As I’m writing this, I am 34 weeks pregnant. My to-do list feels a mile long, filled with tasks varying in importance from “hang pictures in the nursery” to “install car seat.” It wasn’t until I first flipped my planner to February to put some of those to-dos on the calendar that it hit me: baby girl’s due date is a few days before Ash Wednesday.
Since that realization, I’ve been reflecting on how to prepare for Lent when facing an unpredictable season of life.
You don’t need a newborn to feel like you’ll already be sacrificing enough. Maybe you or a loved one just received a serious medical diagnosis. Maybe you’re in the middle of packing and moving cross-country while trying to keep your little ones on their homeschool schedule. Maybe you’re weathering a painful breakup. Whatever the case may be, life can be as unpredictable as the weather this time of year. Our most challenging or demanding seasons don’t always wait for the peace and routine of Ordinary Time.
Painting a Realistic Picture for Lent
Here’s what I know I don’t want to do: plan for Lent as normal, knowing my life this Lent will be anything but. That said, I also don’t want to give in to the temptation to believe that having a new baby means a free pass to skip Lenten-specific sacrifices this year. God knows my circumstances, my motivations, and my heart. There’s no fooling Him; He knows I’m not giving up sleep as a sacrifice. I’m giving up sleep because my baby needs to be fed. Still a sacrifice, of course, but not the same one.
I’ve found it helpful to start by listing out as much as I can predict of the unpredictable season ahead. With a big heap of permission to adjust this list as much as needed, my general expectations are that I will:
- Be physically healing from giving birth
- Be waking up every few hours
- Be stopping what I’m doing to feed the baby throughout the day
- Occasionally needing to scrap the day’s plans to tend to the baby or my three-year-old, as their little hearts need that specific day
- Be mostly in our own little world at home as we adjust to life as a family of four
- Be hosting my parents or in-laws in our home on and off throughout the season
With this picture fresh in my mind, I feel more prepared to envision Lent in a realistic way.
Working with the Realities of the Season
My typical Lent includes a combination of material sacrifices, added time for prayer and reflection, and increased reception of the Sacraments. The good news is that all of that can still be a meaningful part of this season, even if it looks different than it may in years past or future.
Am I going to give up coffee when I’m also about to give up hours of sleep? No—I don’t trust myself to function well, serve my family well, or attend to the demands of my home well if both caffeine and uninterrupted sleep are off the table. But, I could give up trips to the coffee shop, committing to making all my cups from home. I could trade my favorite almond milk creamer for black coffee so it feels like less of a treat.
Am I going to carve out thirty extra minutes a day for uninterrupted prayer and journaling time? Most likely not. But, I could trade scrolling Instagram for praying the Rosary during one feeding session each day. I could reach for a devotional or spiritual book instead of turning on Netflix during nap time.
Am I going to commit to attending daily Mass? Honestly, I’ll be happy if I make it to Mass on Sundays at least somewhat on time. Instead of attempting an ambitious weekday Mass attendance schedule, I could talk to my husband about helping me to get to two or three Saturday morning Masses on my own while he’s home with the kids.
I believe there is great value in giving ourselves plenty of grace during unpredictable seasons. The more loosely we hold our vision for Lent, the more we can remain present in what we accomplish, rather than being paralyzed by guilt for where we’ve fallen short, our fault or not.
However, there are a few things about Lent that I consider non-negotiable. Even in a season when I can’t control much, I want to do everything in my power to make these specific things happen. Choose them very intentionally—what is the most impactful thing you do for Lent year after year?
My personal non-negotiables are making it to Stations of the Cross at church at least once (though I can pray it at home as well) and attending the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday.
With extra planning and forethought, days or even weeks in advance, I’m confident I can make at least these two things happen this Lent. Again, they make look a little different than usual, but I know that the additional effort will be more than worth it.
Moving Forward Optimistically
As easy as it is to feel discouraged at the brink of an unpredictable season, with so many unknowns at play, I’m hopeful. No matter what I do or don’t do this Lent, Our Lord cares most about the state of my heart. How often do we draw near to Him, this season and beyond? Do we lay down our hopes and desires at His feet? Do we run to Him with our burdens and heavy, heavy yokes?
That is what He desires from us this Lent. And no matter the demands of our lives or circumstances, that is something we can always give Him…perhaps even in this season more than any other.
Are you in a season of transition? How are you approaching Lent this year?Living Lent When Your Life is in Transition #BISblog // Click To Tweet