For far too many Lents, I’ve done the traditional “give up beer, Cokes and candy.” But, you know what? I think that makes for a really lousy 40 days. Yes, if sweets are your vice, if you’re spending too many evenings with a cocktail in hand or have an unhealthy love affair with caffeine, then those are worthy Lenten sacrifices. But don’t just do them to say you’re giving something up because I can guarantee, come Easter Sunday, you’re going to feel like you’ve had a ‘meh’ Lenten season.
And, you know what? God’s worth more than that.
I recently read some fantastic advice from a priest. He asked a simple question: “What is the one thing you keep bringing to the confessional? Start there.”
Isn’t that awesome?
Sometimes I’ve floundered with gratitude. That was the year I wrote 40 notes of thanks to friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. It changed my attitude. I found myself sitting in the office each night, reflecting on my blessings, and sharing with people in a real-live handwritten note how much I appreciated their presence in my life.
Last year, we were struggling with the excess of Christmas. It felt like we’d been on a gift-giving binge and the morning after was ugly. As a family, we took up 40 bags for 40 days. We spent the Lenten season cleaning out closets, donating gently used toys and ridding ourselves of things we no longer needed. It was freeing.
There was the Lent we decided to give up cable television (highly recommend it) and the one we gave up eating out and yelling at the kids. There were Lents where we served the poor, attended more Daily Masses and adoration hours and implemented a regular exercise regimen. Yes, we even gave up fried food one year—shout out to our Southern blood.
All I know is this. There is no prize for “Best Lenten Sacrifice.” Only YOU know what you need to do more, or less, of in order to strengthen your relationship with Christ. With each passing Lent, we should be growing closer to God, freeing ourselves from the things that tie us to the secular world. As the busy mom of five I understand how arduous a task that often feels like. My suggestions for you and your family?
Write it down and put it on your bathroom mirror. It’s the first thing I see every morning. My husband holds me accountable, and I, him.
Without fail, make your Lenten promises doable, otherwise you’ll fall off the wagon and never get back on because you feel so defeated.
Include your children, no matter their ages, in the season of Lent. If your children are like mine and 40 days seems like an eternity, try these family-friendly Lenten ideas.
Lent can be awesome, let’s get to it.