Lent is always one of those church observations that I didn’t get as a kid. I knew my Catholic friends didn’t eat meat on Fridays, but for the life of me I didn’t know why. I grew up Methodist and to be honest other than hearing the word Lent, I don’t know that we followed it much.
In my 20′s Michael and I joined a church where Lent was a big deal. It was my first experience with giving up something during the 40 days. And lets be clear, I never really gave up anything. I talked about it and hemmed and hawed, but the thought of giving up my Mocha Fridays, or Donut Tuesdays, or Falafel Mondays didn’t really fly. It was good in theory but too hard to follow in practice. So I would start each Ash Wednesday with a plan of denial that would be broken by the next day’s breakfast.
For the first time last year I actually gave up something. A woman in bible study talked about a book she read called A Place at the Table by Chris Seay. It is a Lenten devotional that focuses on letting go the luxury of choice and living more simply for 40 days. He believes that if we sacrifice some of our excess we can better understand the plight so many in our world face. And hopefully the empathy you gain spurs you on into action. Last year I gave up variety for breakfast. I ate oatmeal for 40 days. For a woman who hates eating the same thing 2 days in a row, this was a huge challenge. And I became very grateful that my sacrifice was by choice and not necessity.
This year I want to take it a step further. I have noticed that we waste a lot of food in our house. We always have leftovers that spoil before we finish them, or produce that rots before we can eat everything. My kids have a plethora of choices for their meals and sometimes I feel like a short order cook in the morning getting them the cereal they want, or the donut they want, or the toast they want. I think it would be good to pare down on the choice we have in our house and hopefully become more grateful for what we have.
Rebecca is old enough to understand the process, but dubious when it comes to practice. “Wait, does that mean we have to eat rice and beans every night. I like rice, but I’m not sure about the beans.”
Isaac was terrified that donut day would be put on hold, “NO DONUTS!?!”
Margo didn’t care and was running around the room with a foam sword poking everyone.
I tried to reassure the kids that they were not giving up any certain foods and we weren’t eating just one meal for the next 40 days. I told them we were going to make sure no food was wasted and that we would be having a lot more leftovers.
“But what happens if we don’t like the leftovers? One night I can handle if I don’t like it, but 2? I’ll just get hungry.” Rebecca bemoans thinking the rice and beans might be a better bet.
“Well, you know some people don’t have a choice that is what I am trying to recreate. It helps us gain empathy.”
Rebecca counters with, “I already know what empathy is. I heard it on Wordgirl.”
“Can you make pizza every night? I like pizza.” I think Isaac is going down the wrong path with this one.
“I am going to make what I usually make, just we will eat leftovers first before I make a new meal.”
“Wait, are we only going to have 2 things? If we are only going to have 2 things I want mine to be a protein and a fruit. No, a protein and a veggie. No a protein and a fruit.” Rebecca wanting to make sure she gets a well balanced meal.
I see my Lenten discussion is getting me nowhere. I should have just stuck with the tactic you eat what I put in front of you and save the Lenten lessons for when they are 20. But no, I think they can get this. Well, not Margo. She is currently running her head into a wall. The older 2 though, I think I can make this a meaningful experience for them without scaring them off from a pretty churchy subject.
How do you observe Lent with younger children? Do you ignore it or try to incorporate into your family life?