Over the last few weeks I have been planning, creating and preparing Lent Kits for the children of Derry. Working in ministry I am blessed with the opportunity to focus on each season far in advance. It always feels like Advent ends and immediately I move into Lent preparations. This year, while I experienced the same shift from one season to the next, the preparation for Lent became extra special for me. Teaching remotely over the last year has not been easy! Finding ways to help children and families want to learn more from home and, and at the same time, add more to today’s incredibly hard, stressful and overburdened days has certainly been a challenge. But challenges are a great driving force to help educators create some of their best and most meaningful lessons.
The process of planning what would be inside each Lent Kit became a wonderful distraction from my current daily routine. Reading, researching and brainstorming how I can help children ready themselves for the season of Lent was almost therapeutic for me. The search for the perfect items I wanted to use reminded me of the joy of egg hunts and Easter baskets. And the preparation of each kit gave me time to prepare my own heart and mind for the coming season of Lent.
The planning process was full of questions:
- What will kids need?
- How can I keep learning really easy, lots of fun and at the same time keep it meaningful?
- Why should families participate and add to parents’ already full plates?
- Which items from my list are the best to include?
Those early days of planning, the non stop questioning and decision making moments created the framework “I” needed to pause everything else in life and only think about my relationship with God.
All of a sudden there was a new sense of comfort as I reread stories I have heard over and over again, and these memories of the past made me smile as I recalled what this season brings to each of us. We get to follow Jesus along his journey and relearn the power of prayer, kindness and love for all. We watch as our world moves from the dark, cold and harsh days of winter to the vibrant, warm and reviving days of spring…the real life connection to the amazement and beauty of Jesus’ resurrection.
The creating and collecting phase is my favorite part of any lesson or unit. Finding just the right items to fit each story and each emotion is like gift shopping for those we love. Choosing items like an empty colorful Easter egg to symbolize the Empty Tomb, or dissolving paper to write out your sins and then watch as you ask God for forgiveness and see them disappear in water right before your eyes, lets the children use everyday items or a little magic to bring them closer to God. Including a holding cross to use as they pray, when they need strength or comfort or to calm their anxieties, will help remind them that God is with us always. And my favorite addition to any lesson or unit is the use of something made by a Derry member. Elizabeth Gawron created a Lenten placemat for the children to enjoy, which includes games and activities that bring the children closer to the bible and are surrounded by a unique and beautiful Lent labyrinth to use as they talk with God.
With all the contents of the Lent Kits chosen, collected and copied, it was now time to complete each kit. As I worked to put these bags together for the children, I was blessed with time alone. I was able to be “in the moment” and enjoyed having uninterrupted time with God. As we begin this season, I encourage you to make a little time each day to be “in the moment” with God. I pray that this time can bring you what you are craving. These days are certainly not easy. They are filled with newness around each bend, and often feel like a constant uphill battle. I encourage you to let God walk through these days with you, let God carry some of your burdens, and let God fill you with love, patience and comfort so that you may feel all the emotions the season of Lent offers us.
Creating these kits and choosing just the right items are much like how we prepare our homes and hearts for Lent. As you bring out the colorful eggs, the cute bunny decorations, the signs adorned with words of hope and affirmations, the baskets, and the flowers, may you place them around your homes to serve as daily reminders of God’s love for you. When shopping for the perfect sweet treats to fill Easter baskets, may it remind you of the joy and comfort you feel when you invite God into your life. And when you wake up on Easter morning and “come” to worship, I pray you will be filled with strength and peace and be able to rejoice for God’s unending love for you!
I pray that this season of Lent will bring you the fun and joy of an Easter egg hunt, realizing that even colorful plastic eggs can serve as reminders of Jesus. May you find God in plain sight on the good days and hiding in unexpected places on the tough days. I hope you can be filled with peace and hope as you anxiously wait for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the reminder that he continues to live within each of us. May Easter morning let you feel great joy…a kind of joy that only God and Jesus can let us feel.
Take care, my friends!