-a-day-but-that-means-I-can-still-have-three. I'll give up white chocolate macadamia cookies, but that means I can still have chocolate chip. I'll give up thinking mean things about people I'm angry with, but only if they don't reeeeally make me angry. I'm a Lenten flunky when it comes to the giving up.
I don't fail Lent every year, some years I've come up with really good things, but the past few years I've been floundering, trying to reach some magnificent, life-changing goal, and I've come up short because I'm just too busy/tired/angry to really put my heart in it.
I'm tired of being so busy/tired/angry that I shut out a really great opportunity to reconnect with the King of my heart.
Last night (because, I'm a procrastinator y'all), it dawned on me; the simple, yet profound way I can use Lent to get my feet back on the path I intend to follow.
Cleanse and Clean.
Those words, technically, mean pretty much the same thing. But their connotations, their nuances, mean something different to me.
Here's my plan (and the requisite backstory, 'cause that's how I do):
I grew up in a wonderful church, in a denomination I dearly loved. I never had an on-my-knees-Jesus-will-you-be-my-Lord-and-Savior moment, I just grew up believing. While my particular church/denomination was all about some routine, some tradition, we weren't big on Bible study. I don't remember ever going through the Word, book by book, in an actual study. Sure, we memorized verses in Sunday School, we heard the big stories in Vacation Bible School, but I never went any further than surface-deep in my Bible, until a few years ago.
I took my first Bible study, called Motherwise, with a friend of mine at her church. It was a great way to ease into studying- it incorporated tips on parenting, side-by-side with study. I loved it. Then I took its companion class, Freedom for Mothers. Loved it s'more. Then, Jeremy and I had the opportunity to take a parenting/Bible study class together, called Growing Kids God's Way. Through these classes, I learned more about myself as a woman, a daughter of the Lord, a wife, and a mother. My first real, it's-not-about-you-it's-about-Him study was Beth Moore's 12 week intensive run through the book of Daniel.
And that is when I really felt the power of the original Love Letter. Oh, I could go on and on about that study, but that's not my point.
During those 12 weeks, I was faithful about reading Scripture, soaking it in and learning from it, because I was being held accountable. But after those three months, I slipped away from daily reading until I got to the point where my Bible would only make an appearance on Sunday mornings- if I remembered to grab it.
And I want to change that. Each week, I wonder to myself if this is the week I do the Things I Want to Do. Or if it's the week that I at least begin.
So, this Lenten season is when I start. No more wondering, no more I'm too busying, no more I'm so dang tireding.
I will cleanse.
I will cleanse my heart and soul. I will do it daily. I will spend a minimum of 40 minutes a day in the Word. I know the powerful impact that being in the Word has on my life. I have a different attitude, I see things in a different light. I am refueled, refilled, rejuvenated, rewarded. My heart is recaptured, reignited, revived, and full of rejoicing. That prefix, that "re-," means "back or again." I will lead myself back to a place I want to be, I will allow myself to be cleansed again through the reading of God's Holy Word.
Anyone, anyone, who truly knows me, knows that I am terrible at house-keeping. Lots of times, people equate being a stay-at-home-mom with being a house-keeper. But I'm not. My job is my children. Even my husband will correct someone when they wrongly assume that my B's aren't my #1 priority. Their wellbeing, their health, their hearts, their developing brains- that is my occupation. I'm in charge of that. It is an incredible burden, but one that fosters amazing outcomes.
And then there's my house.
In reality, Jeremy is a better cook than I am. He, being the baby, learned quite literally at his mother's knee. My mother didn't cook. Jeremy is better at the nitty gritty cleaning of the house, again, something he learned from his momma. My momma's mop was always dusty.
I'm no good at it, I don't care too much about it, and I flat-out don't like it.
But Jeremy is good, he does cares, and he loves it- he thrives in a clean home.
I have possibly the most undemanding husband of all time.
All he asks for are clean clothes, a "picked up" house, and that once I year I clean the bathrooms. (Yeah, he does it the rest of the time. With toothbrushes. He's a Marine. He can't help it.) He asks for so little, and he is so happy when I do those few things for him.
And yet I still can't, or won't, or haven't yet done these things. But, now, I will.
I will clean.
I will spend at least 40 minutes each day seriously cleaning. I mean in addition to the never ending laundry/dishes/kid toys routine. I will spend a dedicated 40 minutes "blessing my house" as a certain FlyLady might say.
In blessing my house, I will bless my husband.
In blessing my husband, I bless our marriage.
In blessing our marriage, I bless our children.
In blessing my children and husband and home, I bless the One who provided them to me in the first place.
I haven't started anything that is monumental, or unattainable. I may stumble, I may falter, but I won't quit. I hope to continue past the next month and a half, begin a habit of study, and of service. To fill myself up in God's Word, in order to cleanse, to flush out the bad parts. To provide a fresh, orderly home for the man I love, to boost both his spirit and our marriage.
40 and 40 in 40.
I will cleanse, and I will clean.