Sunday, February 22, 2009

Almost at the starting line...

24 Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain. 25 And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.

First Epistle Of Saint Paul To The Corinthians, chapter 9

So, you know I've been trying to do some Lenten strategizing. I was brought up a traditional Catholic (and we've raised all the kids thusly), so the concept of sacrificing these forty days is as familiar to all of us as accepting cold in winter and heat in summer. It's a natural, cyclical cleansing time. I really do believe that the Church is wise (as she always is) in teaching us discipline through fasting and other sacrifices. But it's a pain. Oh, yes, indeed. It's supposed to be. It's like how you know you've had a good workout when you feel that 'burn.' If you can't feel it, you didn't work hard enough.

The challenge is for a Lenten workout to be more than a stroll in the shade with your ipod and less than a triathlon that leaves you laid out on the pavement half way through. You have to pick a pace that you can keep throughout. And no matter how rigorous the exercise, you have to be able to talk and laugh with the folks training around you. Whining gets you kicked out of the Lent club.

Here's our basic annual schedule:

We have always given up movies and television during Lent. This is probably the single most valuable tool for helping us to focus beyond worldly distractions. We always give up desserts, which is not a huge problem for us, because we don't really have a lot of desserts anyway. And those of us who are between the ages of 21 and 60 follow the traditional Lenten fast, which requires us to eat only one regular-sized meal each day, and two smaller meals which, together, do not exceed the size of the main meal. We only eat meat once each day during Lent, except for Fridays, when we abstain from all meat (which we do all year anyway). Sundays are Lent-free days. (Woohoo! This is how we survive. Sunday is party day!)

Then we each give up our own additional little sacrifices for the season, as well. We encourage the children's offerings to be along the lines of learning charitable habits, such as: having patience with siblings who are particularly trying, perfecting tidiness routines, obeying Mom and Dad promptly and cheerfully, and removing the whine from the cheese... And, I do try to make the same kind of improvements in my habits and attitudes, as well.

For instance, knowing that it's more healthful, anyway, I usually give up all caffeine during Lent (hoping every year that its a habit I can maintain...) But, like I've mentioned, I've already given up almost all caffeine over the last couple of months, so that sacrifice isn't going to have much punch this year.

My husband and I both step up our spiritual reading, which is not a hardship for me, since I'm always looking for an excuse to read, anyway. You should see the stack of books on my bedside table!

Then, of course, every year I promise to be more patient with my very sloppy little house-wrecking children, and try very hard (being specific is really important in these things) to not raise my voice, no matter what. I have varying success with this one from year to year, I admit...

I expect I'll try to put all these small things into practice this Lent, as usual. I figure that, sooner or later, I'm bound to get it right and the good habits I learn during Lent will finally mesh into real life. This may sound like an annual sacrifice-rut, but sometimes it takes a while to master new skills. I fell on my head a hundred times before I could finally hit a back somersault (I was a gymnast in the misty gymnasium of my youth.), and I expect I'll fall on my head a million times before I finally learn to keep my temper... (Alas!)

So, if you consider the standard Lenten practices general maintenance and the old tried and true sacrifices aerobic exercise, my question has been: What can I do for strength training? What can I add this year to make my Easter preparation extra special? How can I make this a stand-out year in my heavenly log?

Adding a particularly good habit or eliminating a bad one usually catches notice in the heavenly court, of course, so I've been meditating along those lines. And, as you might guess, the question of computer use has been wiggling its way into my consideration list (no matter how hard I try to ignore it). I think most Catholic bloggers must face this possibility the same way a pre-teen considers the religious life. Should I give up the computer completely during Lent like many bloggers do? Drastic computer abstinence is not the right choice for everyone, I realize. So I asked myself these questions:

1) Does my activity on the internet help or hinder my spiritual progress?
2) Do I have bad computer habits that I can improve upon?
3) Can I change my bad habits by cutting back my time or blog-perusing "mileage" or do I need to quit cold turkey to really get any benefit?

And here's how I answered myself:

1) I can say without any doubt that I 've gotten a lot of spiritual benefit both from the actual exercise of blogging and from reading the inspiring posts of like-minded bloggers. Writing a serious post forces me to put my thoughts in order, it pushes me to research, and it has never failed to illuminate the beauty and wonder of our Faith. Reading the thoughtful posts of others has tuned me in to resources I had not known existed, illuminating many perspectives I'd never before considered.
2) Yes, I have bad computer habits. I go through phases where I really do spend too much time on the computer. Heaven knows, I have a million things to do. Aside from the obvious, I have to ask myself how many story books have not been read to my children because I was tapping away on this computer. No question about it, I need to, at least, find a good way to permanently limit my time on here.
3) But, I'm not convinced that the children or I will benefit from my quitting the blogging community entirely. At least I'm not convinced yet. I really do find a certain part of my sanity at this keyboard. It's an oasis for me that can be re-energizing. But, it can't ever take a place more important than my real life. I want to be a Mom who happens to blog, not a bogger who happens to be a Mom, and sometimes, I'm afraid I've allowed those lines to blur.


My strategy this Lent is to cut back my posting in frequency, and to restrict it in content. I'll post at Simple Woman Monday and at 7 Quick Takes Friday, (unless something comes up to prevent it). I'll limit my blog "visiting" to the weekends, after hours (if I can stay awake...). Plus, I have an idea up my sleeve that depends upon my being able to find a book hiding in bin somewhere in the deep recesses of our barn... I'll let you know if that comes to fruition.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and feel free to use the above button if you are modifying your blogging routine for the Lenten season!


GrandmaK said...

I too have considered limiting my posting and limiting the time I spend visiting. This a real challenge to my love of blogging and visiting. Pray for me and I will pray for you! Cathy

MightyMom said...

nope, not changing blogging. but I am adding a few things that will by default limit blogging. unless God decides to make all the days in Lent last 26 hours each instead of the usual 24. :-)

Laura said...

So much of your posting is God centered that I don't see it as taking you away from God but bringing others closer to Him by representing faith and family.
I'm just saying....