My Third Fall

Five weeks since Ash Wednesday. You would think that I’d be flying through Lent filled to the brim with spiritual fruit after all the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that I committed to. Well…let’s just say 7 days before the Triduum I’ve been reduced to a crawl.

Have I not been praying enough? Not fasting enough? Not giving enough? I really don’t know. I do my best with the time and energy I have amidst the responsibilities that accompany my vocation. But I was so broken down and exhausted that I texted my husband, “I think Jesus is even disappointed in me.”

I felt like a horrible mother. My patience was already wearing thin at the beginning of this week. Tuesday wasn’t much better. And on Wednesday, I was on the verge of a major breakdown. I could feel the tension boiling under the pressure of trying to hold myself together. I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. I had to keep going.

Begging for God’s mercy, I asked forgiveness for failing my children. How long would I be able to keep this up? Daily arguments, hurt feelings, frustrations, cranky-tired meltdowns…and that was just the kids. The sunshine pierced through the storm clouds when Thérèse and I had this conversation:

Thérèse: Mommy, when did St. Nicholas become a Saint? When he was a kid?

Me: No, he became a Saint after he died. You have to die first before you can be a Saint. Then your family and friends share how good you were when you were alive. When the Church knows you’re in Heaven, then they make you a Saint.

Thérèse: So when I die, there will be TWO St. Thérèse’s in Heaven!!

Me (smiling): That’s right, Thérèse.

Gary tried to convince me that I was doing something right, and I had to thank God for that moment because it was the culture of faith we built in our home that was carrying us through some rough waters. Even though I stumble and fall when my cross feels too heavy to bear, my heart still cries out for the grace to embrace it and grow to be the best wife and mommy I can be.

I love my husband and my kids with all my heart and I want more than anything for us to share eternity with one another after our journey here is done. So I pray for a bigger and brighter perspective in my parenting, as well as in my marriage and every other aspect of my life. I realize that the more attached I am to the comforts and pleasures of this world, the easier it is to forget the ultimate purpose that God created me for.

It was incredibly timely that a dear friend of mine shared this beautiful Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross with excerpts from the Diary of St. Faustina.  My heart resonated with the reflections she shared with me, and I couldn’t wait to look it up and pray through them as well. Nothing could be more perfect right now, as I tend to be my own worst critic when I’m not meeting my own expections. So my soul cries out, “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”

Now for the home stretch…

“Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of humanity’s fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step toward our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep.”
— Pope Benedict XVI

40 Day Detox (20 days in)

Last year for Lent, I did the “40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge” because we literally needed to declutter our house. It was a physical reflection of all the emotional baggage I was holding onto that I had accumulated over the years. There was A LOT of it. So I threw out and donated bags of stuff, all the while recognizing areas in my life where I felt weighed down by burdens that I carried for far too long.

This year I started a special diet to clean out my body through the entire Lenten season. I wanted a practice of fasting that would actually improve my health and give me enough energy to be more productive at home. At the same time, I’ve given up Facebook in order to free up more time for prayer and work.

It’s been 20 days. I’m at the halfway point. I started on “Fat Tuesday” and the detox process hasn’t been easy. It’s not hard to find creative   recipe alternatives, but breaking the routine is what’s a bit tough. Believe me, I want my go-to comfort foods. Knowing how they make me feel, however, motivates me to make other choices for the sake of my personal well-being. I’m sure my immune system will be grateful. Let me give you an example…

Last week, I accidentally made one too many grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids. I LOVE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES. To top it all off, I was using sweet Hawaiian bread. How much yummier can it get? I didn’t want to waste food… So I ate it. And it was SO good. Agh! Within 5 minutes, I had a huge headache, I could feel the inflammation all over my insides, and I was in the worst mood ever. Too bad, so sad…I’m allergic to gluten and that just confirmed it. So back to the diet I went.

 The spiritual detox has been interesting, to say the least. It hit me recently that I couldn’t escape from myself. Since I can’t just scroll through my newsfeed or post at will, I’m forced to listen to my own private thoughts ALL THE TIME. My mind doesn’t shut off easily. It runs a million miles an hour and will accelerate to light speed if there happen to be triggers that set off traces of negative emotions. Slowing down in the stillness has helped me acknowledge those triggers, process the thoughts and feelings accordingly, and find a healthy way to cope and communicate them instead of hiding behind walls that no one can get through.
The one goal I have during this penitential season is to be able to see myself the way God sees me: in Truth. The Lord is loving and merciful, so if He is able to forgive me for my shortcomings, I need to stop being so hard on myself. But because He made me and has given me specific gifts and talents, He also knows what I am capable of and expects me to use them well. The whole diet thing plays a major role in the larger scheme of things because if I’m not feeling good physically, it affects EVERYTHING. So I’m trying to take care of the “temple” as best as I can (still need to work on getting to sleep before midnight!). 

Overall, the first half of Lent has been good considering the lessons I’ve learned about my attachments to certain things. I still feel the pull to jump back into the social media mix, but I know that when I return, I’ll come back with a more focused purpose and better self-discipline. As far as food goes, I’ll be setting an example and teaching kids about nutrition choices – which will be especially important for any of them that may have inherited my compromised immunity. They’ll hopefully grow up understanding how precious and wonderfully made their bodies are, and that we should do as much as we can to keep them in good condition so that we can do God’s work here on earth. All the while, the cravings and internal struggles I experience are offered up in prayer for the intentions that arise throughout each and every day. 

I want a donut. But I want to do His will even more. I want to know what’s going on with my family and friends. But my daily rosaries for all of them can do so much more than hitting the “Like” button. 

Whenever I die to the desires of my flesh, I rise to be a clearer image of Jesus to the world. If I can be a more effective vessel of His love and light after I’ve detoxified my life, then all glory be to God.

There’s still so much work to be done in my heart…