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When God picks your Lent

I’m sneaking away from a feverish baby + toddler set to bang out a couple thoughts before duty crows for more Tylenol, but the irony (divine coincidence?) of spending the vigil of Mardi Gras first eating Texas sheet cake washed down with a lovely IPA and then popping out of bed to soothe fevered brows all night long was not lost on me.

Most of the time it would be.

I’m grateful for the grace inherent in this season of penance that disposes my otherwise incredibly blind and determined heart to receive the grace specific to my vocation, custom-fitted to make me holy.

Usually I resist it. Almost always.

The night wakings. The projectile vomiting. The discipline issues, the domestic quarrels, the dishes piled in the sink and the 17 different food groups collecting on the floor under the kitchen table.

Last week when I get to thinking about what I’m going to give up this year, I was kind of at a loss. I figured it would be alcohol or sugar, or that I’d make a commitment to getting up at a specific ungodly hour (my own personal hell). But nothing was sticking as “yes, this is it, this should be your focus this year.” I realized that Lent, for me, is always about self improvement, self denial, self mastery, self, self self.

Oddly enough, (and by that I mean not at all), I think focusing overly on my sacrifice of choice has really hamstrung most of my lenten practices in the past. Because it becomes just another endurance event where I pit my will against the calendar and grit my teeth and git er done.

At least it has the potential to. And frequently in the past I’ve found myself 4 Sundays deep and no closer to the One I’m trying to follow into the desert. But maybe I’d have lost some weight.

I’m not saying I shouldn’t give up chocolate or wine or sweets or Netflix or one of the many earthly comforts I cling to. By no means! But as I rolled groggily out of bed this morning still unsure of what my penance of choice would be for the 2016 heart rending season, I realized that even if I did nothing “extra,” I had a pretty sweet custom opportunity at hand to simply accept what He had for me today.

And then do it again tomorrow.

And the day after that.

Back in January I chose a “theme” for 2016, or maybe it was chosen for me: Acceptance with joy.

I think that can be adapted to Lent.

In fact, I think it’s specifically intended to be, at least for me.

Kids up all night and you feel dead? Acceptance with joy.

House trashed after hours of hardcore parenting and work and life and it’s 9:48 pm and you’re staring down a pile of dishes in the sink? Acceptance with joy.

Somebody summons you to their bedchambers in the dark of night with the horrifying sound of retching? Acceptance with joy.

Can’t add half and half to your coffee because the baby will make you repent of it with every fiber of your being if you ingest a microscopic particle of dairy? Acceptance with joy.

It sounds ridiculous because there are people who live like this every day. They calmly accept what life throws at them and handle it with grace and charity.

I’m not one of them. Especially when it comes to sleep deprivation. I don’t naturally bounce back, coffee cup in hand, from a night in the house of horrors.

I’m also not keen on my own plans being, well, let’s say rerouted by family dynamics and life with unpredictable and explosive toddlers. Wouldn’t you know though, I’ve got a house overflowing with opportunities for frustration.

Or for grace.

This year I’m choosing grace. I’m acknowledging the possibility that maybe God knows better than I do what I need from Him for Lent. And I’m open to giving over the reins and seeing where He wants to go.

A wiser and more experienced mom told me when I had my first baby “there’s a reason, aside from the physical practicalities, why pregnant and nursing women are exempt from fasting. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to sacrifice and suffer.”

Silly me, I didn’t really understand her until now.

I wanted to prove my toughness, picking this or that to make the point that I could still self deny with the best of them, meanwhile kicking and screaming (at least internally) over the slight injustices visited upon my poor stretched out body before breakfast.

So here’s hoping. That He’s got a bigger and better plan, and that it might just be intimately connected with my state in life, rather than barely achievable in spite of it. I don’t want another year of failed and half-cocked ideas about how tough I can be and how much I can accomplish.

I just want Him.

What about you guys? Lent got off to a sluggish or unexpected start in your house? I had every intention of being at 8 am Mass with the under school aged crew, but instead I’m typing this in my activewear and watching Batman eat a cheesestick through the hole in his mask while the baby sleeps off his fever.

Join the conversation over on Facebook and share what you’re doing – or not doing – this year.

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