A day or two behind schedule. I've been ill and I'm not keeping up very well.
But here I am.
Shrove Tuesday this year was a bit of an effort, if the truth be known. The children wanted pancakes (because it's Pancake Day, not because they particularly like them) and I was keen to do the talk about why Pancake Day and Ash Wednesday and what Lent is all about, not that I do it particularly well, I think). So I ate paracetamol and ibuprofen and cough medicine and inhaled menthol and decongestant sniffy things and there I was with my frying pan and milk and flour and a box of eggs.
I love making pancakes. I'm sure that's part of my motivation too, but it's not as noble as the one I mentioned first. Both are true.
I love the way that the pan has to be so hot - almost smoking; and then I love the noise that the batter makes as it sizzles into the pan. I love the twisty turny manoeuvre that you have to do with your wrist tilting the pan to make the small, thick puddle of batter spread out into a large, thin one, while keeping it's shape. I love the way the edges rise slightly to let you into the secret that it's time to flip and I love the delight on the children's faces as it lands again. I love that one side is swirly and the other is spotty. I love that the best filling is lemon and sugar despite everyone's attempts to make it more sophisticated.
Miraculously, I had lemons, even though I haven't been shopping for days.
So we ate our pancakes (or played with them) and we talked about Lent and I did my best to explain but I suspect not much of it penetrated the minds of a six and four-year-old who were intrigued with the proximity of Easter.
The idea of giving something up for Lent certainly seemed to capture their imaginations, however.
Elizabeth has decided (and persuaded Katy) that they are going to give up for Lent:
- Chocolate, sweets and all food that has no nutritional value
- Being mean to each other
- Forgetting their manners
Forgive me if I'm a tad sceptical.
Touched, but sceptical.
I suspect that my daughters have bitten off more than they can chew. Don't you? In a manner which I hope was encouraging and appreciative and approving and nurturing I suggested that perhaps just one thing, one achievable thing, might be a better bet than three whopping resolutions, but it fell on deaf ears. They were set.
How much nicer was an Easter Egg going to taste if they had fasted from chocolate for the whole forty days? I agreed that it would indeed.
And how much happier would they be if they were nice to each other instead of being mean and hurty? Of course, how could I disagree?
And how much happier would I be if they were polite and well-mannered for the next forty days? Indeed. And less naggy.
Their faces were alight with good intentions. At that moment they were ready to take on the world. How could I dissuade them? Should I have tried?
So they are off. Ships in full sail. Rocks a-waiting just offshore.
I love them. Maybe some people's six and four-year-olds are more tuned into Lent and grasp the concept better than mine; I don't know. Perhaps I haven't been consistent in my explanations - or my modelling of appropriate Lenten behaviour - over the years. Still, I have to start somewhere.
Nobody asked me what I was doing for Lent.
I've had trouble deciding, to be honest. Last year I gave up Facebook for Lent and I rediscovered lots of time, some of which I gave back to you, didn't I? (Logging off for Lent) It was a humbling experience. I learned a lot. This year the same thing doesn't jump at me as it did last year when I knew from the moment someone suggested it that I had to give it a go. So I've been searching.
I've decided to do something, rather than not do something. I'm feeling poorly and vulnerable and not very brave so I wanted to make it small, achievable and meaningful. Something that I had an outside chance of managing.
I'm going to write in my prayer diary every day. Each day I'm going to write something positive from that day. It might be a short thing - a list, or it might turn into a prayer. It's like half the Examen; the life-affirming half. For someone like me who tends to the negative, the pessimistic, it should be good for me.
I am so poor at a regular prayer time that I toyed with saying that I would make sure I had a time with you every day, but I haven't really solved the problem of when and where to find peace each day with any sense of regularity or rhythm. I have resolved this so many times over the past year or so that I feared that it would simply be a meaningless echo until I find the thing that's missing (discipline? energy? insight?) that means I can do it. So my aim got smaller and that's what I came up with.
I will visit my prayer diary each day and tell you what the best thing of the day has been.
With your help, I will. Without it, I'm incapable of even the little things.
I shall try to steer my girls away from the inevitable shipwreck and when it happens I shall preach never mind, let's try again (maybe just with the chocolate?). When my own personal shipwreck happens, I will climb back on the horse straight away (now there's a lovely mixed metaphor) and try again.
I am emotionally and physically frail at the moment. I feel as if I'm not capable of much.
Bless our little attempts, Father. Even those destined for failure. Hold my little girls close to you, please. Give me the words to be much better at telling them about you.
As Lent starts, Lord God, give me your hand to lift me out of this place of ill health and inertia and claw my way up through the low cloud to a place where I can see a bit more clearly.
I know from experience that when I manage to give you just a little, you give me so very much. Bless my attempt to open my hands this Lent, Lord.
Prepare my heart for Easter.