Book Review: Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent & Easter

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

Lent Resources

Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 1, which is just a week away!

I’ve been very much enjoying Word and Table, a podcast about liturgy, sacrament, and the great tradition of Christian worship, which also means that I’m continually wiping tears from my eyes while folding laundry, washing dishes, and making lunches for the little people in our home.  I recently listened to an episode about the Church Calendar, which was fantastic. Historically, Lent was the time that new believers would practice spiritual disciplines in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday.  They would also learn The Lord’s Prayer and the Creed during this time. A really beautiful thing I only recently learned is that this was something that the entire church would intentionally join them in.  This just makes me love Lent even more.  What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us, what it means to be the body of Christ.

Maybe, like it did for me, reading or remembering this reinvigorates your desire to observe Lent as a family.  Maybe it helps to guide you into the areas you specifically want to focus on.  Maybe you’ve never celebrated Lent before, but you’re going to go ahead and give it a try.  Friend, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how the Lord would have your family observe this season of penitence and preparation as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter.  And, because this is a part of my job now (AMAZING!), I have roped together some resources and some ideas and I’m passing them on to you, with a note of caution:

If you’re anything like me, this can get overwhelming.  There are a fair number of wonderful ideas and practices your family could take up during the Lenten season.  I encourage you (and myself) to be cautious.  Pray. Carefully decide what direction you will take with Lent and choose a few things that serve the purpose of continually directing your heart toward Jesus. These practices are no good to us if they don’t stir in us a grief about and hatred for our sin and raise our gaze to Christ.  So, whatever you choose to do, do it in joy and in freedom that the purpose of our fasting and our praying and our giving is to feel the ache of our brokenness, our deep need for a Savior and to lift our eyes to his beautiful face.
Books for Children
Peter’s First Easter– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter Arnold Ytreeide *We haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended and is a book you can read throughout Lent, finishing on EasterSunday. Probably best for ages 7/8 and up.


Books for Adults or Families with Older Children 
Reliving the Passion– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter– Various including Lewis, L’Engle, Nouwen, Chesterton, etc.
Living the Resurrection– Eugene Peterson (an excellent read during holy week!)
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent- Fr. Aaron Damiani *I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but we’ll be reading it this year. It is written by a priest in our diocese, and it’s been suggested to us by a few of our friends from his parish.  Includes a section on celebrating Lent with children.


Here’s a Spotify Playlist  of songs for Lent.


Family Worship: Lent is a good time to establish a family routine of prayer and scripture reading together or to continue in an already established routine.  Perhaps you would like to try to learn the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer together.  Consider using a resource to walk through the stations of the cross, following the revised common lectionary readings, or using a Lenten Liturgy
Commit to pray together each day, give special attention to repentance and to praying for the least of these.  Perhaps your family would like to choose a specific group of people to pray for during the season (see more about this in the “almsgiving” section).


Prayer Chain: Create a paper chain with 40 links– You can write names of people on them, things your family is praying for, or scripture passages. Each day take one of the links off during family devotional time and pray for the person or issue on the link.

Prayer Station: Create a prayer station in your home. This can be as simple as a chair with a purple cloth or piece of construction paper taped to it, or you can choose to include a small tray or basket filled with items such as: a children’s Bible, prayer book, small pad of paper and crayons or markers, pictures to color or printed Bible verse cards, brave parents of older children could include a candle (or a battery powered one!).  Ann Voskamp has a beautiful piece about how they use a station like this in their home.


Many families choose to give something up for Lent– this may be a meal once a week, treats, television, etc.  It is important that no matter what you choose to give up, you explain to your children the reasons we are doing this– to join Christ in his sufferings and to lift our eyes to him. It can help to think of and talk about Advent and Lent as the similar seasons that they are– we are fasting before we feast.  In Advent, we are consciously waiting for the coming Christ, and in Lent, we are actively paying attention to how sinful and empty we are without the risen Christ. Disciplines and practices that we take on during these seasons of waiting (Advent) and penitence (Lent) should always serve to direct our hearts towards Jesus.  

Burying the Alleluia: This hands-on activity can help children understand Lent as a time to mourn and repent of our sin.  Together make alleluia banners– these can be as simple as markers or watercolors on large pieces of paper or as complicated as fabric banners sewn together– the important thing is that this activity can be done together and can provide an opportunity to talk about alleluia– what it means and why we say it, and to discuss why we won’t be saying it in our services during Lent. Together, either on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday or on Shrove Tuesday, bury the Alleluia banner, either in a box outside or in a closet in your house, in your basement, etc.  Then on Easter morning, get it back out and display it in your house throughout the Easter season.

Sundays are Feast Days: Lent is 40 days plus Sundays. Sundays are always feast days.  Decide together whether you will continue your fast through the Sundays or whether you will choose to feast on the Sundays: if you choose to eat simple meals during Lent, for example, perhaps you would have pancake breakfast on Sundays.

The third spiritual discipline observed during Lent is almsgiving. It can be beneficial to focus on a specific group of people for the entire season, to learn about them and to commit to pray for them.  Some examples include: refugees, the unborn, children in poverty, people in the 10/40 window, orphans, foster children, etc. There are many tangible things that your family could do in addition to monetary donation during Lent to support ministries and organizations that are dedicated to these populations and bountiful resources online to help your family learn about them and pray for them.

Gift Jar: Throughout Lent, place money in a jar to give as a gift on Easter.  Together as a family decide where that money should go.  Some families choose to eat simple meals and put all the money saved in this jar, other families agree to put a portion of any money they receive as gifts in the jar– talk together about how you will give sacrificially during Lent.

40 bags/items in 40 daysGo through your home and collect things that you no longer need (one bag/item each day) and either donate them, or sell them and add the money to your giving jar.

I hope that these resources are helpful to you as you prepare to enter into this season with your family.  If you are interested in more resources, I will be adding ideas and suggestions to this Lent Pinterest Page throughout the rest of the week, so please check that out if you are looking for more ideas.

Maybe this is old news to you, or you have practices your family has treasured practices for celebrating Lent.  I’d love to hear about them!

holy week: a reflection

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. wpid-img_20150113_112036.jpg

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?

wounded deep for our transgressions

bruised for our iniquities

you brought us peace

and bought our healing 

now eternally we sing

hosanna in the highest.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

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.

Third Sunday of Lent

Gracious Father, we give You praise
And thanks for this Holy Communion
The body and blood
Of Your beloved Son

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.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for mercy,

for grace.

Abba Father, we bless Your name
And take part in this Holy Communion
Make us all one
To love like Your Son

Yes, Lord.

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.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new


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.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

“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.

First Sunday of Lent

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.

how we’re observing lent.

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.