Thoughts On Doing Lent Backwards

This year, I am doing Lent backwards.

Lent, the Christian period preceding Easter that is associated with fasting, abstinence and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness, begins Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday.

This will be my second year participating in Lent. Last year I decided give up alcohol for the duration of Lent, which is about 6 weeks long. My life was changed during that challenging and gorgeous period. While I don’t drink every night, it was a sacrifice to abstain from wine on the weekends or a beer during social settings. I realized that social drinking had become a constant in my life during my 20’s and not a constant that I was very fond of.

During Lent last year a number of amazing things happened. It was a true period of self-examination. During social gatherings I didn’t have the comfort of a smooth glass of smoky wine to push me, a naturally introverted person, into the outgoing, entertaining and witty woman that most of my friends know me as. I felt a little bare in social settings, having to expose myself and discuss why giving up alcohol was important me and then awkwardly attempt to be gregarious and fun.

Surprisingly, during Lent my life became more vibrant. My weekends were relaxing and productive and my agenda wasn’t focused around ensuring my friends and I all got together for happy hour on Friday nights. The lack of wine in my life made room for other components of me to thrive, therefore I stuck to it. I leaned in toward God and I embraced the changes that came from Lent.

On the last day of Lent my life changed. My inner self was already full of magic from a stronger relationship with God and a clear mind during those 6 weeks but on that last day, two other things happened that changed my life in an amazing and positive way. I got a call from a wonderful company asking me to come in for an interview (which went tremendous and lead to my current job) and I got an email from the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine asking me to write a story about love. Coincidence? I wouldn’t say so.

Thus, here we are a year later and Lent starts once more in a few days. I thought about saying goodbye to my beloved wine yet again but God is calling me to do something new this year. I know that Lent is about sacrifice but I know already that I can go without wine and I don’t plan to give up something that I find meaningless like social media or candy (although not having dark chocolate every day would be painful).

For these reasons, I decided to do Lent a little backwards this year. The goal is always to become closer to God and I want to consciously do something every day that will bring me closer to Him. Something I have wanted to do since diving into my faith is spend a dedicated amount of time with God every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for various things all day long and I pray regularly but I have always wanted to spend a few minutes a day reading the bible or a Christian based book. I have wanted to develop a habit and I have started numerous times, always failing.

I know what you’re thinking. This seems extremely easy and how hard is it to set aside 10 minutes a day to read the bible. Well, it isn’t easy. I wake up at 5am to work out, I get ready for work and I spend 10 hours a day driving to work, working and driving home. I get home, show my family attention, do chores, make dinner, do more chores, maybe watch one TV show, head to bed, attempt to read or write but usually I just fall asleep before I even get a page down. (I can never have kids, there is no time!)

Life is like this and I know those reading this article deal with similar hectic and busy lifestyles. And frankly, I am not strong enough to ensure I sit down at my kitchen table for 10 minutes every morning and read the bible (Read: I suck at holding myself accountable to myself). But, the good news is I am not alone, God is with me and He expects more of me.

And that is why, this year, I am doing Lent a little backwards. Plus, in an interesting twist of events, my boyfriend has decided to do this every day alongside me. In some way, I feel that is God telling me I am doing the right thing because my partner has decided to lean in with me. Already, Lent is bringing God not just into my soul more, but into my relationship, a place He should be at the center of but oftentimes is not.

If you’re thinking about participating in Lent this year, I highly recommend it, no matter your denomination or upbringing. If you love God and crave a closer relationship with Him, embrace Lent. Ponder on the ways in which you can change some small and challenging component of your life to better enhance your relationship with God. I promise you won’t regret it.

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DIY: How To Throw A Blessing Bag Party

My friends are great at a lot of things but one thing they are really spectacular at, is throwing a party. I might not be the best party planner but I am really great at giving back to my community and dragging everyone who knows me along. Well we decided to combine our God given talents and the result was the best blessing bag bash you could imagine.

A blessing bag is a ziplock sized bag full of items that the homeless need or use. For some, giving money to the homeless is uncomfortable or conflicts with their moral views. I am sure we have all heard someone say “I am not giving the homeless money, they will just use it to buy booze or drugs.” To the people that say that, you’d be surprised but I respect your hesitation and instead, offer this option. If you see someone in need give them a blessing bag.

The reason to have a blessing bag party is because it is a fun way to get all of your friends together for a good time all while doing something good for those in need. Here is how to plan a blessing bag party:

Step 1

Don’t invite people by word of mouth, this party needs to be organized and planned. I like to send out an email to all of my friends letting them know the date and time of the party along with instructions on what to bring. Every person coming will need to bring one small item that the homeless can use in bulk. You will need to give your invitees examples of what they can bring and you’ll need to track what is being brought to ensure everyone isn’t bringing toothpaste. A few things I like to mention are: travel sized shampoo/conditioner/deodorant, gum, water bottles, crackers, granola bars, tissues, band-aids, soap, wet wipes or hand sanitizer. You also should tell your guests where to buy these items. For example: Target, Dollar Tree, Walmart and Walgreens. People can also go to local hotels and explain what they are doing and see if the hotel would like to donate travel sized items, many places will.

Step 2

It is your job as the host to ensure that you aren’t getting too much of one item and to provide the ziplock bags that the goods will be going in. Your goal is to have each guest leave at the end of the night with 3-5 bags of their own, fully packed. Once you have a head count, you can buy the appropriate amount of bags.

Step 3

Set up assembly areas. The easiest way to do this is to collect all the products when people arrive and start putting them in big bowls or on large trays. Lay the trays out like an assembly line so when you start making bags each guest can start at one end, put each item in their bag and end on the opposite side of the room. Think of a buffet style line. This is a good time for manfriend (or whomever is helping you) to entertain everyone, make cocktails and tell everyone to grab some food.

Step 4

Make the bags. Make as many blessing bags as you can and leave them in one area of the house. Spend the rest of your night eating, drinking and enjoying your company but remind everyone to take a few bags with them to keep in their backseat of their cars until they need them.

OPTIONAL:

Two things I like to do with my blessing bags are pray over them before everyone takes them and put inspirational messages in them. You can set up a station at your house with small pieces of paper and pens so if someone wants to add an encouraging message to their bags they can.

And that is it, that is a great blessing bag party. Enjoy yourself and your friends while doing something great for those in need, doesn’t get much better than that!