Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why I’m NOT giving up anything for Lent.

Ok, don’t throw stones. Remember Lent is a time to grow in the love and peace of Christ.

I’ve spent a great amount of time praying and reflecting and what my Lenten sacrifices would be this year. In the process, I found even the exercise was not exciting me about a time for spiritual growth, but adding to my already large amount of anxiety about our current state in life.

This is not what the liturgical season is about. In the past I’ve attempted (with varying degrees of success) several difficult Lenten sacrifices and tasks. I never was one to give up sweats or something else I would simply count down the 40 days until I could partake in again. Instead, I have always seen the season as a time to attempt to change something about myself - be it a bad habit or an unhealthy mental reaction I’d fallen into regarding certain people or situations. A wise spiritual advisor had recommended giving up or adding something so difficult that only with the aid of God Himself I would have a chance of succeeding. Either way, when Christ arrives resurrected with Easter, I am marveling at the power of God in my life. I have either changed something about myself for good, or I have learned a valuable lesson about how fallen I am and how much I need Christ.

The truth is, this year, giving something up or adding something big is just too much for my already full plate. Our life is Lent right now. I’m not complaining. In fact the parallels between the Lenten season and our struggles right now are not lost on me. I am thankful my personal life is coinciding with the Liturgical year as over the last year the seasons of my life did not coincide with those of the Church and it left me feeling slightly separate from the community of believers.

Every possible life situation that could be up in the air right now for our family is. I know nothing about what our life will be in 2 months. The only thing I know is that we are having a baby. Joseph is working on his graduate thesis and we are hoping he will graduate the week after Easter. With his graduation comes the loss of his job (he works as a graduate assistant at the University), and thus the loss of our insurance. We had Joseph complete this master’s degree with the hopes of him getting a state/university job. That hope is currently lost/up in the air as we live in Wisconsin. If you don’t know what’s happening with the fighting over these issues in Wisconsin you must be living under a rock. Regardless of if we agree or not, the state is not currently hiring as its fate is up in the air.

Joseph is currently working so hard to finish his thesis and apply for jobs. I’ve put the purchase of anything and everything on hold in case there are months of unemployment. This means our van is still unfixed and I am going on 7 months of not having a vehicle. We also thought we would be moved by now as we thought we would know where he will be working and where we will be living. But that is up in the air as well and I am trying to make space in a 2 bedroom condo for a family of 5 because we will now be bringing home baby to what I call a “cracker box.”

Because of the insurance issue, Joseph will have his yearly heart appointments and our new baby will have her genetic tests the first week in May before our insurance runs out. I pray the baby comes in time and that Joseph’s health is holding strong, I can’t think of the alternatives – mentally or logistically.

These stresses have become a bit overwhelming for a really pregnant me. I know the emotions of pregnancy are to blame, but it’s become a lot to have on my plate. Joseph is really busy trying to finish school and take care of all of these things. The long winter, very small living space with no vehicle to go anywhere and the stress has gotten to me and I don’t think I’m my best self right now.

So, I won’t be giving anything up for Lent. Instead, I’ll try to best see the blessings in our life, look forward to the arrival of our third daughter and NOT let the anxiety and stress of everything else get to me as I have been allowing it to. So, my life is my Lent this year!

I do want to hold myself accountable, but also don’t want to be too hard on myself or deny my emotions. I am 32 weeks pregnant after all and the things on my plate are real concerns for our family. So, I’ll attempt to handle them in the most holy way I can and support Joseph is doing the same.

I do feel as though I may need a substitute for the fasting. Due to medical reasons for both of us, Joseph and I are not required nor could we uphold the fasting requirements of Lent. And, since our children are too young I don’t think I’ll focus on them in our home. Maybe I’ll attempt a cleaner kitchen. It is something I struggle with and food related.

This is the biggest Lent of my life; God has obviously set the stage for it to be. I’m not giving up a thing. I’ll just deal with life. Doing so with grace will be a huge success for me. And, it’s truly only possible with God at this point!

A blessed and peaceful Lent to you all!

PS – I joined the Lent Prayer Buddies this year! Prayer buddy, welcome! I’m so sorry you got me, you’ve got a lot of work cut out for you this Lent. Although I don’t know your name, please know I have already added you to my prayer list as well.

Clearly Anna Clare isn't worried. I need to take lesson from my soon to be middle child!


Second Chances said...

I hear ya Holly! I'm sorry to hear that so many things are up in the air for your family. Uncertainty causes much anxiety. We've so been there!

Please know that your family will be in our prayers this lent. We have a special heart for struggling families as we've struggled financially for so much of our marriage.

We have Luke 12:22-34 printed out and on our refrigerator. It's a great daily meditation for times of high stress and anxiety.

Praying for you :)

Kelley said...

If there's one thing I fail at in life it is dealing with the unknown. I turn into a giant mess (pregnant or not) when the future is undecided. I pray that the season of Lent offers you a closer walk with God that is so often a blessing from misery. And I'll be praying specifically for Joseph's job search, that it is timely, successful, and places your family just where God intends you to be. Hugs...

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Holly, oh wow, I have had those Lents -- the one when nothing is suitable for giving up that would be more of a sacrifice than what is already being sacrificed. You are right to proceed as you are. I'm one of those who gives up treats, but I also add things, like going to Adoration, which I always LOVE and have actually incorporated into my off-Lent life, though not with a set day and time. Anyway, tonight I indulged in my last candy bar until Easter. I am going to work hard to fill the times when I want something sweet with prayer and a growing dependence on God. I'm already at His feet so often, but I guess we can never get quite enough of that.

Holly, I'm going to keep you a special part of my Lenten prayer intentions too. You've got a lot on your plate right now. Just know, you are a gem of a person and I'm so honored to know you!

Krissy A. said...

I read your post last night and this morning at Mass, I heard "Render your hearts and not your garments." These words took on new meaning to me after reading your post--it's true that exterior acts can help some of us who don't have built in mortifications, but it's not the "point" of Lent. So continue "rendering your heart," and know that God will meet you there!

Lisa G. said...

I love the advice your spiritual director gave you regarding giving up things for Lent. I used to give up smoking every lent and hold the cigarette in my hand ready for Easter morning!! Silly...

I am praying for you. I pray you get some answers soon so you can have a peaceful last few weeks of pregnancy!!

Katie said...

Dear Holly, you are an inspiration to us all and hang in there! I'll be offering some heartfelt extra prayer time to you this Lenten season. Please know that where you are in life is exactly where God will meet you and will hold you in His hands - all of you. So you don't have anything left for anything else, but what you DO have is what God deems sufficient at this point, and though you may not see it, He is showering down the graces you need to just make it through. And I think you are doing so beautifully.

Lagartija said...

These ladies have much better words of wisdom than I could think up! Just wanted to say that I'll be thinking of you and continuing to pray!

Katherine said...

I didn't give up anything for Lent either. I figured offering up the end of a pregnancy, labor and childbirth, and some nice post-partum recovery was plenty! I added some Lenten reading, but that was about where it ends.

I don't remember where I read it (I'm 3 days post-partum, so I don't even really remember a week ago) but I read once that embracing the crosses God gives us is of a much greater value than taking crosses up for ourselves. So, I think your embracing of your current circumstances IS the greatest Lenten offering you could make.