Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lenten Discipline

The forty-day season of Lent derives its name from the Latin word for “lengthen.” During Lent, the days grow longer as the world prepares to reawaken into spring. Lent recalls the forty days and forty nights Noah and his family spent on the ark, the forty years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, and the forty days of prayer and fasting that Jesus spent in the desert. Focused on the Easter promise of new life and renewed faith, Lent invites us to look honestly at ourselves as we seek to be strengthened in the call to be Christ’s disciples.
The Character of Lent as a time of renewed commitment and service suggests many possibilities for families. My family has agreed to this commitment:

We (or rather I, since I am this family's chef and personal grocery shopper) have chosen to "use what we have and buy what we need." Now, to translate this it means that our refrigerator, freezer, and pantry holds only items we intend to use, and anything else we buy to eat must be intentional and with purpose. I often go shopping with a list, and I get everything on that list (plus more, obviously, when has there ever been a SAHM who actually isn't hungry while grocery shopping?!), but my list usually consists of things my family is craving, with some essentials in the mix. The day I go shopping, everyone is happy with what's in the cupboards. The next day, oatmeal doesn't sound good for breakfast and there is no cereal. Or, yogurt with dried fruit sounded like it could never go wrong, but that Greek yogurt parfait at Starbucks sounds so much better - you know, with the honey and macaroon granola, dried cherries, and pumpkin seeds. So, I go to the store (because it's so much cheaper to buy the ingredients myself and make it, right?) and buy dried cherries, Greek yogurt, honey, granola, and pumpkin seeds, and after a serving or two, I forget these ingredients are even in the cupboard, and they sit and sit, wasting away.

So what am I trying to do differently now during this Lenten Season? Well, I won't go grocery shopping. Instead, I have inventoried my cupboards and freezer, and sat down with my list and my favorite cookbook, "More-With-Less - suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources" and find recipes I already have a majority of the ingredients for. Then, I go to the grocery store and purchase the two or three things I need to complete the dish, and go for it. We have been having some interesting combinations for meals - Peruvian pepper chicken with Thai rice, garlic naan, and Caesar salad for example, but who does it hurt? We are trying to feel the possibilities of being blessed with using little and giving more. Our family survives on a $300 monthly food budget with a WIC check for some added basics (most of Hazel's milk, cheese, eggs, juice, and a bit more). Usually, we are "white rice-ing it up" come the end of the month, but during Lent, we are dropping it to $200 - giving the extra $100 away, and learning how to be comfortable with plenty instead of cozy in abundance.

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