Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent.  Our day began with Mass this morning, with the assistance of friends who have six children of their own.  Maybe it was the solemnity of the day, maybe it was being able to go up to the altar twice (and one of those times get to do what the big people did), but the tribe was reasonably good throughout.  We had a quick moment of angst when Mr. Man decided it would be enormous fun to crawl under the pew and greet the parishioners seated behind us in an up-close-and-personal way, and a brief outcry when Baby Guy’s bottle did not arrive in his mouth with the speed he would have preferred, but we’ve had far worse Masses.  I actually heard the homily today, and I think the people around us did, too.

The puppy is not the only one who is Smudgie today.

I spent a decent part of the morning explaining to the girlies why we wouldn’t have sweets today, and why Mommy and Daddy would be eating as little as possible.  See the links in the first sentence if you’re also a little fuzzy on that.  We had a few errands to run after Mass, since our friend over at Christ the King has a coloring book about Lent in her stock that seemed like a good idea; once those were done, home we came to have a little lunch and do schoolwork.  Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that the school day starts whenever we need it to, so if a priority like Ash Wednesday Mass comes along, we don’t miss any instructional time.  Just saying.

Most of Father Hudgins’s homily today dealt with choices that we make.  We can choose to use loving or hateful words when we speak, we can choose to help or to pass by a person in need, we can choose to build up or tear down.  It was rather helpful that Beanie’s daily devotional involved a story about a little girl who saw a box of candy and a book and wanted both, but had only enough money for one.  She opted for the book, because it would give her a more lasting benefit.

The wisdom of three-and-a-half-year-olds never ceases to amaze me.  Beanie actually got it.  She said, “That’s like when we go to Wegmans.  I like candy.  I like books, too, and if I get a book, you read it to me again and again.  I’d rather eat candy and read the book, though.  But we don’t have enough money.”

Okay, we’re not REALLY that broke, but it’s at least put the idea into her head that she’s not going to get everything she wants.

We both enjoyed the little prayer at the end of the story, too, which read, “Jesus, please help me to make choices that are not only good, but good for me as well.  Amen.”  Throughout the day, whenever Beanie balked at something she was asked to do (like using the potty), I explained the choice before her, and asked her what the right choice would be — not the choice that would give her the immediate result she wanted, but the right choice.  She chose rightly every time.  I doubt that will last until bedtime, because there is a bath in her future tonight, but she actually understands the concept.  It will serve her well later in life when she has to choose between going to the movies and paying the water bill, between a fancy dinner for herself and making sure her neighbor’s children have any food at all, between indulging a sexual impulse and living the life she’s imagined without regrets, between love and wrath, between life and death.

I’m glad the Lord gave us free will, and ten simple rules.  Every word, every action or inaction, is a choice.  We are free to choose to gratify an immediate desire, or we can choose to look at long-term consequences.  Long-term includes which way we’ll go when, eventually, to dust we return.  If we choose to destroy, to break, to kill, we’re not walking in friendship with Christ or with each other.  We’re still free to do it, though.  There’s a reason that wrath and covetousness are numbered among the deadly sins.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings and I are faced with choices every day.  It is so tempting, at times, to go for the easy indulgence, to gratify the whim of a moment, without looking at the consequences.  It can be as simple as spending the dollar on a candy bar that we could use to provide a bag of rice for someone who hungers, or giving a child a cookie just so he or she will stop screaming.  Please, Lord, help me set a good example of right choices for them, to teach them to pause and reflect on whether a choice is good or just easy.  I want to teach them compassion, love, and generosity in all things.  You sacrificed Your life for us, and before you did, You withstood every temptation, to show us that walking in the Lord’s way is possible.  Let us see temptations for what they are, and to choose to follow You.


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