Preparing for Lent

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Today is officially two weeks until the beginning of Lent everybody!!

I could feel the anxiety level rise from here.

But it's going to be ok!

I promise.

The two week marker is where I get serious about planning out my goals for this Lent: discerning what I need to work on within myself, and how I can incorporate my family into those decisions.

I like to do a three part version of doing Lent: take on, give up, and prayer focus.

1. Take On

I take on a particular devotion or discipline for the duration of Lent. In past years I've done: daily rosary, lauds and vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours, or tackled longer spiritual books (like City of God).

This is a great opportunity to try out a devotion that is new to you, or something you've been meaning to get around to learning but have not yet done so.
Ideally, this is something that can become a regular part of your life even after Easter.

This year I'm doing something pretty different. My take on is going to be following the Love Dare.

It's a 40 day challenge to better love your spouse.

It is not explicitly Catholic, but it is very much Christian and brings in a lot of biblical readings. I like that it has a journaling component so that at the end of the 40 days I can look back and see what worked and what did not.

I also like that it is not necessary that your spouse do the love dare at the same time. This is about getting better at loving your spouse as you are meant to do, not expecting something out of them on your own timeline.

Obviously, I won't be doing the love dare itself post-Easter, but I can use what I learn to be a better spouse to Matt post-Easter.

2. Give Up

This is the part of Lent practices most people are familiar with. The time when it becomes a minefield of temporary avoidances and conflicts when trying to host events.

I have done the typical give up sweets, coffee, meat, alcohol, etc. but I found that I just lost my craving for those things. (Excepting coffee, ok everyone. Just so we're clear, me and coffee are still besties.)

One of my rules for what I give up is that my mortification should not mortify others. It should not be difficult to accommodate or place restrictions on other members of my family.

Last year I gave up technology during naptime. I had to plan ahead to have books ready, sewing projects, and any computer work done before naptime began. I had to get used to doing things without Pandora going in the background.

It was hard! Harder than I expected, but I also realized how much time I was wasting checking email, facebook, and pinterest during naptime. Without doing that I could read so much! And sew so much! And really journal everyday!

I am going to do it again this year. It was a good practice in becoming conscious of how I use my free time, and I could always use a little of that!

3. Prayer Focus

This is the first year I am explicitly adding this to my Lent planning. I have found myself, in past years, naturally having something that would keep coming up in my prayers during Lent.

Sometimes I was pregnant and it had to do with preparing for the birth and welcoming that baby.
Sometimes it had to do with discerning what I was called to be doing in my life in the coming year.
Sometimes it was reflecting on particular virtues and striving to live those out in a better way.

Once I pick the thing I add it whenever there is opportunity: as a rosary intention, at the end of my intentions during morning and evening prayer, and during the intentions at mass.

I try not to tell people what my prayer focus will be until Lent is over. It helps keep the focus on listening to God and cuts down on the noise.

But what about the kids?

As much as possible, I have the kids participate in Lent with us. They also give up meat on Fridays, I try to have some extra church trips with them during the week, and we talk about what we are doing and why.

I start that right off the bat. I figure it's easier to start a habit early than to learn a discipline later.
That means no pepperoni for the one year old either.

I'm home with the kids all day, so I try to keep up a mix of solo prayer and prayer with kids. Using naptimes is great for a solo prayer time that has a starting trigger. Mealtimes are excellent opportunities for sneaking in a bible story or short life of a saint.

Experiment a little and be enthusiastic - the kids will probably follow your lead. 

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