Choosing our Feelings & A New Method of Fasting

Lent is on the way. I know this because my fingers have been frantically typing to finish up the Lenten Lectio Divina journal for this year. It ought to be ready and posted by this weekend, so for anyone who is looking for it, it’s on the way! 

I had a revelation a few days ago that I wanted to share. A little update first. As I sit here typing, I am almost 35 weeks pregnant with #6. My sister-in-law and I have been walking the pregnancy journey together, which has been so much fun. She, however, is a bit further along than I am and that day I spent thinking she was at the hospital getting ready to meet her first child. I was so happy for my brother and his wife. This is their first baby and has been a long journey. Pregnancy and pandemic are not the easiest combination.

And yet, while I was genuinely happy and excited for them, I felt off all day. I blamed it on ligament pain, general pregnancy stuff, etc. But as I woke up the following morning (it turned out I had it wrong and this was the day of the inducement) I was struck by this rather ugly thought:

“Yesterday I was jealous that she was going to have her baby and I’m not there yet.”

It hit me hard too. All day, I was harboring this jealously so tightly within me that it’s tendrils reached out to effect my entire day. I wasn’t patient, I struggled with motivation, I didn’t even want to cook dinner or plan out the meals for the week because it involved too much work. I felt exhausted even though I hadn’t done much. I was frustrated with myself for my failings and that surely didn’t do anyone in the house any good. 

Because of this revelation, the actual day of the birth of my very first nephew, was noticeably different. I still had the same ligament pain, same pregnancy stuff. But I acknowledged this struggle I am having, prayed about it and it makes all the difference. While writing this, two of the girls asked me to play a game with them. I very much wanted to get it finished this afternoon during the few precious hours of quiet time while Gabriel, now 18 months, is asleep. The day before, I would have probably snapped at them for interrupting me and sent them to play on their own. This day, I closed my laptop and played Go Fish. 

Instead of letting my jealously rule me, I chose to rule it.

Any program for addiction will tell you that you have to own the feelings and thoughts you are having. You have to acknowledge you need help, that you can’t go it alone. By naming how we are feeling, we are acknowledging the feelings for what they are. From that place, we can choose to indulge them, dismiss them, or change them. I am so thankful that God revealed to me my jealous heart so that I could greet my new nephew with a heart full of joy and love.

With Lent coming up, this is a great time to consider what feelings we are ruling, and which ones we are allowing to rule us. What actions or activities do we feel we cannot live without, and what can we let go of without too much complaint?

Since the start of the year, I have been trying something new. Instead of one big New Year’s resolution (which I usually fail at by now) I have chosen a weekly fast that changes with each week. Sundays are “off” days and simultaneously discernment days. No fasting, but discerning the upcoming week to see what I will be fasting from. Some things I’ve fasted from already include:

  • Desserts
  • Instagram
  • Social media scrolling (I check in once a day because important announcements for Ben’s squadron are often posted on Facebook but I did not allow myself to sit and scroll the newsfeeds)
  • Games on my phone

I have repeated a few and have found some to be harder than others. Desserts were hard all week long and I found myself reluctant to bake anything because I couldn’t have it. This is something to work on for sure since my whole family wasn’t fasting from dessert, just me. Social media wasn’t as hard as I expected, though I did notice that I just played more solitaire or word searches so it wasn’t necessarily a reduction in screen time. I plan to fast at some point from using my phone after the kids are in bed, like a digital sunset if you’ve heard of that. This week happens to be phone games and I am noticing a reduction in screen time. There’s only so much Instagram scrolling I’m willing to do, which is new information for me about my phone tolerances and habits.

Usually for Lent we choose one thing to fast from. I’d like to offer an alternative, especially if you were planning on fasting from something you habitually do each year, like pop or chocolate. Take some time and look at your calendar for Lent. What might you fast from each week that would bring either meaningful change to that week, or could reveal meaningful information about you, your habits and feelings? Maybe you only pick two things and switch back and forth (there are 6 weeks including Holy Week so you would fast an even number of times). Each time you revisit the fast you could tweak it, adjust it, so that you continue to grow and stretch yourself. Here’s an example:

Week 1: Fast from saying “I want.”

Week 2: Fast from chocolate.

Week 3: Continue your fast from Week 1 and include delayed gratification practices. If there is something you want to do, buy, eat, etc., wait a specific amount of time before doing the activity (Personally, I would not count main meals in the “I want” category.) 

Week 4: Continue your fast from Week 2 and include no desserts of any kind.

Week 5: Continue your fast from Weeks 1 and 3. Challenge yourself to fast from whatever was the hardest thing to wait for in the previous weeks.

Week 6: Continue your fast from Weeks 2 and 4. Challenge yourself to eat no dessert or snack between meals.

Do you see how the fasts grow upon one another, building your stamina over the course of the whole Lenten journey? This is just one idea of course, there are so many good practices and methods of fasting. 

What are you planning on fasting from? What do you think of the idea of trying a gradually building fast over the course of Lent? 

Don’t forget, the free Lenten Lectio Divina journal for this Lent will be out by this weekend! This is a totally free resources to download, please feel free to share the blog post link when it is up.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

CatholicMom: Lessons from Lent – Fasting

As Lent comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what I’ve learned. This year, I chose to not only fast from meat on Fridays, but to follow the stricter fasting rules we observe on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday each Friday during Lent. I’ve never fasted with this kind of regularity before, so when this thought popped into my head a few weeks before Lent began it felt very Spirit-driven.

I knew this kind of intentional fasting would be challenging, and it was! But not always in the ways I thought it would be. Here are some things I learned from my fasting.

Continue reading at CatholicMom.com

Lent is hard!

It’s a funny thing, Lent. We all know we are supposed to give something up, do something good, pray more, give more, and fast. Some of these things might come easily to us. Others, not so much. One that is personally hard for me is fasting. In previous years I would be excited if I was pregnant or nursing – no fasting, got around that one again! This year I do have a nursing baby, but I chose to fast anyway because of a conversation I had regarding its practice.

It was right before Ash Wednesday when I was speaking with this person. We were talking about Lenten activities and they mentioned that they don’t fast because “Well it’s hard and when I fast I get cranky and irritated at people more quickly, so I just don’t do it.” Given my attitude toward fasting, I was surprised that my initial reaction was to disagree: “That’s why we do it. It’s HARD! And denying ourselves helps us to recognize our dependence on God rather than the material world.” At which point I was rather ashamed at my behavior the past few years.

The Truth About Lent

Is that it’s not supposed to be easy. So much of what our culture tells us today is that if it feels good, do it. If it tastes good, eat it. If it makes you happy, regardless of expense or consequence, do it. Fasting and self-denial aren’t easy. There is a reason why Jesus has to explain to his followers how to fast well:

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting….But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

This can be applied to whatever we are giving up for Lent. I went through a phase where it was easier to do something rather than give them up. I tried to convince myself that doing something positive was somehow better than not doing something else. I know that there are many people who use Lent as an opportunity to increase their spiritual practices and works of mercy. This wonderful and I do not mean to discourage it. However, I don’t think it should replace the practice of self-denial.

Nothing can replace the action of saying No to yourself. I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned. Self-denial is not inaction, it is not passive. Acts of fasting and self-denial mean choosing the harder path for yourself and no one can do it for you.

So if you are feeling discouraged in your Lenten practice, take heart! If it’s hard, it probably means it’s good for you and is helping you to grow in your relationship with God, even if you can’t see how just yet.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com