My very favorite season of the liturgical year is almost here! Lent.
I love everything about it. The liturgies, the penance, the call to conversion, the painful walking of the Via Crucis towards Calvary.
So hard, and so necessary for our purification. It’s like spiritual cod liver oil — it burns going down but it’s so good for what ails us.
Over the years, I’ve tried giving up and taking up a myriad of things, and I usually struggle (and fail) to keep my resolutions for the whole 40 days. Next year, I’ll really nail it, I always tell myself.
Right now I’m participating in the Ninevah 90 challenge, which runs from February to May. So I’m already at my personal max for penance and mortification (which isn’t that much, ha!). Giving up or taking on more will only lead me to bottom-out in disillusionment mid-Lent. (At which time I will eat a Costco-sized bag of peanut M&Ms and drink all the coffee. 😉 )
This Lent, I’m looking for something simple and meaningful, that still packs a bit of a punch to my sinful nature.
I was praying about it a few nights ago, and these words came to my mind: practice presence.
Being present. It’s something I’m truly dreadful at.
Accepting the moment, with all its annoyances or sufferings. Not multi-tasking my way through the day, or running from my little crosses.
Listening, really listening, to the chatter of my children. Pausing to look into their eyes and take delight in who they are. Making time, deliberate and unhurried time, for enjoying them throughout the day.
Confession time: I’m very embarrassed to admit that being present is pretty far from my normal mode of operation these days. I’m usually in a get-it-done-keep-it-moving mindset.
Too often, I fall into a please-don’t-bother-me-too-much-let-me-check-things-off-my-grownup-to do-list-becuase-that’s-more-fun way of dealing with my kids.
The worst thing is that I know this hurts my relationship with them. I know this can’t be the way the Lord intended me to parent when He gave me my four beautiful children. And I know I need to make a change.
What is to be done?
Well, sometimes God is subtle, and sometimes He smacks me with a 2×4.
So He put this little acronym in my heart: L.E.N.T.: Listen. Encourage. Notice. Teach.
It’s simple, it’s easy to remember, and yet — for me — it’s very difficult to practice. But I know this is what God wants from me this Lent.
I’ll use it as a daily examination of conscience, and a springboard toward building deeper relationships with my children.
LISTEN. Do I put down my phone when my children speak to me? Or do I scroll social media and only half-heartedly acknowledge them? Do I make time to truly hear what my children are saying — not just their words, but what their actions say as well? What makes them happy? What are their hearts longing for? When they tell me their stories, how can I make them feel like they are the most important person in the world at that moment?
ENCOURAGE. Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile.” How often could I give my kids a little extra boost of encouragement just by offering them a smile? For every one time I correct them, do I praise or encourage them several-fold? Do I pause to extend my open arms to them throughout the day, encouraging them to come to me for a hug? Or do I just rush through our activities without connecting with them?
NOTICE. I am great at noticing when my children miss the mark. I’m quick to correct, discipline, and instruct. But how often do I look for and focus on the good that they do? How would the tone of our day change if I spent more time simply noticing their many wonderful habits and characteristics?
St. Therese really nailed it: “I understand now that charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, and in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice.”
TEACH…tenderness. This one can really be replaced with any virtue, but I feel like tenderness is a virtue I am really lacking these days.
Do I consistently show tenderness to my children, even in the midst of the daily rush to get things done? Do I slow down often enough to gently embrace them, even when they’re behaving their worst? Do my children feel loved by me — really and truly loved by me? When I say to them “I love you,” do they hear the tenderness in my voice? How can I foster a home where tenderness and gentleness and kindness are a daily way of life?
Oh friends, as you can see, I have a lot to work on this Lent! But I’m hopeful that if I open myself to God’s saving grace, He can work a little miracle in my tired mama heart.
I pray that whatever God leads you to practice, give up, or take up this Lent, that you will embrace it and live the next 40 days fruitfully!
Would this acronym and examination of conscience help you, too?
If so, come join me on Instagram and/or Facebook — starting Ash Wednesday, I’ll be posting a photo every day of my #L.E.N.T. progress. I need the accountability! 🙂 I’d love for us to do it together!