Lent. Call me a traditionalist, but I love Lent. I love what this time brings, I love the symbolism of the season, and I love that this is a time that people can stop and contemplate their relationship with God. Now, for Catholics, typically Lent is a time that we think about things to give up. In grade school, things to give up were chocolates, soda, candy, or a bad habit that we wanted to break. When I got to college, lapsing in my Catholic tradition, I decided that one year I was going to give up coffee. Such. A. Bad. Idea. Seriously, my addiction to coffee was so high in college—constantly pumping my system because writing papers and going to sorority functions were my life and I needed to keep going.
(The more that I digest this fibro thing, the more I realize that my college lifestyle definitely did not help my condition.)
Even when I walked away from the faith for a bit, I still loved Lent. I would think about giving things up, but would never really do it. I was angry with God at the time, and I decided that I didn’t want to give something up for Him. Once the fire was reignited, it was like that I had a new understanding of Lent. It wasn’t so much about giving up something, and denying yourself of something that you love; it is about symbolizing the sacrifice that Jesus made and giving yourself back to Him.
For the past few years, instead of giving something up I would do something extra. Two years ago, I tried to get to mass everyday—or a couple days out of the week to get myself in the right frame of mind for school. Last night I was thinking about what I was going to do for Lent this year. Getting up for mass every day before work would be hard for me now, so that’s out. Maybe I could get to Mass on Saturday mornings and a Friday morning here and there. I was also thinking about adding in more Eucharistic adoration back into my life. I used to go all the time, but grad school and life seemed to take over and I couldn’t make the time.
I thought that something was missing. I was talking to my friend about what else I could do, and things that I would give up for Lent. Judy is my mentor. Next to my mother, she is one of the most influential people in my life. Our friendship started out as one of student and teacher. When I decided that I wanted to become a teacher in my senior year of high school, she was the person that I looked to for advice. From there she and I developed this wonderful trusting relationships where we can talk about everything. She was the one that also helped me back into my faith after a particularly rough time in my life.
When my grandmother died, I was angry with God…angry with everyone. She was the one person, at that time in my life, was there for me when I felt no one else was and it hurt to lose her. So, during this time, I wasn’t going to mass or praying, and honestly thought religion was stupid. Judy never gave up on me. She was patient and kind, and talked me through so many rough patches. Although at times it was really hard, we came out on the other side of things, and I would like to thank her for the inspiration for this project.
The Release Project is what I am going to be doing during Lent to focus on developing my relationship with God and with myself. Yes, at first, it might sound selfish. But, it’s totally not. If we focus on the positives things in our lives, and the positive qualities that we have, then it makes it easy to see God and Jesus in those around us.
Judy sent me an article from Daily World, part of USA Today titled, “19 things to give up for Lent that aren’t chocolate.” This list is awesome, and was exactly what I was looking for. The 19 things are:
- Fear: God is on my side. In Him I am more than a conqueror. (See Romans 98)
- The need to please everyone: I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please.
- Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
- Impatience: God’s timing is the perfect timing.
- Sense of entitlement: The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
- Bitterness and Resentment: The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.
- Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
- Gossip and Negativity: I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.
- Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
- Fear of failure: You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fall forward.
- A spirit of poverty: Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.
- Feelings of unworthiness: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
- Doubt: Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
- Self-pity: God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
- Retirement: As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
- Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
- Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
- Pride: Blessed are the humble.
- Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.
What is great is that there are Bible verse to go along with some of the things that we should give up. So, after reading this list I started thinking that I am going to take one things every single day and meditate on it. 40 days in Lent, I could work through this list twice. On Easter Sunday, my hope is that I will walk into mass and release all of thing that do not serve me. Hence, the release project. I want to be able to work on the negative parts in my life that I want to change, and bring out good qualities that I want to show people.
So, here how The Release Project is going to work
- Word and mantra for the day—I might go in any way what might inspire me, or I might go down the list.
- I might right this down in the morning, jot my thoughts about the topic,
- Read a Bible verse that discuss the work or mantra
- When I get a quiet moment in my day, pray about this. Ask God to free me from this problem
- Now, this hardest part. Sit and let God talk to me. When I pray, it’s total stream of consciousness. I make lists, talk about problems, but I want this time to be about God talking to me and I need to be receptive to listening to Him.
- Then I write about a blog post about my experience for the day and if this would be something that I should revisit during my 40 days.
I don’t want to limit myself. If I feel like I need to spend two days on fear of failure, then I am going to spend two days on fear of failure. If there is one word or mantra that you just want to solely work on, do that! This is something for you! This is taking care of yourself!
Part of the process with fibro is taking care of myself mentally and physically, and I have been trying to get a handle of the physical part, but I want to be able to work on the mental part—with the help of God.