We’re one week into Lent, in case Ash Wednesday came and went without your notice. I always appreciate this season; it seems to come just as my New Year’s energy has worn off and my life is back to feeling distracted and cluttery. Lent is an opportunity to remember Jesus is the point of it all, and to consider which sounds of my daily cacophony can be silenced (at least temporarily) to help me better hear his voice.
Last week a friend asked me what Lent looks in our house this year. She knows I’m just now stumbling out of the alternative reality that is Newborn Life, and she (rightly) suspected that I might be taking a different approach than I have in other years. In years past, I’ve done Big Lent, and I’ve written here about the decorations, rituals, resources that have been helpful in defining the season for me. Last year I pared down a little, and this year I’m paring down a lot.
Because I’m feeling pretty thin already (only figuratively). Because I’m barely keeping the clutter beast from eating us all alive, so it’s just not a time for extra decorations. Because last week I had some lovely flowers on the table and Jem ruined them by hitting them repeatedly with a place mat. (He wasn’t even mad or impatient; it’s just that the placemat was on the table, as were the flowers, and so why not?) Needless to say, I don’t think he’s in a place to be instructed by a symbol-rich centerpiece, especially not one that involves open flames.
This year, for my most minimal production ever, I’ve taken to heart this wisdom from Like Mother, Like Daughter: “Instead of setting out to teach your children about Lent, try just living Lent.”
I didn’t follow through on any of the visible signs of the season. But I did put some thought into my own personal Lent observance. In my house there are no candles, no pots and seeds, no purple accents, but there is a mom who is trying–in tiny ways–to pray, to fast, to give. That’s not nothing.
There is no Lent police to tell me we can’t just plant seeds in a couple of weeks, if the weather warms up and I happen to think about buying dry beans at the store. I saw a Family Lenten Practices Calendar floating around Facebook that I really liked; maybe we’ll pick up with some of those activities later on as well.
This is a year to see if I really mean it: Lent is more about what’s in the heart than what’s on the table. It’s about penitence, not performance. It’s a season to remember my inadequacy, my brokenness, my utter need for Jesus and the cross, for Jesus and the empty tomb.
So all the things around the house that drive me crazy–those bruised and drooping flowers, the laundry, the papers, the dishes, the toys– maybe these are really my best Lenten decorations yet.