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Thursday, March 7, 2013
The tradition of giving something up for the season of Lent hasn't really been a part of how I prepare for and celebrate Easter. I always saw it as more of a "Catholic thing" and, well, I'm not Catholic. I'm also not a big fan of depriving myself of things I enjoy, so I was more than happy to sit this out. One year, when I was about seventeen, I tried giving up eating pasta (big, epic fail) and another year I gave up drinking Starbucks. Most years, though, Christmas rolls seamlessly into Easter and Lent comes and goes without any real observance on my part. 

In January, Alan and I began seriously considering our tithe and how much of our income we should give to our church. We were really wrestling with the question "How much is enough? How do we be generous and cheerful givers, while simultaneously being financially responsible and taking care to tend to the needs of our family?" We prayed about it, we read books about it, we listened to sermons about it. And the answer we eventually embraced was that you should give enough that it matters. It's not so much about giving a specific amount each month as it is about giving enough away that you actually feel it ... enough that it makes a tangible difference in your life and requires some sacrifice. 

Long story short, this same idea carried over into our views of Lent. We decided that fasting from something would be a good spiritual exercise for us as a couple, and we wanted to give up something that mattered; something we'd really feel and notice. Eating out in restaurants was that thing. We are both foodies and we love a good meal so it's not unusual for us to dine out two ... three ... sometimes even four times a week. We just love the experience and the convenience. We realize it's a luxury, but it's become a luxury we take for granted. Eating out is very much a part of our routine and lifestyle. Giving that up is, for us, HUGE. 

We're now three weeks into our commitment and boy are we are feeling it, big time. Our habit of going out for a Sunday brunch after church? Not happening. Too lazy or tired to cook? Too bad; ordering in is not an option. I'm beginning to realize how limited my recipe collection is, how much doing dishes sucks, how one food craving can turn a great day inside out and leave me feeling frustrated and annoyed. Now, when we want to run errands after church we bring homemade lunches with us. On Saturday, I'm going shopping with some girlfriends and I'm planning to bring a soup with me to eat for lunch ... they'll probably grab something from the food court. It's inconvenient. It requires thoughtful preparation. It takes creativity and time and effort. In a nutshell - it ain't easy.

But I'm also starting to *get* it ... truly get it. This might sound crazy but having something taken away for a time ... fasting from something ... really does make one ponder the meaning and significance of Easter. Easter is about resurrection and rebirth. Stepping away from your routine or from something that plays a major role in your everyday life creates room for rebirth to happen. I'm not saying that Alan and I won't ever eat out in restaurants again - haha, we're already planning which restaurant to visit first once our fast is broken! I do, however, think this experience has reminded us of the difference between necessities and luxuries, and it has challenged us. It's made us more aware of our selfishness, our laziness, our "I deserve this" attitudes. It's taught us to encourage one another and hold each other accountable. 

We still have another three weeks to go, but I'm confident that we will leave this journey changed people.