Tuesday, 8 March 2011
I have not been this excited about an approaching Lenten season since 2003, right before we found out we were expecting Emmeline. Since then, it seems I've either been pregnant or nursing, so the food-related aspects of Lent weren't as much a part of the observances. That seems to affect the whole season, no matter what else I might have given up or added. I'm sure it's because I pushed the boundaries by including foods like chocolate that were not necessary to a healthy diet for pregnancy and nursing.
This year, our family will be going through unavoidable chaos and activity during Lent, but we are anxious to make this a fruitful time for our family. We've had a rough year. A rough six years, but the last year seemed particularly rough. When I told my friend Amber that I didn't understand why it felt much worse, she reminded me that the events of the previous five years unfolded over that time, but last year we had lots of big stuff hit us all at once. I feel silly saying this. I know what Mama would tell me if she were alive. She was always one to point out others who had things much harder than you did. And she would be absolutely right. I can make a list of people I know personally who have dealt with things much more difficult and tragic than anything I've ever experienced. It's just a statement of reality for our family, but just as the leaves and buds of spring are making their appearance, so brighter days have started to come for our family. I am much more aware and appreciative of the good times because of the bad times. The colors of spring would not be so vibrant and welcome to our eyes if not for the dreary palette and bareness of winter. God's design is such perfection, in the natural world and in our lives.
This Lent, we plan to do more as a family to observe this season. I feel that writing this gives an extra dimension of accountability. I'm using several ideas from the site Catholic Icing so the children can have lots of concrete experiences of Lenten practices. We will give up sweets, especially baked goods, which is particularly difficult for me. It's the baking that I love as much as the sampling. We will also give up Sonic 1/2 price drinks, something that has only recently crept back into our budget. I once heard a priest say that you should give up things that need to be removed from or reduced in your life after Lent, so that's why I've chosen these food-related items.
In addition, I'm considering eliminating facebook completely. I know I will limit my computer time to thirty minutes and only in the evening. I hope to see that time lessen even more over these forty days. I like to keep in touch with friends and family, but I loathe being "plugged in." I had a simple Go-Phone, but I haven't even had that for the past few months. I need to get another phone for emergencies. I considered a smart phone, but I don't want to be constantly "plugged in." I also have a distaste for the bad manners associated with smart phones. I see couples sitting together in restaurants who aren't even speaking to each other because each one is busy on a phone. I feel the same way about answering machines and call waiting, but when my father was in a nursing home, I had to give in so I could be more available.
We reduced our cable to basic last year. Before, we only had one level above basic, but I liked my cooking and home improvement channels. It's been much easier than I thought. We are going to make the move to an antennae next and eliminate cable completely. It's not as if there is much on television anyway and our list of books to read is growing quite unmanageable. Over the past years, I've gone through enough that I don't desire to seek out drama (in the modern teenage sense of the word, not the Shakespearean sense) on film or otherwise. One of my friends is a human resources manager and she doesn't watch reality shows because they remind her of work! Quiet home life, peaceful schedule, simple joys, time with friends and family--these are the necessary things of life. We can't control them, but we can seek them out and savor them as they are found. Before my mom died, that's what we had, although one seems to romanticize things as years go by.
We will also add an additional mass during the week and make our nightly rosary a priority. Too often, we have to miss or shorten it, primarily due to a lack of planning on my part. It will be difficult to get to a daily mass and make every nightly rosary, but the beauty of that is that it will require us to make our whole schedule revolve around those things, and thus, revolve around Christ. That's the goal and we hope to have such success with our schedule during Lent that it will be less difficult to add more after Easter day.
Personally, my theme for Lent is Obedience. Obedience to God through obedience to the the demands of a homemaker and to a schedule. Were I as flexible in physical terms as I am where schedules are concerned, I would truly be a human pretzel. That's why another Lenten observance will be bedtime for Mommy--by 10:00! That needs to stay in place after Lent. The main lesson I've learned from the way I've handled things over the past six years is that of my lack of obedience--to God's will, but also to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. So much could have been better if I had let go of worry and fear and handed it to God. If only I had listened to promptings or what the world might call hunches or intuition, I could have avoided certain choices. I think my lack of self-discipline stems from my lack of obedience, so this Lent I will work on being an obedient child, out of love and gratitude for my Heavenly Father. I'll be looking to my friend, St. Therese, to pray me through this one. I always think of a simple image when I think of God's grace. I think back to playing with the garden hose as a child. If I would bend the hose and put a kink in it, I could stop the flow of water. The faucet was still turned on, but I was stopping the flow of water. That's what happens when we ignore God or hold on to things and try to deal with them entirely on our own. God's grace is always flowing; it never stops and He waits to shower us with it, but through our own willful actions, we put a "kink in the hose" and we interrupt the flow of grace.
The last time I spoke with my friend Regina and she told me how excited she is for me and my family. She sees such blessings in our lives and more waiting for us. She told me that distractions shouldn't take my attention away from God and all that He has in store for us. Not a bed or roses or a life without any trials, but a life of joy and hope in Him, regardless of what comes. I am excited, too, in this time of spring cleaning and sprucing up, that as we keep our hands busy on our physical house, we will keep our minds and hearts focused on our spiritual house. God, again, in his perfect timing, is giving us this time of Lent to repair and build our hearts and foundation to be closer to Him. Let the forty days begin; God's got a lot of work to do on me and I've got lots of cooperating to do.