Lent is something that I have struggled with for several years. I come from what I would call a "semi-liturgical" tradition - we talk about Advent and Lent but honestly, other than that the sanctuary was stark during Lent and people talked about giving something up (although it was never really clearly explained exactly why), there really wasn't much to it. It just felt like a waiting period before Holy Week. I didn't think about it a whole lot and other than a few years that I tried to give up chocolate (and I think more in the name of trying to lose weight than to draw closer to God), it really was a bit of a non-event for me. As I get older, I've been trying to find ways to make it a more important time but I haven't really found a way to do that.
Here we are, another year, and I'm trying, again, to find a way to make this a special time. The DECE I work with in my classroom is a Muslim and watching her fast during Ramadan and the significance of that time in her spiritual life has really inspired me to want to take things further and develop this as a time of faith. I've done some searching on Pinterest for ideas but again, there's not all that much there, especially as a non-Catholic. I'm going to have to make things up as we go along. Here is what I have decided to do so far.
1. Of course, we couldn't miss celebrating Shrove Tuesday. When I was growing up, we used to have pancakes at school and "pancake day" was lots of fun. As I got older and we stopped doing it at school, we'd go to church on Tuesday evening and have a pancake dinner. Now that we are at a much more Evangelical church, we don't even have that option. I wanted this to be a fun event for the kids. Dh is English and he has memories of eating "English Pancakes" on Sunday evening before going to church so those have become our "pancake day" pancakes. 1 c flour, 1 c milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 c water, fry like a crepe and top with sugar and lemon juice. Yum!
2. Reading - A friend posted the link to Addie Zierman's post about Lent and in it, she recommends 9 books to try during Lent. I decided to buy several - Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit, Paula Huston, A Way Other Than Our Own, Walter Brueggemann and Lent and Easter Wisdom from Henri J. Nouwen. I won't have them to start Lent but at least I will have a few books to explore once they arrive and for next year, there will be some books to read.
3. A prayer chain - last year, I did this with my kids and it was a great experience for all of us. We do pray with the kids but I have to be honest, it can be hit and miss. I love this idea of being very deliberate and purposeful and last year, it gave us some good opportunities to talk about caring for others and how we might make a difference in their lives. The kids liked it enough that they would ask to pray if I forgot.
4. A Gratitude Journal - I have been keeping a Gratitude Journal as part of my year of "Unashamed" and I liked the idea of these prompts to take it beyond just a list. I have so much for which to be grateful and I have a bad habit of getting stuck in the negative. I want that to change and this practice may help.
5. Finally, my family has become very attached to the "Care and Share", a wonderful thrift store run by the Mennonite Central Committee. We like it more for making donations than for shopping (although I have been very bad about buying many too many books there!) I found this list of a 40 day clean out and I'd love to get my entire family involved in this - giving stuff away to create more room for the meaningful in our home and also helping those in need, both who need our stuff at a low price and the profits going to help all of the wonderful work done by the M.C.C. around the world.
How will you be marking Lent this year? Do you have any good suggestions? I'd love more ideas!