Tuesday, February 16, 2010

what i'm giving up, taking up, and hoping to gain

Last year was the first time that I gave up something for Lent.  I wrote about it in a facebook note to ask for encouragement and accountability.  I don't really know if that's how Lent is supposed to work, but that's what I did.  I'll say that giving up cussing in my head and dwelling on negativity that causes most of the cussing in my head was moderately successful.  I'd like to tell you that I stuck to working at it after Lent ended, and that's perhaps somewhat true, but I've long since gotten lax about it again, at least the negativity part. 

This year I asked my expert on all things Catholic if it was all right to talk about what you were giving up, and I have permission to share, as long as I'm not whining and complaining about what I'm giving up or out looking for sympathy or attention for it.  So I'd like to tell you about the self-improvement projects I'll be working on for the next forty-odd days.

  • I'm giving up all caffeine except chocolate.  Last year I did an excellent job of justifying not giving up caffeine, because I didn't feel like it.  But I like the idea of a physical self-denial, and I like the reality of having something visual and tangible in terms of accountability.  So I'm going for it.  I was originally going to give up carbonated beverages, which left me tea and coffee--not that I drink much coffee.  But I've got a few showers and a wedding coming up during Lent, and I didn't want to have to pass on punch--one of my favorite things and something I don't get very often--because of ginger ale.  True self-denial would probably demand that I stick with the carbonation-free idea for just that reason, but ultimately that's not the decision I made.  So I'm going caffeine-free instead, which means taking sweet tea out of my life.  That's gonna hurt.  And since I don't like any non-caffeinated carbonated beverage besides ginger ale, this will effectively cut carbonation from my life except for celebratory occasions.  This one will likely also mean giving up pizza for the duration of Lent as I can't stand drinking water with pizza.

  • I'm also giving up candy.  I feel guilty for not including chocolate along with all the other caffeine, but I sometimes need some for medicinal purposes.  Additionally, Ellie at work has already requested the chocolatey-est cake that I can make for her birthday, which falls during Lent, and there's no way I can do that without sampling, so the candy ban seemed the most likely way to avoid most chocolate without leaving myself a little room to not lose my mind.  This decision also means there will be no Dove truffle eggs in my pre-Easter life, which will probably be the hardest thing I do all year, and that includes reading the book of Numbers.

  • I'm limiting my time spent on facebook.  My friend Kimberly is giving up facebook entirely for Lent, and when she told me that, it hit me where I live.  I waste so much of my day on the internet in general, and I honestly have no idea what percentage of that time wasted is on facebook, but considering how often I stop by to catch up, I'm sure it adds up significantly.  I don't want to give it up entirely because there are some really positive things that come out of it for me, but scaling back seems healthy.  I haven't yet nailed down the parameters for the limiting, but I thinking I'm going to aim towards checking once or twice a day for a maximum of thirty minutes.  I know some of you are shaking your heads and wondering what it is I do on fb that consumes so much time.  I can't exactly explain it, and I certainly can't justify it.  The word addiction would not be misused here.  I'm still working out if reading email notification from facebook counts as checking in.  Feel free to weigh in on this in the comments.

  • I'm taking up encouraging speech.  I almost said that I was giving up gossip, which is certainly a noble goal, but I chose instead to not phrase this one in the negative.  I don't want just to stop gossiping, but I also want what I say to be uplifting or edifying.  I want to use words to help instead of harm.  No visual aid for this one, and I think it will be the most difficult to keep, but if I can manage it for forty-five days or so, I know I'll be the better for it.  And the next forty-five days might come that much easier.

  • I'm taking up a stronger commitment to project 4:4 and the Daily Bible reading.  I've been keeping up, week by week, but daily I haven't been so hot.  In fact, I need to read three days' worth right now.  My goal for Lent is to be on track every day.  I know I'll be the better for it.  And the next forty-five days might come that much easier.
I'm still thinking about all of these, and I have around eighty minutes to come up with a few more things, but perhaps this is my final list.  It's certainly a tall order, and I'm certainly weak and lazy and likely to fail if I try to do it on my own.  That's where you and God come in.  So, imaginary reader, I seek your encouragement, covet your prayers, and hope that our relationship is one that includes accountability.

Oh, I also need to know if chocolate-covered pretzels count as candy.  And I need to know quickly, or things could get ugly.


  1. There are other drinking options besides water. Milk goes great with pizza.

  2. Dad drinks milk with pizza. I think that it's unnatural. Root beer, which you don't like, is a nice soft drink with no caffine.

    I'm giving up seconds for lent. Yeah, no second helpings for me for 40 days. I've got to invest in some bigger plates. :)

  3. What you milk advocates are forgetting is that Ellen is allergic to milk. Fact.

  4. Ellen, since you told me about one of your upcoming blogs, I thought I should post and maybe try and make it, which I probably won't =(

    Oh and I remember my favorite part of the Facebook part I was trying to tell you today, when you say ".....I know some of you are shaking your heads....."
    It made me LOL, but in a totally professional way of course.

  5. Thanks for the mention, as you can tell I'm still online but find your blog much higher quality reading than 455 facebook statuses... I did not give up caffeine with FB but perhaps in the spirit of all things Ellen I will cut it down during Lent. :)


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