I am a visual learner. Also a list maker, at least since the 5th grade when suddenly I started writing down everything I did and crossing it off. A little weird at that age, but definitely necessary now that I can’t even keep my kids’ names straight. If I had to keep everything; grocery lists, cleaning projects, medicines that must be applied to or gotten into small children… well, nothing would happen since I am, also, a forgetful person.
Needless to say, I did not give up list making for lent. My entire family can thank me for that, their world will continue to rotate on its axis. But thinking about that part of me, the forgetful visual list maker, has helped me do something this lent that has helped me tremendously.
Earth shattering, right? It’s taken me 34 years to figure out that as a visual learner I learn better through visuals. Perhaps better put, I knew that already, I just didn’t know how to help that part of me. If you are a part of a liturgical church, the color of the vestments change, the crosses are covered over with purple cloth, and that color and shrouding just become an automatic tie in to lent that someone else is in charge of. When you are on your own, nothing happens that you aren’t intentional about (Yes, I am really being Captain Obvious here.)
But I have been happy and perhaps a little startled to find some things that work for me. Things that, even almost three weeks into lent, have helped to keep it forefront in my mind, even in the middle of every day life.
First I commandeered a bookshelf and pulled out every book that I may want to read during lent; devotionals, my Bible, Herbert, T.S. Eliot, L’Engle. I may only ready parts of three of them, but I see the shelf every time I walk into the living room and if I get the spare time the books are there and waiting for me. I don’t need to waste time searching for something.
The visuals work the other way as well. I gave up (don’t laugh) artificial sweetener and the scale for lent, so both of them have been moved out of sight, because I am visual and a creature of habit, particularly when it comes to my three cups of coffee a day. I also gave up yelling at my children, so they have been moved to a box in the basement and I look forward to seeing them on Easter.
But not about the yelling. The thing is, I knew I would forget about not yelling until after I was mid-yell, so I put Pinterest to good use, printed out one of those “inspirational parenting quotations” I pinned a year ago, and slapped it up all over the house.
Seriously. All over. On the kid’s doors, on the door to the garage, in the living room, by the bathroom mirror, by the sink (Perhaps my children are the only ones who, as soon as I start doing the dishes, sound like they are killing each other. On the other side of the house.) And it truly has helped tremendously because it’s always there, I see it in every room and it is a constant reminder to me.
Though I did have to wonder, if you give up yelling at your kids during lent do you get to yell on Sunday since it’s always a feast day?
Another thing from Pinterest was a center piece for lent; sand and rocks and a candle with the prayer for the week. I looked for a purple table cloth but couldn’t find one at the stores I frequent and ended up with blue instead.
The blue cloth and the sand and rocks serve as a sort of mental hyperlink for me. I see them and my mind immediately goes to the end of T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday: “Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood/Teach us to care and not to care/Teach us to sit still/Even among these rocks/our peace in His will” which then gets me thinking of the rest of his poem which is something I actually can do as a mother with small children (well, at least sometimes they allow me to think),whereas sitting down and reading poetry for a hour (unless it is Green Eggs and Ham and Yertle the Turtle) doesn’t make the cut.
And then there is The Wall. I have a little corner shelf that usually holds a few figurines.
Since one of the things I wanted to focus on was gratitude I took the idea other people have done around Thanksgiving and began listing 3 things a day that I am thankful for and taping them onto the wall. I am guessing you will find hot coffee, fresh bread, and a good run listed many times. But it helps me to have a visual of the gratitude, that I have so much to be grateful for, and to see something different in the room. Although the Jesus icon keeps slipping when the door gets shut too hard. It is not unusual for Isaac to say, “Mom. Jesus fell down again.”
I guess it surprises me (though it really shouldn’t) that lent feels so much closer to home this year. It feels like it is actually a part of life rather than something I am trying to replicate from a decade ago that doesn’t quite fit. It feels like I am actually able to observe this season where I’m at (mostly at home with small, needy, always-on-the-go human beings) but still doing things that matter to me and are part of who I am.
And for that I am truly grateful.