Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

When we were kids, and we would start whining about things that we wanted, my dad would often shoot us a sideways glance and quip, "Oh? So how does it feel to want?" It really cut down on the whining when we knew it would fall on unsympathetic ears. (Come to think of it, neither one of my parents were easy marks for whining or wheedling. We were SOL. Now with the grandbabies, well that's another story . . .)

I've been contemplating Lent, as have many of my bloggy pals, and I've been trying to figure out what to do this season that would be suitably penitential. In our home, we always pick something from which to abstain and something to do - some good deed (or even deeds) that is completed during Lent, preferably with little to no recognition by other people [Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. Matthew 6:1].

I will admit that for the past two years I have been on penitential auto-pilot for the abstinence part. I chose to abstain from my tabloidy, celebrity gossipy, pop-culturey addiction for two years in a row, even though it did not seem as difficult for me to give up last year. I love me a good People or US Weekly, especially while waiting at the salon, but I can go cold turkey pretty easily, which is what tells me that I'm not choosing the correct thing.

This year, I decided to really examine what part of my life needs a change - a change that can be best brought about by abstinence. That's when I suddenly remembered my dad's old reply to our whining, "how does it feel to want?" I'm willing to find out. I don't have a specific list of things to give up, but I have a feeling that this is going to be harder than I think (which is the point, really). I am not known for spending money on huge purchases, and running up the credit card bills, and botching my job as the family bookkeeper. However, I am extremely vulnerable to the "Oh, that's so cute!" purchase, or the "I'm sick of this old thing" purchase, or the "Ooo, shiny!" purchase. They're not big ticket items - mostly Dollar Store and Target variety whatnots, or cheap stuff from the internet - but the point is my mindset when I buy these things. I want it. Period. I don't need it; I won't die without it; I just crave it, or worse, I covet it.

Our world, and, more specifically, our country, is not very receptive to the idea of sacrifice or mortification. It's my opinion that the advertisers in the US do a pretty good job of making us feel like any sacrifice is probably not worth it. They constantly whisper their sweet nothings.
Buy this because you deserve it. Don't wait until you have the money, put it on credit because your neighbor has it now. No interest, no money down! Look, over there, people have shiny things that you don't have! Don't you want them? Shouldn't you have them? Why do they have them and you are going without? What makes them so special? Come on, buy yourself a little happy . . .

The truth is, I usually feel more cluttered and scattered after I buy things I don't need. This is not a new realization for me, but this is the first time I'm staring down the barrel of a Lenten spending moratorium. I have had my eye on a few things for the house (decoration, not a true home improvement project), but they will have to wait. As will my obsessions with liquid hand soaps (don't ask, it's another post entirely), perfumes, candles, and air fresheners (do you see a scent theme here? I like things that smell nice). No fancy shampoos, when I still have a few washes left in the old bottle; no cute shoes at Payless; no little bunny candy dishes at Target; no books and magazines from Barnes and Noble; nada.

I think the litmus test for a purchase will be my first thought upon seeing it. If my first thought is I want that, or any variation on that theme, then the answer is "No Deal, Howie!"
If the item makes it to a legitimate list of things needed for the house or for the children, then it may stay. This will take an honor system and a will of herculean proportions on my part because I am a great one for purchase justification. If given enough time, I can think of a decent reason to buy anything. Need a pith helmet? Well, naturally. You have to keep the sun off your face, what with the rise in skin cancer cases and all. If you need to go all Brewster's Millions, I'm the girl you want with you. But this, this examining of my spending conscience, is Terra Nova. It's easy to spend with impunity if you're only doing it three or four dollars at a time.

I'm a little afraid that I won't be able to do it, but that's where God's grace comes in. That, and prayer. A lot of prayer. And maybe a mild electric shock every time I open my wallet.


  1. Sounds like you have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and that is a good thing. Even though I helped plan a Lenten Assembly at church I feel like Lent has somehow snuck up on me. I've decided on a couple of things to work on, but still feel like I'm going into the season blind.

  2. I hadn't thought of a good thing to abstain from this year but after reading this post, and seriously seeing myself in it, I'm going to join you in this Lenten spending moratorium (sp?). It will make Hubbers happy and cut down on my clutterific life.

    Thank you for the great idea!

  3. You know, this is pretty much exactly what I had decided to do....I am fasting from all those little "indulgences" that I give to myself. The "ooo, shiny" thing at Target; the nice candy bar at the supermarket; the gourmet coffee beans instead of the good-enough-but-not-fabulous ground variety....all those things that I am always told I "deserve."

  4. Oh no! My hubby has started reading your blog. It's only a matter of time till he suggests that I do the same for Lent. He'd be so happy to no longer have stuff from the cheap bins at the front of Target cluttering our home.
    Good luck!

  5. Anonymous10:22 AM

    OH I wish I hadn't read your plan. Now I feel guilty about browsing the Surefit website. I did see slipcovers and a rug that I WANT for the LR. mmm.......

  6. Anonymous (aka: MOM!) - don't feel guilty about browsing Surefit for a slipcover. You, of all people, agonize over every penny, whereas I am constantly throwing "extras" into my cart. Slipcover away!


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