This morning I went running through the bush with four of my daughters: Imogen, Charlotte, Sophie and Gemma-Rose. Before breakfast, we set off down the main fire trail with our dog Nora.
Nora loves running with us. She's one of the girls, part of the pack. As she runs, she grins. She also points her nose high as she sniffs the air. Today, Nora strained forward on her leash. Her eyes were fixed on the bush. Had she seen something? Was it a kangaroo? I don't know.
The girls and I didn't see anything except the rocks beneath our feet. Eyes down, we picked our way over the uneven ground as the trail descended through the bush. After we'd run 2.5 km, we turned around and began climbing back up the steep hill. It was hard work. Would we make it back to the top?
"Think about breakfast. That'll keep you going, "I encouraged.
"No, don't think about breakfast," said Imogen.
"Have you forgotten? It's Ash Wednesday. We can't eat a big breakfast today. It's better not to think about food."
Yes, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It's a day of fasting and abstinence. This morning, I didn't eat a huge bowl of porridge topped with nuts and syrup when I got home from our run. Instead, I had a small snack and a bean.
The Angel family have a bean jar just like ours.
"I don't mind making sacrifices," says Celeste. "I like the bean jar."
A large glass jar will sit on the family altar for the next six weeks. Every time someone says a prayer, or gives up something they usually enjoy or does a good deed, they can pop a bean into the jar. By the time Easter arrives, the jar should be overflowing with beans. And the Angel family should be overflowing with grace.
They look out for opportunities to earn beans.
At morning tea time, Mum decides not to have her usual cup of coffee. She prefers to have a bean instead.
Even Annie wants to drop a bean into the jar. When Mum is reading to all the children, she sits quietly and plays with her doll. "Was I good? Can I have a bean?" she asks.
Mum smiles. "Of course, you can." Mum likes beans. She likes it when everyone tries hard to be kind and helpful and hard working. She wishes they could have a bean jar all the time.
By the time Dad arrives home from work, there are quite a few beans in the jar. Dad adds a few beans of his own. He decided not to buy a newspaper this morning. He's going to put the newspaper money in the Lenten charity box. He also didn't grumble when he got stuck in a traffic jam on his way home from work. Instead of complaining, he said the Rosary.
These quotes come from Chapter 6 of my soon-to-be-published novel, The Angels of Gum Tree Road.
In the story, Lenten Sacrifices, Mum and Dad have some news for the children. It's surprising news. And Kate doesn't like it. She will have to make a huge sacrifice, and she doesn't want to.
What does Kate have to give up? Maybe you will find out soon!
I wonder: Do you have a Lenten bean jar too?