I give up…giving up!

I was reading a blog by Red Vines and Red Wine (check them out if you haven’t) about “giving up giving up for Lent.”  As I posted a comment, I realized I could do a whole entry on my experience.  So, here it is.

I am a fairly new Catholic.  I converted in adulthood, shortly after the little brick was born.  As a kid I had Catholic friends and never really understood the idea of giving up chocolate or soda for Lent.  Why bother?  It seemed silly that we needed to “suffer” to feel closer to Christ.  The idea behind Lent is to get closer to Christ, to become more Christ-like.  During the conversion process I gave up something for Lent.  I don’t even remember what it was….chocolate, swearing, who knows.  I don’t remember!  That’s how much it impacted me.  Sad, right?  OK, before you click and stop reading hang in for a minute.  This is where the religion stops and the real part of the post starts.

We had a young priest…he was my age (it was really kinda weird, to be honest) and he was good looking (that helped with paying attention).  He did liturgy and talked about not “giving up” so much as “adding in.”  Again, the idea is to become a better person.  The first year I added in spending 30 minutes of undivided time with each of my children each day.  I didn’t make it every day, but I tried.  And at the end of it, we established a family movie night that we kept with for many years.  We only recently stopped since the teen and the little brick have very different preferences in the movie choices now.  But we still manage to find a movie for us all every couple weeks.  We now play more games as a family as well.

I added in things like patience.  Not so much with my kids, but with others.  Instead of swearing at and getting frustrated with the guy who just cut me off, or the lady who purposely refused to let me into traffic I would offer a quick “prayer” of “may you find patience” or “may you find kindness.”  I discovered that being aware of these things and wishing them for others helped me acquire the same traits.  I was becoming more patient.  If I fall back into a rut I start offering peace and patience to others and I, again, become more patient.

Another year I added in daily meditation (prayer).  I found that after a few moments (sometimes only seconds while I sat on the floor in my closet- or turned on Pandora while sitting in the car line at school) of quiet conscious relaxation I was more calm and patient for the rest of the day.  Again, it didn’t last after Lent.  I don’t get daily meditation, but if I get stressed or need a Mommy time-out, I return to a few moments of meditation or quiet relaxation.  It helps!  I still do it most days.

Moral of the story?  Keep the wine, chocolate and swearing—it probably helps keep us sane.  But try adding in something, something big or small that will help you become a better person; something that will reconnect you to your spouse; something that will strengthen the bond with your parents or children.  We are all we have—each other—shouldn’t we be the best we can be so we are there for others and others can be there for us?

Today is the little brick’s birthday and as I type I am having a glass of wine and a chocolate cupcake, but when I am done typing I will spend some time playing LEGO Creationary with my children.  Happy Lenten Season.  What will you add?

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