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observing lent with our families

finally, the wheel of the year has turned past the grand celebrations of Christmas. winter is really here, and we’re settling in to the cold. i started to think about the coming of Ash Wednesday and Lent and how we might celebrate as a family. over at my flickr site, i asked how others might be planning to observe. Grace commented that it’s hard to be somber with little ones around! that got me thinking that there have to be ways to enter in to this season even with littles under foot. here’s a list of ideas that might provide a spark of inspiration to light the way to spring.

Lent Means Spring

  • make doughnuts or some other deep-fried yumminess on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.
  • learn a new song. a song that points to spring coming and new life sprouting. yesterday Mabel and i were singing For the Beauty of the Earth as we got dinner ready. maybe you could illustrate the song to help little ones learn the words.
  • go for a walk every day. i once knew of a homeschooling family who put a pot of soup on to simmer for lunch and headed out for a walk each day. no matter the weather.
  • make a nature almanac recording what you see on your walks. when did the moon come full? what day did the buds burst? what stars are out?
  • learn a new prayer to say at meals. we’ve started singing our prayers. music is big around here these days. it lets Mabel really enter in even though she can barely talk.
  • give up meat as a family. or (closer to my heart) sugar. give the money to an organization like Heifer.
  • change your seasonal table or alter. add a bowl of water to be the waters of life. or a tray of sand to be the 40 years in the desert, our own long journey, our dustiness.
  • sprout something. wheat berries sprout and then grow a neat green grass perfect for hiding eggs when the time comes. but beans and lentils work too.
  • make bread. to go along with the soup. it’s very earthy. and the spaces created by waiting for the dough to rise are perfect for story telling.
  • celebrate love on St Valentine’s Day. our hearts of stone have been changed into hearts of flesh! glory!
  • wear purple, the traditional color of Lent, to keep you mindful.
  • light candles at meals. turn off the electric light. enjoy the darkness. try for silence even for a few moments. the light is coming!
  • and when all else fails and you’re at the end of a long day, play “Jesus in the Tomb.” the rules are simple: everyone must lay down very still and quiet. enjoy the respite!

last year when M was but four months old, it seemed odd that we were going to church to be reminded of our mortality. this girl was vital. our life together was just beginning. when we got to the priest, she took a smudge of ash from last year’s palm branches and whispered to Mabel,”Remember that you are made from the dust of the universe, and that one day you will return to the stars!”

and that’s what i want to hold in my intentions for this small girl.

the comments are on…i’d love to hear what you’ve got planned.


  1. It’s ironic your attention should turn towards up-coming religious holidays. yesterday, I came across an old email from 2006 with an Easter Poem from Wendell Berry. It’s called Manifesto and it ministered to me again. Love you, Kort, Paul

  2. you wrote “make doughnuts or some other deep-fried yumminess on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday” and I thought of Bigmama writing “I wonder if you are making any of those good donuts out of canned biscuits?” She knew very well that she invented them…but it was a sweet thing for a mother to say to her daughter. And I thought of mema going to work at 4:30 in the morning to make donuts for the sailors at NTC. She always brought home a sweet, greasy box of her mistakes that were so yummy. At this season I am thankful for them and you and of course, donuts. love mama

  3. i find it odd that lent has become something more like the catholic diet plan than a time of self observation. i think this is why i now chose to do something new, like meditate daily and stretch before sleeping, and if i give something up, i have to really think about it and wonder what i am learning from it.

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