lent: pilgrimage of the soul

Lent is an amazing time of renewal, self-discipline, inner work, fasting, self-education. Christians contemplate the sufferings and temptations of Jesus Christ as he fasted forty days in the wilderness, but nearly every culture and religion in the world has some kind of renewal period of fasting, or eating cleansing foods that celebrates spring.

We lead this time period with thought for what we are modeling for our children, and what daily vital practices we can show our children.  If you feel like the past few years haven’t been a great time for your family, or if you feel like 2019 is off to a rocky start, I think Lent can be a great time to get things back together for your family and yourself and really commit to it for forty days (in the Western Church this begins next Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday, and leading until Easter – the forty days excludes the six Sundays leading up to Lent).

Ideas for Lenten Renewal Practices that include children:

  • Eating cleansing foods; stricter fasting could or could not include children dependent upon your religious or spiritual tradition
  • Spending a few minutes each day at the same time silently in nature – maybe at sunrise or sunset
  • Having an unlit candle on the dining room candle that doesn’t get lit until Easter (some families use a small bowl of dirt that changes into a little Lenten Garden during Holy Week)
  • Having budding branches as a centerpiece on your nature table or table but replacing them before they flower (they can flower in a different part of the house)
  • Having a Lenten calendar of a caterpillar counting down the days to Easter, when the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.
  • If you are not already screen-free with your children, consider going screen-free during Lent.

Ideas for Lenten Practices for Yourself:

  • Find a spiritual guide in person – this is a time of repentance, fasting, confession
  • Choose fasting and what that means to you in conjunction with speaking with your spiritual advisor
  • Start taking care of yourself – exercising, preparing your food for the week ahead of time so you can eat healthy
  • Use Lent to practice setting boundaries.  I talk to more and more people who want to set better boundaries to improve their health and family life and realize the way they are living and parenting aren’t leading to healthy for themselves or their family members.

If you want to learn more about Lent or the idea of Lenten practices, please see these back posts:

With Children:  

What I Want My Children to Learn During Lent

Quiet Lent

Lent in the Waldorf Home

Lenten Ideas With Children

Favorite Books For Lent

For Adults:

Re-Commiting To Our Children

A Lenten Rule of Life

On Instagram @theparentingpassageway, I posted some of the Lenten resources I will be using myself, including these:

Fasting As A Family

Reconciliation (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Lenten Book Choice)

Less Plastic For Lent from Green Anglicans

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Lenten Promise: Re-Committing To Our Children

During this Lenten Season, let’s remember and re-commit to doing well by our children. Depending upon the age of our children and the season of life we are in, it can be easy to grow weary. This particular time of year is a call to renewal and regrowth, and may this be the season to pull things in once again and move forward.

If we acknowledge the individual differences our children hold in the view that all children have gifts and marvels to share with the world, this journey becomes easier. Sometimes it can be hard to hold on to that when a child is struggling socially or through medical or learning challenges or just through a tough patch in development, but the gifts are there are surely as the sun shines. Look for those gifts, and repeat those gifts to yourself.

Let us step back a bit. Our children are capable and trustworthy. We need to trust that our children will makes mistakes, and hopefully the mistakes will be fixable and not catastrophic. However, let us also  not become complacent and uncaring. Studies have shown that children who have uninvolved parents have the worst outcomes of any parenting style.  Let us also acknowledge that whilst every child is different, there are developmental milestones that all human beings go through in aging.  If we can understand childhood development in a broader sense, it helps us hang on and see that many things are shared in the childhood journey.

Let’s re-commit to  kindness in our homes.  This back post from 2009 outlines several steps for kindness in the home, beginning with ourselves.  We cannot nurture our families if we are at rock bottom.  Most of us do not have extended family to lean on with our children, and we need to learn how to craft routines that include our own self-care and nurturing.  I can honestly say I am only starting to get this now, fifteen and a half years into parenting, but this is a crucial strategy for nurturing the family!

And finally, let’s re-commit to love being the ultimate goal and method of our homeschooling.  It can be difficult to feel loving in the midst of trying to help a child write a paper, tackle a hard subject, deal with a child who is not working up to his or her full potential or to not get lost in trying to rush through homeschooling in order to deal with all the things life is throwing our way.  Love brings with it an enveloping quiet and warmth, and a soothing quality that can help even the most frazzled of homeschooling situations if only we slow down to remember.  Love causes our words to become as pearls.

Here is to a season of growth, renewal, and love.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Ideas for Easter Baskets

I know many parents who are starting to gather together some small treats for Easter baskets.  I wanted to share with you some ideas I have collected over the years for baskets, including ideas for older children.

First of all, if you are looking for organic, fair trade or allergen free candy, you can try some of the suggestions listed here: here

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to those marshmallow Peeps, try this recipe

Ideas for baskets:

  • Bubbles/cool bubble wands
  • Small balls with different textures
  • Seed packets/gardening tools
  • Jump ropes
  • Pool or sandbox toys
  • Wooden animals or gasp, plastic animals if they are going to go live in the sandbox or a pond of water
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Kites (older children love these as well!)
  • Pinwheels
  • Supplies to build a fairy house
  • Accessories for bicycles  like a bell for the bike or a bike basket
  • Pool goggles, swim shoes, snorkles (older children as well!)
  • Play silks
  • Clothespins and braided yarn ropes –they can be so many things!
  • Stuffed animals – homemade felt or knitted animals – or Waldorf dolls
  • Clothing for dolls, yarn “leashes” for stuffed dogs
  • Playmats that roll up for small animals, figures or tiny cars.  Many of the playmats are easy to sew.

For older children:

  • Books
  • Craft kits
  • Paper dolls to cut out
  • Small model sets that will fit in basket
  • Woodworking or leather working tools
  • Yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks or supplies for cross stitching
  • For older teen sewers, the book “Sew Fab” might be nice.  (My teen has been eyeing it.  It is geared towards teen girl clothing). 
  • Card games
  • Watches
  • Art supplies
  • Gift cards (sorry, but older teens love gift cards)

For religious items, you could think about icons (there are even small laminated print icons), Bibles or other religious books, necklaces or bracelets with crosses.

What are your favorite things to put in an Easter basket?  Please leave the age of your children with your item in the comment box! 

Blessings,
Carrie

Finding Peace in Lent

Several years ago I heard the bishop of Massachusetts, M. Thomas Shaw, speak at the cathedral in Boston of his experience of being in the Holy Land for Lent that year.  There it is summertime during the weeks before Easter, with the desert in full bloom, the trees laden with olives and figs, the hazy smell of ripe fruit and sound of buzzing insects filling the air.  As he moved through the days of prayer and reflection before Easter in the midst of such abundance and beauty he came to understand Lent as a time of being refreshed by a loving God instead of a time of arduous effort to improve.”  – page 52 from “Welcome to the Church Year:  An Introduction to the Seasons of the Episcopal Church” by Vicki K. Black

I think of Lent as both a time to be restored and renewed, and also a time of taking stock.  It is a time to strengthen the spiritual life.  It is a spiritual “check-in” and can be a time of healing in the most profound of ways.  It is time for a re-awakening of our spiritual life,  and for Christians this leads up to the renewal of our own baptismal vows on Easter as catechumens are baptized into Christianity.

These weeks of Lent are simpler, quieter and more harmonious than other weeks of the year if we let them be.   Continue reading

Celebrating Lent and Holy Week With Children

 

Holy Week is upon us!  I wanted to share a few ideas with you all about celebrating Lent and Holy Week.  Lent is such a beautiful time.  I love what Orthodox Christian priest Anthony Coniaris writes in his book, “ Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home”:

It is significant that Lent happens to coincide with Spring in the northern climes.  I think there is a wonderful lesson for us in this happy coincidence.  Lent should be for all of us a period of placing ourselves in the position where the best things can happen for us.  That position for Orthodox Christians is the presence of Christ, where the Sun of His love and power can shine into our arid souls to bring about a real awakening, a real springtime of the soul.

 

Here are some brief suggestions for celebrating Lent and Holy Week: Continue reading

Favorite Books For Lent

We often walk through Advent with our favorite Saints, and I have suggested a variety of Celtic Saints to provide adult inspiration during Lent.  I try very hard to remember that there are fifty days of Eastertide coming, and to try not to rush into Easter when there are so many wonderful things about the anticipation and reflection that occurs during Lent.

There are some wonderful books for Lent.  Here are a few of our family’s favorites:

I love this book about Saint Kevin of Ireland and the blackbird’s nest.  It tells the story of how Saint Kevin came to gain self-discipline by having to hold a blackbird’s nest for the forty days of Lent.  This story would be especially wonderful for the second grader in your house. Continue reading

Homemaking In Lent: Inspirations From St. David

Do ye the little things in life.”

I love this day in the year!  It is the Feast Day of  St. David,  patron Saint of Wales.  Wonderful, wonderful stories abound about St. David.  He was known for his austere monastic lifestyle where he and his monks would hook themselves up to plows instead of using oxen and plough the fields themselves.  They ate no meat, nor ale, but appeared to have endless energy for hard labor and for prayer.

However, the main thing St. David was noted for was for his loving kindness, for his gentle words, for his respect for others, the way he observed others and did small things to help build up life in Christ for others.

I often think of St. David. Homemaking, after all, is a labor of small things.  Sometimes it is a labor of small things done time and time again.  Continue reading