Tag Archives: Traditions

Grieving Christmas Before Moving Into 2014

3 Jan
It's A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

It’s A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

I’ll admit it, I’m grieving the holiday season. It’s over. The tree is about to go to the recycling spot. The twinkling lights are in a ball on my living room floor because I just haven’t had the heart to put them away yet. The Christmas cards are still hanging next to my door, but those too will soon come down. Last remenants of Christmas candy and cookies are in our pantry either to be forgotten in leiu of healthier options.

It was a good Christmas. It was relaxing to be with family. It was nice to go to church again with my dad and to remember how much Jesus loves us. It was neat to see a whole gaggle of kids open presents again at my husband’s family Christmas party. It was good to take a flight again and then to drive through the desert home with Mark.

I like peppermint mochas, the smell of pine. I like looking at mall santas and seeing how closely they resemble the Santa Claus of collective memory. I like the traditions. Seeing the same Christmas ornaments come out and adorn the tree year after year. It gave me a sense of stability for another year full of lots of changes. I liked having permission to not look for a job. I liked knowing that I’ll have a few days of rest and my mom’s cooking. I enjoyed a Christmas party with college friends who have all come back together after marriages, babies, and job transitions.

And then came the rest of the holidays. New Year’s Eve wasn’t really on our calendar. I figure we would just get to it eventually. And we did. More with a wimper than a bang. Mark was sick with what I think is bronchitis and he threw out his back that day. While I’d hoped we’d be able to go for a bike ride, we were mostly inside for a few days. It wasn’t all bad. I roasted my first chicken! We had our first two Monopoly games together! And last night, we discussed God in a new way. We wondered if he was trying to tell us something considering we’ve both been so sick lately. We talked about churches and what we both hope to get out of one. It was good to talk. I’m glad we’ve been sick because it’s forced us to be together to talk and figure things out. We’re in new season and new is often hard at first until it becomes more familiar.

Grieving is like that. It’s looking back. Fondly remembering. Acknowledging the loss and being able to move on. 2013 was a good year. And the holidays that followed at the end were nice. Sweet times with family. Fun with kids. Lots of game playing, eating good food, and resting. Time to be thankful and remember the blessings I have.

Now it’s time to get to work. 2014 is going to be the year I pursue life and go after what God has for me in a new way!

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Guess What Happened When I Didn’t Eat For Three Days…

1 May

Sunset near the beach I was at during the fast

I fasted for three days before Easter. No food, just water. I’ve never done anything like that before and while some might think it to be crazy, I did it in solidarity with my church after our pastor invited us to participate. It wasn’t a competition, although I was surprised that so many people I talked to felt like they had failed when they had to break the fast because of medical reasons. Fasting should always be in order to get closer to God, and it did just that for me. When you don’t eat for three days, every time a meal comes around or even when it doesn’t and you think about your stomach, you have no choice but to think about God and realize we are not promised much in this life and yet we seem to have ample amounts of food.

Being that it was holy week, I thought about the sacrifice that Jesus made for me more than once. I can’t believe he was able to do forgo food for forty days and be tempted! I at least was able to avoid food places and keep my refrigerator full of unappetizing things, but to have bread dangled in front of me or all the power in the world offered to me so that I could change my circumstances would most definitely have been too much. By the end of day 2, I couldn’t get Chic Fil A out of my mind! I had been a strict plant based eater for two months before the fast and suddenly, all I wanted was chicken. My roommate and I even hatched a plan to get it the day after we broke the fast, which happened to be her birthday. (We ended up first going to the one in Hollywood but some half marathon prevented us from even getting close and although it was way out of our way, we ended up at the USC Chic Fil A savoring our chicken sandwiches.) Needless to say, I got a little sick after that and decided that was NOT a good idea. Note to self and to the rest of you: break your fast slowly and if you’re going to Chic Fil A the day after breaking it, be sure to not get the biscuit sandwich AND the chicken nuggets. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Throughout the fast, I did something I hadn’t done before. I prayed three times a day. Some call it “praying the hours” and it comes from a tradition where you can connect to God during meal times (there’s a lot more to this. Google it if you want more info). Prayers mean more when you realize how reliant on God you actually are. I started to see God as a provider and I was so incredibly thankful. My words came alive. I meant them and my hunger made me focus on each one in a deeper way. Sometimes I’ve heard about fasting that your hunger is deeper than just a surface level. That was true of me. I realized how much I needed to hear from God on so many issues in my life. I wanted clarity on career decisions and movements. I needed help seeing myself realistically as loved and forgiven. I wanted to give him my regrets and shortcomings.

In this sweet time of communing with my God, I learned to get out of the way.

Because I was more tired than usual, I couldn’t keep up the break neck pace that I so often set for myself. I was forced to slow down. In a year when the word I’ve chosen is “Aware”, nothing made me more aware of God and of myself than not being able to eat for three days. Suddenly everything became more focused. While I would think about what I was going to eat at the end, I was also forced to think about that moment and how I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be yet. And in that, I let go. I had to. Otherwise the food cravings would have driven me crazy. Day 2 I was ready to give up. Day three though, I felt fantastic. I had some mysterious energy that drew me forth. I wasn’t needing food or anything tangible to make me happy, I was just happy because I could be. It was definitely a new freedom that I really enjoyed.

My favorite moments from the fast were on Good Friday. We had an awesome service at church and many came to be together in community to experience the evening together. We took communion around a large table. Everyone when up individually and had their own sacred moments kneeling in front of the bread and juice. I found my eyes welling up with tears from the beauty of it. Oh how desperately we needed God then. Sometimes we pretend we don’t.

The fast taught me that I’m actually not in control of much in this world. My attitude, yes. My blessings, no. Those are all from God. Every morsel of food I buy. My car when it works and when it doesn’t. My friendships. My singleness or the relationship I have. My family. My money. All the dreams I have for my life. All the ones that didn’t come to pass for one reason or another. It all belongs to God. Taking those few days to pause and remember that changed my rhythm.

Suddenly I find myself reaching out to new people I wouldn’t have met before because encounters don’t feel like chance anymore. I’m more grateful for each day. While I don’t want to waste time, I also have learned to enjoy little moments a bit more than I had previously. I’ve encountered “slow” and I’m not as afraid.

I’m sure the fast’s purpose will continue to become evident to me as time goes on. And I might even try to do a fast once a month for a day just to remember all the lessons I took away and to connect again in those special moments with a God who loves me for all that I am. I know in a deeper way that just to be created and to enjoy that creation is enough. And it’s from that place I want to live my life.

Remembering to Remember

9 Mar

The ashes come from the previous year’s palms from Palm Sunday

Oh how easily we forget. I need reminders. All of the time. I need to remember how to love because I get so wrapped up with myself and my needs and my hopes and dreams. I so easily forget everyone else. I forget to notice the grass. I say this because today on my lunch break, I made a point to notice it. If I don’t stop to slow down and notice, the world will continue at it’s breakneck pace and I will forget again. Today is Ash Wednesday. I brought my life group (a group of women I co-lead on Wednesday nights), to a traditional Ash Wednesday service, not knowing what to expect. We do not go to a traditional church, but instead go to what some call a “happy clappy church” or a “hugging church” where weekly we experience community and the joy of God. It’s amazing. It’s healing. It’s done so much for my soul. I love it there and it has become more like home than any place I’ve ever belonged.

At our church, Christian Assembly, we don’t often get a chance to experience a liturgical service where there is chanting and hymns and prayers where we repeat after the pastor. Tonight was that at St. James Episcopal. It was very procedural compared to what I’m used to, which in some ways was freeing. It was kneel. It was ashes. It was “From dust you came and to dust you will go.” It was a reminder of all that Jesus did for us brought forth in an unfamiliar way. It was beautiful.

As I watched these women go to have the ashes placed on their foreheads, I couldn’t help but smile. I love exposing people to new things. I love traditions. I love Ash Wednesday. On no other day throughout the year except for maybe Good Friday do I get the chance to pause and reflect on the sacrifice that was made for me. For me, Lent has become sacred. It is about preparing my heart for Jesus’ crucifiction. It is a time to acknowledge the ways that I have sinned and the ways in which I need a savior. It’s reminder that we are all here for such a short time.

I don’t want to take advantage. I want to love well. I want to believe strongly. I want to remember. Lent is a great time to remember and to fast. God doesn’t need us to fast, but sometimes we need ourselves to. In times of fasting, I become profoundly aware that I am not in control. There is this illusion that I walk around with that makes me think that I am. But I am not. I remember that when I go without food. My stomach growls. I get cranky. I simply need food to survive. And I need it often. In giving it up, I remember that if it weren’t for provision, I wouldn’t have food in the first place. I am brought in communion with those who don’t have food. I am thankful in a new way because I am reminded again of what I have. I love this season. I feel like I have a new chance to reflect, pray, fast, and become aware of how little I can control. And for a perfectionist like me, something about that is quite freeing.

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