With Mardis Gras in full swing here in south Mississippi (a little more about the seriousness of south Mississippi Mardis Gras celebrations at the end of this post), I can't help but focus on the Season of Lent.
I grew up attending a United Methodist church and didn't know much about Lent until my junior year in high school. That year our Pastor encouraged the congregation to either give up something for Lent, or, even better, to do something good (give a complement, write a note to a friend, etc.) for each of the 40 days leading up to Easter. I personally chose to give up eating dessert that year, and since then, I have committed to something (for example, last year I went on a Facebook hiatus) that enables me focus on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, rather than just myself and my own little world.
Each year I think long and hard about what is keeping me from focusing on our Savior; this year I came up with three changes that I hope will help me narrow my focus:
1. Go to bed (which means lights out) by 10 p.m. every night.
How this will help me focus on Jesus: All parents need down time after their kids go to bed. Our children go to bed anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30, and after the kitchen is cleaned and the house picked up, Chet and I are more than ready to call it day. However, we usually choose to watch a show (or two) on TV before going to bed. This puts us in bed between 10:30 and 11:00., which means I am always tired when my alarm goes off at 5:30 (and which means I push snooze at least three times). Now, by nature, I am a morning person, and not a night owl. But I have conditioned myself to stay up later than I would like in order to gain some down time, even though my mind is more clear and I am more productive in the mornings than I could ever hope to be at night. I find myself caught in this vicious cycle of going to bed late and not being able to wake up as early as I want. And when I don't wake up as early as I want, I am not able to check important things off my to-do list, I am more cranky when the girls are ready to wake up, and, most importantly, I do not begin the day with a clear heart and mind focused on what's really important (Jesus!).
2. Other than answering phone calls or texts (I'm not in the habit of having random conversations via phone OR text message throughout the day), or looking up something truly important that will help us navigate through our day, I will not use the computer, iPad, or iPhone while my children are awake.
How this will help me focus on Jesus: This is pretty obvious, but when our eyes are glued to our electronic devices, it is difficult, if not impossible, to focus on anything other than what is on that screen. In addition to the obvious, I find myself saying, "Hold on!" and, "Just a second!" many, many, many times a day to Sydney and Lorelei as I put their needs on hold to finish reading one more blog post or to look at one more Facebook update. Really, Ashley? My children need my attention throughout the day, not half (or less than half) of my attention. There is plenty of time to surf the World Wide Web while they are sleeping, if I so choose.
3. Watch only one hour-long show per day (which means I have to choose between watching an episode of "Downton Abbey" during the girls' nap time and an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" with Chet that evening). There aren't very many 30-minute shows that we watch, but I could choose to watch two 30-minute shows per day. I could also opt to watch a movie, even though movies are longer than an hour (I honestly can't remember the last time we watched a movie at home, so I don't think this caveat will lead to watching a two-hour plus movie every single day).
How this will help me focus on Jesus: I know I'm not the only one who watches too much TV. Come on, admit it: TV is awesome. But it's a time sucker, and I'm tired of it doing just that (as if it's the TV's decision to suck my time, and not my decision to pour my time into it). The simple fact is, lately I have not been using my time wisely, and TV is the main culprit. And God's desire is for us to be good stewards of all we are given, including our time.
So there you have it, my sacrifices/changes during this Season of Lent. My goal is for these changes to become permanent good habits. I'll keep you posted!