Lent: Week One Update

This is a basic breakdown of how we are living during Lent:

1. At Breakfast we are avoiding Pop-Tarts for the kids and bagels with cream cheese for me. Instead we are all eating toast, cereal, and/or fruit. Dan and I still drink coffee but we’re skipping the flavored creamer and using milk and sweetener instead.

2. At Lunch we’re adopting an “eat what is offered to you” mentality. The kids eat at school. Dan and I are trying to eat sandwiches at home unless we have lunch meetings. For meetings we are trying to choose salads or simple meat and vegetable combos in one plate only portions.

3. For Snacks we have oranges and bananas and applesauce for the kids. They also take cheese sticks to school.

4. For Supper we’re rotating basically three meal options: rice and beans (which we made for the first time on our own), spaghetti with sauce, and sandwiches or salad.

So far this is working great. We feel the tension of wanting more options but still feel satisfied. My greatest struggle was giving up Diet Coke. I really thought I was going to die on Day 2. Since then, though, I’ve thought it sounded good but I haven’t craved it like I was those first two days. I’m actually enjoying water. I also drink juice with some meals.

Our first Feast Day was on Sunday. It was a special time. The girls were out of town with Mom – see here – so just Dan and I and Jesse went out to eat together. We enjoyed the buffet (limit of one dinner plate and one dessert plate) and Dan lead us in a time of celebrating each other and offering prayer. That night was a party with Serenity – see here – so I was truly feasting all day! I think I’ll stay off Diet Coke even on my feast day, though; the book we’re reading recommends you avoid trigger foods even on your feast day.

Each night at supper we read the passage in A Place at the Table about a child in another part of the world. Then I read the prayer for that day and one of the kids follows with a prayer for the child we learned about. Not surprisingly, Ada, our 8 year old, is most involved, but the other kids are enjoying it as well. The first night I served only salad and Macy cried. At first I thought to myself that this was going to be a long forty days, but then I put on my tough face and told her that there are many children in the world who cry about their food but for very different reasons. Then I told the other kids not to baby her. (You can’t imagine how she’s wrapped them all around her finger.) It didn’t take long for her to join in and eat!

Tonight I made a banana cake from the browning fruit on our counter and I felt like a pioneer or something! We each ate our thick slices with so much appreciation! It was a big change from the usual way we scarf down Little Debbie snack cakes on our way out the door or while we watch something on Netflix. The tone we were trying to establish with this Lenten fast, one of gratitude and compassion, has certainly happened this week. I’m grateful.

Three Things I Learned About Family from Hollywood Writers

In some circles, Hollywood is blamed for the demise of the American family. And it might be true. I’ve certainly blown a gasket or two watching a character on tv make terrible, uninformed choices that wreck their imaginary life. (Of course, now that I think about it, I’ve also been doing the same thing while watching real-life situations.)

But there are things we can learn from Hollywood writers, things that will make our families stronger. Hollywood writers have some things figured out. What they know and apply in their writing are the reasons many of us keep tuning in. And even if you don’t watch much, you can learn something from them too.

WHAT HOLLYWOOD WRITERS KNOW (and we should put to work):

1. A Family has to be in the Same Place.

In the series I’m currently watching via Netflix, the family of four grown children often gathers at their parents’ home for large family dinners. Or sometimes a couple of sisters show up at the sister-in-law’s house to watch her try on outfits for a job interview the next day. In these scenes family secrets are revealed, problems are solved, or passions are exposed. Hollywood writers know that the only way action can happen is if the characters are in the same space with each other, so they create reasons to get them in the same room or yard or coffee shop.

If I want my family to experience anything like the moonlit pasta dinners on the patio that look so romantic on the tv, then I’ve got to start by making the effort to be in close proximity to the people I truly cherish. No one wants to watch a movie where the family members spend all day watching different tv’s in separate rooms of the house. Boring.

This is why my three daughters are on a roadtrip with Mom this weekend. It’s why I try to go out of my way to visit my sisters, even if it costs money or I have to take time off work. This is why we always want to live in close proximity to our family (one side or the other). This is why we eat dinner together at the table and why we keep everyone up past their bedtime to see Jesse play basketball in a tiny gym. We can’t have a relationship if we aren’t in the same room.

2. A Family has to Expect Conflict.

This is why we watch every week! Again, the movie wouldn’t be worth watching if it tried to tell the story of a perfect family with no problems. We know each episode is going to feature a problem. At least one character is going to do something stupid and it isn’t going to be comfortable. But, in the end, the path through conflict is what makes the family strong, honest, and changed.

Don’t be afraid of your mistakes, your bad attitudes, or your failures. But don’t pretend they aren’t there, either. In the best tv dramas the characters have to face-off and work it out. Otherwise we wouldn’t want to watch. Be that brave in your own home and family. Conflict makes way for change.

3. A Family has to Dialogue.

Talk it out. Serenity referenced this idea in a post once about how the show Felicity was created on the foundation of one character saying to another character, “Can we talk?” And then they do. Much of the work I do with college students is related to this as well. We just don’t communicate like we should. We read a situation, make a judgement, and then go silent and bitter. That doesn’t happen as much in the movies or on tv becuase who would watch hour after hour of people not fixing things? No one.

How do you create dialogue? You talk. You ask questions. You don’t let things go unsaid. It’s much easier for Hollywood actors because someone else gives them the words and sets up the confrontation, but I really believe our ability to communicate with our spouses, children, and extended loved ones is a key to making it through this life on the same team. We have to talk.

So even if Hollywood doesn’t write enough good stories, I believe they do have something to offer us as we pursue healthy, honest family life. It’s pretty simple, really. We’ve got to get together. We can’t be afraid of conflict. And we need to communicate.


The End.

*photo credit here


A Guest Post

Today I have a guest post on Guy Delcambre’s website. Follow me over there by clicking here, and I’d love for you to leave a comment!

Guy is a kind and generous father to three precious little girls. He lost his wife, and the girls lost their mother, quite suddenly over a year ago. Guy’s writing on the subjects of loss and faith and trust are beautiful and honest. My post is in a series of guest posts that he put together with the theme of open letters to girls. It’s been my honor to be able to share some of my own thoughts. My piece is titled “Gold, Not Glitter.”

See you there!

Feasting and Fasting

Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, our family will embark on its first Lenten journey together. We’re going to be working through the book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor by Chris Seay. In the spirit of Advent Conspiracy, Seay’s devotional leads readers through Lent with the goals of personal transformation and donations to a worthy cause thanks to money saved from making different food choices. (Dan’s hoping to finally send someone money for a goat!)

I’ve never observed Lent before, but I’m looking forward to the experience. I’ll try to write about more of our details later, but my most basic goal is to explore this idea of the rhythms of fasting and feasting. Seay reminds us that as Americans most of us are only familiar with the feast. That’s certainly true for me and my children.

I don’t harbor any illusions of turning our house into a little monastery or forcing my kids to eat bread and water at every meal. But I do think they are capable of more than our consumer culture asks of them. I don’t mind asking my four to eat toast instead of Pop-Tarts for a few weeks. It also won’t hurt any of us to realize that most people around the world don’t have a thousand different options for supper – they eat the same thing day after day. We’re going to give that one a try.

Monday – Saturday might be a little boring, and we’ll miss desserts, but on Sundays – each one a small Easter leading up to the big day – we’ll feast. Maybe the feasting will be a little sweeter because we’ll actually understand fasting.

Your Inner SuperPrincessNinja

Today is Wacky Sock day for the kids’ Spirit Week at school. They were so excited about showing off their mismatched, multicolored, and cartoon covered socks that we rolled their jeans up so the comedic genius would be immediately evident.

It was only at the last minute, just before they began to load up in the car, that Jesse asked, “We’ve got the right day, don’t we?”

Because, I’m okay with this only as long as everyone else is participating!

He’s 10. Macy, on the other hand, is still delightfully 4. I read once that the reason 4 year-olds can be so exhausting is because they have no dimmer switches. Whatever they do, they do in full – full volume, full emotion, full energy, etc. If they are mad, they are furious. If they are happy, they are exultant. It’s work, but it’s fun.

So a couple of weeks ago Macy came upstairs dressed like this: as, in her words, “a Super Princess Ninja.” Helmet, cape, sequined belt, velour dress, and leopard print ballet flats. It was quite an ensemble, but I knew I didn’t want to say no if she asked to wear the get-up to evening church services. I surprised her a bit when I said, “Sure!”

My sister Serenity has often touted the benefits of letting your kids express their creativity and imagination through dress-up, even or especially in public places. I totally agree with her. 10 (or it’s equivalent) comes so quickly – kids are suddenly aware of the rest of the world and begin to shut down their instincts in exchange for conformation to the crowd. (Yes, it was Wacky Sock day, don’t worry about that. See how grown-up you’ve become?!)

So that Sunday night Macy danced in the aisle nearby my seat, as she usually does. And she colored in her coloring book during the preaching, as she usually does. But she did it all in the bold costume of a SuperPrincessNinja.

The best part of the night was not how dressing up affected Macy but how her costume seemed to affect everyone who saw her. Other kids hardly even noticed, of course, because who wouldn’t want to wear a cape whenever possible?! Once adults recognized she was in costume, almost everyone at least smiled. Sometimes they nodded knowingly. Some laughed or bent down to ask her questions about her adventures. It seems that the general public is compelled to seek wisdom from those with clear wardrobe intentionality. For some people, and I know this is probably a writer’s stretch, I could have sworn they looked longingly, even a tiny bit mournfully, over a freedom or attitude they didn’t posses.

So I guess on this Wacky Sock Day I’m just wondering how you are letting out your inner SuperPrincessNinja. Because it won’t just be good for you, it’s going to be good for everyone around you, too. We need permission to dream, to act, and to enjoy the process of living. You might give someone that permission today just by making a brave wardrobe choice. I hope you do!

Answer this: If you were as brave as my 4 year-old, what would you wear today?