Today is Ash Wednesday and, through a variety of texts, Paul informs me of his ideas of what we should give up for Lent: alcohol and any excuses for not walking everyday. It’s perfect.

For those who are not Lent followers, Lent is the time between Ash Wednesday (today) and Easter (approximately 40 days, usually not counting Sundays which are supposed to be celebrated as mini-Easters) — it’s a time for you to prepare for Easter through prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Traditionally, Christians went without meat, but today, Christians are finding a variety of methods of self-denial — I just read an article of how many people are giving up Facebook.

Paul’s ideas hit all four corners of the observance: walking outside provides the perfect atmosphere for prayer and repentance. If we de-clutter the house with the right attitude, almsgiving can include the giving away of many of our possessions. And the self-denial is foregoing alcohol.  

Walking is beneficial for clearing the mind, meditating, praying and exercising. If we’d all walk everyday, I wonder if a multitude of problems would be solved: physical, emotional, and spiritual. World peace just might be achievable if, unified, we’d stop rushing in our cars and tasking ourselves to death to consider the lillies of the field. But I can’t motivate the entire world to walk everyday — I must start with myself, my family, my world. I request for peace, for change, for influence, and for freedom as I step, step, step along the reservoir — noting the emergence of the crocus and the daffodil, the harbingers of spring. And listening to the cacophony of the red-wing blackbirds, the heralds of spring.

I often engage in an exercise that Richard Foster taught me in Celebration of Discipline called Palms Down, Palms Up. Holding my hands out palms down, I lay down all of my problems and troubles, all of my unsolvable difficulties. Then, after taking several deep breaths, I turn my hands over to receive all that I need to handle these things which usually draws heavily from the gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Armed with such gifts, nothing is too puzzling — all is prioritized where it should be. Patience is kind of a catch-all. If it seems impossible, the answer is probably to wait. Not a favorite of mine, Patience is a common answer I get to my questions.

Almsgiving: Paul and I have always tithed to our church and regularly supported some friends in Africa who have worked in villages in Malawi and Mozambique. But these are just beginnings. We’ve wanted to do more. During Christmas, we’ve toyed with the idea of the Advent Conspiracy — not doing thing-gifts so we can give to Living Water. Giving the gift of time instead of the gifts of things. We just didn’t have the guts to do it. I offered up the idea of refusing to buy anything from China — not that I have anything against the Chinese — just that it focuses you to buy local, to consider how to save the air from airplanes carting stuff back and forth. I always try to make my dollar follow my priorities. Do I believe in organic farming? Then, I should be willing to pay for it. Do I believe in green living? Then, I should be willing to pay for it. Our account ledger doesn’t lie about what is important to us. Which leads me to alcohol.

Paul carted away the bottles and cans of beer and wine. We never drink soda. But we get back a great deal of money from the alcohol we purchase. He already turned in a huge batch. Then, he loaded another batch and had to deposit them into the yard so he could drive to school without an embarassing amount of alcholic garbage in the back.

Alcohol is definitely a sacrifice, but a sacrifice worth making when we’re scrapping every penny together for an epic trip — or more accurately, an epic launch of a lifestyle change. It is an extra. And everytime it’s not there, or we long for it, we’ll be reminded of our goals and what we hope to achieve. Giving something up for a time is sort of a reset button. It reveals things about ourselves — our dependencies, our weaknesses, our needs.

Probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever given up is words. Try taking a vow of silence — not ridiculously so, but refusing to speak unless asked a specific question. You’ll realize how helpless it makes you feel. If someone misunderstands you, you’re unable to manipulate the situation with words to put yourself in a better light. You have to remain — misunderstood. Speaking is a wonderful tool, but we over-rely on it. Sometimes, especially in this world where people talk all the time without saying anything, silence is refreshing and excruciating.

Paul also sent me a tentative plan for the next six months. Such clarity we’ve not known for months. We’ve stumbled around in a fog of indecision listening to the depressing drip-drip of the rain of our troubles. I’ll share it with you now, though I’m somewhat reluctant because I don’t want to open the discussion to nay-sayers. But I’m no longer afraid. Nay-say if you wish. We’ll listen. But we know we’re in waters that aren’t well-mapped, and advice from distant lands really might not be pertinent to what we face.

March: sub and tutor. Odd jobs and projects. Deaccumulate the house. Sell the volvo. Paul gets his website for his art up and running. I’ll write articles for magazines and work on the novel in the spare bits of time.

April: put things into storage. Purchase the Nebuchadnezzer II. Get it ready. Save more money. Paul complete his Fruit of the Vine series.

May 1: Leave on states trip. I’ll blog about our adventures. Paul and the girls will sketch and journal. Arrive home (though we don’t know where home is yet) at the end of May or beginning of June.

June 7: Paul flies to Alaska to fish and the girls and I stay at my sister’s house while she and her kids are in Italy. I complete the novel and search for representation.

July: Paul returns at the end of July. We get ready for a backpack trip.

August: We backpack the McKenzie trail and down the coast: sketching, journaling, publishing, showing, sharing, learning.

September: Attend the family reunion, then …

Return to Prineville, rent a house in town, paint and write, sub and tutor, kids do sports, etc. or …

move to the Malheur area and Paul writes and illustrate his children’s almanac on the passing of days in a refuge. We split the responsibility of homeschooling, we all observe the fall migration.

Jan: We’re going to Hawaii.

Well, that’s about it for now. The time has come for many things. Adventure is about to knock on the door. We’ve been waiting for it to call.

I’m glad it came on Ash Wednesday. A sacred day. A day of beginnings.

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