I feel like I just took down Christmas decorations not too many weeks ago and now suddenly, here we are just a couple days from the beginning of Lent. Although, I know it is coming every year it still seems to sneak up on me and say, surprise your penance awaits you!
I see Lent as the grandiose version of New Year’s resolutions. A time to really commit and make change. I seem to have much more motivation to stick with my Lenten practices, because it is an undertaking I am not merely doing just for myself. Rather it is an offering to God, a time to deepen my relationship with Him who created me and my Savior who redeemed me.
I always seem to have such a hard time deciding and discerning what to do for Lent. My mind creates a laundry list of areas in my life that need improvement, making it difficult to just focus on a couple. I want to jump in and have this be the Lent I am somehow made into a saint overnight, or at least in 40 days. Come Easter I want to see radical conversion in my life and I want it to be apparent to my husband and children as well, being they are the ones who know my faults and see me at my weakest times.
There have been years where my list of Lenten sacrifices were nearly a mile long, I would make it through the first week and then feel defeated that I couldn’t keep to it the remainder of Lent. I have also been tempted to do the same for our family commitments, we were going to become the Holy Family by Easter or at least die trying through every toddler tantrum and tired kiddo meltdown.
Reality check, the Holy Family probably had a tired and hungry child at times too. So in terms of what we do as a family I keep it pretty minimal. I am not creative or crafty; I will print off some Saint and Stations of the Cross coloring sheets or have them draw a scene from the Crucifixion on Good Friday. Other than that we keep things simple around here in the arts and craft department.
We have a sacrifice jar, that is a favorite for all of the children. They love the challenge to fill it with as many coffee beans as possible during Lent, by performing good deeds and making sacrifices. Then come Easter morning the coffee beans become jelly beans. Jelly beans that they enjoy during the Easter season when they display virtuous behavior.
We know well that as mothers our state of life presents us with ample opportunities for penance and sacrifice. Even before the dawn breaks we have been presented with moments to make holy, to rise above our weaknesses and turn to virtue. Much easier said than done when the comfort of a warm bed and soft pillow beckons my eyes to stay closed instead of joyfully responding to the needs of my children.
Letting go of my to-do list as the toddler just wants time to play with Mommy and being okay that “nothing” I can check off was done during the day. Carving out time for prayer only to be interrupted by small voices needing something, realizing every act of service to my family is an act of prayer. Whispering a Hail Mary before responding to a fighting match in the other room. Making a decisive effort to remain joyful during the hangry hours before my spouse comes home and greeting him with a genuine smile instead of a sigh of exhaustion.
Over the years I have come to the realization that I will not become an insta-saint over Lent, but it is allowing myself to be slowly chiseled at and made into something new. By making practical and attainable steps — no matter how small — as long as they are doable, I am being sanctified. So, no I will not be giving up coffee and yes, I will probably give up sweets again.
The goal of Lent is not just about making sacrifices for the sake of giving something up, but becoming more focused on our Savior. When we are more focused on Christ, we will be drawn closer to Him who we gaze upon. In the end, we should choose to give up or do something that brings glory to God, because in the end it is all about Him. If we keep our focus on Christ, we will ultimately begin to bear the Image.
Here are a few resources we use as a family during Lent.
Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa
The Way of the Cross
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