Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday

 Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  Last year was my first time to experience this tradition, and I knew it was something I wanted to develop a little further in my kids' spiritual education.  Tomorrow afternoon I am getting together with three other Mommies and all our little ones to talk about the significance of Ash Wednesday and put ashes on the heads of any kiddos who want to participate.  I am breaking one of my own rules and writing a blog post on a day I usually don't, but I want to put this out there in case anyone wants to do Ash Wednesday at home with your own kids. 
I've been doing a lot of reading about using sacraments/sacramental days to teach my children about things of God.  I love this stuff and what it brings--joy and tangible experiences that are appropriate for young children, especially preschoolers.  I am learning through my readings to avoid the temptation to "explain away" these concepts and traditions.  From what I read, it's recommended to give a little bit of explanation but then to simply let our kids become immersed in the experience.  Too much talk takes away from the magic of the experience.  I relate this to what a friend of mine has shared with me about the Classical Conversations education method--that at a young age children spend a lot of time just memorizing dates, events, etc., and then at a later age spiral back to those same concepts (which have already been given a foundation through memorization) and add meaning to them.  That's what I am seeing encouraged as we lead our children to experience spiritual traditions.  Of course this is really hard for me because I want my 4 year old (who is barely venturing into abstract thought....) to understand to the depth I do how Jesus had to die for her sins and the subsequent emotions she should be feeling.....ridiculous....I know.  And at the same time I think about my Heavenly Father, shaking his head at the shallowness of MY understanding of Jesus's sacrifice for me.  Thankfully He does the same thing....lets me spiral back, again and again, to build on my understanding, and best of all, loves me even though I'll never fully grasp it all.
So tomorrow I'll have my little chiminea at the park and the kids will each get to put in some palm branches to be burned to make ashes.  We'll sit in on the ground ("in the dirt"), have a brief talk about the ashes and any child that wants to will then get a chance to have their mom put ashes on their head in the shape of a cross.  I'll be bringing a mirror so they can see what it looks like.  We'll have a prayer and sing the song "Lord, We Lift Your Name on High" (the one with the hand movements).  And that's it!
I hope to keep a tone of quiet and reverence tomorrow, which seems appropriate in light of the subject matter--and the fact that this is important stuff. We'll be quiet and reverent as we enter the park and during the ash time.  I will have everything set up right as the children arrive, as I know little ones' reverence does have its limits.  :)  And after our 10ish minute Ash Liturgy (that sounds so official, but I don't know what else to call it....ash bash?) the kids can run wild and crazy at the park and enjoy some playtime. 
I am so thankful I have friends who stand together with me as we impress Jesus on our children's hearts.  And if this whole thing totally bombs and nothing goes right.....we'll learn better for next year, right? 
I am excited!! 

I sat down and wrote a "script" of what I want to say tomorrow--enough to explain what we're doing, but hopefully not too much.....I'll be praying that the Spirit will lead me when the time comes to speak to these little souls tomorrow.  I wanted to share it in case you want to do your own Ash Bash with your kiddos tomorrow. 

Additionally, here's the LINK to my post from last year, when I introduced 3 year old Quinn to Ash Wednesday.  I share these in hopes you can be inspired to find a way to use this season as a tool to teach your kids even more about their Savior....and also because I have had a hard time finding information on Ash Wednesday and Lent and how to involve preschoolers, so here is some of the information I gleaned, put together in a way that makes sense to me. 

 Today starts a time of 40 days that we work to get our hearts ready to remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave so we can someday go to heaven with him.  During this time called Lent, we look into our hearts we take out the things that don't help us love God,  some of the things we want out are our sins. 

I want to show you something we're going to do to remind us how sad our sins make us feel and God feel.  A long time ago when people were sad they would sit in the dirt and dress in rags and rub ashes on themselves to show how their heart was feeling (have some sackcloth (burlap) to hold up and show the children).  On Ash Wednesday, some people want to remember how sad our sins make God feel, so they put ashes on their head to show their sadness.  But they do something special with those ashes--they put them in the shape of a cross, because even though our sins make God so sad, He has given us Jesus to take away our sins by dying on the cross. 

(invite children to sit on the dirt)

If you want to, your Mommy will put some ashes on your head in a cross. (demonstrate)