Ash Wednesday

Lent Without A Church

Ash WednesdayLent begins today, and I struggled so much with how to approach these 40 days that I pretended it wasn’t happening until ashy foreheads appeared.

Back in November, my family started attending a church again, but it’s going through changes, which already make me feel like the church is not a good fit even with my newfound attitude on not finding the perfect one. I wonder if we should just go back to our old church here in Richmond because it had enough things we loved. I’m equally tempted to drive to our favorite church in Charlottesville (53 minutes isn’t that bad — haha {sigh}).

In the meantime, I’ve continued with some home-churching, but it just shows me how much I want my kids — all of us — to have a fellowship and others to offer their strength and experiences on God. I’m anxious about being the only one in charge of my children’s understanding of Christianity and Jesus, and with Lent as such an open and obvious daily ritual with God, I mostly want to run away.

But I love the idea of Lent. A daily practice, which falls outside of our comfort zone but pushes us closer to what we believe and who we want to be. Yes, it is about mirroring a sacrifice but also the crucifixion and resurrection is Jesus’ big moment — without that, no messiah. So Lent is also about reaching towards who we are supposed to be in this world, little by little, whether it is in letting go of worldly distractions like Facebook or embracing a healthier attitude towards food.

I began searching for Lenten practices and found one I liked: 40 bags in 40 days Declutter Challenge. I love the idea of simplifying my life to make more room for what’s important: God, family, community, the Earth. I’m supposed to take one bag each day into a room and fill it with what we don’t need. What a terrifying relief to let go of the material things in my life.

After I told Scott, he said with a raised eyebrow: Remember the last time you wanted to simplify your life?
Me: Yes, and it lasted at least as long as Lent is thankyouverymuch.

While I can get the children’s help on some declutter days, I’m not sure the practice is a good DAILY choice for them. Ooh let’s get rid of the remote control! The tax forms! Mom’s snow boots! I thought the kids and I could do a reading/discussion per day to grow closer to God. If you have any suggestions for a daily Lenten study for kids in the 5-to-8 year range, I’d appreciate it. Google has not turned up much except an alms practice: coins in a cross where I thought the kids could earn one through a Lenten practice to put in the offering box. But what I really need is a kid-friendly, Lenten, probably Biblical, reading guide. Help!

Of course, I would still love a church on Sundays to guide us along the way. Plus, who doesn’t love church on Easter?

Do you have any Lenten practice for yourself or your family? Oh, and can I steal it while you pray for my sins?

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

7 thoughts to “Lent Without A Church”

  1. While I don’t attend a church, I’m trying to keep my faith and practice a Lenten promise to myself and to God. Instead of giving up some type of food or beverage, I think it’s more important to try to change something within myself. I’ve given up complaining about things at my job. One of my co-workers and I have teamed up with our respective Lenten promises and we’ve got a Lent Jar. We put money into it every time we misstep from our Lenten sacrifices. I’m really excited about it and hope that it can foster a more positive soul within myself.

  2. I’ve used “What is Lent?”; “What We Do in Lent”; and “The Lenten Tree” with kids, and they seemed to enjoy it. They are all from Cokesbury. I hope you can find something and find a church. I really like that you’re trying to help your kids (and yourself) prepare to live into what God has made you to be! Prayers for you all!

  3. At my church (Cathedral Church of St. Mark, UT) we have a great Sunday School director and she has a whole Lenten series for families. I can mail you some of that info if you will email me your snail mail address.

  4. You may like New Life United Methodist Church. It’s in Chesterfield, near Powhatan, off 288, just South of the river.

  5. I’m not sure which specific Christian religion you practice, but St. Michaels on Springfield (off Gaskins) has children’s Lenten practice booklets that are bible based. It’s a Catholic Church, but one of the most laid back Catholic Churches I’ve ever been to… Very welcoming.

    If you don’t want to venture out there, I can pick one up on Sunday if they are still out (just email me privately a mailing address)

    Good luck!

  6. Alex,
    Very sincere write up. Pursuit of spiritual satisfaction can be a daunting task, but if you stay faithful in your search you will eventually find what you’re looking for, what makes sense to you. But the worst thing is when people just give up and settle for “good enough”. If it’s not what you want, then keep moving forward. God is certainly big enough to provide whatever you need. Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it.

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