I sat down to read Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit, by Paula Huston, with the intention of just reading the first section. Then I decided I could read the first couple of sections.

And then I read the whole book.

In my defense, I had a whole evening before me and I needed to get the review written for the Patheos Book Club. What I found with this book, though, was much different than what I expected.

I don’t know what, exactly, I expected, but I’m sure it had to do with preaching and a feeling of insignificance at the end. I was excited at the premise and what the book jacket promised, but maybe a little sure that I would not be able to approach Lent using this book as an actual resource.

“It will be good for someone, though,” I thought, “and I can surely read it and see what I have to look forward to.”

(Negative much?)

I was gloriously, wonderfully WRONG. I found myself reading, shaking my head, and looking forward to Lent, when I can dig in.

Will I fail? Yeah, probably. I do every year. In the failure is the kernel I need from Lent, I think, and success isn’t usually about what I plan, but about what graces I allow God to work.

Each day of Lent has a task, with a reflection by the author from her own experience, and then an brief description of the task or practice for the day.

Throughout the book, you get to know Paula Huston as your guide, someone walking beside you and encouraging you, even as she doesn’t settle for less than what you can at least try to do. She’s gentle, but tough. She weaves humor in with what I can only call teaching: she makes the Desert Fathers and Mothers an accessible crew, even for a busy mom in the Midwest.

Not only will I be embracing this book to the best of my ability this Lent, but I encourage you to do the same. It’s not too much, but the seed it will plant and tend during Lent, I believe, will grow into habits that make me a better Christian.