{SQT}The Year Fasting Became Hard Again, And Other Tales From The Lenten Trenches

For the last few Lents, I’ve shared my goals; what I’m giving up, doing, or not doing, in the run up to Easter. With our Florida trip coinciding nicely with Ash Wednesday, that didn’t happen…though I truly did have the best of intentions!

So, instead of the long post sharing what strange eating plan I’ve adopted, I thought I’d share my progress thus far, and what I’m still struggling with now that we’re over the hump. The end is in sight! …and I just need to keep reminding myself that.

1. First off, years ago, I didn’t see the point in publicly sharing my Lenten disciplines, and I thought most of those who did so were simply trying to make themselves sound holier than they were. But, eventually I came to see how sharing my goals and plans publicly made me think about them more and consider more seriously:  “Is this realistic? If I put this out there, can I really do it?” Certainly, there are aspects of my life, including some parts of Lent, that I keep private but, by putting out my plans, disappointments, and minimal successes, I hope people see that Lent comes in all sizes. For me it’s about working together with the rest of you struggling in the trenches to make it through, rather than preach the ‘one true way’ to practice Lent.

2. Fasting used to be the worst thing ever for me. I believed whole heartedly I couldn’t do it. But finally, it got easier, and I embraced it. It was never easy, but I no longer started Lent with the belief I would fail. But this year, it was hard again, and I don’t know why. I didn’t set unrealistic goals, but certain days hunger gnawed at me like I was a fresh-faced convert who never went more than two hours without stuffing snacks in my face. I spent the first part of Lent beating myself up for having no will power, for somehow lacking in the holiness and grace I needed to do this one thing I finally thought I’d conquered. Recently, I changed up how I was fasting. I don’t know if I feel like I’m taking the easy way out, or if it’s better this way because now I’m actually successful. Is it better to be successful and not complain or keep making mistakes on the more rigorous path?

3. I wish I could pick the circumstances of my Lent the same way I pick my disciplines. Then I wouldn’t have to try to fast, and keep on top of spiritual reading, and ignore social media, while also stuck inside the house for several snow days with all the kids. And then as the weather improves slightly, illness strikes. How am I supposed to do all these extra penitential things when life is extra challenging? Can’t I just make ‘enduring life joyfully’ my Lent and take up eating sweets again?

4. I’ve slipped up several times this Lent by doing things that I know will cause me to revert to old habits. There is a saying by Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement to the effect that, you want to work to create a society where it is easier for men to do good. I have always taken that to heart and tried to set up my home, and life, in ways that make it easier to make good decisions, and ultimately create good habits. But I think this Lent, I’ve relied on will power alone to achieve my goals and thus, I’ve become worn down much quicker and fallen into temptation much easier, especially in regards to any limits I had set on social media consumption.  This is why I make so many lists and plan so thoroughly, to make the decision to do the right thing so easy. It’s been apparent that, probably due to our trip, I just didn’t really think through Lent as much this year and now without clear-cut boundaries and plans in place, it’s easier for me to make excuses and not follow through on my disciplines. Never again will I forgo the pre-Lenten plans post!!

5. I’m just trying to keep in the forefront of my mind that yes, there is a point to all this. Especially as I see those around me who aren’t doing anything for Lent seemingly enjoying life and being happy God-loving folks all the same; like, you can have your Easter candy (or Resurrection Day candy) without any pain and suffering! And when I feel all grumpy and want to complain, I feel like those people are here, judging me and wondering why I embrace these medieval traditions that just stand in the way of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I can only offer my tired, “It’s worth it.”  (And maybe Catholic Answers if they need a biblical reference or something.)

6. The kids are complaining less this year. That brings the score to: Mantoans 1 Lent 120,398,240,958

7.  In writing this post, I searched my archives and found this post from last year which would’ve saved me A TON OF GRIEF if I just would’ve remembered all those things, or maybe reread the post February 13th or something.

UGH. I almost wrote this post last week, but I thought “NAH! I’m being a downer. I’ll write about family livin’ and by next week I’ll be pepped up and ready to write about how AWESOME Lent is.”  BUT HOW CAN I BE PEPPED UP WITHOUT SWEETS?!?!?!!?

How is your Lent? I know several of my friends and acquaintances are struggling with actual real problems (like death, illness, disaster, etc) that make my struggle to not eat three bowls of cereal at 10 a.m. the joke that it is. Share your prayer intentions in the comments, as well as your Lenten wins and loses. We’re in the struggle together! I will remember you all in my prayers between now and Easter.

Also- the usual link up…blah, blah, blah. …and I look forward to reading your posts!



  1. I had Confession today (why yes, Episcopalians do have a rite or two for that!) and I was telling my priest about how I am completely screwing up my Lenten discipline and how I am such a slacker at prayer.

    Her response: “Jen, you put together a devotional book for this parish. Read it.”

    This was, of course, after I walked into the sanctuary, sat down in a pew, and broke down sobbing because my quarter from hell was finally over and my spool of sanity unraveled badly from being so tightly wound. My Lenten discipline was praying one of the offices daily and that fell by the wayside early on.

    My point: Lent is hard. Fasting is hard. Staying focused is hard. It’s worth it but it really sucks sometimes.

  2. I’m notably bad at fasting, too; I blame being spoiled by all those years of being exempt from fasting because I was nursing or pregnant.

    Just curious how you do your Lenten fasting? Not Catholic here (I’m Mormon) and we don’t officially fast differently during Lent, but we do fast on the first Sunday of every month (no food/water for a 24-hour period) and donate the money saved for humanitarian aid.

  3. Hi Kelly:

    It brings to mind something I thought in another Lent, “Sometime you choose your Lenten penances, and sometimes they choose you.” My husband and I were talking through our Lenten promises and he thought he might not be doing enough. I reminded him that we were taking up couples counseling, which in itself would be a means of right-ordering our relationship (I like the definition of sin as anything that gets between you and a right relationship with yourself, with God and with others) and a penance in itself.

    I was happy to see that you and your family were able to be on a trip in Lent. Your lives have an extra measure of tribulation/effort, so it was nice to see you being able to receive something so great as a true gift. God wants that for us, too, to see and rejoice in the good.

    So ends my tiny sermon. We met a few years back at the talk Jen Fulwiler gave in NYC. If you’re ever back in town, I’d love to buy you a beer. I appreciate your blog and always am happy to see it in my feed!

    1. My priest reminds me frequently (including yesterday in Confession!) that therapy *DOES* count toward getting right with God and getting right with other people.

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  4. It seems like I’m supposed to be growing in humility this Lent because I keep failing so badly. I know I need to do better, and hopefully, I can get some more motivation for these last couple of weeks, but it’s comforting to know that God’s even using my failings to help me grow.

  5. Lent has been a bust, but there’s still hope that I will actually, for once, remember confession time BEFORE it is over. Thankfully, the kids have gone at school and don’t have to rely on their forgetful mother this season. Sunday’s penance service is on the calendar, so let’s see if I can follow through! That’s how far I’ve slid, I’m considering getting to confession during Lent – pretty much the bare minimum – a win.

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