Monday, February 1, 2016

Entering into Lent

My Advent was a total fail.


I think we lit the candles on the Advent Wreath most nights simply because my children have pyromaniatic tendencies, but other than that it was a mess.

I had my surgery (explained here) three days into Advent so I know I have an excuse.  I don't feel particularly guilty about how Advent went, but I am energized now to really embrace Lent. I don't think I have ever been excited about fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  The post surgery recovery has been filled with 'rest time', eating, drinking sugary coffee drinks, eating more, and binge watching Netflix. I am ready to snap my physical and spiritual world back into shape, but I really don't want to go too crazy with my aspirations and lead with another seasonal fail.

My plan is pretty simple.


In the morning before I brush my teeth. Even if it is a short and sweet prayer - just something.  I love my Blessed is She devotionals.  They come to my email like magic in the middle of the night so they are often the first thing I look at when I turn on my phone in the morning. They give me the days reading and a short reflection with some question or two to ponder through the day. I am really going to work to make this a serious habit and not just a usual thing. I am also going to the Beauty for Ashes Retreat (signup here!).  It will be wonderful!


I need to do some more serious purging of my home.  Not just getting rid of clutter, but really determining what I do/do not need, and getting rid of nice things that I do not need.  I have a tendency to hold on to things because I like them and only getting rid of stuff that I don't like.  I am going to try to focus on giving away some good stuff that is just excess.


In the past I have looked for loop holes - pregnant & nursing or illness - anything that would let me get out of fasting guilt free.  Is that horrible to admit? I really don't like fasting but oh my body needs it.  It is crazy to think that the church in all her wisdom knew of the importance for our bodies to spend some time being cleansed of the excesses of life!  So I am actually (gasp) looking forward to fasting on Fridays (and the obligatory Ash Wednesday & Good Friday too).  I am going to try to focus on more simple meals too this 40 days. A dear friend told me wisely that even Cambells Soup for dinner can be an expression of Love - it is better to do it simple & lovingly than extravagantly with tears.

Family Life.

As a family we need to find something charitable to do as well so I am looking into those local options.  We keep a kindness and sacrifice jar on the table during Lent as well and each child makes some personal commitments as to how they want to live their time during Lent.  "Not Yelling" is typically something that makes everyones list.  We trace our hands and then write our commitments on those hands.  They all go up on a paper cross I put up in our hallway.  We then have a visual reminder all 40 days that we are each striving to live out certain commitments. Keeping the focus for the whole 40 days is hard for adults and kids too.  I have some other ideas on what to do in my post from last year (read here).

This year in addition to the handprints and jar,we are going to have a little pre-Lent family talk about virtue and sin.  I was listening to a conversation this week on Catholic Radio's Fighting the Good Fight with Barbara McGuigan.  Her guest (whose name eludes me & I couldn't trace) was discussing the relationship between sin and virtue and brining forth the ideas of St Thomas Aquinas among others.  I loved the way he presented the virtues as a way of battling sin.  He discussed our tendency towards certain evils (maybe pride or anger) and the complement virtue that we can strive for to combat the specific sin.  St. Thomas Aquinas points out that our sins are often hidden from us and therefore made difficult for us to eradicate.  Striving for a virtuous life, rather than focusing on rooting out sin, can therefore act a as a backdoor to combat those specific tendencies we want to reduce or eliminate.
 The mystery guest also discussed the relationship between sin and character in such a simple way.

Bad Habits lead to Bad Character.  
Good Habits lead to Good Character.  

When we practice bad habits (giving into pride, or fury, or self-indulgence for instance) we actually end up forming our character as prideful or bitter or self-indulgent and that leads to a situation where we actually have reduced free-will in later situations.  We begin to respond automatically rather than will thought.  To combat that then we need to mindfully be practicing the virtues that correspond to those areas in which we struggle.  I found this great list of complimentary virtues (above left) outlined by Felix Just and reformatted them also for our 'quiet space' where the little kids go when they need to reset.

In another 50 days or you may very well be reading a "Lenten Fail" post, but I sincerely hope not!  What are you going to do this Lent? Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you during this beautiful time? I would love to hear from you!

There are a lot of great Lenten resources available. Last year I put together a list of things (click here) we were doing (or considering doing) for Lent to help us keep the focus for the Forty days.  Hope you find what you need to plan an awesome and intentional Lent this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

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