Brandon and I are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We actually both grew up in ELCA congregations AND we met each other through the Lutheran Campus Ministry that was hosted and supported by the ELCA congregation in Clemson, SC, University Lutheran Church. Our faith is very important to the two of us both individually and together as a couple, as a family and as farmers. We are far from perfect, and if that’s the picture that is ever painted by me, I apologize profusely because that is the furthest thing from the truth. Faith is far from having reached a destination, but rather a journey that is filled with steps forward and many steps backward, one filled with confession and forgiveness. We do genuinely hope and pray that our life, not just on Sunday mornings sitting in worship, but every day, is a reflection of the radical love and hospitality we believe is shown to us through the triune God and that it is our call as people of faith to share that love with all we meet. Again, super easy to type out, but realistically a journey filled with equal parts failure and grace.
As a church, we have just entered a very intentional time of confession and forgiveness, of failure and grace. For those of you who may not be familiar, the ELCA follows the liturgical calendar similar to most mainline protestant denominations. Yesterday, Wednesday, February 26th we entered the season of the church calendar known as Lent. Lent is a period of about 6 weeks, from Ash Wednesday to Easter where we as a community of faith embark on a time of deep reflection and repentance. Many people will take up a Lenten discipline during this time – sometimes that looks like giving something up or maybe taking up a new activity or practice. The point of these disciplines is not guilt or shame, but an effort to recenter our hearts and minds on God, a Lenten discipline is a practice of spiritual growth. For instance, someone may give up sodas for Lent. But how do you make that a discipline that brings you closer to God? Maybe every time you are craving a soda, that is a reminder to pray. Maybe you save the money you would have spent on sodas over that time period of Lent and donate it to your church or a ministry you’re passionate about. Lenten disciplines can both be individual or something you take up with a community.
This year, I am trying to take up two disciplines. One is connected to a series I recently listened to and will be individual, and one is connected to our passion for farming and caring for creation and will be more communal.
First, the book. If you follow my Instagram, you may have seen that I recently listened to a series by Brene Brown entitled The Power of Vulnerability. In this series she talks about the practice of gratitude. Brown points out that gratitude is more than the popular phrase of having an “attitude of gratitude,” it must be an actual practice of gratitude. She comically connects this to her having an “attitude for yoga.” Brown shares that she wears yoga pants, thinks yoga is a great thing, and somewhere in her house she’s sure she owns a yoga mat, but she is not actively engaging in the practice of yoga. Similarly, Brown points out that it is more than just thinking about being grateful but that we need daily concrete practices of gratitude. This is where the idea of my Lenten discipline came from. I like to think of myself as a positive and optimistic person, but I have recently felt that I have fallen more on the cynical and pessimistic side than I’d like to admit. My plan for this Lenten discipline is that every day, I am thinking it will fit best to do it in the evening, each night before I go to bed, I will write down at least three things I am grateful for in a gratitude journal. This is not for anyone but me. I am certain that as I write down what I’m thankful for each evening, this will be a spiritual re-centering, a prayerful act, a positive time of refocusing on what is most important in my life. Even on days when it seems that nothing has gone well, this will be my discipline. I am so hopeful for the growth that will come through this daily practice. I am also hopeful that this will become a practice that will last much longer than the 40 days of Lent but become a lifetime daily practice of gratitude.
Second, the farming connection. The ELCA Young Adults group has put out a challenge for #NoPlasticsForLent. This has come from a deep passion and drive to care for creation that is shared among many young adults across the church. Just as we say on Ash Wednesday, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” we were created from the earth and we will return to the earth. We are deeply, both physically and spiritually, connected to creation and our call is to be stewards for it in the best ways we can. As farmers, we embrace this through our farming practices – being intentional about creating sustainable and regenerative practices that leave the earth better each day than it was the day before. Over the years, we have made small changes within our home to mirror of passion and effort that is taking place throughout our pastures. We recently, just about three months ago, transitioned to reusable coffee filters. We also try our best to remember to use reusable bags, not only at the grocery store but even on trips to Target or CVS. We limit our consumption of fast fashion, trying to first shop at secondhand stores and thrift shops and Romney Ann has been primarily cloth diapered, just to name a few. This is not mean to be a space to brag, but rather to share the point where we are starting this Lenten journey. So what are we going to change, what are we going to add as our next step? Well, first, it may surprise you, and I can’t believe I am admitting this, but we don’t actively recycle. Our plan for Lent is to begin recycling what we are able to. This is an easier practice in many communities because it is sponsored and supported by the local government, but for us, it is a bit more of a hassle, hints why we’ve pushed it off. I also LOVE a straw with my drink, but I’m committing to no straws over lent (first test was last night at dinner, and I know it’s crazy, I had my doubts, but I survived without a straw, haha). I am also, as I’m writing this, sitting in a coffee shop with an actual mug for my coffee. If you don’t say anything, most coffee shops will serve your drink in a to-go mug, but I made sure to mention I would like it “for here.” Lastly, I hope to, over the next few weeks of Lent, share through this blog on my Instagram account some of the changes we’ve made as a household that might work for you too.
None of these are HUGE life changing adjustments. They are mostly about a change of mindset, being more mindful about our choices, having our consumption of plastic and single use items at the front of our minds, and realizing that our small individual changes CAN actually make a huge difference. Often times people look at us funny for what we do – the ways we farm, the choices we make for our home and life on this planet. At times it’s hard, but I’m so beyond caring about being the weird “crunchy” family. I know we aren’t perfect, goodness, we are so far from it. But I want to be constantly learning more and finding new ways to be more sustainable and a better steward of this beautiful creation. I am hopeful that over Lent I will both be able to share with others easy changes you can make, as well as learning more ways we can be better stewards as well.
Remember, Lent isn’t about shame or guilt, but growth. We are all starting at different places, but the most important thing is that we’re starting. Whether Lent is a part of your faith tradition or not, I hope there is something that comes out of these next few weeks of intentionally sharing that can help you. Please share what your Lenten discipline is with me. I’d love to hear about it. Maybe we can help each other and keep each other accountable. Even if you didn’t start on Ash Wednesday, that’s ok, you haven’t failed at all and it’s not too late, just start today. Maybe you’ll forget one day, that’s ok, we wake up tomorrow and try again. You’ve got this and most importantly, God is with you!
Blessings on your Lenten journey!