Sunday, February 4, 2018

3 Jars Can Help Your Children Remember to Pray, Fast, and Give

Pray, fast, and give.
Pray, fast, and give.
All through Lent
As learn, love, and live,
We pray, fast, and give.

For years now, we've been singing versions of this made up ditty during the 40 days of Lent, often in conjunction with filling our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars.

Randomly, this morning, my daughter began singing the song, perhaps in anticipation of the coming Lenten season or perhaps because we have been doing a lot of praying and fasting this past week while fighting fevers.  Whatever the reason, after my my daughter sang the ditty, I asked her if she could explain how we make and use our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars, so I could share it here.  She was happy to do so.

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My Daughter Explains Pray, Fast, and Give Jars

To make our Pray, Fast, and Give jars we used three small glass babyfood jars. First, we nailed a hole in the lid.  Then, we took paper and wrote "pray" on the first...
..."fast" on the second, and "give" on the third. 
We used purple, because it is Lent.  
Then, we glued these papers onto the jars, and, near them, we put birdseed.   
Every time we pray, fast, or give during Lent, we put a seed (or bean) into a jar, depending on whether we prayed, fasted, or gave.  Then, on Easter, the jars "grow" lollipops , symbolizing the sweetness of Jesus' love, and we throw our seeds of sacrifice to the birdies.
We first heard about a similar thing on Holy Heroes, where they use one big jar for their family and use beans that turn into jelly beans.  We changed from jelly beans to lollipops, because when we went gluten-free, casein-free, and dye-free, lollipops we could have were easier to find. 
We changed to bird seed so we could feed the birds, too.  And, we like to have three jars - one for praying, one for fasting, and one for giving - because we like to see how much each one gets.  Usually praying has the most.  We need to remember fast and give more - especially fasting!
I think other people with children can enjoy this tradition.  It's fun and also supports praying, fasting, and giving, because you have something visual and concrete to do every day during Lent, and, then, can rejoice and enjoy lollipops on Easter!
Through the Years with Our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars

As many traditions do, our family's tradition of using Lenten Jars has morphed through the years.  We've adapted how many jars we use, where we place them, and what we put in them according to the needs and ideas of each given Lenten season.  However, even as these practical details have changed from year to year, one thing has not:  Pray, Fast, and Give Jars have become a staple Lenten tradition for us which reminds us daily to focus on the penitential practices. 

We began using Lenten Jars in 2010 before my third child was born.  That year, I was out of purple paper on the day we made the jars, so, we used green, instead, (since we were just coming out of Ordinary Time) and decided to decorate the papeer with our names, hearts to reminds us to love Jesus through sacrifices, and the words "pray", "fast", and "give" written in penitential purple.  Then, throughout Lent, we dropped up to three beans a day into our jars,  depending on if we remembered to pray, fast, and give during that given day

To help us remember our penitential focus, we also posted the words "Pray", "Fast", and "Give" above our jars using purple paper letters that I'd cut out and let the children affix smiley stickers on. (That is where the last of my purple paper went that year before making the jars.).  The
 smiley faces reminded us that Jesus smiles when we offer him our sacrifices.

Then, on Easter of that year, our beans disappeared and were replaced with sweet, long-lasting treats - lollipops - to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus' love.   Plus, the Lenten purple cloth below the beans turned to Easter white, the word "alleluia" re-appeared along with a wish for happy Easter, and an image of the risen Jesus came out, too.

This first experience of using our Lenten Jars proved effective in helping us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts at prayer, fasting, and almsgiving throughout Lent, and, of course, the children loved discovering their efforts transformed into joy and sweetness on Easter.  So, in 2011, we decided to make new jars.

That year, with a baby in the house, we kept the jar-making simple by just wrapping jars with purple paper that the children used foam stickers, markers, and crayons on.  We placed these under a cross of paper the children painted purple which acted as a reminder to pray, fast, and give alms throughout the season.  The children also added other bits of decor - mostly homemade - to the display as Lent unfolded, including crosses and sacrifice beads.

Then, on Easter morning, the purple tablecloth beneath the Lenten Jars was replaced with a white cloth, Easter cards that the children had received were placed on the table, an image of a risen Jesus appeared, and angel crafts the children had made came to the fore to remind us of the angel in the Bible that announced Jesus had risen.  Plus, of course, the lollipops grew.

During Lent 2012, we transitioned from using a single Lenten Jar per person to be filled with up to three beans a night to a using set of three Pray, Fast, and Give Jars for the entire family, which we filled whenever we remembered to do so after praying, fasting, and giving.  

After making our jars, we set them out with a bin of beans (hidden under a purple cloth), a Lenten nature craft of three crosses, and an image of Jesus carrying his cross.  

The kids could not wait to start using the jars and began praying, fasting, and looking for opportunities to give right away.

The "big kids" also got a bit over-zealous helping their baby brother to use our Pray, Fat, and Give jars..  Yep, the beans went everywhere - and, with them, a message was carried.

After cleaning those beans up - and finding stray bean after stray bean for days - there were still plenty to drop in our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars when we made sacrifices, so, of course, on Easter morning, the children were thrilled to discover that their jars had grown Easter sweetness and so had the hill where they had placed their nature-crafted crosses.  Homemade butterflies, an image of the risen Jesus, unburied "Alleluia's", and liturgical year wheel completed the scene.

In 2013, before we'd even made our jars, my daughter began praying at the table where they'd be placed. Then, my oldest son suggested that we change what we put in our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars from beans to birdseed.  So, that is what we did. 

I cannot find a photo of our 2013 Pray, Fast, and Give Jars out on our Lenten prayer table, but I was able to find this shot of the table transformed for Easter morning with lollipops growing out of our seed bowl and jar filled with seeds of sacrificial love.  (Note: I learned from the prior year and put out a much smaller container of seeds than I had of beans the year before!)

In 2014, our living room configuration changed and, so our prayer table disappeared, to be replaced by a cubby on our learning shelves.  Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of how our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars looked there, but I do have a photo of the kids making the jars - which, by then, had become a quick and easy - yet still enjoyable - process since we'd been doing it for several years.

Then, instead of keeping our jars tucked onto the cubby shelf on Easter morning, they got moved over by our Easter baskets.

Lent 2015 found our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars moving to the kitchen table on a tray of seed (which we would not recommend to families with wee ones who might eat or get too overzealous with such a set up, nor to those with pets or pests.) We found that this placement prompted us to actually make sacrificial acts of prayer, fasting, and giving throughout our days better since the display was right where we cook, eat, and often do lessons or crafts.

Soon, a crucifix joined the scene, tucked into the small basket in which we placed strips of paper from completed sacrifices from our Lenten Chain

Then, on Easter lollipops grew from our seeds of sacrificial love (which went out to feed our feathered friends), and they also appeared in the little basket nearby.  Our buried-and-resurrected "Alleluias" became a backdrop for the scene, and some paper plate pencil topper Easter lilies, white candles, and opened paper Easter tombs that one of the kids had made completed our not-picture-perfect-yet-perfect-enough-for-us Easter vignette.

In 2016, our jars moved to the shelf between our living room and our dining room, however, I neglected to take any photos of them until the labels had come off, the seeds had been spread outside, and the children had gotten into the sweet reminders of Jesus' love.  You can see here, though, that we decided to add a small statue of a risen Jesus near to our Easter morning display.

Lent 2017 was a rather crazy time for us since, among other things, we had recently lost Nana and Daddy was recovering from a surgery. Plus the children were preparing for and competing in their first Destination Imagination competition and, well, there was just a lot going on in our heads, hearts, and lives.  So, to be honest, even though it was only a year ago, I cannot recall if our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars remained on the shelf or made their way back to the table.  I do know, however, that during a somewhat stressful Lent, our tradition of using Pray, Fast, and Give Jars reminded us daily to offer up our hardships and to keep focusing on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

By the time Easter came, we were all ready to savor the sweetness blooming from our jars, which were tucked at the top of our Easter morning table.  We also rejoiced in the sweetness of knowing Jesus, indeed, rose again.  Darkness never triumphs.

So it is that for almost a decade now, we have enjoyed our tradition of Pray, Fast, and Give Jars, and undoubtedly, will continue to do so for many years to come. Especially last year, they proved to us how a simple 
tool - three jars, some paper, some markers, birdseed, and lollipops - can work to focus us on the penitential practices of Lent and the joy of Easter.  Our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars have certainly become an enduring and meaningful tradition for us.  Perhaps your family might borrow the idea.

Whatever traditions you and yours practice, may your Lenten journey be a meaningful time or prayer, fasting, and almsgiving!


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