This year, our Lenten disciplines as a household are pretty simple and practical: top of the list, no more casual eating out. This is harder than it sounds, even for me, who grew up practically never eating out. Now that I'm all grown up (hmph) I appreciate the implicit training I somehow soaked up from Mom's disciplined weekly menu planning and grocery list making and shopping. It's what I do. But I'd fallen into the habit of planning for 5 or 6 meals a week and counting on one night of beng able to talk Brent into pizza, Chinese, or burritos or whatever. Plus, I'd gotten very permissive about indulging my love for egg sandwiches...stopping on the way home from Clare's preschool to buy myself a happy little breakfast is the kind of expense I'm usually good about resisting, but I'd gotten sloppy. So what this really means is paying a bit more attention to what we're eating, making sure that I plan and buy enough food for all our weekly meals, staying within our budget--while "eating well," mindfully and sustainably and nutritionally. It's a bit more work but truthfully, not that much more than I was doing before anyway. And I've found that a judicious combination of Trader Joe's and the Shoprite near St.Stephen's is the economical way to go. (I'm especially happy with Shoprite's new organic store label...my canned tomato buying is much simplified thanks to that.)
Personally I'm also trying to re-start my habit of the daily Jesuit pray-as-you-go podcasts. I'm not doing so well on this one yet but I'm not giving up. Sometimes it just takes awhile to get back into the groove.
The other personal Lenten discipline that I'm resolved upon is a little vaguer than the concrete goals of not eating out and listening to the prayer podcasts, but no less important. I am finding it harder than usual these days to maintain a sense of willingness and ability to give to others, probably fueled by all the apocalyptic economy talk. I suspect this is the case for lots of other people at the moment as well. It's hard to spontaneously and generously give to others when you suspect the tradeoff is your own security. But this instinct of withdrawing and pulling back from our commitment to other people is the problem and not the solution. So I'm looking for ways to remind myself that we all depend on each other, and the illusion of self-sufficiency created by shrinking back into our own households actually makes us all more vulnerable.
If you're looking for a good Lenten discipline to remind you of all the above, think about visiting the Webb family's site and donating a few dollars to help with travel expenses to Ethiopia for their two adopted daughters. A better reminder of the dependency of all human lives on each other, this material world, and ultimately the mysterious sustenance of God that fuels this creation, cannot be found. $25 won't break your budget, but it may remind you that a willingness to share, to love, to recognize our connection, is what makes human lives worth living.