This was the first year that our family observed Lent. It was a good exercise for us, and I feel like I learned a lot. I learned a lot about sacrifice, giving, and grace. I probably went a little overboard with my fasting. I just really wanted to make it a sacred time with the Lord. I feel like I accomplished that, but not always in the ways I expected.
I challenged each member of our family to participate by fasting from something in their lives during the 40 day period. In case you don't know, Lenten fasts actually last over 40 days. It is suggested that Sundays be a Feasting Day where you do not fast. We chose not to do that and just started a few days later because I was in Hawaii when Lent officially began. We fasted for 40 straight days. Next year, I will do it differently. We will definitely start on Ash Wednesday and will use Sundays as "feasting days" and allow ourselves the freedom to break the fast on those days if we choose. I feel like that would have been beneficial for our whole family.
I allowed each member to choose a different thing to fast. Here are the things that were chosen by my kids: spending, sodas, Leapster video games, Innotab video games, and sweets.
I also read "40 Days in His Presence" by Sarah Young each day with the kids on the way to school.
As a family we did some "almsgiving" (making voluntary contributions to aid the poor). My favorite thing we did in this area was let the kids buy toys to send to Africa. They each picked 5 items to send.
I chose to fast from Facebook and sodas. I attempted a spending fast, but was not very successful at that. I did spend less than I would have, but would not call it a true spending fast. We had several kid expenses that came up during the month. I also used this time to focus on some Spring Cleaning in our house trying to choose a different project from this list throughout the 40 days. I did about half of these items, and I added some things that I felt needed to be done that weren't on the list. Some of the things on the list didn't apply to my situation.
During the fast, I also took 5 week days to eat only beans and cornbread for lunch each day. I did this to identify with the poor around the world whose diets are very different and limited compared to ours. This related to one of the books I read. I also did 4 days of juicing with Rick that ended on Easter.
These are the books and studies that I focused on during this time
2. Bible - I have been reading through the New Testament so I continued along with that spending most of my time in Acts and Romans during Lent.
3. "Made To Crave" by Lysa Terkeurst - As you can see, I have both the book and the devotional. These are great in examining the place that food has in our lives. They really challenge me.
4. "A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor" by Chris Seay - This book offers 40 days of devotionals and challenges the reader to eat only the foods that someone in an impoverished country would have access to for 40 days. That is why I did the 5 days of beans and cornbread. I know it is not nearly the sacrifice that he challenges, but it did bring perspective for me. Each day also has a country to pray for and gives a picture of a child who lives in that country. There are also really short videos online to go with each day. It was a great addition to my Lenten readings.
5. "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker - I really loved this book. It reminded me a lot of how God "interrupted" our lives 7 years ago with the burden for Africa. It also really ministered to me in the area of all the changes we have experienced over the last 2 1/2 years. I could really relate to it, and it was so easy to read.
6. "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker - I resisted reading this book for a long time. I didn't want to be challenged by it. I finally gave in. It was really good and made me laugh out loud constantly. The basic idea is that Jen, took seven months to narrow down the choices in her life to fight against the excess that we live with as Americans. One month she only wore 7 items of clothing all month long, another month, she only ate 7 different foods all month, etc. I haven't taken on these challenges, but would consider doing it with a group of people.
All of this to say, the biggest lesson I learned during Lent was that of Grace. I was not perfect in my execution of my fasting/readings/giving. For the first time in my life I felt like God was saying to me, "It is not about perfection. It is about seeking me." Did I do it perfectly? "NO!" Did I seek Him desperately? "YES!" I sought after Him more than I would have without a plan. I spent time every day in at least one of those books. Every time I wanted a soda or Facebook, I tried really hard to offer it as a sacrifice to God. After giving those 2 things up for 40 days, they don't nearly have the appeal to me that they once did.
I am glad I did it. I will do it again. I pray that I can take the grace that I felt in this exercise and apply it to other areas of my life. Perfectionism is a lie of the enemy that I listen to on a regular basis. I want to fight against that so desperately. If that means failing a bit in my goals in order to see that the world doesn't end and that God still loves me, then I will welcome that failure. I need to offer grace to my kids more as well. This was a huge lesson of Lent that I never even imagined I would experience.