Sometimes, as a predominantly faith-based blogger, I have a tendency to get weighed down and engrossed in the liturgical seasons at a time ahead of the changing seasons of the Church. By the time the season rolls around, I’m burnt out.
For example, this past Advent, I had great ideas for Advent – both for blogging, and also for creating a meaningful Advent for my family. I had been planning and contemplating since September – when Advent begins in December. Other artisans began marketing their Advent wares in October, and there were so many great ideas, and I began honing my plans for a meaningful, “Best Advent Ever.”
By the time Advent began that first Sunday of December, I was burnt. out.
During Advent, I finished a project for the Military Council of Catholic Women, but then moved my sights on to another project. Or, rather, I began resisting a project weighing on my heart.
You see, I have been living Lent in my head and on my heart since December 2017. Not the Lent that the Catholic Church necessarily discusses – the almsgiving, the fasting, the prayer.
Well, the prayer has been there, certainly.
But, rather, I’ve been heavily buried under the weight of Lent – its meaning, its gravity, its seriousness.
I began working working on a Lenten project for the Military Council of Catholic Women in December – two and a half months before Lent was scheduled to kick off. This past fall, I felt a call on my heart to write a devotional for military families, but I put it aside and on the back burner. I tried to ignore the idea.
I gave excuses to God – I was Jonah, telling God He had the wrong person for the job.
I told God the piece I knew He wanted me to write would not be nearly as effective if there was not artwork to accompany the piece. Since I’m not an artist, I was pretty confident in my debate with God. I argued with His idea, and His vision.
Until He placed the name of my blogging friend on my heart.
About a week or two before Christmas, I reached out to fellow military wife, Caitlyn from Mrs. Andy, Anchored by Faith, letting her know I was working under a short timeline for this project. I was hoping requesting her artwork for the project in just over a month’s time would deter her, and I could go to God in good conscience and tell Him the project would not be completed – at least, not this year.
To my surprise, she agreed to design the artwork for me. I gave her very little input – only asking for two specific images to be drawn in a certain way. The rest, I told her would be up to her artistic designs.
But, her agreement meant I had to buck up and do my part of this project; the more I contemplated the project, the more I delved deeper into Lent, only days away from Christmas. The further I delved into this project, the more I told God I didn’t have a clue why He was asking this of me. I continued to be Jonah, but this time, I was waiting for my whale.
Days from Christmas, I fully entered Lent as I grudgingly began work on this project.
I ran the idea by our family’s chaplain, hoping he’d deter me – that he’d remind me, “Anything I undertake as a volunteer should enhance my vocation as wife and avocation (secondary vocation) as a mother.” He didn’t. He just said it sounded like a cool idea.
After the start of the year, in the middle of the Christmas liturgical season, I made another attempt to get my chaplain to give me reprieve from this project. The first draft of the project – forever shredded in the waste of the garbage dump – was not up to par. It didn’t live up the vision in my heart, and by venting about how difficult it was to create this project with a military mindset, I was sure my chaplain would again remind me my vocation is first to being a wife; my avocation being a mother. Everything else should enhance those two vocations. But, again, he allowed me to vent, and then just chuckled. He wished me luck, and told me he would review whatever I submitted to him.
So, I continued, as Jonah tried to flee His calling from God, to flee this project.
Until one day, sitting in Mass, He helped me. He gave me the vision of the written words in their entirety.
Sitting down to write it out took only a day or two – three, if I include the day of typing.
Caitlyn, on her end, was upholding her part of the deal and creating phenomenal artwork to accompany. Unbeknownst to her, when she supplied me with the artwork, they matched the vision in my head automatically. While she struggled on her end with this project, the final version made perfect sense – both visually and spiritually.
This week, I am most grateful for having heeded His call to produce “The Military Way of the Cross.” I fought God, and I am so grateful He is loving, merciful, and more tenacious than I – He knows how to get His way.
Throughout the world, Catholic parishes and the military Catholic community will gather during Lent to pray a devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. They typically accompany a meatless meal, either before or after. I also know some Protestant denominations hold prayer services and pray the Stations of the Cross.
It’s a way of connecting deeper with Christ, as we remember His Passion, prepare for His death on the cross, and anticipate celebrating His Resurrection.
And, while I attempted to find a military-focused Way of the Cross, or Stations of the Cross, I failed to find one.
When “The Military Way of the Cross” was released at the beginning of the week, I heaved a sigh of relief that the project had been completed. I am grateful I stopped fighting His calling to put this project together. I am grateful for His hand in this entire project – sometimes gently nudging, other times forcefully removing my excuses.
The only thing I pray now is that it meets military families where they are at in their faith journey – and, it helps them unite with Christ on a deeper level as we kick Lent off on Valentine’s Day this year.
I pray it allows military families, and the civilian communities that provide emotional and/or spiritual support to them, an opportunity to really embrace the lifestyle they walk – with all its deep valleys and highest peaks.
I entered Lent in my head and heart two months ago. I am already “over” Lent – and, it hasn’t even officially kicked off yet. I am looking forward to Lent in the motherly way – excited to try to help my son develop a deeper connection with God. I am looking forward to trying my hand at two devotionals I have purchased for my personal use.
But, when it comes to writing about, or even contemplating the deeper meanings of Lent – I’m spent. Yet, somehow, I know my Lent is going to be fruitful. Perhaps in a way I will never understand.
I’m excited for Lent.
Even though I am dreading Lent.
Ultimately, I would like to say I am no longer going to be Jonah, and no longer fight God’s whispers on my heart. But, as I write those words, I must confess, I am still being Jonah. I suspect He is calling on me to undertake another project, and I am fighting Him. I would love to say “The Military Way of the Cross” would have cured me of that tendency in my human nature; yet, obviously, that has not happened. I am still convinced I am not the messenger He calls me to be, and am doubting Him.
Perhaps that can be my focus during Lent 2018 – how much I act like Jonah, and resist His gentle, and sometimes not-so-gentle, whispers and nudges on my heart.
Perhaps focusing on my tendency to resist His whispers and nudges are paving my own, personal Way of the Cross.
Perhaps opening my arms, and giving my “yes” to Him with less argument, will allow me to learn better from those saints who still followed His call in their lives.
Perhaps Lent 2018 will hang around long after the official completion, as I put into practice the lessons I have been actively learning since December 2017.
At least, that is my prayer.
What are you most grateful for this week, dear reader?
Until next week…