Lenten Sacrifices

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.

"Why not?"

"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.

A bean? Yes, there are two jars on our family altar. One is full of beans. The other is almost empty. Each time we make a sacrifice during Lent, we will take a bean from the first jar and place it in the second. By the time Easter arrives, hopefully, we'll have transferred all the beans from one jar to the other.

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!

Our bean jars are rather ordinary. We just grabbed a couple of old glass jars from the kitchen cupboard. Our beans are dried cannellini beans. We've had the same ones for years. I've always wanted to dye them purple but have never actually got around to doing this. Purple Lenten beans? Wouldn't that be perfect?

I wonder: Do you have a Lenten bean jar too?

Sue Elvis

Australian blogger, author, podcaster and unschooling mother


  1. Happy Ash Wednesday, Sue. I hope it was a good day! :-)

    1. Vicky,

      Thank you! I came out of Mass with a sense of anticipation, and excitement. Easter is not far away! Of course, we've got lots of work to do before then. Lots of beans to earn! I hope you have a very blessed Lent.

  2. I don't have a bean jar; sounds like a good concept though for the Lenten season.


    1. Betty,

      My girls enjoy earning beans. They like to earn them secretly and then add their beans to the jar when no one is watching. I join in too. It's good to see the beans starting to pile up in the second jar! I hope you have a very blessed Lent.

  3. I love this idea! I'm going to start a bean jar with my family!

    1. Anne,

      I know many of my friends have a crown of thorns instead to mark their sacrifices. They form a crown out of plasticine or dough and insert lots of toothpicks which can be earned. I like this idea very much. We'll probably stick with our beans though because it is easy and we've been doing it this way for years.

      If you have a jar in your cupboard and a packet of beans (or something similar) you can begin straightaway. We did make a mistake one year. We used tiny beans. Oh my, it took forever to fill up the jar!

  4. Such a great visual I will be hunting out two jars and some beans when I get home.

    Thank you dear friend xxx

    1. San,

      I'm glad you can use this idea. You could use any kind of container to store the beans before they are earned, or even leave them in their original packet. We have a few extra beans stored in a drawer just in case we work extra hard and run out of beans before Easter. (I don't know if that will happen!)

  5. Lenten bean jar. So easy, so good. Our beans too are several years old. Some small red ones, some big white ones. Paint some of them purple might be a good idea. We differentiate the beans, small ones for small acts of charity, big ones for bigger acts of charity. Purple beans for sacrifices ... hmm next year, maybe. The beans turn into jelly beans on Easter night, and the amazing thing is that I always have to fill up the jar during the Easter time, even if it was not full at the end of the Lenten season. A good chance to tell of God's overflowing grace and patience.

    1. Uglemor,

      Having different sized beans is a great idea. We usually just take several beans if the act of charity is big, but I do like your way of doing things. I also like jelly beans! Perhaps we should adopt your jelly bean idea too. (And we'll also fill our jar with them regardless of how many beans were earned!)