The first (and until today, only) time I have participated in Lent was during college. I gave up fast food. Not to lose weight! But because I realized I was spending a ridiculous amount of money on fast food I didn’t need. Not that anyone really needs fries and a shake, but what I mean is that I would eat lunch at school and then a couple of hours later drive past a million fast food restaurants on my way to work and not be able to resist stopping in for a little snack. Or I would eat dinner at work and then a couple of hours later buy a Cheesy Gordita Crunch on my way back to school. (It’s always a Cheesy Gordita Crunch.)
So I decided that during that Lenten season I was going to be more intentional about how I spent my money and also practice self-discipline. If I have 50 words to describe myself, “self-disciplined” would certainly not be among them. I can use all the practice I can get in that area. And you know what? For 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter I drove past a Taco Bell almost on the daily without ordering a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. I saved money and learned (in a new way) that I do not have to satisfy every desire I feel. I also lost like, ten pounds.
I don’t know a lot about Lent, having grown up Baptist and thinking that was a thing only the Catholics did, but as I have grown in age and in faith I have really appreciated learning more about and taking part in different church traditions. So this year I am participating in Lent again. I am not giving up fast food and I’m not giving up social media or Netflix (although that last one was a contender for about a minute). I’m definitely not giving up anything ridiculous like sugar or chocolate or pop. I’m actually not giving up anything.
This year instead of giving something up, I am going to add something in.
The past few months I have been thinking a lot about what I want my life to look like. Up until this point I have naturally moved on to the next thing. From high school to college and from college to a Spanish speaking country. Boom, boom, boom. But now with an upcoming move to a new city, I have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to decide what I want my life to look like. What are the necessary components of life as Suzanne in Jarabacoa? What makes me feel alive? What does my soul good? What makes me more like Jesus? And one of the answers to some of those questions is YOGA.
Last year I did a yoga challenge and then kept up with the practice via good ol’ YouTube for a couple of months. Then I went back to the States for the summer and left my routine behind, unintentionally and seemingly avoidably. When I got back to the DR I had a tiny puppy that thought yoga time was play time and so for many months I used Fred as an excuse to not roll out the mat.
But when I think about what I want my life to look like, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a couple of things I hope and desire for my life can be earned through a yoga practice. I would like to be more self-disciplined. I would like to take better care of my body. I would like to be able to go on hikes. I want to be strong and healthy. I would like to be more like Jesus and yoga offers a unique, built-in introspective time for me to think about who I am and who I want to be in all aspects. I want to fill my days up with good things so there’s less space for all of the crap I tend to shove in. I would like to not be in pain (back pain, shoulder pain) day to day.
Today I turned again to my YouTube yoga instructor, Adriene. And as luck would have it she has a whole new 30 day challenge just raring to go. So for the next 40 days I will follow this 30 day challenge, resting on Sundays, and breathing into life in this body that God has gifted me with. You might think that being forced to face all of your physical weaknesses might make you less grateful for your body but I have found just the opposite.
PLUS this new challenge has daily mantras or declarations! So those will be like writing prompts, guiding my heart, mind, body, and spirit through the next 40 days until Easter. Today’s declaration is I ACCEPT.
I ACCEPT that my shoulders are weak and sore and tired and can’t hold me up for very long. Yet.
I ACCEPT that I do not look like YouTube yoga instructor Adriene when we are doing the same poses.
I ACCEPT that this is going to be painful and sweaty and shaky and I am going to want to give up. (But I am not going to give up!)
I ACCEPT that my knowledge on the universal church is super tiny and limited. I ACCEPT that is in my responsibility to seek out knowledge and wisdom in this area.
I ACCEPT that this is the body God gave me for a distinct reason. I ACCEPT that I am beautiful to Him and completely loved by Him. I ACCEPT that He has good and great plans for me that include this very body. I ACCEPT that He wants the best for me in every way – spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I ACCEPT that this is completely my responsibility. I ACCEPT that the only thing standing in my way of growth is me. I ACCEPT supernatural help from the Spirit in overcoming myself in order to become my true and best self.