I consider myself a Lent dropout, but that’s not entirely accurate, because I keep re-enrolling. I’m not so different from a lot of people, I’m sure.

I start off strong and motivated and full of ideas and plans and ways that this will be the Best! Lent! Ever!

Except I didn’t start out any of those things this year. This year, I started off weak-kneed and cowed and way off my game. This year, I was full of dread and trembling and fear.

I can’t even say why, except that I was in the midst of a bad stretch and…I just wasn’t on my game.

This year, as I near the end of my fourth pregnancy, juggle three kids and a busy work schedule and a ton of other things going on non-stop, I need the reminder I often give others about keeping Lent real: real for who I am this year, real for what my family needs from me, real for where I am in my spiritual journey at this moment in time.

The truth is, Lent can — and does — help me live my vocation as a wife and mom more fully and deeply. However much I may feel like I fail Lent, each failure brings me a step closer to success. It’s a lesson in humility, for sure, but it’s also a lesson in perseverance.

During Lent, I can learn lessons to help me become the woman that God intends me to be, but only — ONLY — if I keep it real.

In my ongoing journey through Lent, and especially this year as I’m ready to pop on so many levels, I’ve found that there is one person, more than any other, who helps me.

The image of Mary in all the artwork and icons and on the pedestals of churches around the world isn’t necessarily helpful when I’m looking for a mentor. Her hair, after all, is flawless. She looks so serene. There’s not a mess anywhere near her, and I just can’t relate. This is not a woman I know. In many ways, she’s not a woman I want to know: I am intimidated by what I see.

What I’m forgetting, looking at these images of The Perfect Mary, is that these are inspired and idealistic. They’re not so different from the author photo on the cover of my books. Do I look like that author photo? Well, yes, when I’m posing for a picture. The rest of the time, not so much.

Mary does not represent impossible perfection; she is the embodiment of grace in action. She had to feed her family, deal with single parenthood, juggle the demands of life in first century Palestine, stay out of the limelight, and face the torture of grief of her Son and his disciples.

Who better to turn to, then, this Lent?

Here are four ways to turn to Mary this Lent and keep things real.

Read more at Catholic Exchange.