What would happen if we thought of each other as part of the same collective body? How would we treat each other?
Lately I've stopped using the word "sustainable" as often and have started thinking in terms of
abundance. Where sustainability requires a minimum standard, abundance allows for a re-imagining of what's possible. Sure, there are limited resources and it can feel like the house is on fire, but we have the tools, in accountable community, to build more than a bunker.
A model of abundance isn't about sacrifice. It's about re-appropriation of resources we already have to better serve ourselves and our neighbors.
Thinking in terms of abundance requires that we have a healthy relationship to ourselves and our authentic needs.
The below suggestions are meant to remind us of what we have to work with already, and to give us a jumpstart on re-wiring our brains to be able to think in imaginative terms instead of through the lens of scarcity.
This is also how I'm framing Lent. I didn't come from a Christian tradition that practiced the season of Lent, so at first it felt like a meaningless exercise in self-flagellation, like we were punishing ourselves for being sinners. But now I see it as a way to reset, as an intentional period of letting go of habits that demean, inhibit, and isolate us in order to let more light in. It's fitting that this season takes place as the days lengthen into spring. By Easter, we're ready to fly out of our little chrysalises into the morning sun.
5 Abundance-Minded Activities to Practice During Lent
1 | Establish creative meal solutions that aren't meat-focused.
Beef is one of the largest agricultural contributors to climate change and deforestation globally. Raising cows is not efficient, not to mention that factory farming is inhumane. Consider giving up all beef and leather products throughout Lent.
Place only the limitations on yourself that you know you are capable of maintaining. You can go full vegetarian or continue to eat fish and poultry depending on your dietary needs.
2 | Shop secondhand, or not at all.
It's tempting to over-shop as the weather warms up in the Northern Hemisphere - I confess to doing quite a bit of pre-shopping myself. Consider either ceasing all unnecessary/fashion-related purchases or committing to buy only secondhand.
3 | Start and maintain a daily prayer practice.
Even if you don't identify with a particular religious tradition, creating a habit around meditation, quiet time, and/or prayer has amazing health and psychological effects. Get up just a bit earlier each day to sit in silence, read a prayer from your religious tradition, or do some light stretches. Stay away from podcasts, videos, and other external voices. I'll be attending a local morning prayer service 2-3 times per week as part of my Lenten practice.
If you're interested in an Episcopal practice, you can access the Book of Common Prayer online here.
4 | Read a book that inspires ethical exploration.
Read a memoir, guide, or work of theology that challenges and inspires you toward holistic justice. I'll be reading Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography. There are lots of used copies available online.
I also recommend The Autobiography of Malcolm X; The Sacredness of Human Life by David Gushee, a reflection on Christianity's call for universal human dignity; and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a bioethics perspective on death.
5 | Be intentional about your relationships.
This one is a bit amorphous compared to the other suggestions because it's not something you can track as effectively. But I have become convinced, especially over the last few months, that a weekly commitment to seeing friends - meeting for lunch, having a phone call, going on a mini-date with your partner, even taking a walk - does a world of good.
Healthy relationships have a positive impact on mental health and give us the accountability and clarity we need to make good choices. If you're having trouble making local friends, try a meet-up group, local dance gathering (we have square, contra, and swing dancing in my area), religious service, or community center. Or invite a work acquaintance out for drinks.
It was late February and Lent was quickly approaching.
Lent is a season of fasting and deep reflection that mirrors Jesus' 40 days spent fasting in the desert in anticipation of the hardest test of his time on earth: his radical, self-sacrificial death on the cross. For many Christians, the practice of giving something up is meant both to remind us of the immensity of Christ's sacrifice and to keep us rooted in spiritual disciplines that help us let go of material things and focus on what matters.
I had been feeling guilty about a few recent expensive makeup purchases and had some eye irritation as the result of a new eyeshadow, so makeup was on my mind. It seemed like the natural thing to give up. I've never worn a lot of makeup, not because of any moral stance but more out of a sense of lazy-ness. I also have easily irritated eyes, so heavy eye makeup is out of the question. When I told a few friends I had given up makeup for Lent, the response was mostly: "Do you even wear makeup?"
But see, this test wasn't about others' perceptions of me. It was about my perception of myself, right down to the core of my identity.
What I Learned When I Gave Up Makeup for Lent
1. Makeup is a security blanketOne of my friends, an older woman named Mary, passed away a few weeks ago. When I got the phone call, the first thing I thought was "I wish I was wearing makeup." The shock of grief hit me square in the face and I just wanted to wrap myself up in something and feel safe. Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that makeup was about security, but I guess I felt like, if everything else was going to be wrong in the world, at least my pores would look small. It sounds trivial, but I can see how it's mixed up in lots of legitimate emotions.
2. People don't notice your flaws the way you doAside from one rather observant - and absurdly critical - volunteer, no one commented on my face at all. If I mentioned to a friend that I had gone makeup-free, they would universally tell me that they hadn't noticed a change. Of course, I could see the minor differences, but that eventually stopped bothering me as time wore on.
3. Flaws are human, and I shouldn't have to apologize for themWhen I was a teenager, I remember reading an article in a fashion magazine on the topic of the best concealers. The author measured the efficacy of the product by how "awake" she looked in meetings after a long night of work the day before. It occurred to me then that the burden shouldn't fall on her to look perfect if she was being overworked. If you're tired, why aren't you allowed to look tired?
Seeing my skin without makeup made me acutely aware of the way my skin reddens when I'm nervous, the largeness of the pores around my nose, and the dark circles I get when I haven't slept well. It was oddly freeing to accept my skin in that state, to call it good.
4. My body tells me what it needsOn a related note, being able to see the sunburns and pimples and dark circles made me want to do right by my skin by treating my whole body better. I focused on getting rest, drinking water, and using nourishing skincare products to improve my skin rather than covering up the issues. I also tackled some recurring health concerns by making sure I was getting enough protein and taking probiotics. I feel much better because I learned to pay attention.
5. It's ok to have ritualsOne of the things I missed the most about my daily makeup application was the ritual. I liked being able to focus in on my skin, paying attention to the nooks and crannies of my face as I applied powder and blush, carefully curling my lashes before applying mascara, and tracing my lips with tinted balm. But I got my tattoo about a week into Lent, so the process of caring for it became a new ritual.
Framing my routine as a ritual made me more observant of the other little things that help me start and end my days, like boiling water for pour-overs and herbal tea, applying lotion, even shaving my legs. These tactile things we do add a great deal of meaning even when they mostly go unnoticed.
So what's the game plan now?
I wore makeup on Easter morning and it felt weird. I had expected to love the return to normalcy, but I actually felt less like myself with makeup on after all of those days without it. For now, I've eliminated tinted moisturizer, powder, and eyeshadow completely. I've reintegrated light blush and my beloved Glossier Boy Brow. I've found that my lashes stay curled all day if I don't add any mascara, so I've said goodbye to mascara, as well.
It's really satisfying to have arrived at this place of confidence and renewed self awareness. Until the last week of Lent, I was still complaining about going makeup-free, but now I feel good in my own skin. And, though I know it shouldn't be about others, it's satisfying to know that people who care about you really don't care if you're wearing makeup or not.
Related Reading: 7 THINGS I LEARNED WHEN I STOPPED WEARING MAKEUP FOR 3 WEEKS, Terumah
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the church calendar.
Lent is a 40-day season of fasting, repentance, and inward glancing in preparation for the pinnacle event of the Christian faith: Christ's sacrificial death on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter.
During last Sunday's sermon, my church's new priest reminded us that Christianity is not just another religion about being good and doing the right thing. In our faith tradition, God literally became human, living for more than 30 years in human flesh without special privileges.
This intimate God-human relationship reminds us, too, that, if we are made in God's image, humans can reveal God to us. We can be overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, we can see Christ suffering again in the eyes of the refugees, we can see glimpses of the human story fully revealed in the faces of the dying who don't fear death.
One year ago, my friend and coworker Margaret passed away. The last time I saw her was Ash Wednesday. And she told me she had asked the nurse what it felt like to die and she wasn't afraid.
In that frail woman strapped to an oxygen tank, I saw courage like I'd never seen before. I saw the face of Christ. And maybe that's why I marvel even while I weep, how a human can become so much like God, overcoming suffering like that.
So, I hold onto this faith - and this tradition - because the answer to suffering is that God suffers, too. If we are children and sisters and partners with God, we will see our pain reflected back in the eyes of God, and those eyes may belong to a child or a stranger, or an old woman who accidentally changed our life.
God with us.
afew by fracturedradiance featuring home decor
Just a small assortment of images and things worthy of pinning this week: fair trade moccasins, a sporty midi dress, superb American Apparel flats, and a beautiful forest scene. Click on the styleboard to be redirected to image sources or check out my pinterest page by clicking the P. button below.
Happy Easter Weekend! I'm looking forward to my church's Easter Vigil this evening. If you've never gone to one, I encourage you to find your nearest liturgical church (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic, etc.) and go! It's my favorite service of the year, as it moves through the despair of suffering and death to uncompromised joy by the end of the service. The Lenten season is all about looking our brokenness square in the face and learning how to forgive, repent, and find contentment in its midst. I believe that facing the hard truths of reality and moving forward with a heart of hope and compassion is one of the most important - and perhaps most difficult - steps we take in life. And now that we've seen despair, and now that we know "it is finished" (in the long run) in the sacrifice of Christ, we have cause for hope. We continue the year with new understanding, with a sympathetic spirit, with love to give.