beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

Lent. I give up.

I haven’t participated in Lent for at least 13 years.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’VE BEEN RAISING KIDS AND I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MYSELF. If Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for Easter, well:

Basically what I’m saying is, I win at Easter.

Take that, Lent.

But this year, in the most gigantic piece of proof EVER that my kids are getting older, I found myself with, like, 5 minutes to contemplate Lent. And to think that maybe it’s time to participate again. And to ponder what exactly I might give up.

OK, press the pause button on this post.

I know that everyone who reads here isn’t all Jesusy and stuff. And even the Jesusy people may not be from a Lent-observing tradition. So I’m going to take just a minute to explain. Skip on through if you’ve heard this before, but, for the not-so-Lenty among you, let’s deconstruct Lent. In other words, what is it? And why bother?

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 – after all, we don’t want to get all crazy) 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. (Someone put me in charge of Lent next year. Seriously.)

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, hurking 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.

So. Press play.

There I was. For my 5 free minutes. Contemplating Lent and my role in it. My mini-fast, if you will. My entanglements. My distractions. And how I might be part of something bigger than myself for the next 40 non-Sunday days.

I thought about giving up Caffeine. And then I laughed until I cried until I passed out from sheer terror. I came to petting my coffee cup and telling him not to worry, that mama’s not going anywhere. It was a special time for us.

And then I thought about no.




That word.

The word no.

And what if I just… let no go?

What will happen?

I don’t know!

I almost dismissed it. I almost said no to abandoning no. Because giving up no is silly. And giving up no when you’re a mother of five children is ridiculous and undoubtedly impossible.

But then I thought about the power of no. I thought about the way I use no every day to short-circuit conversations with my kids. I thought about how my kids are now 5-13 years old, which is certainly old enough to deserve explanations for a negative response. For example, I wonder whether, instead of saying “no more treats,” I can muster enough brain power to reroute the no into an opportunity to teach. “One treat is enough for now because I love you and it’s my job to help you learn healthy eating habits even though mine suck. Let’s talk about having a treat after dinner.” And can I say that 76 times in a row which is what it’ll take?

And you know what? The more I thought about it, the more I remembered how much I LIKE Ridiculous and Impossible. They are fun guys! AND IF I GIVE UP NO, THINK OF ALL THE LENT POINTS I’LL GET!

I’m giving up no for Lent.

Which will either be an amazing opportunity to engage my kids – and Love – on a deeper and more intentional level, or it’ll be a complete train wreck. Heh heh.

Either way – Lent? I give up.




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32 responses to “Lent. I give up.”

  1. I am one of your regular followers and am not a jesusy person at all. Wasn’t raised that way and never had a hankering to it. (I used the word hankering!!) I know you will still be my friend . . .

    For health reasons back the beginning of January I had to give up sugar. Yep, sugar and all things containing sugar. No chocolate at all! Turns out it is not so hard. Of course I don’t have kids. Also, I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t drink coffee, which here in Vancouver, BC is a true oddity. I saw a real estate listing the other day that had the number of coffee shops in a 3 mile radius listed – there were 22.

    Good luck on no no-ing! Happy Lent to you.

  2. I love this explanation: “At its best, Lent isn’t about deprivation. At its best, Lent allows us to work in concert with Love to refill our souls.” Hope the not saying no is going well!! <3

  3. Your post made me giggle. So happy to have found your blog. 🙂 This year I’m actually giving up something for the first time in ages: sugar. Girlfriend, it’s been an interesting week. I can only imagine how God will use the next 33 days (yes I’m counting) of my sugar free journey.

  4. oh my stars, i didn’t see this till just now when i read today’s post and it linked back. i am sitting by myself in the room and have been laughing out loud like a crazy person. i am also dying with laughter at the thought of giving up no with my 23-month-old (though on the other hand, maybe it would cease to be part of *his* vocabulary?? almost certainly wishful thinking…)

    that, and you had me at “I’VE BEEN RAISING KIDS AND I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MYSELF” – i have to tell you, not once but TWICE in the last few weeks, i have told my (normally very supportive and understanding) husband i was going to go take a shower and got a genuinely puzzled response, each time along the lines of “huh? WHY? didn’t you just take a shower yesterday? …or…recently?”

    in case you missed the exact meaning, i’ll spell it out for you: i shower SO INFREQUENTLY that it is INCONCEIVABLE that there might arise an occasion on which i wish to shower TWO DAYS IN A ROW – or, for that matter, a couple of times within the same week, apparently, judging by his questions!!! LOL.

    dying here reading the last two posts, dying. 😀 😀

  5. Thanks so much for your words and wisdom! I am a firm believer that God created joy and laughter and you gave me both gifts in your post!! I am old now so no longer dealing with raising two kids 17 months apart but I still face lent every year with a “what do I do now” feeling. Several years ago God literally asked me to give up coffee! I know it was God because I was able to do it without the withdrawal headache and the impossible struggle. This year He again said clearly give up…..wait for it….sweets! Are you kidding me?? Well here we are in lent and every time I think about a sweet I think about Jesus so it must be a good thing! Your words encouraged me and I will be excited to hear of all the new ways you find to say what you need to without saying “no”!

  6. This will be my first go at Lent. I am giving up lunch time fast food (let’s not get too crazy). Since my two and five year old scream for chocolate milk every time we pass the golden arches, I figured it was time for a change. We will all be healthier for it. I know I can do it because I successfully gave up chocolate two years ago for while I was nursing because it made my son fussy. Can you believe that? Not so pleased when my husband figured that one out.

    • Seriously – giving up chocolate puts you in my hero book. The things we do for kids that we didn’t know we had the strength to do!

      Let us know how you do on Lent #1! Welcome to the Lent Points club. You’ve got a solid start. 😀

  7. Thank the good Lord that I am not Catholic, and therefore do not have to even contemplate the udder ridiculousness of even thinking about giving up caffeine. NTTAWWT. I still love Jesus. And coffee. I even love Jesus more than coffee, because someday I will not need coffee, and I will be with Jesus. But right now, I need them both.
    Good luck with the no “no” thing. You’re a far more ambitious woman than I.

  8. The first year I attended a church that taught about Lent, my friend and I tried giving up Sunday school for Lent. It didn’t exactly work out. I’m thinking about giving up red wine.
    Beautiful thoughts here, Beth. Thanks.

  9. Good luck with giving up. My kids are (almost) 2 and 4 so I’m keeping no, caffine, and chocolate for a few years yet 😉

  10. You are a brave, brave woman!

    As SOON as I finished reading this, my (3 days from) 2 year old smacked my 4 year old on the stomach. I looked at 2 year old, shook my head, and said, “No.” And then I groaned.

    You’re brave but wise. I’ve got to learn to give a little more time to explanations and a little less time to “no.”

    • Bahahaha!

      I yelled, “NNNNOOOOO!” at our barking dog while I was writing the post. I would’ve worked it in, but it didn’t fit. I did find the whole situation rather HILARIOUS!

      Today, I had to figure out a way to tell my 5-year-old boys that fighting with sticks in the car was NOT an option. I had to rephrase thrice before they understood what I was trying to say.

  11. This is wonderful, lovely and hilarious (as always). I love your idea of not saying “no” but saying it in a different way – that’s great and will surely be a fantastic thing to do. I think I’m the same kind of Jesusy person as you are, which is delightful to discover. Enjoy your coffee, and I wish you enough time to wash yourself today.


  12. Oh, thank you for this post. Your explanation of Lent was lovely.
    This mother of 6 is not giving up anything this year. I always try, but even when I succeed it leaves me a little cold. Instead I adding some things: a little more structured time for self-reflection, a little more discussion with my kids (ages 4-13) about the Big Stuff, a little more time reading the Bible, and a little more effort in sharing my faith with others. (sounds a little ambitious, I know) Hopeful 40 days will be long enough to make some of it a habit that I won’t want to give up at Easter.

  13. I love reading what you have to say. This mother of four is giving up…the urge to perform to ridiculous self-imposed standards in a futile attempt to impress her mother-in-law. She’s a lovely woman, has no such expectations, and me trying to be her is stupid because I’m. Not. Her. So for Lent, even though I’m not from a Lenten-observant background (I grew up thinking that was a Catholic thing), I’m giving up impersonating my mother-in-law, and honouring God by being the person (as much as is possible) he created ME to be. xoxo Sarah

    • Oooh, Sarah! SO HEALING. My mom-in-law is the same – lovely and supportive – but when they do everything so well, we still have to release the comparison, right?? Right! What an excellent thing to give up for Lent.

      I’m from a pro-Lent / non-Lent / anti-Lent background. 😀 Seriously. The wonderful thing about being raised Episcopalian / Evangelical Free / Baptist / Missionary Church / Nazarene / Lutheran / Quaker is there’s a beautiful bouquet to choose ideas from. (I’d rather think that it’s a bonus. Otherwise, it’s just confusing. ;))

  14. That is a great way of explaining Lent. It is a sense of community and getting in touch with deeper Faith, and yes giving up caffeine. Haha! I’m giving up soda. I applaud you for being creative and not saying “no.” You are so funny I love reading your blog! Helps me smile and get through my week a little happier. 🙂 Thank you!

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