Editor’s note: Today, I am very happy to introduce our newest contributor, Laura Kelly Fanucci. Laura is a mother of two who blogs at at Mothering Spirit and a Research Associate with the Collegeville Institute Seminars at Saint John’s University. We’re thrilled to welcome her to our CatholicMom.com family! LMH
Lent is tough. That’s the point, right? But it seems especially tough for busy moms.
We often find ourselves caught between a rock and hard place. Many of the tried and true spiritual practices in our Catholic tradition seem to require 1) undivided chunks of time; 2) quiet; 3) peaceful surroundings. I don’t know about you, but those three rarely occur at our house, and never at the same time. So setting realistic standards for spiritual practices has become the name of my game.
Here are three ways I try to live Lent as a busy mom each year:
1. Lower your expectations.
Sometimes I think I should save my spiritual director the trouble of meeting during Lent. She could simply send me the notes from the previous year, and I would remember that it is always the Same Story. Every Lent I have handfuls of hopeful expectations—I want to pray more every day, I want to read this book, I want to chuck this bad habit, I want to give more generously to those in need. But then life intervenes in its usual frantic, distracting ways, and I feel deflated by my inability to make any progress in my best intentions.
So for the past few years, I’ve deliberately tried to be cautious about my plans and hopes for Lent. Frankly, I set the bar low and I refuse to beat up on myself. Surprisingly, this has resulted in my sticking to Lenten disciplines better than I ever did in the past.
Most of all I try to care for myself like I think God would: gently, lovingly, with forgiveness and compassion. I let myself stumble, and then I celebrate when I try again. If Lent calls us to become more like Christ, one place to start is by loving ourselves as Christ loves us: as broken by sin but blessed by promise.
Lent is a time for slow growth, for honest self-reflection, for deepening our relationship with God. It’s not a time to feel lousy about ourselves for not doing enough.
2. Make short time for small prayer.
Ever since I became a mom, my same spiritual director has reminded me of two things: your work as a mother is prayer and your desire to pray is prayer. Both have taken me a long time to accept, but I have learned to let go of the expectation that I can pray like a monk in an abbey or a nun in a cloister. That’s not my life. Nor is it my call.
Instead, I can pray like a busy working mother.
I can take two minutes to greet the rising dawn with whispered word of thanks for another day. I can share a prayer with my boys when they wake up and as we drive to school. I can bless our food at meals and remember those who will go without today.
I can hold one word from today’s Scripture in mind as I work. I can slow down in the day’s whirlwind to give thanks for a healthy family, a warm home, a good job. I can listen quietly to the unexpected ways God speaks: through an email from a friend, a phone call asking for help, or a story that tugs at my heart.
I don’t have an hour to meditate every morning, but I have many hours squeezed with small moments I can fill with a word of blessing, praise, or petition.
In this busy season of my life, this is what I have to give. And asking God’s help, forgiveness and strength reminds me that giving what I have is enough.
3. Get creative.
Even in the busy whirl of work-kids-home-repeat, we can all find one small way to break out of our routine and become more mindful of how we’re living Lent each day:
Multi-task: combine Lenten practices with spring cleaning. Take up the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge to purge unneeded clothes, toys and housewares. The early Church fathers taught that our unworn clothes belong to the poor, so Lent is the perfect time to remember how we are called to share our resources with others.
Give your alms online. What busy mother hasn’t turned to online shopping for diapers, groceries, or clothes? Do the same with your Lenten giving. With one click you can give generously once your kids are in bed and your work is done.
Shake up everyday habits in little ways. Change your homepage to a website with prayer or Scripture for daily reflection. Stop yourself before turning on the radio or TV first thing in the morning and simply sit in the silence. Make your cup of coffee at home instead of grabbing a latte while running errands, and donate the extra money to a worthy cause.
If nothing else, breathe deeply and recall Mother Teresa’s wise words that we are called not to be successful but to be faithful.
Living Lent as a busy mom humbles us to remember just that.
Copyright 2013 Laura Kelly Fanucci