Today, Lent begins.
We are putting away our Alleluias and our bright colors. We are welcoming in more quiet, more reflection, and more piety. For the next six weeks, we are all invited to lean in to our faith, to pray more, to fast, to give up practices or habits that hold us back from experiencing God.
I always enjoy giving something up for Lent. I look forward to the opportunity of letting go and setting limits. Over the years, I’ve given up make-up, alcohol, dessert, or meat. Other years, I’ve added in a practice of blogging each day, or taking quiet time each morning, or reading before bed for all 40 days.
This year, a friend of mine suggested a ’40 bags’ Lenten practice. Participants are urged to fill up a bag of things from their home to get rid of for each day of Lent. It’s a way to make room in our homes, to de-clutter, and to think deeply about what we really need.
As our family prepares to welcome a new member in July, we are all focused on making room in our home. So, this year, I am taking on the 40 bag challenge.
Today, I filled my bags for this first short week of Lent. With each bag, I wanted to make sure that I was not only emptying space in my own home, but that I could imagine these bags blessing others.
Day 1: a bag of magazines.
I plan to bring this bag to our pediatric dermatology office. The bag is full of Harvard, Bucknell, and Divinity School publications- as well as a year’s worth of Marie Claire’s. As I put together the bag of magazines that I never have time to read in this busy life, I remembered the many hours I spent sitting in the waiting room of our dermatologist and allergist’s offices. I would have loved a sweet distraction, a scholarly article, or a light editorial about women’s fashion. My mind was so full of worry for our son that I would have paid big money for something to read besides my Facebook feed. I hope these magazines will be a blessing to other families who have to wait for a diagnosis or a treatment plan.
Day 2: a bag of toys and books
This is a bag of duplicate toys and books from our son’s extensive collection. He has so many wonderful people in his life, that we found ourselves with several copies of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See”, at least 3 shape sorting toys, and several variations of toys on wheels. Our boy has been gifted everything he could ever need and more. So this bag of toys and books will be donated to a shelter that can use these toys and books to bless other kids.
Day 3: a bag of vases
We have received some beautiful flowers over the years. At our wedding, the birth of our baby, a special anniversary- and more. But the truth is, we only use one vase at a time. So I put together a bag of our extra vases to donate to my church- so that our weekly altar flowers can be divided and delivered to our homebound members or those in the hospital with ease. I love imagining these vessels that carried such joy into our home bringing joy to others.
Day 4: a bag of food
Over the holidays, we hosted our families. We stocked our pantry with a variety of food to appeal to the different tastes and preferences of our 8 out of town guests. But the holidays have come and gone, and our pantry contained food that we do not need- at least, not as much as those who use the Zion food pantry for their weekly staples. So the final bag for this week is filled with pastas, soups, jams, and other treats that will hopefully help a family eat well this week.
I believe this will be a fulfilling and gratifying practice during Lent. And there is still time- would anyone else like to join me on this journey?
Whatever your Lenten season looks like, my prayers are with you in the days and weeks ahead.