Lent: A 40-Day Invitation to Community… and to Getting Rid of Crap

Mar 4 2014

It’s Lent Eve, folks. The day before Lent!

Which means today’s the last day of Mardi Gras.

Not that you’ll notice any difference around my house tomorrow since I’ll still have kids running around shucking their clothes willy nilly and throwing beads and stuff at each other.

But, you know, for some of you, it’s the last day of Mardi Gras.

Otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.

Of course, I don’t really feel like that’s fair to Tuesday, do you? I mean, I’m pretty sure Fat Tuesday is well aware of the extra pounds she’s gained over the years that accumulated quietly, stealthily, and let’s just give her a break for those, OK? Let’s acknowledge that she’s been up nights and up days, and up nights and days, and tending to littles, and standing at the pot of off-brand mac and cheese on the stove to swallow a few bites whole because God knows Tuesday hasn’t had the opportunity to make, much less sit down and eat, a real, well-balanced meal for years. And, sure, Fat Tuesday sees the Pinterest accounts for all the other Tuesdays and knows they’re getting their kids to eat heaps of broccoli and piles kale and wheat germ gratin with mashed cauliflower but she’s doing the best she can, I tell you. Let’s drop the Fat from her title already, and just call her One of the Tuesdays. Or, if we must label her according to size, let’s call her by the same title that one nice nurse used for me when I was pregnant with twins and little stretched and a tiny bit weepy; Fluffy. She’s not fat; she’s just… fluffy. She can be Fluffy Tuesday. Or, even better, Fantastic Tuesday. Or Fabulous Tuesday. OK?

OK. Glad we settled that.

No matter what you call today, though, it’s Lent Eve. The day before Lent.

Now, many of you don’t care about Lent, and that’s OK. Sometimes, I don’t care, either, because KIDS, and who has 5 extra minutes to contemplate what to give up? I’ve already given up All the Sleep, man; I’ve done my part.

Sometimes, I do care, though. A lot. And I deconstructed Lent once here:

According to Google, which we all know is the very best place to get religious information, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.”

Lent starts today and continues for the 40 days (not including Sundays) until Easter. In practice here in the States, it’s the time when each participant fasts from something specific to himself or herself. Facebook, traveling by car, mojitos, nachos bell grande – the more creative you are about what you give up, the more Lent points you’re awarded. Minus the part about Lent points, which aren’t a real thing but which would totally make it WAY MORE RAD.

The truth is, Jesusy people in America freestyle when it comes to Lent. We like to participate for loads of reasons. Sometimes to feel closer to God, sometimes as a spiritual discipline, sometimes to draw attention to a cause, and sometimes because our best friends in the whole entire world, Caffeine and Chocolate, come to us in our dreams dressed in red riding hood cloaks with cloven hooves and horns on their heads and tell us with maniacal grins that they own our souls, and we wake up screaming and sweating and longing for big cups o’ Joe and entire bags of Hershey’s nuggets. Lent – it’s a high church synonym for Caffeine and Chocolate Rehab.

At its center, though, Lent, like other cultural and religious observances, pulls us into community with each other and ties us with thick cords to our historical roots. It makes us stop for a season to reconsider who we are at our core. It forces us away from the insignificant things that entangle us and turns our eyes to examine what’s relevant, what drives us.

At its best, Lent isn’t about deprivation. At its best, Lent allows us to work in concert with Love to refill our souls.

This year, I care about Lent. And I’m not here to convince you to participate in Lent, but I am here, always, to invite you into a place where Love can refill your soul. My soul. All of our souls together. Which is the point, after all, of community.

And this year, I’ve been thinking about the insignificant things that entangle me. The things that are pulling me beneath the water. The things that are depriving me of oxygen. What I’ve discovered is this: the things that are drowning me right now are the things.

ALL of the STUFF. 

And managing the stuff.

It’s killing me dead.

The sheer volume of clothes and paper and toys and shoes that go through this house is stunning, ladies and gentlemen. And I will feel infinitely more focused, more prepared to look for Love, more prepared to shuck death and Come Back to Life, if I can stop stuffing all the STUFF back into the stuffed places over and over and over again.

But I am TIRED. And handling All the Stuff feels overwhelming. And I’ve met me, so I know I can’t do Everything, all at once. Or even Everything, eventually.

Which is why I’m going to do little purging projects for Lent and to let that be enough.

Little projects almost every day from March 5 – April 17. 

Little 15 Minute Projects. One per day on the days I can manage it. And that is all. Because anything else feels soul-sucking instead of Life Giving, and I’m not interested in piling more on me or you or anyone these days. 

I’m inviting you to participate in my Little 15 Minute Projects because, quite honestly, it’ll be way more fun with you along for the ride.

photo (85)

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Every day from March 5 – April 17, on the days I can manage it, I’ll post a 15 Minute Project. It might be cleaning out a bathroom drawer or a kid’s backpack or underneath a desk or behind a bedroom door. 
  2. I’ll post pictures. Real, terrifying pictures of the Before, and hopefully better pictures of the After, but, no matter what, TRUE pictures. 
  3. You’re invited to participate with the same 15 Minute Project as me or one of your own and to write comments so we can encourage each other along the way!
  4. You’re invited to send pictures of your Befores and Afters to fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com. I’ll pick one to feature each day; if you’re a writer or have an online presence, please also include a link to your website when you send your picture.
  5. You’re invited NOT to participate, too. This is a no pressure commitment, folks. So not really a commitment at all. Join when you can. Opt out when you can’t. Everyone’s welcome for whatever parts you like.

That’s it. Little projects, but little projects together.

And here’s a teaser for tomorrow’s project which I’m calling the Underneath the Desk project. Because this is what my desk looks like on top:

photo 3 (52)

Which is WAY cleaner than usual.

Aaaand, this is what it looks like underneath:

photo 2 (75)

Yeah.

Alrighty, friends! Anyone up for joining me? Anyone at all? Because I do not want to clean alone. :/

P.S. If you’re looking for more ways to keep Lent, I recommend checking out Nadia Bolz Weber’s List of 40 Ideas; small things you can do every day for 40 days. Nadia is the “founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination.” Also, she’s rad.