how to not prepare for lent

Yes, you read that right.

(And yes, I’m even aware that I split the infinitive. I broke my own grammatical pet peeve and did it on purpose.)

Lent starts tomorrow, and I could not be less prepared. No resolution carved in stone, no discipline established, no good intentions for prayer or fasting or almsgiving.

Sure, I’ve got a zillion ideas. Sugar purge. Facebook fast. Daily writing with Scripture. Creative donations to important causes.

But I can’t commit to anything. Why?


My darling, beautiful, bouncing baby boy decided a few months ago to regress from his long-sleeping ways. Since Christmas, we’ve been up every three hours. Four if we’re lucky. Two if we’re not.

And everyone in this house is losing their minds.

Some days we can laugh about it. Some days I can drink enough caffeine to overcome it. But some dark days I do nothing but wallow in the exhaustion.

We’ve tried it all. And then we tried it again. And – parenting epiphany! – this child refuses to submit to our schedule, our demands, our desires.

Lack of sleep has affected every part of our lives: our work, our home, our relationships. After too many breaking points, we’ve finally come up with a new plan that we hope will work. (So please send prayers for this weekend’s launch of Finally Getting the Baby to Break Bad Habits and Stop Nursing All Night Without Crying So Loud He Wakes Up His Brother Next Door And Then We All Go Insane.)

But in the meantime, Lent has crept up to the doorstep and is gently knocking to come in. And I can do nothing but laugh and shake my head. This house? This family? You seriously want to come in here?

I have no time or energy to prepare for Lent this year. I don’t even have time to feel guilty about it.

So for the next forty days, all I can do is invite Lent into the chaos of our lives. And pray that God’s grace forgives my stumblings. And remember that God’s invitation – and my response – was present there all along.

Going about my daily work even when I’m dragging? That’s prayer.

Giving up the glorious sleep I love to feed a hungry baby? That’s fasting.

Investing my last bit of energy in my needy children? That’s almsgiving.

So come on in, Lent. Pull up a chair (you’ll have to kick the toys aside) and a cup of tea (you’ll need to wash that dirty mug).

We’re completely unprepared. But you’re always welcome.

22 thoughts on “how to not prepare for lent

  1. Please share what you try this weekend and if it works. Our little one is 4.5 months and only 3 or 4 times has she slept longer than 3 hours at a stretch at night. We would love to hear some things that work – we have turned to the No Cry Sleep Solution and The Sleep Lady’s Shuffle. Glad to know that we are not alone in this. Your family will be in my prayers this weekend.

    1. Will do, Chandra. I thought of you the other night and wondered if you had found any better luck with your little one’s sleeping. We like the No Cry Sleep Solution too (especially since crying-it-out doesn’t work well with our small house + toddler sleeping in the room next door) but frankly, we too are getting desperate enough to try anything. Last night I read a hopeful statistic from a study of 52 different sleep training methods (who knew there were so many, yikes!) that showed almost every one could achieve the same results if applied consistently. That’s our problem – too often we switch gears in the middle of the night hoping something new will work. So consistency is the new name of our game. Prayers to you as well. It’s such a rough road when no one is sleeping.

    2. Chandra, I had to check back in with you to tell you that we seem to be on a path that’s working, and maybe it can give you some hope, too! Our local La Leche League leader forwarded this article to me when I asked her for help, and I remembered reading it ago, thinking it sounded like a great, gentle approach to cutting out night nursing. This approach of cutting back to only nursing on one side during the “optimal” sleep hours of 11 pm – 6 am (give or take) has already made a huge change for us. T slept 5 hours straight last night! He seems to be getting the message that we’re gradually going to do less nursing and more sleeping at night, and we are all feeling better about this – more-rested and no crying it out. Check it out if you’re interested:

  2. Before I read to the end of your post, I was planning to write, “Those sacrifices you are making each day are praying, fasting, and almsgiving.” The Lord knows your heart! I pray for you and your family! I especially hope that sweet little one begins sleeping through the night!

  3. My Lent last year was much like this. I didn’t even think of preparing anything until a friend posted a calendar. Which I prompted printed and used. That was our Lent. There’s always next year for the elaborate plans. In the meantime, I’ll be offering prayers for your baby to sleep well and soon!

  4. I jnow what you mean! I was just coming to the realization today that Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday… As in TOmorrow! So we will not be too prepared either. I was struggling for some creative ways to get Joe to understand the concept of lent! As we discussed Easter and lent today Joe told me he wanted “to be like Christ “. And while I know that he does t understand that I still figured a small victory for us! As for the sleeping I hear you. Gigi went from great to terrible then better than great and now is in good getting worse. But I think now is because she is teething perhaps. Either way I agree, it doesnt matter what you do staying consistent is the only way for it to work. As for crying it out, we worried it would wake the kids too but t didn’t. No matter what you decide on good luck! With Gigi we went thru the phase of letting her fuss but feeding her if she screamed. Which has mostly worked for us. Goodluck and keep me posted on how the little man is doing!

  5. I will pray for you and your little ones – I remember those days very well. I find it interesting that there are so many methods out there to help babies sleep better. The old saying “sleeping like a baby” just isn’t true for many (or most) and I find their sleep patterns as cyclical as everything else in their lives. It isn’t all that helpful to say that these days will pass, but they do. I will say this (and I probably shouldn’t lest my pediatrician is around): When my youngest was 6 weeks old and I was going insane, I finally flipped her over on her stomach and got my first 4 hours of sleep – in a ROW! When she woke up, I felt guilty (kind of). When my first son was born, we were supposed to have them sleep on their tummies, but then by the time my youngest came along – the back it was! In the end, we all just try to do what is best to keep the peace. I will pray for peace for you this Lent. May the awakening of Spring bring all of you deep refreshing slumber.

    1. Thank you, Anita! The flip to tummy sleeping worked wonders for our first, but hasn’t proven to work for #2 (yet). I agree that whatever can keep the peace is the way to go. We can’t beat ourselves up for that. And thank you for your prayers…I always think about what you wrote on the card at my baby shower, that the days are long but the years are short! Your pearl of wisdom has gotten me through many a long day!

  6. Just read a great reminder… we would be better to do NOTHING than to do something without it truly helping us to find God. The author’s point: to do NOTHING is counter-cultural and space creating in a world where we are afraid to do nothing. And as a Mom, it would probably be even HARDER and more difficult (damn near impossible!)… and yet, maybe possibly… simply beautiful.

    1. I’ve been knocking this idea around in my head ever since you shared it, Carrie, and I think you’re right on. Forcing Lenten practices – or any kind of spiritual discipline – is deadening if we do it out of guilt or fear or feeling forced. What’s life-giving is sometimes to do nothing, as you say. To back up and give God space to move in our life. That can be terrifying, but also the most freeing.

  7. Ugh! Sleeping problems are the worst! I will pray that your Easter resurrection will be sleep!:). Ok T-man, sleep is good! Of course we had to do the cry it out this time, and it worked for us. The big bro didn’t wake to the screaming thanks to the loud humidifier running in his room! (It also only took a couple nights. We have had relapses here and there, but have mostly moved past those awful nights.) I think you are right though, consistency is the key. Kids do so well with boundaries even at a young age. I bet this Lent will be a fruitful one for your family! Prayers to you all!

    1. Thank you for your prayers, Amy! And sharing your experience, too. I know that we have some great godparents on our side, so I hope that we will all experience an Easter season of glorious rest!

  8. I think your honest, authentic Lent of simply living your reality in the midst of GOD (or vice-versa) will be one of your most meaningful yet! But regardless, my prayers are with you for reprieve from the chaos. I know all too well how excruciating that can be, and how it does affect each corner of your lives, as our 8 month old only in the last few weeks began sleeping and not feeding at night again (knock on wood!); she was sleeping well, but then took about a 3 month break from it to drive us all to the edge. My only advice: be on the same page as your partner, no matter what the latest plan, try white noise for your older son’s room in hopes it will help him sleep through the screaming, and hang in there…because even if he doesn’t start sleeping well again, it’ll only be a few years before you can send him to boarding school and get a good night’s sleep 🙂 But seriously, I’m praying for you all! And thanks for your wisdom, as usual.

    1. Thanks, Kateri. If nothing else, these trying days of sleep struggles remind me how dependent we are on life’s necessities, how bodily we are! Which, like fasting from food or anything else, reminds me I have to depend on God to support my very life itself.

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