Things can be so weird sometimes. And God is always, and I mean ALWAYS, a part of everything. One of the things I love about being a part of the Church is the rhythm of life is mirrored in the rhythm of the Church. We have moments of sorrow, moments of joy; moments of deep reflection, and moments of celebration. And God walks with us through all of it. His Hand is in all we do, whether we want to deal with it or not. And for me and my life, it seems like just when things are reaching another apex, the Church in her wisdom, gives us another opportunity to share. And here we are, approaching Great Lent, and this past Sunday we had Meat Fare wherein we give up all meat for the next 40 days. This Sunday is Forgiveness Sunday and is also Cheese Fare Sunday, where we have our last opportunity to eat dairy and chees through Great Lent. And it is one of those sublime times in my life where it all clicks.
My husband and I have been married for 30 years, and together for 32. Honestly, we did not even check with those calendars that tell you what to give for what year. We renewed our vows on our 25th, with silver everything! Ha-Ha. This year, we spent a wonderful evening with another couple who believe like we do, and celebrate like we do. It was perfect and the evening out was our celebration. The gifts we gave each other? We gave each other the gift of health. This year we are promising to invest our time and efforts, and our days, in search of premium health. We have grandchildren we want to share time with, and three amazing sons and their families (potential family with the youngest son) we want to celebrate life with. We want to dance at our grandchildren’s weddings. We want to grow much, much older together. Our parents are all aging. My father-in-law has passed away and my mother-in-law is facing more surgeries and poor health. My mom is getting deeper in Alzheimer’s and my dad recently joined her on the same journey. We do not want our “Golden Years” spent in ill health! This past year we were faced with health insurance choices and we chose to participate in a health care co-op. What that means is that we pay a monthly premium, it goes into a large pot (which grew by over 100,000 members this past year) and when someone has an illness and has expenses, the money is taken from the pot and we all support one another. We put our money where our faith is. In the early Church, all believers shared property in common (sort of like a modern commune environment). They all took care of one another. The program we joined is Christian based, and in addition to sharing our money with one another, we commit to pray for one another. What a blessing, and even with the Obamacare option, that is what we chose to do.
We also chose to pay attention to our health – honestly and daily. We started using Essential Oils and it has been an incredible experience. My husband, the engineer, was the biggest skeptic but has become convinced because of the effect the oils have had on him. We are convinced, as a couple moving forward. And we have begun to include oils as a part of our daily life. But as a family member says, “Oils won’t make much difference if you’re still drinking dozens of sodas a day.” And she is right (even though we specifically gave up soda years ago, I get the point). And so we are approaching our diet and exercise commitment/component of our gift of health. My son and daughter-in-law have an elliptical machine they are going to loan us. When you live in Alaska, that is a good thing! We had snow again today and it is a little chilly out there. We will be able to walk inside our home and this activity will help us to become more limber and able to tackle the great outdoors, when the temps are slightly better. Alaska is the “last, great frontier,” and trust me, it is a rugged place to live. This elliptical machine will allow us, especially me, time alone and in silence, to build some endurance and flexibility. The next thing we are tackling is our diet.
When you start using Essential Oils in earnest, they affect your body in a myriad of ways. Being so pure, they are working against all the toxins we’ve accumulated over the many years we’ve been ingesting them. Petrochemicals are in almost everything. And so the toxins have to work their way out. I’ve caught every bug walking by. My oil consultant even drove in the snow to bring me relief in oils I did not have. And we spoke today of purity of content in the oils and the foods we eat. It all is intertwined. Our conversation only further cemented my desire to change what and how we eat.
Enter Great Lent. Part of our focus on health has been to control what we eat, how and when we eat. We’re making our way through boxed mixes and carbs, to get rid of them all. We are aiming for more simple, pure eating. We will be trying a program that helps you detox and eat in proportions that are meant for us. (Do you remember how much smaller plates used to be? How much smaller proportions used to be?). This program encourages few simple carbohydrates, lots of vegetables and fruits, healthy grains/complex carbs, and clean proteins. It also allows us the use of pure oils in our cooking and seasoning. Great Lent means diligent fasting. What a perfect sense of timing!!! It all fits into a wonderful flow and movement.
During Great Lent, in the Melkite tradition, we refrain from all meats and fishes, all dairy, all olive oil, and liquor (especially wine) for the entire 40 days of Lent. In other traditions, they have moderated the strictness of the Fast and only fast, for example, on Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s just a matter of tradition. Fasting is not new. Why do you think McDonald’s has their fish sandwiches and offers specials during Lent? They get it. Fish sticks and salmon steaks are featured items in grocery stores. Why? Because big commerce likes to earn money from our fasting traditions. I remember the cafeteria at school had “fish-stick-Friday” when I was in HS, over 40 years ago. The world at large is aware the Church fasts now and then, it’s just that a lot of people haven’t been doing it at all, or just remember to eat fish on Fridays. Great Lent gives us a chance to dive into fasting, in earnest.
And the Church also gives us this time of 40 days to reflect, to clear ourselves of the junk in our lives. It can be diet, yes, and the Church helps us to get rid of the stuff that is making us sick. We can cut back and cut out. We can change. You only have to do something for 21 days for it to become a life long habit. We can add things, as well. We can make more time for silence and for prayer. We can dedicate our evenings, devoid of media, to attending Lenten prayer services, or Vespers if offered. We can gather our children around our icon corner (or our paintings or statues) and we can pray as a family. We can spend time pouring over Scriptures, discussing the themes throughout Lent. Our parish is planning inserts into our bulletin, highlighting ideas to share with our kids and Scriptures to read with them, as an aide for families. Great Lent is a time for great change, as we prepare to share in the single most life-changing event the world has ever known – the suffering, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Great Lent is upon us and we are at the apex of great change in our lives. I love how God has made our world (our little world of our family) spin to the point where we are very ready for great changes. We are poised to leap into a different way of eating and growing. We are paying attention to how we eat, and how we treat our bodies. Our youngest son hits the weights every morning, without prompting. The oils are coming along with him (another skeptic in the family) and we’re working out recipes we can all live with. We are adding scent and silence, prayers and fasting to our lives and it could not come at a better time. I just smile, as I drink my lemon oil in water (a purge) and smell the Thieves oil, decontaminating our house. I think this Lent will be amazing and as weird as it may sound, I am excited for it to begin. Praise God.