Well, it’s Fat Tuesday around these parts. We were going to go to our church’s pancake dinner, but I’m starting to have my doubts. We have company coming on Thursday (yippee!) and might need to carve out the time to try to get our house up to code. The visitor is a social worker, and I’m afraid she might report us to social services. Plus, just honestly, it’s a crazy week with having no school. She’s been at the JCC all day for an AMAZING (and expensive!) program and if last night is any indication, I don’t know that she’s going to have the energy for it. Do I sound like I’m making excuses? I kind of am. I don’t want to go. It’s 25 minutes from the JCC. I am tired of small talk. I just want to have my tired duck to myself. This makes me feel a bit guilty, though–but for really no reason other than I know that this dinner is a big deal at this church. I have to remind myself that pancake suppers are not really part of lent.
Lent actually begins tomorrow, with Ash Wednesday. I’m figuring out now what my Lenten observances will be. I do not always take on or give up something, but this year just feels like the year I need to do so. Things feel sort of scattered and out of control right now. I’m always running, running, running, and just about late. My checking account, my refrigerator, my taxes, my home, my everything just seem held together with safety pins, and there’s hardly a minute to breathe. I just barely make it to work on time. The check clears seconds before another bill comes due. I send Selam to school in her last pair of clean socks. We eat crazy combinations because I haven’t made it to the grocery store. I am always, always always saying, “hurry up…we’re late” to Selam. I know none of these things are crimes, but it just feels like too much. I want to draw things in, to settle them down into a discipline of sorts. I want to carve out some boundaries and create space for the cool cleanse of Lent. I want to clear the shelves, let the light settle in.
I’m giving up candy, again. Normally this would not seem like a difficult thing for an adult to do, but there’s a candy bowl at work and there is a sweet tooth that is mostly directed toward things gummy and sweet and intended for fifth grade girls to share at the pool. I’m also going to give up sleep. Well, not all sleep, but I’m getting up a half hour earlier on school days, which should be slightly painful but allow the day to be less rushed and chaotic. I’m giving up eating out (with the exception of this weekend with company–you don’t invite people to NH and not get pizza!).
And what am I (are we) taking on? Well, Selam so enjoyed reading stories from the beautifully illustrated children’s Bible, that I’ve decided we’re going to read the whole thing. I’m going to read a few stories a day, probably mostly while she’s eating. Selam is the slowest eater in the universe, and I often get up from the table and start cleaning up at night or getting things ready for the day in the morning. I’m going to force myself not to do that, but to sit and read to her while she eats. If I am getting up a half hour earlier, this should be do-able (unless reading just encourages her to eat even slower, in which case, we’ll regroup). Last, I’m going to cook with Selam at least twice a week. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for cooking, but I think I may have given up on her too easily. Again, the theme is slowing things down, not being so multi-tasked that we lose sight of what’s important, or run out of time for the simple truths. I want her to know what cinnamon looks like, and how pizza dough feels stuck on her fingers. I want her to associate what she eats with how it’s made. I know there’s not a clear religious theme to that, but it makes sense in my head. I don’t know that I’ll tell her that cooking is part of Lent, but she’ll know that the daily Bible reading and the giving up of restaurants is.
I’m not sure if I’ll be taking Selam to Ash Wednesday services or not. I’ll definitely go. I’d like her to go, but as my friend Erica noted on facebook, such services are not really offered on family friendly schedules. Our church is meeting at 7:30 p.m., which is about the time we begin the pajama routine. Speaking of Erica, if you’re interested at all in the role of children in Ash Wednesday observances, check out her blog. The last 3, I think, articles are on that topic. She’s so well-spoken and thoughtful on the topic.
Selam got ashes last year. We had a doctor’s appointment at the local children’s hospital. Our custom is to arrive early for lunch in the cafe. She saw all the ashed people walking about and asked about it. After a brief, pretty matter of fact conversation, I asked her if she wanted to do it. She did. We lined up in the multi-faith chapel with the doctors and the dying. There were outpatients trailing IVs, physicians, a red-eyed couple of parents, custodians, cooks, and nurses–all lined up.
“Everybody dies sometime, Mommy.”
Indeed they do. We do. Our job is to make the time in between birth and death worthwhile–to make it faithful and fair, joyous, and generous. It’s our task to measure each day, and number it blessed. I hope that Lent will be a time of measured joy, of wide spaces, generous margins, breath and life, God and peace.