Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent Preparations 2013

"Yet even now," declares the Lord,
"Return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting and weeping and morning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Now return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness
and relenting of evil.
~Joel 2:12-13

Lent has arrived.  For the past week or so, I have been working on a plan to help us embrace this Lenten season as a family.  Like Advent, Lent offers us a special opportunity to focus as a community on our relationship with God and our love for our neighbor.   I have found that within our own family, Lent has become a very special and meaningful season, one to which I (almost) look forward. :)

Our Lent preparations from 2011 and 2012 helped lay the foundation for my plan this year.  As I look back over our preparations of previous years, I am able to appreciate not only how much my kids have grown, but how much I have grown too!  Of course, I also see plenty of ways that we can continue to improve.

The three pillars of the season of Lent are prayer, fasting and giving.  Each of our Lenten undertakings is aimed at helping our children, our whole family, embrace these themes in a personal and age appropriate way.

~Prayer garland:  Our prayer chain is now in it's third year, and is one of my favorite ways to "decorate" our house for Easter.  Each day, the kids are given a chance to offer up a prayer for someone or something, and I write their prayers on a slip of paper.  Over the course of Lent's 40 days, we link our prayer papers together in a chain that decorates our windows.  As Holy Week approaches, the visible evidence of our prayers for others is the perfect decoration for Easter.
~Christmas card prayers:  Remember all those Christmas cards we received during December?  As recommended by a friend, this year I have saved them.  Each day, as part of our prayer time, we will pull out a few cards and pray for our friends or family members that sent them.  Since most Christmas cards we receive include pictures, this is a wonderful way to help my children personalize and remember the people for whom we are praying.  Plus, who doesn't like finding another use for all those gorgeous cards?

~Story time: In Lent our story time takes on a special theme.  This year, we will be reading stories from our Jesus Storybook Bible leading up to Easter Sunday.  We'll alternate those stories with a book of children's prayers, Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers.  After each story, we can add a stone to our Jesus Stepping Stone activity, inspired by Equipping Catholic Families.

This great Stepping Stones of Jesus Lent activity can be found at
Equipping Catholic Families.  

~Food giving box: We have many opportunities to give to those less fortunate during Lent.  T and I observe the Church's Lenten call to fasting and abstinence, but our children are young to do this, and I don't expect them to miss meat during our Friday meals.  Still, I want them to learn the importance of meaningful fasting in other ways.  On Fridays and other days of communal fasting, the children get to choose a box of food from our pantry to add to our Lent food giving box.  Then, on Sundays or days at school when there is a request for food donations, the kids get to take a piece of food out of their giving box to bring to share.  I hope this is a way to help them personalize part of the heart behind fasting.

~Jar of Beans: The kids have been asking about our Bean Jar for months!  It is arguably our most beloved tradition during Lent.  An idea originally inspired by an old edition of Family Fun Magazine, our Bean Jar appears each Ash Wednesday, full of dried black beans, along with a nearby basket.  Each time one of us does a good deed or something nice to or for another, he or she gets to go to the jar and move a dried bean from the jar to the basket.  I remind the kids that on Easter morning, when Jesus Is Risen, the dried beans will be replaced with jellybeans, representing the new creation we become through Christ: the old is gone and the new has come!  (2 Cor 5:17) Each year, our basket has been full of jellybeans on Easter.  We're hoping for a similar bounty this year :)

Our bean basket on Easter morning a few years ago.

May this Lenten season be full blessings and growth!  Through all our special preparations, may God help us to love others more and give us a greater desire to be united to Him.

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