This Lent, I didn't plan much in the way of sacrifice, abstinence, or penance. Frankly, I have done the bare minimum to meet requirements on Fridays and Sundays, and otherwise gone on my merry way.
Despite my laxity, this season of Lent has still managed to kick me in the shins. And that's not a bad thing.
I suffer from intermittent bouts of self-love and pride, which fortunately have always been quickly quenched with a cold splash of humiliation.
I will start with the most recent experience first:
I pride myself on being pretty good in the kitchen, particularly with baking. I enjoy making snooty French confections most of all. Well, despite my skills with meringue and ganache, I managed to ruin a basic buttercream frosting! That day I was on the clock, trying to get vanilla cupcakes frosted for a church bake sale. I thought I would get all fancy and make a reduction out of organic summer berries, and fold it lovingly into my buttercream. For those of you who have attempted something similar, you know the outcome. My buttercream became liquid, and the fat begin separating. No matter how much time I spent whipping it, or how long I tried to get it to set up in the refrigerator, it just wouldn't return to that thick, luscious consistency. I ruined my frosting - and thwarted my attempt at a good deed - by trying to show off.
Previously, I had baked some pies for a bake sale that went over very well, so naturally I wanted to raise the bar higher and impress everyone. You know how I fixed that frosting? I DIDN'T!! I found a can of Betty Crocker's processed, hydrogenated chemical waste in the back of my pantry! I covered the whole thing with sprinkles, and called it a day. So much for outdoing my fellow bakers, and so much the better for my stupid, stupid pride.
Next comes mama pride:
I consider myself a pretty laid-back mom. I don't restrain my boys from experiencing the outdoors or getting dirty. That being said, I usually have the foresight to bring along a change of clothes wherever we go, because it is likely that the boys will get wet, muddy, sandy, or a combination of all of those. Anyway, we were recently at the zoo, where I let the boys play freely in a water fountain. I'm sure some onlookers thought we were nuts, and many parents were shouting at their kids to not mimic mine, but to me it was an opportunity to relax while my boys had some fun in the sun! I was thinking all kinds of silly thoughts to myself, like how I was so much cooler than these uptight helicopter moms, and how lucky my kids were to not have their "fun" micromanaged by bossy grownups. Because I had forgotten a change of clothes for the kids that day, I decided to let them wander barefoot and barechested through the rest of the park while their shoes dried. It was only after my eldest came to me shouting, "ouch, ouch!" that I realized his uncovered feet had got bitten by ants. And of course, my kid is allergic to ants. So we had to quickly leave the zoo, while my son went through he first throes (rash, hives, swelling) of his reaction. I felt like an idiot for not being more prudent and careful with my kids' safety, and of course ashamed for comparing myself to other mamas.
And finally, the pride and vanity I struggle with in my fitness pursuits:
So, I work pretty hard to stay fit, and no matter what changes life has brought, I have always made my routine a priority. I like to believe that exercise and clean eating are the answers to just about every physical and emotional ailment. I certainly did not expect to start experiencing heart palpitations just before Lent began.
It started with one episode of flutters that took my breath away, but I didn't think much of them, because they happened while I was kneeling in church. I have fainted in Mass once before, and I simply changed my body position and the sensation went away. I brushed it off as a fluke and went about my business. But as the days turned into weeks, and these flutters continued to happen, I became concerned that something more was going on. Could it be that all my efforts to stay healthy, fit, and strong were completely pointless? Was all of this for nothing, and I was going to die young of an unforeseen heart condition? The thought was disconcerting to say the least, and I finally broke down and went to the doctor to get checked out. After some tests, an exciting day with a Holter monitor, and a couple of follow-ups, I learned that I have a mild tachycardia. The doctors say it is nothing to worry about, but it hurts my pride to have this blip on my health record. And a body that isn't keeping up to my standards. And to have to ask for prayers. And cause my loved ones to worry. And to lean on them. That is hard for me.
But that is Lent.
I didn't set ambitious goals, or really any goals, so I guess that gave God plenty of room to do His work.
Lord, keep working in me, please.