Elizabeth Foss writes: “Some year, I’m actually going to get to pick my Lent. ”
I know exactly what she means. I realized early on that I wasn’t going to get to pick my Lent this year. The third year in a row when I’d be pregnant or nursing and so extreme fasting would be out. Once again I’m not in control. Moreover, the due date fell right in the middle of Lent. I knew there was no Lenten discipline I could take on that wouldn’t be disrupted by the arrival of our little Sophia.
This Lent has been more like Advent, I’ve been waiting and preparing, but it’s been hard to focus on Easter when preoccupied by the impending arrival of Sophia. I got off to a decent start, but kept losing my focus. About the only thing I stuck with was my reading of Jesus of Nazareth… once I started it several days after Ash Wednesday. Even my prayer life continued to be erratic.
But then I had my Way of the Cross: Long hours of labor that never progressed, the difficult acceptance of the fact that once again I wasn’t going to be able to deliver my baby the way I chose, the anxiety and pain of surgery, fear as I started to bleed and the nurses rushed to put me on a pitocin drip, more fear as Sophia started to run a fever and was taken to the special care nursery. And the long, creeping desert of recovery from surgery compounded with the broken sleep of a nursing mother. (Not, mind you, that I was able to embrace all these trials prayerfully and offer them up as I’d have liked. Much opportunity for redeeming the suffering that was presented to me was wasted, I hate to admit.)
One of the surprisingly hard things has been letting go of all the housekeeping and mothering tasks I simply cannot do right now. I am more grateful than words can express that my mother is here to do all that I cannot do, to allow me to take the time I need for my body to recovery from major surgery. But it is hard. For the first time I am able to see, as an outsider as it were, all the countless little tasks that make up my days, my vocation of caring for my family.
At times in the past few years it has been a struggle to die to self and take on these little labors of love for my husband and daughter. But I have come to love serving them and it is hard, much harder than I could ever have imagined, to not be able to do them. I am a terrible invalid. So many times I catch myself wanting to get up and do things I know I don’t have the strength to do right now. I never thought that God would demand of me this kind of sacrifice: giving up serving and allowing myself to be served. I’ve been reading about other moms sacrificing by cleaning and organizing and doing; I’ve been forced to stop cleaning, stop doing.
In another post on Lent, Jen writes:
This wouldn’t be something I know from personal experience, but I am guessing that when people find Lent to be a truly fruitful time that takes their relationship with God to the next level, it is in the second half of the season that the changes occur. For me, in terms of its potential as a time of deep conversion, Lent starts now.
I have found that the birth was a time to re-evaluate and re-prioritize. Now that Sophia is here I have more focus and am finding time for prayer and I have had several wonderful late-night moments when I was up nursing Sophia and have been able to give my time to God and listen to his voice speaking in the stillness. Nursing ties one to a routine that is wonderfully suited to the Liturgy of the Hours. You’re sitting still anyway, you might as well open the book and pray the office for the hour. And so i’m not quite as unprepared for Easter as I thought I would be. This bumpy road has stretched me in ways I’d never have gone had I plotted out my own path.
And so here I am at Holy Week. once again we probably won’t be attending the various Triduum services. This Lent I didn’t once make it to the stations of the cross, my favorite devotion. But I’ll pray as best I can from my armchair because this is the Lent God chose for me. And I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.
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