During Lent, we are looking forward to Christ's Resurrection. It's a special time to grow deeper in our love for and reliance on Him as we fast, pray & give alms. I was reading about ways to encourage children to participate and journey through Lent, and I found lots of great ideas. Even though our daughter is only 11 months old, I'm excited to start family traditions so she will come to know Jesus well. Here are some our family has started this Lent!
I'm trying to get better about setting aside quality time for prayer with an 11-month-old around. So this Lent, we decided to pray for 40 special intentions, one each day. Well...it's more like 80 (we have 2 prayer lists). We have a list of 40 close family members and friends that we are praying for. And we have a list of 40 intentions for others, our neighbors who we don't know (see picture to the right). Next year, I want to make a prayer chain (or other visual) with the intentions on each link so that our daughter can tear one off each day and pray for that person and intention. It'll be a simple way to encourage her to pray for others. She can also track how many days are left in Lent by the number of links left on the chain.
We also have a great list of bible stories to read each day (found it online here...scroll down to the Jesus Tree section). They lead up to the passion narrative and the Resurrection. We'll read the story in our family bible, then read the kid-friendly version in the children's bible. Next year, I'll print out the coloring pages too...how fun! (I will say though, I do have some catching up to do on the stories! We're behind! Oops!)
As Catholics, we abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent. We've also chosen to fast from sweets in our house this Lent, and my hubby's going even further by cutting out extra screen time! No Netflix or Facebook for him! (I wish I had the willpower!) Although I do miss sitting on the couch together watching The Office every so often, I have enjoyed the quiet peacefulness by the fire talking and relaxing.
What are some ways we can give this Lent? We can give money to those less fortunate. We can give of ourselves and help others through acts of service. Some people talk about taking on things for Lent; that's a great practice of "giving." So while I think fasting from, or giving up things is critical to the Lenten journey (as Christ gave up His life for us), I think it is a great idea to also take on a new practice! Maybe it's being more helpful around the house. Or maybe it's being more positive about things that normally upset you.
If you're looking for another way to give this Lent, try this activity: Getting Rid of the Excess in 40 Days!
What's it all about?
My husband and I recognize often that the craziness of life, screens/media, and "stuff" get in the way of our peacefulness, relationships with one another, and most importantly, our relationship with Jesus. When we really think about it, we don't need much at all to be truly happy, and stuff just complicates things, don't you agree? I remind myself that the Saints often gave up all of their possessions to know Jesus more (I have a long way to go!). We try as best we can to keep the "stuff" around the house at a minimum (much easier when we lived in our teeny tiny apartment!), but we are challenging ourselves to give more than we think we can and make more room for Jesus.
Each day of Lent, we will go through an area of the house and purge things that don't bring us joy, things we don't really need, and things that could possibly stand in the way of the holiness we desire. Just the other day, I got rid of probably 1/4 of my wardrobe, and still have more to go. And today, I got rid of a third of my daughter's wardrobe. Don't worry, she doesn't care; she's an 11-month-old who wears mismatched onesies and pants every day! In the future, she will learn to detach and give to those in greater need (at least we pray that'll be a big fruit of this effort!).
My husband, who is much more detached to stuff than I am, brought up a great point when we were purging the toys. He suggested we give up all of our best toys. Wow, that's bold, I thought! There are other kids that could really use them, he said. ...while I did give away a big bag full of toys, we probably still have more than we need. I'm still chewing (and praying) on those words!
We created a list of 40 places throughout our house. It was tough to come up with 40 places, so each place ended up being a very manageable size. It should take me on average about 20 minutes to work through each space. I think that's doable. If you hate cleaning and organizing, you can also look at the time you spend as a way to give more of yourself this Lent. :)
I'll let you know how my journey to make more room for Jesus goes! I have a long way to go, but I'm trying. If you have any great Lenten practices, I'd love to hear about them!
Click here to download a spreadsheet TEMPLATE (.xls) of my prayer list, list of spaces in my house, and a list of the bible stories from the link above. It's setup so that it will each print out on one page AND it will update the dates for Lent if you enter this year's date for Ash Wednesday! (Nerdy computer geek here, haha!)