Give It Away

It’s nearly Easter and this usually turns me inside out for some self-introspection. I love Easter-it takes place in spring, it’s a time of renewal and joy and making things new. A spiritual clean slate.

Along with newness I feel like cleaning up. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to give things away: from my home, in my work, from my heart. Unfortunately, for years, I was the wrong kind of giver. 

I gave away parts of myself that I shouldn’t have or gave with strings attached. I gave the wrong things to the wrong people because of a need to be liked or loved or perceived in a certain way.

That’s not true giving.

Now that I’m (finally) more comfortable in my own skin, I realize that giving away of one’s time, money, gifts, talents, heart or soul are big responsibilities. Ones that shouldn’t be taken lightly, for yourself or the recipient.

For me, giving now comes from the overflow of my life. The more blessed I become, the more I must give away. Not out of obligation, of course. But because this light shining in me is meant to be shared and I have more than enough to give away. It overflows from the new mercies granted to me every morning when I wake up.

No longer do I have to give away my pride or dreams or hopes for the future. I just give God’s love as freely as he has given it to me. I become its conduit as it flows through me, created by the joy I have, the gratitude I have for this life I’m living. Even though there are hard days and impossible days I can still do them all because of the God that lives in and strengthens me.

Today the thing I feel the need to give away most is encouragement. I may be a more “mature” cheerleader than you’re used to hearing from, but whatever that thing is that you’re facing, that hill or mountain or seemingly unsolvable situation, I have four simple words for you: You can do this

And once you do, you’re going to feel some overflow of gratitude. Some multiplication of lightness and joy unexplainable by mathematical equations that bubbles over and spreads into every crevice of your world and heart and mind.

What are you being asked to give away today?

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015)

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Take Me to Church

I just realized we’re only a week into Lent. Sometimes I get in my weird Time Warp and it seems like either 1) I have plenty of time to cram more things in or 2) more time should have already passed because this is TAKING FOREVER.

Right now I’m in the latter Time Warp.

Has it only been seven days since I decided to actually give something up this year? A long time ago when I decided to do a lot of internal cleaning out and dusting and general spiffy-ing up, I gave up giving up things for Lent. 

I wanted to focus on the Jesus part of my faith rather than religion. I wanted to have a clearer, cleaner version of myself walking around and I honestly didn’t feel like I needed Lent to tell me what to do. In fact, at the time, I really just wanted to tell Lent to shut up and mind it’s own business.

Growing up in a mainline denomination I had always participated in Lent. Mostly half-heartedly. It was usually a grudging-give-up-something-I-barely-enjoy-even-on-the-fringe-of-my-life-and-then-at-Easter-I’ll-celebrate-getting-it-back type of participation.

I totally missed the point.

So instead of hindering myself with the whole Lent business in more recent years, I did the (Holy) baby out with the bath water thing. I figured it was less hypocritical of me.

As I grow in my spiritual walk, I realize that there are things from “organized religion” that I could use to focus myself on the approach of the Easter season. Could Lent be one of those things? I kept saying no because it felt too forced, to religion-y.

This year was different though. With all of the ways my time, my attention, my life is splintered, I needed some focus. I needed to rethink Lent.

Now I’m no expert. Either on rethinking things or on Lent. But I’m always trying to grow. And learn. And stretch myself. I want to be a better version of me. I need to be a better version of me.

So on Fat Tuesday (the day before the beginning of Lent), I decided to take a leap. And participate again in the giving up of things. Not so much as a sacrifice on my part. I mean, let’s be real-how much does God care that I’m not going to drink a Coke for 40 days? 

Sidebar: giving up Coca-Cola, which is the ultimate treat for me, has not been a barrel of laughs. But I digress.

I am doing the giving up of things for Lent as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for me. We have a great relationship, Jesus and I. He’s my brother, my best friend. And I want to be reminded of our relationship when I reach for the Coke that I can’t have.

And each time I pass it by, I’ll remember how awesome of a thing it is for someone to lay down his life for his friends.

And I will have gratitude. 

I will share grace.

And I will get that much closer to being better, getting stronger, giving more and living sweeter.

That will be how I do Lent this year.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

(Photo credit David Sebben, Pinterest.)