One day last week, Tom came home and as he was telling me about his day, he mentioned he’d gone on a prayer walk during lunch. Then he added the disclaimer, “That’s not something you can do, I know.”
This year during Lent Tom is taking part in several specific habits and spiritual disciplines. As Lent approached we talked about how we were going to observe the season individually, and as a family. Every time we talked about it, I would hit a roadblock. What does Lent look like for the stay-at-home mom?
My first instinct is to do something with the kids — I’LL DO LENTEN BIBLE READINGS WITH THE KIDS!
While that would be good, if I involve the kids it’ll be about them and I can almost completely deflect self-reflection and repentance.
I decided I wanted to focus on examining our routines at home — where I spend most of my time. By nature I bristle at rules and schedules, but I’m going against that nature and adopting a few rules during Lent. Going to bed and waking up at specific times each day, no phone around the kids, spend time reading with David during rest time, observe a Sabbath.
Also, I want to be meaningful about my time. I’ve mentioned this before, when I have babies I easily fall into bad, lazy habits. Lent is a good time to examine and reorient my habits. More reading, more writing, more conversation, less scrolling, less binge-watching. More thoughtfulness. Less reflexiveness.
Thoughtfulness is hard, though. After a day of tending to and nurturing my kids, sometimes I don’t have the mental energy to be present. I’m exhausted, frustrated, and mentally drained. After a full day of talking and being talked to, I can make a good argument for turning my brain off and scrolling on the couch.
And if I’m honest, the truth is that I don’t want to be told what to do with my very, very limited free time. I already feel very guilty about how I use my time. If I have a second, a moment to myself, I want to steal it away and check Instagram. I want to hold my coffee cup to my chin and feel the steam rise on my face. But I always hear a voice nagging — shouldn’t you be cleaning? Or putting something away? Shouldn’t you be exercising? Or what about all those stacks of things to do scattered around the house? How can there possibly be room for another habit?
Here’s an example.
During the first week of Lent I decided to read my Bible during nap time. But then 45 minutes into nap time Mary Virginia was still screaming, and I’d spent all that time going into her room helping her settle/levying threats/disciplining. By 2:30 p.m. I hadn’t eaten lunch and I was starving, frustrated, and honestly a little panicked knowing that nap time was slipping by. I just wanted to zone out, and so that’s what I did.
I know that when I’m feeling empty and wrung out my soul would benefit from a Psalm, Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him (Psalm 62:1) or Gospel truth, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
But there are times when staring at the wall feels like a balm.
I take photos of flowers because I see God in their beauty, especially in the spring. Delicate and brave; blossoms unfolding and bright green leaves emerging from bare branches. They are reminders of rebirth, life from death. When I was taking these photos David pointed out that the tree he was climbing had flowers. I hadn’t noticed. My kids, they show me Jesus, too.
I added that to my list, more noticing God’s grace in my kids.
I’ve broken each of my resolutions, over and over.
But even in my failures (or maybe because of them?) Lent has been a meaningful season for me.
After all, the purpose of the Law is not perfection but to illuminate our imperfection. And when faced with our imperfection we are required to repent. It is in repentance, not perfection, that we receive grace and forgiveness through the resurrection of Christ.
I’m aware that some of this might be partially an excuse — callousness or reluctance to surrender. I also know that Lenten observations aren’t supposed to be easy but are intended to show us our need for Christ. But with that in mind, I still think the life of parents of very small children have specific challenges. (I should have said this before, but I can only speak to my experience as a stay-at-home mom. All caregivers have unique challenges, but some of this is coming from how my days at home contrast with Tom’s at work)
How do I add spiritual practices to an already overflowing day? How do I reorient my focus when little ones are constantly competing for my focus? How does a pregnant or nursing mother fast? I recently read this and it was an encouragement — maybe for moms, Lenten mortification should be rest?
Friends, tell me how God is using the Lenten season to prepare your heart for the resurrection. How have you been challenged and encouraged? How is your current stage of life revealing your need for Christ?