The season of Lent is upon us. It is a season often associated with reflection, fasting, and faith. Many people make a decision to fast from/give up something for the 40 days of Lent. Some take Lent more seriously than others, but however you go about celebrating the season, I hope you have blessed one.
I've participated in Lent for the past several years. I was semi-raised in the Baptist church, so I actually had no idea what Lent was all about until I started exploring faith and branching out around the time I turned 21. For the first few years I gave up something, choosing to fast from a particular thing for the season, but alas, didn't feel it did much for my relationship with God and my overall faith life. It felt empty. Therefore, in 2017, I decided to ADD something to my life rather than fast. I wanted to add disciplines that would enrich my faith life. That year felt different and it made a difference in my faith.
This year leading up to Lent, I had been struggling. I was feeling very discouraged and questioned whether I really had what it took to be a writer and to make a career in writing work. I had decided twice to walk away from the dream and the last 9 years of work, to look into pursuing something more practical. I was tired, discouraged, and done. I prayed and talked it over with God, and felt the call to wait the full season of Lent before making an official decision. So that's what I'm doing. I've made the commitment to not worry over my writing or force it. Instead, I am reading, listening to music, studying, and filling up and enriching my soul and mind. We'll see where God leads me and what He has in store for my future. The ultimate decision will be made after Easter....
As I said before, I'm using this season to enrich my mind and soul. One thing I've been learning over and over, because I can't seem to remember it, is that in order to be able to pour yourself out into something, you must continually pour into yourself. That's what I'm doing this season. I'm reading good books, studying helpful and informative books and other resources, listening to good music, and reading scripture regularly. I'm incorporating good, healthy rhythms into my life.
I've been very intentional in starting my day reading instead of scrolling through social media. I wake up and read in a good book while breakfast is cooking and while I eat. Then I have a cup of coffee while I read scripture and do a Bible study on it. I fill myself up with good words before letting anything else in. After my Bible study, I do standing Pilates or yoga every day. This is not only good for the mind and soul as it's a great stress-reliever, but also good for the body as it connects body and mind. Pilates and yoga are a part of my pain management program for my osteoarthritis, but honestly, I'd still be doing this even if I didn't have arthritis. Our bodies need motion, whether it's a workout, yoga, Pilates, running, or just a nice walk, our bodies are healthier when it experiences motion on a regular basis.
Other habits I've been very intentional about this season (and ones that I'll continue to be intentional from here on out) are cutting down on my screen time and social media scrolling, and more time outside in nature. Both are incredibly beneficial to our health and overall life. I have found that I am much happier, less stressed, and more productive when I don't start my day with screens and social media and when I cut down on my screen time as a whole throughout the day. When you're not bombarding yourself (and yes, you alone are indeed responsible for your screen intake) with news and negativity throughout the day, your overall mental health improves. I also find that I'm far more creative and productive when I spend time outside each day, without headphones or anything in my ears. I listen to what's around me, birds singing, leaves swishing in the breeze, etc. It's an excellent way to get the creative juices going.
I can already see the benefits of these new habits and rhythms on my health and life. I would encourage others to examine your routines and life patterns, look and see what you can add or get rid of to improve them. Give it a try. ;)
Have a Happy and Blessed Lent season!
it’s awfully hard to do
It goes against my will
to keep pushing through
to leave the pain and the unknown
to make it better, to fix it, I must.
It makes no matter, the love He has shown,
I still can’t bring myself to trust.
That’s what it all comes down to.
Do I trust Him to be who He promises to be?
Do I trust Him to do what He promises to do?
Do I trust Him to come through for me?
Be still, trust, wait
can I let go and fall?
Maybe it’s too late,
will he catch me or will I lose it all?
Trust, it’s a powerful thing to do
and I’m not sure I can,
but I’m not sure I can afford not to.
~ Liz Austin 2019
I’ve been struggling lately,
I wonder who God is.
Is He there, is He real?
Does He hear me?
I read the Bible and it tells me He does,
but I keep talking and I’m not sure he’s hearing.
Maybe He doesn’t hear ME,
then again, maybe I’m not hearing HIM.
What I do know?
I know it’s far more beneficial to me to lean into the unknown, the uncertainty, the pain,
than to walk away and chase after the numbness, where there’s no pain or uncertainty.
The willingness to sit in the uncertainty, that’s where growth happens.
I want to grow, so I stay.
I hang on, white knuckles and all.
Grit your teeth, clench your jaw, glue your feet to the ground.
Do what you have to do. Just stay with it.
Some of the most precious things on earth have to go through fire
to be molded into their most beautiful state.
~ Liz Austin 2019
My greatest regret was knowing you were going to die,
and being unable to say goodbye.
Maybe I was too young to understand,
too shy or awkward to reach out a hand.
Maybe I just couldn’t believe that you would ever leave,
your dying was a concept I simply could not conceive.
But the day came when you were no longer here,
and I was too numb to shed a single tear.
How could you have left?
Your death felt like a theft
of warmth, happiness, whimsy, and magic.
I didn’t know the world could be so tragic.
You were a refuge in the storm,
a safe place for hopes and dreams to take form.
Warm and nurturing, funny and strong,
your time with us wasn’t long,
but, oh, it was formative and mattered,
so much so, with your death, my heart shattered.
I let the moment pass and deep regret has sunk in,
the burden weighs on my heart like a deep sin.
Years and years have passed,
yet the feeling still seems to last.
As I stare up at the star-filled sky,
I am reminded, I didn’t say goodbye.
Born and raised in Upstate NY, Liz is a freelance writer. She has written for websites, blogs, and magazines for the last 10 years. She works as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a proofreader and beta reader for several authors, all the while working on her first book.