Each year I enter Lent with high expectations. This will be the year that we have family prayers every evening…..that we attend every single Presanctified Liturgy…..that we read spiritual books together…..that we do a family service project.
And, each year, I run out of steam. Life becomes overwhelming. Someone gets sick (often me!). Complications arise. And, I beat myself up for not meeting my expectations.
Can you relate?
So, this year I decided to take a moment to think about what is actually working well this Lent. What are we doing well? What practical items have helped?
I share these with you for a couple of reasons:
-Hopefully it will encourage you to get a real-life peek into someone else’s successes and failures.
-Perhaps someone might find a simple idea that would work for their family, too.
So, here are six things that are working for our family this Lent.
1. Ice Cream on Forgiveness Sunday
After Forgiveness Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday (Cheesefare), our family went out for ice cream at a cute little ice cream shop near our church. The kids had a blast getting to watch the worker make homemade waffle cones. (She even let the kids try a hot one for free!)
It was such a simple thing, but it helped to make the day special. It marked the ending of one period in the life of the Church and provided an opportunity to talk about what was coming next.
2. Clean Monday Family Outing
For the past two years, we have gone on an outing on Clean Monday. This has just happened to work out with our school calendar. (Last year Clean Monday fell on President’s Day, and this year it was the first day of our Spring Break.) I’m not sure if we will be able to keep it up if our calendars change, but it has been nice.
We began the morning by going to church. Then, we set out for a beautiful beach about an hour away. The kids built sand castles, wrote their names in the sand, and played tag with the waves. Because we live in Boston, it was obviously too cold to go swimming, but it also meant that we had the beach almost to ourselves.
We ended the day with tea in a coffee shop. So lovely! It was a simple way to mark the beginning of Lent.
3. Pascha Passports
My kids are still loving their Pascha Passports and look forward to adding a stamp for each service they attend. Somehow that simple act makes it easier for them to attend multiple services a week.
4. Lunchables on Presanctified Days
Here’s a super practical and super honest one. We have made it to each Presanctified Liturgy so far this year, and I will give a lot of the credit to Lunchables. Yup. Lunchables.
The kids and I get home from school around 4:30. We need to get in the car again before 5 so that we can drive up to our church for the liturgy. By the time that church is over and we drive back home, it is WAY past dinner time. And, as we know, hungry kids are crabby kids.
This year we decided to give the kids a special snack they could eat in the car on the way to church. I found Lunchables on sale for $1 each at the beginning of Lent. Since my kids never have Lunchables any other time, it is a huge treat! (We are ok with our kids eating cheese and the occasional meat during the Fast. If your kids are older or fast more strictly, then this might not work.)
The kids now look forward to the drive up and enjoy eating their “treat” while we listen to “Harry Potter” together on audiobook.
5. Prayer of St. Ephraim at Night
One of the easiest ways to teach kids the penitential nature of Lent is to introduce them to the Prayer of St. Ephraim. We end our evening prayers each night with this prayer. The kids call it “the bowing prayer” because of the prostrations.
The repetition and the whole body movement help them to learn the prayer quickly. Our five-year-old especially feels proud of himself for being able to participate.
6. Simple Meals from the Pantry
Finally, we have been eating SUPER simple meals this Lent. I stocked up on several boxes of GOYA beans and rice as well as some cornbread mixes. This makes for a quick and healthy meal (when you add a salad or fruit) that can come together in less than half an hour without much hands-on time.
I also made some big batches of soup, crockpot refried beans, and lentil tacos during the first week of Lent (when I was on Spring Break). I put these up in the freezer, and now I can easily grab a bag out to thaw while I’m at work. Dinner can come together really quickly in the evening.
What is working for your family this Lent?