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My Lenten Journey

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  • My Lenten Journey

    Here's a peek into my Lenten journey! #40bagsin40days: Thank you Chere Bork for sharing my story! I only hope I can live up to my own words! (PS: To see the pictures that accompany the article, use the link above.)

    Forty Bags in Forty Days

    As a good little Catholic girl (and you can add first born daughter to that label), I have struggled year after year to find something meaningful to give up for Lent--the six week period of time before Easter. Frankly, I never bought into the idea of giving up sweets or soda. Although it might help me lose a couple of pounds, I just can't see how that would truly change me on a spiritual level.

    This year, however, I came across a post on Facebook suggesting that readers clean up their lives by removing a bag of goods from their homes each day of Lent. Dubbed "Forty Bags in Forty Days," the challenge only has one rule: For participants to give-away or throw away extra items in their home a bit at a time during Lent. Frankly, the timing was perfect for me. My youngest child moved into his own apartment the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and I was already primed to do a deep cleaning of my house. "Forty Bags in Forty Days" seemed made for me.

    Now, to be honest, nothing I have ever done during Lent has ever excited me (or tested me) quite like this commitment to go through my belongings with a fine tooth comb, and the lessons have had greater value than just a deep clean of my house:

    1. Big jobs are better attacked in small doses. When I first looked at the accumulated piles in my home and office, I quickly became overwhelmed. But the "40 in 40" challenge gave me permission to break up the big job into short bursts of activity. I didn't need to go through the whole house at once. A bag a day is enough. Pacing the task like this has worked well for me. In fact, there are some days when I want to do more than one bag, but although I have occasionally done two or three, the point is to not burn out on the task so you can wake up the next day excited to get started again.

    2. The things we accumulate weigh us down.
    The first day I gave away eight pair of jeans that were in perfectly good shape. I had somehow rationalized needing these jeans over the years, but the reality was I only wore two or three pair regularly. I also gave away 24 pair of shoes. Now, we periodically give away gently used clothes to charity organizations, but I had always found a reason to keep these shoes that were in perfect condition. Then it dawned on me, the reason the shoes and jeans were in such good shape was because I had never worn them! Hmmm, seems like a no-brainer now.

    3. I can't live my parents' and grandparents' lives. Similarly, I don't need to be the perpetual caretaker of all of their stuff. My mom was a collector. I have a lot of her "stuff." I thought I wanted the stuff after she died, and I forgive myself for that. But then I realized many of these items were just artifacts of the life she wanted to live. I will keep her kitchen table, her cookbooks, her recipe box, and some of her serving dishes, but the fabric swatches and random newspaper clippings about the Kennedy assassinations have to go.

    4. Getting rid of the clutter makes room for good things to happen. My life is quickly changing. If I keep my kids' rooms the way they always were, I won't have any place for my grandchildren to spend the night. If I don't clean up my office and get rid of reference books, old journals, and files of projects I don't have the heart for anymore, I can't make room for the new projects I have spilling over in my mind! I need breathing room. We all need breathing room. If we don't clear our head, we can't get new ideas. If we don't clean our offices, we won't find exciting new projects. I have even taken this time to go through my email accounts and files on my computer. The things I am deleting don't necessarily go in a "bag" but they contribute to the spirit of the cause.

    5. Not everything has to go right now.
    At first I was afraid that I couldn't come up with 40 bags. Now I know I could do 140 or maybe even 400. But this doesn't have to be a once in a lifetime thing. How am I choosing what I keep or toss? To me, if I keep something, it must serve a bigger purpose or provide building blocks for new memories and experiences. For now, I am keeping the flute music that I haven't played in years. Because that is a part of me I want to resurrect. In fact, I am keeping my son's guitar and his music too because I want to learn how to play. I am keeping most of my kitchen equipment. I want to cook great meals and start baking again now that it is just my husband and I. Life is too short to just shovel food into a bowl and sit in front of the television every night.

    6. Giving things away and simplifying my life is affecting my spirituality. Remember in the beginning I said I didn't buy into the idea that giving up sweets would make any significant impact on my spirituality? Well 40 in 40 certainly has. The easy connection is the idea of sharing what you have with your neighbor. Most people would also say that they are humbled by seeing bag after bag pile up day after day, undeniable evidence of their personal materialism. It is a reminder that we have a lot to be grateful for in the lives we lead. But just as I am freeing up space for our new life to manifest, I am also freeing up time to be with God and to contemplate what He wants me to do. I can't say much more than that…because it is all still a work in process. But I can say that I am excited for the possibilities.

    Julie Beyer is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health Communications from Michigan State University. Julie wants all dietitians to shout to the world that THEY are the nutrition experts. She has written three books about the puzzling bladder disorder, interstitial cystitis, and her fourth book, You CAN Write a Book: The No-Nonsense Guide to Self-Publishing walks the reader through the exciting world of self-publishing. You can reach Julie at [email protected].
    Julie Beyer, MA, RDN
    IC Dietitian, Patient Advocate, Speaker, & Author

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  • #2
    Re: My Lenten Journey

    What an inspiring yet practical and productive thing to do for Lent. There are some great ideas there for de-cluttering which I need to do myself. Thanks for sharing!

    "When you gotta go, you gotta go!"