I struggled with whether or not to write this post. I realize and appreciate that many of you are not Catholic or even religious at all. Please know that no matter who you are, you are welcome here… always! After running through a million scenarios in my head, my heart knew what to do – write it. Not only is the plan I am going to show you helpful for those Catholics looking for meaning in the Lenten season, it can also be useful for those wanting to grow more in their own faith, no matter what it is. While I am catering to a specific audience, the skills I want to highlight are truly universal and can be applied to many types of situation.
So before you hit “close” on your browser, I ask that you open your minds and hearts to the message.
I grew up in a half Catholic/half Lutheran hybrid family – my mom was Catholic and my dad was Lutheran. This was even considered a little taboo back in the day! For these types of families, it was customary that the mother raised the children in her own faith. Therefore I have always attended Catholic mass, took religious education classes and completed the blessed sacraments within the Catholic community: baptism, communion, confirmation, reconciliation, & marriage. As I have grown and had my own family, I have continued to commit myself to the Catholic faith and feel like it is the right fit for me.
The Lackadaisical Catholic
When it comes to Lent I am typically not the “all chips in” type of girl. Sure I have given up easy stuff like chewing gum or not swearing for the 40 days and I abstain from meat on Friday’s, but other than those few things…. my Lenten journey hardly pushes beyond my comfort zone. And, even more disappointing, is that I don’t take the time for prayer and reflection during this special season. I can blame my lukewarm approach on having three kids, a busy schedule or even justify it by reminding myself that I go to mass every Sunday. While these may have been my typical standbys in the past, I am no longer allowing myself to wiggle out of something that not only honors the Lord but also offers me the unique opportunity to grow in my relationship with Him. Houston, we have a problem. I think this Catholic has been missing the meaning of Lent.
Can You Organize Your Way to a More Meaningful Lent?
This year, I knew I wanted more out of my Lenten journey. Since I love to organize, I started to question whether I could organize my way to a more meaningful Lent. Could I create a concrete action plan that worked? What does a “more meaningful Lenten season” look like? How do I get there? After some serious consideration and many hours spent staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, I crafted my own plan for a more spiritual Lent.
My Lenten Plan
1. Acknowledging What I Want to Change
First I needed to recognize what I wanted to change during Lent. As Catholics, we typically give up something for 40 days. It is usually some type of vice so many would give up sweets or tv or something along those lines. In the past, I have rarely chosen something and, when I do, I don’t typically stick to the plan. I wanted to change this. I also wanted to make more time for prayer and reflection. Lastly, I wanted to share the Lenten season in my own home. I needed some kind of way I could get my kids interested and excited about Lent!
I had 3 specific areas I wanted to work on: give up something difficult for Lent (and stick to it!), add more daily prayer and reflection, and engage my kids in the season.
2. Creating an Action Plan for Change
Next I needed to decide how I wanted to tackle each of the three areas. One great way to brainstorm ideas is by seeking out those who are already successful. Asking friends and family, searching the web, taking in resources from your parish are all good places to start. I also took time to write down some ideas that popped into my head. The key here is stay both practical and specific. Leave no room for squeaking yourself out of your commitments. In other words, keep your action plan BLACK & WHITE!
Action Plan for Giving Up Something for 40 Days – It was very difficult to decide on this. My son, Lucas, and I were talking about what we’d give up for Lent in the car one day. He was asking about how people choose. I explained how people typically selected something that is really hard for them to do. It can’t be too easy. He suggested I give up coffee. That smart boy knows I love it and drink it every day. At first, I wanted to say “no” and think of something else. But the fact that I wanted to dismiss it was nudging at my heart and telling me that it was the exact direction I needed to take. I just needed a 7-yr old to answer this question for me. I would give up coffee for the 40 days of Lent.
Action Plan for more Prayer and Reflection – Remember when I said you needed a black & white goal? Just saying to myself “pray more” wasn’t going to cut it. That is so ambiguous. I am sure I would start out strong and then fizzle out soon after. I needed to define what this desire meant and how I could measure success. So I took out my iPhone’s timer and started the stopwatch. I timed from start to finish how long it took to brew a pot of coffee (remember, I would be giving that up). From the time I started filling water into the carafe until the buzzer went off was exactly 9 minutes and 54 seconds. I would pray that amount daily. I would also need to define when I would do this. As a self-employed Mom Boss and wife, I don’t have a lot of time. When I would typically brew my coffee – somewhere between 5:30 – 6 am – is when I would do my 9 min. 54 sec. of prayer.
Engage my Children in the Lenten season – I knew I wanted to get my kids more involved in Lent and I wanted it to be meaningful – a combination of fun, reflection and a good message while also acknowledging the reverence we should observe throughout the season. My sister, Emily, just happened to email me a Lent idea for kids that involved jelly beans and jars. Basically each jelly bean color represented a specific activity and the children can earn jelly beans throughout the day. The jelly beans can’t be eaten though until Easter. I knew this was the right solution for me because: it was fun yet had a good message, it was easy to do, and it could be adjusted to fit my varying children’s ages and skill levels. I would need to buy jelly beans, round up some jars and print out the directions. You can read more about the jelly bean Lent activity I am using by clicking here.
3. Putting the Action Plan in Motion
The last step which I still need to complete is to actually put my plan in motion. This often takes some organization in and of itself. For example, I need to choose a start date. For me, it’s Ash Wednesday. My end date is Easter. I also need to get my supplies ready so I have no reason not to start. I am going to find a few prayers I would like to recite and make sure I have them on hand. I also want to purchase some fancy teas to replace the coffee and even start tracking my water intake. I also need to get the jelly beans, jars and printables for the kid’s project. I have designated specific times for me to do these things. This post is my written action plan. When I begin to waiver or lose stamina, I will reread this post. I will also lean on others for support (I am surrounded by some wonderfully encouraging Catholic women!) And I will remind myself that this is only 40 days. I have nothing to lose but everything to gain. I will keep my eye on the prize – a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Lessons You Can Apply in Your Own Life
My problem was unique: I wanted to create a more meaningful Lenten journey. But each of us have our own problem we want to tackle. Here are some of the lessons I used that you can apply to your own life:
Acknowledge your problem and why you want to change it
Brainstorm 3-4 specific actions you can take to address the problem
Seek out other people that have achieved success – find out their secrets!
Share your plan with someone else – ask them to keep you accountable
Write down why you want to change – reference that anytime you are close to giving up
Clearly define the benefits you will enjoy if you follow through on your goals
For the first time in a long time, I am very excited about the Lenten season. I can’t wait to give up coffee (yes, I just said that). I can’t wait to enter into daily reflection and prayer. And I can’t wait to teach my children more about our faith. May the Lord bless you and keep you during this special time.