Ash Wednesday is nearly upon us and I am practically beside myself with excitement. My heart is craving simplicity, quiet and reflection. We have some great things in store during the Lenten season. I’ll be sharing more tomorrow about my Lenten promises , but today I thought I’d share what we do as a family.
Lent can be a beautiful time of year. So many times, I hear (and I’ve been the one saying), “Ugh, I really felt like I was too busy to participate fully in Lent this year. I can’t believe it’s almost Easter.” I say, stop procrastinating. I’ve given you two full days to get your hiney in gear!
Like I said last year, Lent isn’t just a Catholic thang. We love to celebrate at Easter, but make the celebration worthwhile. Die to oneself, surrender a bit of that selfishness and offer it up to God in sacrifice. Think about the friend you love most in this world. Go ahead, picture them in your head. How do you nurture that relationship? Do you meet for lunch, exchange texts or phone calls, enjoy a night out with one another, pray for each other? Is there shared conversation, shared experiences? I’m betting there is.
God wants to meet you where you are. So set aside the false notion that you must be a “certain this” or a “certain that” and spend some time with Him. He will lead your heart. No doubt.
HDYDI: CELEBRATING LENT AS A FAMILY
1. When the house was a little smaller and the people were a little fewer, Lent was really about the sacrifices Scott and I made. Several years ago we decided to invite the kids to participate through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I’d say we had mild success. What we realized is that it is extremely difficult to give up something for 40 days when you’re 5. There were many exhasperated sighs and lots of “we’re never doing that again.” It became stressful and that is not what Lent should be. In a stroke of brilliance, we adopted a friend’s activity and made it our own. Enter, the PFA Basket. As in, prayer-fasting-almsgiving. The kids draw one activity each morning and we hang it on our peg, near the kitchen area. We have three activities for prayer, fasting and almsgiving, for a total of nine. Things like “say a decade of the rosary as a family” or “fast from tattling” or “donate a toy or book” are some of the activities. In past years, we’ve just used slips of papers. This year, I dug out our laminator and got fancy. Mostly, because I could not find last year’s slips of paper to save my life and I wanted these puppies to last for several years.
If you want to download our activities in PDF format and print so you can use them, click here for the Lent sacrifices for kids! I’ve included pre-made and blank ones for your (free!) use. Just don’t try to sell them and pass them off as your own, please and thank you.
2. As a family, we give up eating out every year (and yes, that includes our beloved Happy Hours at Sonic on Friday). It’s always tough, but in the end we are always so grateful for that sacrifice. We find ourselves enjoying healthier meals, saving some cash and having more quality family time around the dinner table. Amazingly enough, the planning ahead makes for a less stressed evening hour.
3. Scott and I were just talking this morning about how we’d like to try to attend Stations of the Cross at our parish once this Lent. Because the service typically starts at 7, that makes it difficult with little people. But, we think everyone is old enough to swing it just once this year. I’ll let you know if that was a good or bad parenting decision in a few weeks.
4. We’ve even talked about – I can’t even believe I’m typing this – cancelling our cable…permanently. Every family we know that’s done it has sung its praises. We’ll have to see if we’re ready to take the leap. I’ll keep you posted on that, too.
5. We do many things in preparation for, and during, the Easter Triduum and as we get closer to that weekend, I’ll share what we do. In the meantime, call a family meeting and make plans to make THIS your best Lent yet.
Whatever you do, just make sure your heart is where it should be. For many Lents, I’ve struggled with trying to find the “just right” sacrifice. What ended up happening is I did it halfway or not at all. Last year’s Lent was amazing. I chose to write 40 notes of gratitude to various people last year. Some were friends I’d had all my life, some were people I just met and some were to complete strangers. It changed my heart. It made me grateful. It strengthened my relationship with my Maker. And that’s really what Lent is about. Strip away all the “stuff” you accumulate during the year and stand before God with the only thing that’s left, your soul. Tomorrow, you’ll get the rest of the story on this year’s sacrifice.