A Hopeful Lent

Where are you finding hope? What does hope look like for you right now?

In my own struggle with whether or not to get dressed in the morning, I know that I’m struggling to find hope. It feel like a nice idea or even like something that we once had. Maybe even something we will have again but that still feels like a long way off. Like so many, I am exhausted.

My children are little. They know about the yucky germs and know that we can’t go near people without our masks on. I keep more distance because my youngest isn’t old enough to wear a mask and we still live in Texas where there are people that think this is a hoax and refuse to wear their own masks. I worry about what I’m teaching them by telling them to keep such distance. I worry so much about my own sanity and theirs that I’m not sure that I have energy for anything dramatic this Lent, but I know I need something. I need something to reframe my frustration and sorrow.

In her new book, The Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times, Amelia Richardson Dress invites us to imagine that by doing simple things that hope could come live inside us. She begins by naming parenting with hope like this:

Hope has both an inward component and an outward one. Practices of resilience help us to find courage and trust. They comfort us in times of struggle. But they also inspire us to believe in the vision that Jesus gave us, that God’s reign will come here on earth.

Amelia Richardson Dress

It took my breath away. It is repeats again in other wonderful words throughout the book but I don’t want to quote so much that you feel like you’ve read the book. You should read the book especially if you find yourself struggling in this uncertain time. If you are not struggling, you are a superhero. I am not sure what hope looks like right now. That’s the honest truth and that’s why I need to enter into these simple practices of generosity, hospitality, forgiveness, blessing and storytelling. Yes, all of these are possible even for someone like me who takes quarantining to a whole new level.

With Amelia’s abundant blessing, I’ve adapted the practices she offers for the seven weeks of Lent. It’s seven because it includes Holy Week which means you get one more practice to share in with the wisdom offered in this wonderful book. I can’t take on that much more and I am willing to bet that’s true for the families in your church. It might even be true for you, dear pastor. You are doing so much raising your children and caring for the blessed souls in your congregation. Whether or not you feel on edge like I do, you really are a superhero. You are doing amazing things every damn day.

There is nothing strict about this approach to this pandemic season of Lent. There is a calendar but it’s really only because I don’t know what day it is and I need something to orient me on some kind of timeline. There aren’t practices for every day but something you are trying together as a family each week. As Amelia says again and again, try this. It’s an experiment in hope. Try it. See what it might show you about God.

It could even be fun. There are a few extra practices if you get bored or want to try something else.

Each week, there is a blessing written by Amelia, the practice that will frame your week, and some hints at beautiful books to read with your children in the Bible and from children’s literature. I also included some questions for grown-up conversation so that you can practice talking to grown-ups again about big ideas and stuff that matters.

I designed this for myself. It’s what I’ll be doing with my family. I’ll be dragging my husband into the conversations even though he doesn’t do God or church. I framed these questions in such a way that they are not too Jesus-y because I know that there are more families like mine, but I also wanted there to be something like this that would be easy for you, dear pastor, to send to the families in your church.

I know you’ve worked hard to create brilliant and wonderful things for families all year long and that some of you feel like you have no good ideas left. This is for you. You’ll find the link to A Hopeful Lent (for Congregational Use) here. By ordering this version, you have full ability to share it with your whole church for this season in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

I also created a version for families to use at home on their own. You’ll find a link to the A Hopeful Lent (for Family Use) here. When you purchase this version, you’re promising to be a nice person and tell your friends about this cool thing you found and directing them to the link rather than forwarding them the rad PDF you just got in your email.

I’m so thrilled with how it came together and I pray it will help families, like mine, find hope in this pandemic season of Lent. I’m so grateful that Amelia blessed this project. You should totally buy her book even if you don’t do this for Lent. It is, indeed, a gift for this uncertain time.

7 thoughts on “A Hopeful Lent

  1. I haven’t done much for the children in our congregation during Covid. As a parent with young ones, I just can’t take on one more activity with them on top of the distance learning. And many of the parents in my church feel the same. But your resource is incredible! It’s the first extra activity I’ve seen in the last year that feels life giving instead of one more guilt inducing thing that I should be doing. I’m thrilled to have this resource for the families in my church. Thank you!

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    1. You just made my day! Thank you so much for taking the time to post this comment with all of the many other things that you are juggling right now. I am, as you may know, a mom of littles who doesn’t work so I don’t know all that distance learning and ministry looks like right now, but I know that we are all overwhelmed and I tried to create something simple. This was most certainly my hope. I hope it’s a blessing to you and your church.

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  2. This sounds like a beautiful, much-needed resource. Our congregation does not have many children. Is this resources useful for childless families or is it really geared towards doing things with kids? I find many resources for “families” are awkward at best, painful at worst, for use with singles or older couples or any “non-traditional” family without children.

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    1. Oh yes, I completely understand this concern and am sorry I wasn’t clearer.

      This is really a resource for households with children. It assumes that folks are in the thick of parenting following the book The Hopeful Family (which I can’t imagine anyone not parenting reading and finding helpful) and it sounds like that would not be the right choice for your context.

      I might consider Heidi Haverkamp’s Holy Solitude which I used before I had children a few years ago or maybe the SALT Project’s Emily Dickinson and the Poetry of Lent might work. If your congregation is under 100 members, it’s a similar price point. You can find that here: https://www.saltproject.org/emily-dickinson-and-the-poetry-of-lent/emily-dickinson-and-lent.

      I will factor this into resources I create in the future. I have heard the lament that there are fewer resources out there for singles and households without children clearly in this pandemic season. I hope these suggestions might help.

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      1. Thank you! I am so glad I stumbled across your website as your spirit is so gracious and I am refreshed whether or not I utilize a particular resource you offer. Blessings to you!

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