The approach of Lent is everywhere, hints in the flora outside; Lenten roses ready to unfold their majestic petals, the pussy willow whips full of emerging puffs, peeking out under brown husks. The faithful are eating meat with a certain urgency, and the pre-Lenten Sundays tick by, marking the approach to the “bright sadness”.
It reminds me of my rowing days. In the weeks preceding a regatta I’d be an absolute bundle of nerves, all that tension settling in my stomach in a hard, twisty knot. As a catechumen, I feel the same way as Lent approaches. Will I make it? Can I fast well, pray more, give more, attend more services, and grow spiritually…and not lose my ever-loving mind? My thoughts are full of logistics and bean recipes and, honestly, a bit of panic. It’s not just my journey, but my whole family’s; how can I help my kids connect to the beautiful, difficult season of Lent? How can I make sure we don’t miss it?
Last year we huddled around our aging laptop and listened to “Tending the Garden of Our Hearts”, a Lenten podcast on Ancient Faith Radio by Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger. It was such an unmitigated blessing to have a spiritual meditation at the end of each day that wove in the strands we’d otherwise miss in our fatigue and busyness. Stories of the saints mingled with the history behind the services we were attending, helping to anchor what we were seeing in a deeper understanding. We were all challenged by the holy lives we read about. This was a catalyst for great conversations with our toddlers, all the way up to our teenagers.
I’m thrilled that the podcast has been adapted into a book, and as I read through it again this month, I’m blessed anew by the thoughtful meditations that will again lead my family through Lent, one living room gathering at a time. Being a visual person, I decided to make a calendar of sorts to further anchor the stories we read and the lessons we learned in our hearts. I’ve included it here for your use as well, if it would be helpful for you!
The book is available on ancientfaith.com. I pray you enjoy it as much as we do!
Tending the Garden of Our Hearts- Lenten Heart Calendar
- 12×12 piece of scrapbook paper for heart
- thin ribbon, baker’s twine, or yarn
- small safety pin
- printable ornaments: Page 1, and Page 2
- color pencils
- hole punch
Fold the piece of scrapbook paper in half, draw half of a heart and cut out. While still folded, punch 25 holes along the edge. Unfold and press flat.
Each day, after the meditation, color in the ornament of the day. The littlest children may enjoy the word ornaments where they can color quite freely, while the older ones may prefer the more intricate illustrations. Cut out the ornament.
Cut a length of your string or thin ribbon that is roughly two times as long as the perimeter of your heart. Tie one end to the first hole, and the other to a small safety pin for a “needle”.
Go up from underneath, looping each ornament into place each day, allowing the string to hang for the next addition.
May your Lent be blessed!