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That about sums up what I’ve been thinking about this week! 😉

It’s the very beginning of Lent and this season been on my mind for months. That’s mostly because I’ve been working on the online Pray More Lenten Retreat for a while, but it’s also because it’s one of my favorite (yep, you heard that right!) liturgical seasons.

This season reminds us that we’re sinners, but it also reminds us that we have a Savior — and that it is worthwhile to do what we can to be united more closely to Him.

It’s worthwhile because this relationship with God is eternal, unlike the other things in our lives that fill our hearts and minds improperly…

It’s worthwhile because a life well-lived is one that’s lived for Him.

And we can’t live for Him if we don’t know who He is.

You probably see where I’m going with this, right? To know who He is, we have to spend more time with Him.

Yep, I’m talking about praying more.

I’m also talking about removing the obstacles that keep us from doing just that.

I have plenty of those… can you name a few? I’m thinking of all the wasted time that I spend in any given week. Time not given to Him. I’m thinking of time that I watch tv shows or read books or magazines that don’t point me to His goodness. I’m thinking of things that I’ve become too attached to — things that I value sometimes more than my relationship with God.

Without Lent, I might not think much of any of those things.

So I am grateful the Church gives us this season to correct ourselves, to try again, to transform our hearts and renew our commitment to Him.

So here are a few suggestions I have for ya this Lenten Season…

The (online) Pray More Lenten Retreat

I couldn’t write this blog post without mentioning this. 😉 This is a retreat we created for the members of our prayer ministry (but it’s available to anyone who wants to join!), and we tried to make it very similar to what you would get if you were able to go to an in-person retreat: we have a handful of speakers, about 18 talks altogether from them, and study guides to go alongside them.

You can do this retreat on your own, with your husband, with your girlfriends, in a group setting, etc. These talks are seriously inspiring. As I watched them, I walked away feeling like… I was forgiven, like I have another chance — another go — at my relationship with God…. I was reminded that He doesn’t want me to feel shameful — He just wants me to return. That’s what this Lent is about. I also learned a lot about the spiritual life — the three stages of it, and how to progress from one to the next. I learned some pretty awesome advice on prayer from some very impressive saints (which saints aren’t impressive, though??). And it has truly given me a lot to work on in the next 40 days… consider joining me! You won’t regret it.

Lent & Marriage

During Lent, we’re meant to unite ourselves even closer to God. Lent is about growing closer to Christ, and sharing in His redemptive suffering.

It’s a penitential season, and it’s a time when we can help bear one another’s crosses as we wait for the Risen Christ. And we can do all of these things in our marriages — we can grow closer to the Lord by improving our marriages.

We’re called to help our spouse grow closer to Christ, and they’re called to do the same for us.

So while we wait for Jesus’ Resurrection, while we wait during Lent, let’s use that time to commit ourselves even more to our vocations, to God and to our spouses. Maybe instead of focusing purely on self-improvement during this time, let’s focus on self-surrendering in both of these relationships. That means dying to ourselves, emptying of ourselves, so that God may live even more within our hearts and our marriages.

These resources might help:

“The Man Who Sleeps Beside Me”
by Rebekah Fox, over at For Every Mom

She writes:

The man who sleeps beside me is still the same man I fell in love with…and I need to take the time to remember… How did I get like…this? Love-less. And demanding. And more interested in making dinner than making… Love? Could I be still enough, to take him in? To drink deep and long of love again? Too many words are spoken, broken, spilled. There are expectations and disappointments, and flaws and failures, and real sin, and real pain, and real Grace. That word, that thing that Jesus came to show us. And poured out His blood for. So we would know what real love looks like. That it sweats, and cries, and bleeds. That it gives up self. And makes itself low. And is gentle. And is kind. And is not rude. Do I see him the way God sees him? Because: God sees him as precious. Precious. Fearfully and wonderfully made…by God Himself. I have him for only such a short time. I do not even know how short. And I wasn’t chosen just to be his housemaid, or his business partner…but his wife. His bride. His friend. To have and to… hold.” (Read the rest here)

My take: I’ve only (only!) been married for 4.5 years right now but this still resonated with me. How often do we take our husbands for granted, and forget to look at him through the eyes of our Lord? How often do we forget that our husbands were created with such love by God — and that we should be caring for them as such? After I read this a few days ago, you’d better believe I gave my hubby a great big hug when he got home from work later that night. I think Rebekah’s message is a reminder we could all use from time to time.

“25 Lenten Resolutions for the Mother and Wife”
by Nancy, over at Do Small Things with Great Love

She writes:

“I’m a good wife, a faithful wife…I do need to work on being more charitable though.  I love my husband so much, but I can get bitter and jealous.  I’m not sure how to totally correct this part of my personality, but I know when I focus more on his needs than on my own, he in turn focuses more on me…and our love blooms.  So, here are a few ways I can do that in a small way each day this Lent.

  1. Try one new recipe a week
  2. Increase frequency of Marital Intimacy
  3. Refrain from mentally trashing husband–completely
  4. Ask my husband how his day was before launching into complaining about mine.
  5. Do something sweet and small for my husband each day.” (Read the rest here)

My take: I love Nancy’s ideas! She breaks down five categories she plans to work on this Lent and two of them stuck out to me: striving to be a charitable wife and growing as a woman of faith. I’m pretty sure each one affects the other, and that both can strongly transform a marriage — and a Lent.

“Love Tested, a Lenten Challenge”
by Shannon, over at Amazing Nearness

She writes:

“This Lent I challenge you to make your marriage the focus of your conversion during this liturgical season. Through living faithfully and sacrificially the sacrament of marriage, we may have the perfect means through which to achieve holiness. Marriage has the potential to perfect us in love! Marriage when accepted with the truth of God’s plan can transform our weak hearts. So instead of giving up chocolate for Lent, I challenge you to take on one of the following marital behaviors to address. Read through the list with your spouse and chose one (or more) to focus on this Lent. Allow this list to help identify the areas of your marriage in most need of triage!…  St. Francis de Sales wrote, “The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and constancy than any other; it is a perpetual exercise in mortification.” So there you have it, there can be no more perfect Lenten challenge! I’ll be praying for you and I hope you pray for me! I’m taking the challenge too!” (Read the rest here)

My take: I’m in. Shannon lists 10 questions that all ask how your marriage applies to a list of ten tests of love. The questions are like, “Do you pray together as a couple? Is your prayer a complaint about your spouse or a prayerful plea for grace and mercy to be showered upon your spouse in their need?” and, “Do you actively seek to praise your spouse everyday? Do you spend most of your time picking out every failure?” They’re basically gut-checks that give you a whole lot to chew on this Lent for how you can have a better marriage.

“Friendship and Marriage”
by Anni, over at A Beautiful Camouflaged Mess of a Life

She writes:

“I am convinced the Sacrament of Matrimony, a commitment between two humans and Our Divine Creator, must be built on the foundation of friendship! Moreover, just like other friendships, we must not shy away from nurturing and fostering that marital friendship at every opportunity. In the thick of things, it’s easy to overlook the foundation of our families – our marriages. But, we must not let the weariness of our days, the demands of our jobs and lives, and our precious children get in the way of our primary vocation – as husbands and wives.”

My take: My favorite part about what Anni wrote is that she created a Beatitudes for Married Couples at the very bottom of her post, and once again, it’s chock full of good reminders of how to love our husbands better. After a few years go by, it’s easier to start treating them less special-y, if that’s a word 😉 right?  Not cool, though! And I know it — I know you know it too. Anni lists a few gentle reminders for how to reverse those bad habits. Go check it out here.

And lastly…

Meatless Recipes

I so struggle with meatless recipes. That’s because we also eat a mostly gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free diet. When people talk a lot about what they’re going to be cooking on Fridays for Lent, I almost always see a ton of recipes with a lot of cheese, or meals that are high-carb & high-wheat. If I could eat those things, I would! 😉 But I can’t so it can be tough on us. Breakfast for dinner is sort of out with those restrictions…

But here are a few recipes I’ve heard good things about… If you have one that’s tasty, please share it with us all below! I also was crowd-sourcing for recipes on my Facebook page, so you can go there & read through what a lot of other ladies had to say they’re putting on their menus this Lent.

Tortellini Minestrone

Healing Turmeric Lentil & Farro Soup

Chunky Vegetable & Roasted Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles (just like spaghetti!)

Here are four separate one-pan salmon dinners (easy clean-up!)

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Quinoa Black Bean Roasted Bell Peppers

Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce

Oven-fried Salmon Cakes

Teriyaki Salmon

Soup for Lent

I talked to a lot of people about what they’re planning to cook the next 40 days and it seems like soup is a big hit during Lent.

We don’t have too many soup recipes ourselves but somebody recommended this book and I’m very seriously considering buying it:

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups

Listen to this: “Of soup and love, the first is best.” Brother Victor-Antoine makes a passionate  case for this Spanish proverb in Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, bringing easy, delicious, soul-satisfying soup recipes from the monastery to your kitchen. From simple, clear broths to thick, hearty soups, there’s a recipe to appeal to every taste. Arranged by month with an eye toward seasonal variety and at least one recipe for every vegetable native to North America, the 175 soups include classic favorites such as Cream of Corn and Tomato and more unique recipes such as Jerusalem Artichoke, and Danish Onion-Champagne…”

Even the Amazon reviews are amazing. I really like that they feature different vegetables each  month — what’s actually in season, because I think it could help us save money while making soup throughout the year. I also like that they have at least one recipe for every veggie native to North America because 1) we garden and 2) we need more variety in our diet! 

Do you have any cookbook recommendations for Lent — or anytime throughout the year? Share those, and your favorite meatless recipes, with us all below please! 🙂

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