What We’re Doing for Lent

After my last post about my biggest goal for Lent this year, I thought it would be good and fun to share with you what we’re planning on doing as a family this Lent.

Over the years, I’ve found that I really need to challenge myself to commit to both physical and temporal sacrifices during Lent. I can remember after my earliest practicing Lents when I gave up Coke (it’s a big deal for a girl from the South,) when I decided that it would be much better for my soul to give up my time, which I am oh so stingy about. I spent a few years trying out things like the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and reading the Bible daily.

But eventually, I realized that I’d fallen into a trap with that too. It was too easy. Because I am a great big wimp when it comes to physical difficulties. And I need to learn to master physical discipline if I’m ever gettin’ to Heaven. Seriously. So now, I try to make sure that I have a good mix of both things each year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far this year:

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

The Physical

Partial Abstinence

For the last three years, my husband and I have followed the traditional practice of partial abstinence during Lent. Partial abstinence means only allowing one meal a day that contains meat (except on Fridays, which have none at all.) We prayerfully considered doing no-meat at all during Lent, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t beneficial for our health at this point, and frankly: it’s a little too much to follow successfully. Partial abstinence for us is hard. Although our regular breakfasts don’t include meat, our lunches almost always do. And finding ways to cook lots of vegetarian/pescatarian leftovers or suffer the consequences of choosing between PB&J and tuna sandwiches every day is very penitential for us. It’s very hard, but it’s been so good for us! It was after practicing this for the first time that I felt really, truly joyous all through Easter (instead of just on Easter Sunday.)

Reducing Sweet Snacks

I can’t really cut out snacks completely due to my medications and health problems, but I can choose to have apple slices or crackers instead of that cookie someone brought into work. We don’t eat a lot of sweets around our house to start with (as evidenced by the stacks of old Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s candies on top of our pantry–from last year,) so giving them up isn’t a very big deal. We actually have been instead making it a point to add a special dessert on days when a solemnity falls during Lent (oh, how I love those days!) Just to make the distinction feel a bit more special.

Giving up Liquor & Cocktails

Oh Manhattans, how I love thee. (But seriously, wikipedia images… who wants to put Crown in a Manhattan?)

If you knew us, you’d know that this is kind of a big deal. Okay, now we sound like drunks. I promise we’re not. We’re just a family that loves the fun of a yummy, well-mixed cocktail over a glass of wine or a beer. We still enjoy wine and beer, but isn’t a Martini just so much better most nights? Or a Manhattan? My husband has gotten pretty good at mixing all kinds of cocktails over the last few years and they’re really our go-to treat. So we’re giving them up. Waaay harder than giving up candy, let me tell you.

The Temporal

Keeping Television Time to about 1 Hour a Day on Weekdays

We have a bad habit. When we both finally make it home on weeknights, as soon as dinner’s on the table, we’re exhausted. Done and ready to snuggle. So we watch one of our favorite TV shows on DVD. We don’t have cable or internet powerful enough to watch hulu on, so we own everything we enjoy watching together on DVD. While this is great, we often don’t keep it to one show (or a long show and a short one,) because we’re just beat and would rather keep watching and eat away at the little time that we have each evening. So we’re keeping it to one hour of TV time together on weekday evenings so we’ll have time to do some of these other fun things:

Reading the Gospels Together Daily

We’ve been wanting to do this for a while. The plan is to just start at Mark and work until we’re done with John (we’ll decide what happens after that when we get there.) We decided against a set amount of reading per night because every night is different in this house. Some nights we might get through a few chapters, but half a chapter might be all we can do on some nights when we work late.

Reading “My Catholic Faith” Together Weekly

I’ve told you about My Catholic Faith, right? If not, seriously, take my advice and go buy yourself a copy of it now from wherever you can get it. It is THE best family Catechism I have ever seen. And I run a Catholic bookstore, remember? Everything is so well organized and clearly written–no fuzzy gray areas for those without theology degrees. Bishop Marrow gives simply the best clarifications and elaborations on Church teachings you can find. Also, the pictures are beautiful and so, so informative. Just go get yourself one, dig? (P.S. I hear that if you get it through that link, they might throw me a couple of pennies. Which is cool. But no pressure.)

Best. Catechism. Ever.

Best. Catechism. Ever.

We’ll be reading at least one lesson per week during Lent, in the hopes that the habit sticks after the season is over. We’re deciding to keep the night flexible because when we’ve tried this previously, all it took was one wacky schedule change (which happens all the time) to throw off the whole thing. This way, maybe once a week will turn into twice a week.

In addition to these hard and fast commitments that we’re challenging ourselves with, we’re also planning to look for little opportunities throughout the day to offer extra little sacrifices. You know, the quiet little gestures of sacrifice for others that we ought to be doing anyway, or little extra penances like standing when we’d rather sit, doing our least favorite chores first, or doing things the hard way when the easy way is still an option. (Or big things like actually going to the gym.) This post has some wonderful ideas for just these kinds of sacrifices. I might even make some St. Therese Sacrifice Beads to help us along. I’ll let you know.

I’m so grateful to have had the season of Septuagesima again this year to help us prayerfully prepare for Lent’s coming. We were reminded with the readings and homilies in Mass that Lent was soon approaching and had the opportunity to do a “trail run” of some of our planned sacrifices to see if they’d really bear good fruit in practice. Isn’t that great?

There’s what we’re aiming for this Lent, what about you?

Advertisements

Renewing Hope in Lent

How do you like the new look? It’s still a free theme, but one where I could make a few more modifications than before. I’m a fan. Sometimes it takes a visible change to jump-start a new beginning. Which I’ve been needing badly.

I’ve been guiltily avoiding writing for the last month. I just haven’t felt like it. The inner debate that goes on daily always goes something like this:

Motivated Me: You should write something tonight! You enjoy it! You said you would. And it’s been almost a month.

Tired me: Shut up. I’m too tired to write. And there’s nothing to write about. And I’ll be ignoring my husband. And my eyes hurt. And I’m boring anyway. And I’m SO STRESSED OUT. What’s the point? I’m going to go make dinner.

Motivated me: …ok. You win.

That’s pretty much what’s been going down.

The fact of the matter is, my reluctance to write is just a symptom of a much bigger dragon that I’ve been battling this month: the loss of a sense of hope. We got some tough news relating to our infertility earlier this month (more, more permanent roadblocks, but thankfully nothing that makes it impossible,) and hearing the news just sucked the hope right out of me. Which I know doesn’t make any sense because as I just said, it’s not impossible. We DO still have hope. My husband reminds me of this fact constantly, trooper that he is. He hears news like this and all he hears is, “There’s still hope.” I thank God that his heart is so hopeful.

Oddly enough, I’ve been so very, very hopeful (still heart-broken, but hopeful) through this entire process, until I got that particular batch of news. And I sort of already knew it was coming. But hearing that our chances are officially down a solid 50% was…impossibly hard.

I’ve been struggling for weeks, searching for that familiar feeling of hope, praying that Our Lord would find it and return it to me. I know that He will. I feel it coming back to me, finally, in little drips here and there. Oh, it feels so good to hope again. I don’t know whether what I’ve been feeling is really the sin of Judas, the sin of despair, or if it’s simply been an inability to get excited and let myself make my heart vulnerable again. All the time, I was mentally aware that God will do what is best for us, no matter what. I think it was just hard to convince my heart of the fact that what’s best for us still might be biological children.

Lent offers us the opportunity to renew ourselves spiritually, to intentionally reconnect to the magnitude of Our Lord’s great Sacrifice on the Cross in order to more fully experience the joyful hope that is Easter. So this Lent, I am throwing down the gauntlet. Whatever it takes for me to regain that hope, I’m going to do it. I’m going to fight for hope the way I would fight for a child or fight to live. If it means writing more (which I hope it will,) then I’ll do that. If it means just trying to rest and allow myself to not feel so guilty about not writing, then that’s what’ll happen. Because nothing matters more than renewing this hope. God can make anything happen, this I know. And He may still choose to make this happen.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

In this is all the hope we ever need.

P.S. Please forgive the lack of editing in this post–I was afraid that if I didn’t publish right away, I’d never get to it. Gotta get stuff done! 😉