Wednesday, April 26, 2017

As Easter Zooms By: Thoughts on Lent 2017

The Easter Octave has come and gone, and now I'm settling into the comfortable, joyful pace of the Easter season. On one hand, it feels like the days are stretching out slowly before me, and on the other hand, it feels like we are zooming through this liturgical season. It's a beautiful time in the Church, with many Alleluias, flowers, hymns of praise, and chocolate. So far, I've been praying, bouncing with joyful glee, and devouring Whoppers Robin Eggs that were half off. 

At one point several weeks ago, I was a guest on "Morning Air," a Relevant Radio show hosted by John Harper. In the course of our conversation about Lent, John mentioned the idea of, once Easter arrives, writing down how your Lent/Lenten Plan went. I think this is a brilliant idea, because it's a concrete way to chart progress. To see what worked and what didn't, that kind of a thing. . 

Each year, I like to formulate my "Lenten Plan" under the categories of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. I like to be flexible with my Lenten Plan, and I also try to be realistic. This includes lowering my expectations for what I may be capable of, since caring for an active child takes a lot of energy. As Lent goes on, if I see areas where I can realistically add a penance, I'll expand my "Plan." It works pretty well with me, at least for now. Anyways, let's look at Lent this year! 

Prayer: Stations of the Cross once a week. 

I've mentioned before that I like to pray this version of the Stations, which includes several passages from St. Faustina's Diary. It's a gorgeous, incredibly moving way to meditate on Christ's Passion. The first time I prayed these Stations this year, I was struck with the peaceful familiarity of praying with these reflections. I also realized how much I miss St. Faustina's Diary. Isn't this weird? In college, my husband and I read through the entire Diary over the course of many, many months. I used to make "Mercy Monday" blog posts nearly every week with excerpts from the Diary. I love St. Faustina, her Diary, and the message of Divine Mercy-so why do I not read about it anymore? I think this was my biggest takeaway in this area: That I need to start picking up some passages from the Diary each week to pray with and meditate on. Since Fridays are a day especially devoted to Christ's Passion, I'm going to spend some time with Christ's message of mercy each Friday. 

Fasting: No screens during lunch and no radio in the car. 

I'm continually trying to evaluate my relationship with technology and my need for silence. These three components of my "fasting" were all difficult at times, but they were so good! I loved the peaceful silence of this Lent. I could still stay connected with other people through social media and blogging, and I could still watch shows-but all of my activity online was much more restrained. Even when I "could" use technology, I often chose not to-because I liked the peaceful stillness of the apartment as I read a book, hung out with my husband, or played a game with my son. Going forth in this Easter season, I have decided to continue fasting from radio in the car, to help continue some of the silence that I so desperately need. I also am trying to be very aware of my time online being fruitful, so I'm mainly using the computer if I need to do something, and not "just because." That being said, in this Easter season so far, I have  managed to watch the entire first season of Home Fires and the entire first season of Mercy Street, but I was also sewing a Regency-ish-dress during much of that time, so I think it's okay. 

Almsgiving: 40 Bags in 40 Days!

Day 1: "Before"
Confession: I did fall behind in this towards the end of Lent, but I'm mostly caught up now...though some of my bags/boxes are still sitting in my bedroom, waiting to have the contents washed and actually donated. So I'm not "all done," just "mostly done." Anyways, this was my first time doing 40 Bags in 40 Days, and I loved it so much. I loved having a schedule that made it easy to focus on certain areas of the apartment, and I really loved that I charted my progress. It is so neat to look at the sheet of paper and see just how much stuff I threw out, recycled, or gave away! It's also neat to give items that I haven't been using away. 

Day 1: "After"
The other day, I wandered into a thrift store run by a local Christian group, and I saw one of my old dresses on the rack, and it just made me really happy to know that it was there, waiting to clothe another person who needs it more than me. Right now, I have every intention of doing 40 Bags in 40 Days next year, and I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who has to much clutter (physical or digital) that he or she is dealing with. Doing this routine of decluttering really helped me to be more intentional about what I have and why I have it, which I think will be very helpful when we eventually move into a house (since we all know how houses can accumulate clutter like nobody's business!). 

The liturgical season of Lent is awesome, and I loved drawing closer to God through my little Lenten penances. I definitely was challenged, but everything was doable, so I think I may have managed to hit that happy place of not making Lent "too difficult" or "too lax." Though maybe I was too lax and I'm just a wimp? Totally a possibility. I loved the peacefulness of Lent, I loved the silence, and I loved the prayer and extra quality time with my husband. I'm excited to continue to grow and bring some of my lessons from Lent into my life this Easter (and beyond)!

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