Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the Lenten season as an opportunity to practice both an embrace and a refrain for 40 days. However, I was having a bugger of a time figuring out what to do! Our church is practicing a daily prayer and lectionary reading during Lent. I was planning on incorporating this into whatever I decided, but I was really struggling with the rest. Thankfully, Rachel Held Evans wrote a helpful post yesterday: 40 Ideas for Lent. I took a couple ideas from there and came up with a plan:
- I joined the Lenten Wilderness Meditation Practice: Spend 10-20 minutes each day outside in prayer / meditation / just being (rain, snow, or shine). What a great idea, and it will work perfect to do alongside the daily prayer and lectionary reading.
Well, it’s been over a year since I started embrace/refrain. I definitely faded down the stretch of 2012, but that is mostly due to starting a web-design company over the last couple of months. Still, I did 9-10 embrace or refrain projects and wrote around 60 blog posts. Not terrible for year 1.
Some thoughts on the past year:
- Starting new habits is hard work, but definitely worth pursuing. Taking habits that are beneficial, but not part of your routine…. to part of your daily or weekly routine takes patience and persistence. A month gives you a good start, but many times it isn’t long enough to get something fully ingrained as part of your daily life.
- In our over-stimulated, thing-driven western culture, fasting (or refraining) from things like foods, entertainment and typical conveniences is a great practice. My favorite project of this past year was staying away from wasting time on the internet. I got so much done and spent my time so much more efficiently that month. At first, I kept a lot of that momentum, but after awhile, my old habits crept back in. I probably need to do that fast at least once a year.
- Writing is hard work. I give a ton of credit to bloggers who post creative, original content on a weekly basis. It takes a ton of time, determination, and creativity. I thoroughly enjoy writing, and find it incredibly beneficial, but it is still difficult.
And moving forward….
- I really enjoyed doing this experiment of 1 project a month over the past year. However, there were months that life was just a bit crazy to be pursuing an embrace or refrain project and writing about it on a regular basis. So I was successful with it some months, and others not at all. In light of that, I plan on continuing this year, but on lighter schedule. My hope is do to 5-6 month-long projects over 2013. I’ll start them when it works as opposed to figuring out a project for the beginning of each month. I’ll probably get my first one going in the first couple weeks of February.
- My second favorite project of the past year was the month I attempted to blog everyday. That month forced me to write about a greater variety of interests beyond the original embrace/refrain idea. Since then, I have continued to to do that on a sporadic basis and I’ll continue that in 2013.
October has come and gone, and I still don’t like mornings. Maybe I never will. But I will say this… mornings are nice once I am actually up. The first 15 minutes or so stink no matter if it is 8am or 5am. Ok, it’s a little worse at 5am, but still, it’s basically the same.
This past month, I got up about 20-30 minutes earlier than I had been on average. That isn’t crazy early, but it still gave me a little time to get settled and ready for the day. In that sense, it was nice to be up. I thought maybe I could progress to earlier wake-ups as the month went on, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I am NOT a morning person. This is going to take some time. Plus, on many nights I stayed up later than normal, watching the Detroit Tigers tear up the A’s and Yankees, and then lay an egg in the World Series (so frustrating).
I’m planning on continuing this little morning exercise, hoping to bring it back 15-30 minutes more over the month of November. My little French press is going to get some extra wear and tear.
Well, PHP month has come and gone. My main objective was to learn how to use PHP within WordPress, which I got a good start on. The first part of the month I spent some time digging into theme files and page templates in some of the work I was doing. I didn’t really learn to code PHP that way, but I was at least getting familiar with how PHP works and I was able to make some basic changes. I’ll continue my learning this month as well, as I dive into a book or two, and maybe an online tutorial. Hopefully, I’ll actually start learning to code, and not just edit other’s code.
On to October, which is a refrain month. This months refrain could easily fall into either an embrace or refrain category, depending on how I approach it. From the beginning of this blog, one of my ideas was to embrace getting up early. However, getting up early is really just refraining from sleeping in! And that is just what I’ll be working on this month.
For many of my monthly projects, I have a tendency to set goals that are difficult to attain. I end up only partially fulfilling those goals. When I worked on solitude, I was effectively practicing solitude very little, and then went to trying it every day. I didn’t quite make it. I did the same thing with attempting to blog every day. This month, I am going to go about it more gradually. I normally get up around 7:15-7:30. This week, I am going to get up at 7. Then next week, I’ll try to get up at 6:30. By the end of the month, we’ll see if I can’t be getting up at 6 or maybe even 5:30. But really… I am NOT a morning person, so we will just take it one day at a time!
Wow, summer has flown by. I have basically forgot about blogging and the embrace / refrain project over the last month. I did jump in with hustlemonth for the last couple of weeks of July, and as a result, I did some great work on a a couple of projects that had been stagnant. August started with a quick trip to South Carolina to visit family, and I never really got anything going. So be it. I took a month off. I’m looking forward to September to get back into the swing of things and finish up the year.
At this point, I don’t know if I’m on an embrace or refrain project, but it really doesn’t matter. For the last 4 months, I’ll just choose each month based on whatever idea seems most helpful. For September, I plan on learning basic PHP. I have been learning WordPress development over the last 9 months, and my lack of ability with PHP has been the most limiting factor in moving forward. I obviously don’t expect to be an expert in just a month, but I do hope to get to a basic level that will be helpful in WordPress development. Over the last days of August, I’ll be checking out resources so I can hit the ground running in September.
I sure was excited to have a bag of peanut butter m&m’s for our road-trip that started July 1! In the month of June, our family tried as best as we could to stay away from processed food. We did quite well. We made a few concessions on our camping trip, but overall we ate a ton of “real” food. We (mostly my wife) made much of it ourselves, and we ate a ton of fruits and vegetables. We won’t be quite as hard-core moving forward but we will retain a lot of the principles and “rules” from last month moving forward. Here are some random thoughts on the month:
- I’m not sure if it was connected to our month-long project or not, but at one point on our trip north this week, my 3 year old son exclaimed that the blueberries we were eating were better than his Mike and Ike’s!
- We learned early on that much of the bread and bagels we normally bought at the grocery store really didn’t qualify for non-processed. That meant we needed to make our own. We skipped the bagels and just went with bread for the month. The kids definitely missed bagels. Store bought bread just doesn’t taste the same after a month of having freshly baked home-made bread.
- Our kids missed their morning cereals. We made our own granola, but they were a bit bored with that and oatmeal by the end of the month.
- I didn’t miss “sweets” nearly as much as I thought I would. It helped that fresh, locally picked fruit was readily available. This wouldn’t have been the case as much if we did it January.
- I had a harder time getting enough calories. I was riding (bike) quite a bit, and found myself constantly hungry. Many of the snacks that I would normally eat (like granola bars, crackers, cereal, etc) were processed foods, and I struggled with finding substitutes that filled me up. On the plus side of this… I lost about 10 pounds.
- Eating this way takes more planning! We also had to go to the store more often, because much of what we were buying was fresh.
Overall, this was a fantastic month. We learned a ton, tried new foods, and are on a path to eating healthier as a family.
I don’t get to eat my “normal” sweets this month. These should help!