Oh HEY, it’s almost Lent. Good times sure do fly when they get rolling. My mom’s been visiting the last three weeks, and I haven’t wanted to miss one second with her. She leaves to go back to Canada tomorrow, so my Ash Wednesday will seem especially quiet. I plan to go to church for ashes, then do some journaling to discern what my Lenten commitment needs to be.
This will be the third year in a row I’ve observed the season of Lent, after a long lapse. I look forward to it now, knowing that as imperfect as my offering will be, I’ll learn something from it. Two years ago, I gave up ALL THE THINGS and learned that I have issues with perfectionism. Also, that Lent isn’t supposed to be a very special episode of Extreme Makeover. Last year, I gave up criticizing/correcting Patrick, and learned how very often it was on the tip of my tongue each day to do so. And that a simple practice can be infinitely more meaningful than a grandiose one.
I learned about Lent as a child, growing up sort-of Catholic. Every year I’d promise to give up candy, and every year, I blew it. And missed the whole point. WHY DOES JESUS HATE CHOCOLATE?
Look, forty days is a LONG time when you’re a kid. This year, instead of expecting my boys to keep something up past the point that they even remember what it’s all about, I’m offering them a different focus each day. One simple intention to practice each day, for forty days.
I’ve come up with a list of 40 small ways of observing the “three pillars” of Lent: prayer, fasting, alms-giving (where fasting means an act of self-discipline, and alms-giving means an act of service). You’re welcome to adopt/adapt them for your own family or tradition (or as a mindfulness exercise– meditation or loving thoughts can substitute for prayer if prayer is not your thing). My ideas are written with older kids and adults in mind, but younger kids could participate with a little guidance.
Feel free to print 40 Days of Lent Ideas for Kid and Parents and use what’s useful to you. The printable is formatted so each idea can be cut as a strip of paper. You can fold them up and draw them from a jar, or you can glue them to card stock strips and make a Lent paper chain like I’ve seen on Pinterest. Some paper chains are assembled first, and taken apart one link at a time as you count down to Easter; some are built day by day as you count up.
Or maybe you’ll come up with some other ideas and share them here.
Meantime, if you’re still thinking about giving up chocolate for Lent, here’s a handy flow chart to help you decide. Just in the nick of time.