Neither David nor I grew up aware of the church calendar, so we are navigating a bit of uncharted territory with our little family when it comes to things like observing Lent or celebrating other feast days throughout the Christian year. We … Continue reading
Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 1, which is just a week away!
It’s Holy Week, and I find myself wanting it to be some huge spiritual experience. And as with every other week of Lent, it is in the ordinary and the commonplace, and the day to day where Jesus keeps on showing up. Body and blood. God with us.
I’m going to be charitable to myself and say that I didn’t do the best at my Lenten goals this year. Other than a successful fast, I think I only did any of my other proposed activities a handful of times, if that. And I feel this tension, pulling me. That same tension that pulled me when my husband invited me into feast day tv watching. The tension between propping myself up with my works and freely receiving grace. Between chastising myself for failing and thanking God for the ways he has been present.
I had a lot of good plans for observing Lent this year. Plans that came from a good place. Plans that I was excited about. Plans that I think I’ll probably try to make again. But can I say that my failing has been the place where Lent has been so meaningful? Every day, when I see the unopened devotional email I was supposed to read, or I realized that Eliana ripped her “Lenten Path” paper in half, and it’s hanging there sad on the side of our fridge, I remember that sin is a part of me, that brokenness is where we live.
And I remember grace. I remember mercy and forgiveness and redemption. I don’t think a day has gone by since Ash Wednesday that I haven’t breathed thanksgiving for that shield of grace that Jesus bought for us with his blood.
Now I realize that it’s not necessarily sin that I don’t read all that I planned to or do all the activities that I planned with my kids. I don’t think it’s sin to have a messy house or to get behind on the laundry or to forget that you have company coming. But, oh how those things remind me of how flawed I am! How broken I am. How I fall short in ways that really do matter. Like being holy.
And this morning, when I did read Walt Wangerin’s Maundy Thursday devotional with cat piano background music and a room-temperature cup of coffee, I felt a little twinge that I haven’t made reading a priority. That I didn’t make more of an effort to anticipate. To participate. But it was a different kind of pain than the kind of pain I am so used to feeling when I realize that I’m not enough. When I remember that I’m broken to the very core of me. It was a hunger pain more than a stifling pain. A growing pain more than a crushing pain. An ache for more Jesus instead of a desperate grasp to be good, do it better, try harder.
Instead of my mind being filled with all the ways I have fallen short, it is filled with all the ways that he has been faithful with my broken little obediences. The ways that he has given himself to me. How he has been Immanuel, the God who came to live with us.
When I look back at the weeks between Ash Wednesday and today, I realize that I have to choose what story I tell, I have to choose where my heart is going to focus. The story of my failure or the story of His grace? The story of my dirty feet or the story of how he washed them? The story of my sin, or the story of his redemption?
Because really, aren’t they the same story?
I’ve tried it every night so far. After the house picking up, the teeth brushing, and the baby checking. While I nurse my sweet almost-six-month-old (!), I whisper the words as many times as it takes. “Be still and know that I … Continue reading
I recently read this book that changed my life. Seriously. I’ve had those moments where I read a book and I thought “I want this to change my life.” This was not like that. I read this book quick. It was like water to my thirsty soul. And even though I didn’t read it slowly, I felt it make me slower.
And it was a few days after I read it, while I was sitting on the floor looking at my husband over our wobbly coffee table that I said, “I think this book changed my life.” And I felt an excited grin creep across my face. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.
I don’t think it was this book alone. I think this book was the last read in a long line of reads that actually started to make changes in my actual diaper-changing, laundry-folding, pastor-wifing life. And at the same time, I think it’s the first read in a long line of new reads that will change my heart and my life in other ways. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.
There have been so many times in the last two weeks where I’ve found myself sitting and thinking and I realize that my mind isn’t working like it used to. And it’s shocking and unfamiliar, but my friends, I’ve been rejoicing about it the way that I rejoice when morning sickness reminds me I am pregnant. When the hard and the unfamiliar and the difficult remind me that new life is coming. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.
Friends, can I tell you something? I started seeing Him. All over the place. Jesus giving himself to me. Over and over again. When I’m tired and I’m feeling empty and I can’t fight for words anymore and he turns what I have into prayer. When that bell chime sounds on my phone and there’s an email that stops me right there in my tracks because someone understands. When my daughter spills so much milk that it starts dripping down the table onto the floor, making a noise so loud that she says “it’s starting to raaaain.” When that same toddler presses her cheek to my chest so I inhale the scent of roses (ROSES? I haven’t washed her hair in 3 days!) and wraps her arms around me and pats my back, just when I’m feeling like no one sees me.
Over and over again. Jesus is there. In my living room. On my creaky porch. Giving himself to me. Inviting me. Making me new.
And in that book. In one little chapter, one little sentence, she mentions this prayer that monks pray twice in their day to help them see God in it. To help them see God a little better tomorrow. To help them choose to put themselves in the way of God’s grace. It’s called The Daily Examen. And it has five parts. And this week I’m going to try praying it every night before I go to bed. Not because I think I have to, or because I think it will make me a better Christian. Not because I want a new experience or am looking for another thing to add to my to-do list. I’m doing this because I’m hungry to see more of Jesus, and I think it will help me learn how. Because I’ve said before how I don’t want to miss out on the fullness of my life because of the business of my life.
I love the way Jesus is always making us new.
ah, this is so good. I need this.
Maybe this truth will help me be in a better mood,
give me a better attitude,
help me focus in the right place.
Thank you, Lord.
Thank you for mercy,
How my heart longs for that true fellowship of believers.
Wait. Is Phoebe fussing? Didn’t the downstairs neighbor say that she can hear Phoebe crying sometimes? Does she think I’m a terrible mother? I better go make sure Phoebe is okay.
My eyes snap open. Despite the one million times I have told her not to, Ellie has climbed into her doll crib, and, obviously, the bottom fell out.
ALREADY? I just wanted to listen to this one song. I just wanted two minutes and fifteen seconds of peace.
“It’s not your fault, It’s my fault.”
Before I can even open my mouth, my two year old short circuits the thoughts that would’ve made this situation all about me and not about her. All about guilt and not about grace.
And somehow, we have a quiet conversation about how important it is to listen to mommy and to choose to obey, even if my eyes are closed. And I gently remind that little girl that she has her own crib and this one is not it.
And somehow, the bottom of that plastic doll crib fits right back in there and it’s almost like it never broke in the first place.
And somehow, He keeps finding ways to be Immanuel. God right here in our life. The God who came to live with us. The God who isn’t only there when I have a quiet space, ancient prayers, and cup of coffee, but the God who wants to be found. Right smack in the middle of crying babies and disobedient toddlers, if I will only ask to see him. The God who doesn’t need silent spaces or special weekends to change my heart.
The God who is right here in my living room, making me new.
We had the chance to visit with a good friend this week. He has a picture of Mary and Eve hanging on the wall of his office that makes me cry when I look at it; he will let Ellie chase … Continue reading
It’s past 11:30. The tears are fresh on my pillow, and I’ve just slipped into that dreamy place between waking and sleeping when I hear her. It’s quiet at first, so that I fall in and out of that light dozing a few times, unsure of what’s going on, but then I am sure I hear her.
I’m standing next to her bed before she can call my name again and I’ve gathered her in my arms.
It’s kind of a routine. She hasn’t been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now. At first, I didn’t mind it, but the last day or so, my attitude has moved from gracious to annoyed. Sometime, I stopped being enamored by the way her golden hair curls against her neck, the way her head rests, slightly upturned, next to mine, and the way her chubby toddler hands find my face in the dark; sometime it all began to blur into constant kicking and thrashing and loud mouth breathing. I noticed it tonight, and at first I couldn’t figure out what had happened- when everything had shifted.
But I think now I know why. I think it’s because this week I’ve been living frantic. I spent the week trying to get the house ready for Eliana’s second birthday party, and I’ve been babysitting again, and Phoebe really doesn’t like to be put down. And it’s been a week like so many weeks during high school and college where I shove food into my mouth while standing and find myself going from one appointment to the next with little down time and I can’t remember which meals I ate and which ones I just thought about eating.
And even though this week marked the beginning of a new season of the church year, I barely noticed as we slipped into Lent. And even though I desperately longed to feel the ashes smeared and hear those words whispered “dust you are and to dust you shall return,” the pressing of time felt so near suffocating to me that I didn’t go anywhere.
Dust I am and to dust I shall return.
I have long confused busyness with importance, overcommitment with faithfulness, stillness with laziness. Having two children under the age of two has forced me to live slow. To take my time to stop and listen and rest. To give myself grace when the laundry piles and the cabinet doors grow sticky, and the bathroom mirror boasts those toothpaste pockmarks. I have simultaneously gloried in the simplicity and felt guilty for it. Exulted in the freedom to focus on my children, to soak in every single moment and complained about being bored. Laughed at sweet silly toddler phrases and cried about not being important.
These first few days of Lent have looked a lot more like striving and a lot less like trusting. A lot more frantic and a lot less peaceful. A lot more harried and a lot less hopeful. So far, Lent is doing exactly what it is supposed to do- reminding me that sin is so much more than just the things I do wrong– it’s the very basic ways my heart doesn’t work properly. How deep, how fundamental my sin, how desperately I need a Savior.
Dust I am and to dust I shall return.
In typical Lindsey fashion,
I’m thinking well in advance running around like a crazy person, wishing I would’ve remembered that Lent was coming a week ago. I’m not going to argue for participating in Lent in this post, because I’m firmly convinced and it wasn’t the words of any human who convinced me, it was simply in the doing that I realized how much I need it. And every year as I look forward to it, I remember when it seemed like an empty practice, and how it wasn’t until the first time I observed it that I realized how much missing out on Lent can mean missing out on Easter. But if you’re interested in it or you want to know more about it, Ann Voskamp has some helpful words.
I know Eliana is young. I know Phoebe is even younger. I know that they don’t yet grasp the meaning of the church calendar or the things that we’ll do during Lent, but I also think that it’s important that we observe this season as a family, so I’ve made an effort to find a few things that will help us talk about Lent and participate in it in our daily lives.
For the Grown Ups
The first is something that’s just for me. I’m going to be making an effort to follow the She Reads Truth Lent study. I got the first day half-way done while I was feeding Phoebe this morning, and I’m really excited about this. You can get access to it on the app for a small price, but if you follow it online or via email, it’s free. Just visit the link above to sign up.
David and I are also going to be going through Reliving the Passion by Walt Wangerin Jr. When we were engaged, we went through another of Walt Wangerin’s books with some dear friends who were mentoring us. We read yet another of his books aloud to one another after finding it at a thrift store on our honeymoon. We love that guy.
For Our Family
For our family, I found this resource, which is a reading plan that takes you through the Jesus Storybook Bible (up to the resurrection) during Lent/Easter. We have been trying to start (or end) our day with a reading, song, and prayer. I think Lent will be a good opportunity to build that habit.
I also found this calendar and this “Lenten Path” for children. My plan is to print out the path and then add those activities from the calendar to my copy, adjusting to make them applicable to our family. Each day we’ll color a square of the path and talk a bit about the activity for the day.
Also, I can’t believe I actually nearly forgot this one. Have you heard of The Brilliance? They’re brilliant! (I couldn’t resist.) Their Lent album is one of my favorites. Those songs made up a significant portion of my labor playlist. Because labor is kind of like Lent to me, but that’s possibly another post for another time. We’ll definitely have this one on repeat for the next 40 days.
Also, I was thiiiiis close to trying to hurry up and make an “Alleluia” banner, so we could bury the alleluia, but for a few days now, I’ve been trying to consider the meaning behind that tradition and decide if we’re going to do it, so we’ll see- maybe I’ll just try to have it done for the Easter season, and we’ll have until next year to consider it.
I would love to hear how you are planning to observe Lent with your family.