motherhood,  Parenting,  pregnancy,  Suffering

The annual Lenten crash and burn

Well, well, well.

We all saw this one coming. At least I presume most of you fine people did, along with my husband and my entire extended family (we’re close knit like that).

Bottom line: committing to a radical total-life overhaul is the number one recommended way to screw up New Years… and Lent. And to do it while pregnant? Even better! That way there’s plenty of hormonal support for those lofty goals, fueled by prenatal appointments and late-night Pinterest binge sessions on Paleo meal planning and having “the best pregnancy ever.”

I lack self knowledge. Let no one question that.

I also lack humility, apparently, and what better way to remedy that than to admit crushing defeat 9 days into 47?

So the Lenten Whole 40. Um, no. It’s not going … well. We’re eating decent, low carb dinners and staying away from sugars and dessert, but other than that, I have utterly failed. First it was the occasional spoonful of crunchy peanut butter to supplement that morning banana. Then it was the occasional glass of whole milk “for the baby.” And the only thing less impressive than no finishing this stupid endeavor would be to fail to cop to it here. So, my name’s Jenny, and I failed my Lenten sacrifices.

At least, I failed at the ones I picked for myself.

Oh my gosh, it’s so predictable and it’s so stupid, but it’s kind of the same way I feel when I go back to Confession time and time again for the same exact sins, the same exact issues.

I can’t do it on my own. 

And when I fail to take His plans into account, I fail. Every time.

Oddly enough, the little penances He chose on my behalf, the sleepless nights with sick kids (again! Again with the ear infections! A pox on this winter!), the teeth-gritting Mommy and Me decade of the Rosary in the mornings, the endlessly pleasant soundtrack of an almost-three-year-old’s chronic whining…well those sacrifices are going great.

Seriously, I haven’t missed a day yet.

And yesterday I even had the opportunity to re-mop a delicately steam-cleaned kitchen floor when a sweet little somebody barfed up her antibiotics over the side of her high chair.

I’m so lucky.

I mean that. Because look, if I had been relying entirely on my great ideas and lofty goals for self improvement, this Lenten season would already be DOA. And it is. My Lent is dead in the water.

But the one He had in mind for me? It’s in full swing.

More time spent in prayer, because I’m drowning and I need His grace to make it till bedtime.

Healthier meals and wiser choices in the grocery store. Because my sane and stable husband is doing marvelously well in his efforts to eat clean. And I’m in charge of the meal planning round here.

Growth in the virtue of patience. Because 4, 3, 1, and 16 weeks in utero. And all very needy. (Though all the small one wants is Cool Ranch Doritos, truth be told. Bad baby.)

Tons of opportunity to grow in humility. Literally, tons. Because my pants don’t fit now that, once again, the beautiful soul-stretching work of bringing a new body into the world is destroying mine in the process.

Hello, Lent which was meant for me. It’s nice to make your acquaintance. Sorry I’m a week and a half late, it’s just that I haven’t bothered to look up from my plans until now. But I’m chastened and deflated and feeling much more teachable.

And I promise I’m going to try really, really hard and take my own advice in future years and just accept the Lent that has been handily laid before me, custom crafted for my own particular vices and weaknesses, and not try to concoct one on my own that is so lofty, so fantastically challenging that I’ve literally no hope of seeing it through.

I’m listening now. And, yeah, I’m eating cheese.


  • Amanda

    Thank you for your honesty! To be frank, when I read your whole30 plan, I wondered if I was being too easy on my gestating self. Only no desserts, more prayer, more Mass? Set the bar higher! and I would have cheered you on in succeeding at this plan. But it’s nice to know I’m not alone in struggling to DO MORE when maybe I just need to be better at loving the little people I just want to go to bed already.

  • Ally

    I’ve found that when Lent comes around, my sacrifices need to be small and grace-filled… because no matter what my “planned” sacrifices are, God will bring me to my knees with His own plans for my Lent- in the areas I really need to find Him, not just the ones where I think I need “improvement.”

  • Laura Rose

    What a great post. I feel the same way. This year, I even thought I was paring down my lofty goals, but there’s just too much overachiever in me. I’m so grateful that God gave me kids because through them God forces me to my knees. There’s too much for even an overachiever like me to try to take on by myself. I need his grace. And I’m stubborn and stupid to still be fighting and trying to do stuff on my own, but slowly, slowly he is getting through to me. They are His. I am His. We are His. I need to stop taking all the credit/trying to do it on my own and just cling to Him.

  • Nell @ Whole Parenting Family

    Girrrrrrl. You’re pregnant and you need the good stuff: dairy, nuts (great source of healthy fat), and let’s be real: chocolate. I love your approach and honesty and I also love that you were aiming so high because me and my no sugar are nothing compared to paleo. So you take the cake for effort!!!

  • Sarah

    I really struggled what to do this year during my first pregnant lent. I am often in the same go hard or fail trying boat with you but I had a brief moment of clarity when I was trying to decide what to do during lent. I tried to think about why I give up the things I do each year and what I’m actually trying to get at. While giving up some form of pleasure is good and necessary at times, I realized that when I do those things the root that I’m really trying to get at is changing my heart and drawing closer to Jesus. So this year I decided that I would skip over the no desserts or cheese and go straight at the root, each day doing something intentional to draw closer to Christ with the hope that it would have effects on my stewardship of my health, my attitude, etc. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing lent wrong because I’m not actually giving something up per se, but on the days where I am being really intentional to draw closer to God, I am more likely to skip over the dessert or the gossip anyway. Sorry for the crazy long comment, and if I’m doing lent wrong let me know. I’m still in RCIA, so I’m kind of a newbie at all of this.

    • Erin Franco

      Just wanted to say that I’m really excited for you in your RCIA journey. How awesome. 🙂 I am super-Catholic-and-loving-it and all, but I’m no expert…but I did have a thought for your Lent as you describe it. How about keeping a notebook or a list on the side of the fridge where you write down the intentional thing that you do each day for God. That gets things more specific and it gives you that accountability of that unbroken list of little sacrifices or offerings to Him each day of Lent. God bless!

  • Katrina

    My “lent” is 20 weeks this year. Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 20 weeks has taught me self control in ways I never thought possible.
    I have committed to going to daily mass once a week during lent and with 4 sick kids it hasn’t happened. I did read the mass readings and made a spiritual communion this morning. Not perfect but the best I could do.

  • Erin Franco

    We are doing a modified Real Food Challenge inspired by the 100 Days of Real Food site. Wouldn’t you know that tonight I went to make my fish, rice and peas dinner and I realized I hadn’t bought the fish! Down to St. Jude for the KofC fish fry dinners. At least they upped the price this year so that it DID hurt a little in the end.

  • Amy Caroline

    I feel you. Every year I overthink things and set nearly impossible goals even when already struggling just to make it through the day. But God has and for us and they are not always ours. Every year I try and not overdo but I can’t help myself. I end up having to revise and trust Gods Lenten plan for me.

    Keep strong! You are just Primal not Paleo. Close enough. 😃

  • Monica

    Jeez Louis. My family and I planned to do something very similar to you during Lent. We flunked about three days into it because we went out to dinner with another family and we had pretty much no options. And then we just kind of kept failing at it. I’m also pregnant and I ended up in tears a day or two ago because I felt like there was nothing I could eat and I wanted so hard to “be good.” My husband told me I was being ridiculous and then made me a sandwich.

  • [email protected]

    Not alone, not alone, not alone. I vowed to spend time off my phone and with my new, larger family. But, um constant nursing sessions have led to healthy doses of TV for the olders and a drained phone battery each and every day. Come on, Jenna.

  • Caroline

    Oh yeah. My plans weren’t nearly as hard as yours, and I’m still struggling. I gotta say though, you really thought of doing Whole 30 while pregnant with 3 under 5? God got a good laugh out of that.

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