I was in the process of making my Lenten plan when I realized I hadn’t asked God what He wanted me to give up. I thought about what I wanted to work on: spending quality time with my kids, spending more time in prayer, and giving myself a strict bedtime and rising schedule.
When I first converted to Catholicism, I remember being so excited about Lent. I loved giving things up. I loved the feeling of the Church coming together. I loved the sacrificing. It was Easter that was hard for me. I grew up in the Easter-bunny culture, where the day was about my chocolate See’s bunny and the ham dinner. It’s taken years to be excited for Easter, instead of bitter that the season of joint struggling was over. I have developed a love of the Resurrection. I realized it was also a 50-day season of celebration, and who doesn’t love a reason to celebrate?
This year, I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about Lent. Struggling through the last few months with my anxiety had felt like I’d already been through the suffering of Lent. I wasn’t particularity excited about more penitential practices. I made my list and by Ash Wednesday was super sick with allergies, so I was even less eager for the season to begin, as I felt unprepared. It wasn’t until the evening of Ash Wednesday that I realized God had a different plan for my Lent. Perhaps my lack of total preparation had, in turn, allowed some movement for Him to rearrange my plan.
Fasting: I’m already dealing with food sensitivity issues and I’ve cut a lot of foods out of my diet. I decided that I wasn’t going to give up any food this year. Instead I would fast from staying up late and sleeping in. I would go to bed at 10 PM and wake up at 6 AM. Because I ended up getting hit with allergies, I was able to keep to my 10 PM bedtime, but the mornings proved way too hard to rise at 6. I had to let my desires go for 6 AM and take care of my body instead. Then I noticed an added effect from the allergies. By the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, I had lost my sense of taste. I was not able to taste any of the flavors of my food until lunchtime today, which is one week from Ash Wednesday. I went to dinner at a friend’s house this weekend and she made my favorite dessert: lemon cake with confetti frosting. What are the chances anyone else would choose those combinations, and I couldn’t taste anything!
As I battled through the lack of flavor, I realized how grateful I was for this penance, as it was nothing I had control over. I almost worried about what I would do in order to keep up the sacrifice when my sense of taste returned. I’m working to figure this one out. Maybe I’ll go back to addressing my cravings for sweets? Or I’ll pick a favorite food that I can eat and give that up?
Almsgiving: My son suffers from asthma, and his cough had gotten excruciatingly bad on Ash Wednesday. I had finally put him to bed and was excited to sit on the couch and call my sister. Moments into our conversation, I could hear the coughing fits start up again. Three different visits back and forth to his room finally resulted in me just bringing him to the couch with me to get him to sit up and calm himself down.
I realized while I thought about not being able to talk to my sister in that moment, that God had a different idea for my “quality time with my kids.” I had this dream of reading a book together for 10 minutes each day and what a sweet way it would be to start our day. He showed me that quality time can mean caring for my children and sacrificing my time to help them heal.
Prayer: I decided on setting up time for certain prayers throughout the day, and this is the one category where I feel like He’s allowed me to excel! My mind has been clear enough each morning to offer my first thoughts as prayers to Him, about Him and for my day. The time change pushed a meeting back later and my husband wasn’t able to drop the kids at a church event, so I did and I got some wonderful adoration time in! Instead of being frustrated about the changes, I was able to see the beauty in how He timed it and what He’s allowing me to do with my prayer time.
In the end, I realized that He is charge. I know, I probably should have already realized this, but I clearly need reminders. He is shaping my Lent as He comes along side me and offers opportunities of sacrifice and prayer. I’m enjoying doing Lent with Him this year, and I’m looking forward to finding out how He is going to draw me closer to Him through this season.
Copyright 2019 Courtney Vallejo