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I’ve been Catholic for almost 8 years now and so I’ve been through a few Lenten seasons. I’ve noticed that there are a few different flavors of Lent that I have experience. No doubt there are even more but I wanted to share a few with you in case you were experiencing one of these.

Exactly What I Planned Lent

Well this can be a lovely experience. I like controlling things so I enjoy when something has the precise outcome that I imagined. It can be deeply satisfying. This type of Lent is where you outline the things you’re going to give up, you schedule your prayers, your Stations of the Cross visits, and your almsgiving and it all goes according to plan. I’ve had this Lent before. Though I no doubt made the mistake of attributing it to my own wonderful planning and self-discipline, sometimes God does allow us to have this kind of Lent. Perhaps he knows that this is what you need to feel close to him or to feel strong in your faith at the moment. Don’t questions a lovely Lent. Just enjoy it and feel close to Jesus!

I Failed on Day One and Never Recovered

There is a much more humbling kind of Lent, the one where you blow it. Every year I see blogging stories of women who feel brave enough to share how much they have failed at Lent. I appreciate these stories because we’ve all likely had a Lent like this. We have high hopes but through stress, laziness, immaturity, lack of paying attention, or general life craziness, we don’t do the very thing we promised we would do. As frustrating as it is to have a Lent like this, and oh how I have had a Lent like this, I do appreciate the times that God knocks me down a few pegs. Hey kiddo, you’re still fallen, you’re still made of the flesh and left to your own devices, you’re going to screw it up. Noted Lord! This Lent also leads you straight into the arms of Jesus because you come to realize you’re nothing without Him.

God Chose a Completely Different Suffering For Me

This is usually an extremely painful Lent. You set out to have a contemplative, look how strong I can be at giving up X kind of Lent, and instead God hits you with a 2×4 and says NOPE, we’re doing it this way. I’m talking flooding in your house, kids who break bones, neverending flu with things coming out both ends of your family, a lost job, a family member who passed away, and anything that crops up unexpectedly and steals your sweet serene Lent replacing it with a chaotic, emotional, painful Lent instead. This type of Lent is hard mama, I’ve been there. You should immediately have mercy on yourself and adjust your expectations. It’s likely that you should give up the cross you intended to carry and to pick up the one the Lord has given you instead. Give him thanks because he has given you a special view into his own suffering. Contemplate the pain he went through and feel wrapped in love that he will give you the grace to get through your own pain as well.

The Sick/Pregnant/Disabled Body Kind of Lent

This Lent is a little bit like the last one but instead of a major event that comes crashing down on you, this is more like a slow burn that stays with you through the whole desert. You want to do more but you’re sick, pregnant, or can’t control your body in some way. You feel trapped. You think you ought to be out there DOING SOMETHING and so you feel like you’re wasting time. You may feel guilt, shame, or frustration. You think you’re taking the easy way out by just existing instead of attempting heroic, or even small attempts at volunteering. Set down your fish fry expectations mama. This is right where God wants you. He’s put you in the waiting to teach you the pain of that space. Imagine how God waits anxiously for each soul to turn to Him? I’m not sure we can describe God as having anxiety but there is a deep longing that he has and it causes him pain to be away from us. Don’t allow this time to keep you away from him. Bury your head in his chest and tell him that this is all you can give and ask for his mercy that it’s enough for him. I’ll tell you a secret… it is enough.

No matter what kind of Lent you’re having, you’re human and you’re broken so it can be easy to use this time to focus on ourselves instead of the Lord. Don’t fall for this temptation. Throw your arms open and hug the Lord with your whole heart. It doesn’t matter how “good” you’re doing, He wants your love. He wants to feel close to you. Don’t lose sight of that as a goal.

What other kinds of Lent have you experienced? Share your story in solidarity with other Catholic moms!