The Other UPs of Lent

Via Delorosa

When our children were young, we always talked to them about Lent and how it leads up to Easter. We made sure they all gave up something and understood the sacrifice involved. One year, when they were all very young, we even did the jelly bean Lenten activity. One thing I’m not sure we did adequately was to teach our children why we give things up. I don’t know that we really emphasized the point of the sacrifice, the point of going without, or the point of forty days of changed behavior.

As one who has never felt spiritually challenged or renewed by giving things up, I do know that I always tried to impress upon our girls that it’s not always about what you give up. The real point is what goes on within. That’s really what Lent is all about – a change from within.

To make up for lost time with my own girls and in an attempt to help others, here are things I feel are more important than giving up. These are the other UPs of Lent:

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Hope, Affliction, and Prayer

I’ve put off writing this for a long time – several weeks in fact. It’s not because I’m uncomfortable talking about it but because I’m sick of hearing about it and talking about it and thinking about it. I’m writing this only because I’d like to start a conversation that comes from the people and not from the doctors. That’s not to say that I don’t believe what the doctors have to say but because I don’t believe they are talking to each other about what they are hearing from us, the patients. Maybe they are, but too many times in the past couple months I’ve heard, “My doctor has never heard of this,” or “My doctor says it’s not a symptom,” or “My doctor looks at me like I’m crazy.”

We’re not crazy. We’re just hurting, confused, and looking for answers.

Maybe if we can start a conversation about what we’re experiencing, we can find the answers that everyone needs and hopes for. I know that’s my hope and also my prayer.

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Your Life = Amazing

Whether they’re a football fan or not, I suspect most people enjoy seeing what the world of advertising has to show us during those thirty-second to two-minute breaks between downs and quarters. I still get chills when I think about Mean Joe Greene throwing his jersey to the “kid” who offered him a Coke, and who doesn’t remember the iconic “Where’s the Beef” ad that made Wendy’s a household name? Most of all, who could forget the clydesdales kneeling before the space that was once the Twin Towers? That still brings tears to my eyes. As does this one from Toyota that will air this coming Sunday during the Super Bowl…

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The Family that Eats Together…

“Grandma always gathered her family for Sunday dinner, transforming the old scratched oak table into a royal banquet… Those times are long since past, and the old oak table now sits in our sister’s kitchen…but when she places a crocheted doily on the table and spreads an array of desserts and wines upon it, we go back in time to the days of our youth and a longing for a time so precious, so dear, that only in our minds can we go” (“Family Sustenance,” Country Home Magazine, December 1994).

Those words were written by my mother and referred to the family dinner table that once sat in her grandmother’s kitchen and now sits in my aunt’s living room where many of our family gatherings are held. Oh, if that table could talk…

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In Order to Form a More Perfect Union…

This morning, I hugged and kissed my baby goodbye and watched her drive away, beginning her five-and-a-half hour trip and fourth semester of college. I told her all of the standard things a parent should say, “Don’t speed,” “Be careful and pay attention to the road,” “Make good choices,” “Study hard,” and “Have fun.”

As I watched her go, I thought about the other goings on of the day–those taking place across the bridge, as we say here on the Shore. Today, we do what our Founding Fathers intended for us to do–we welcome a new administration to lead our country. I thought about the implications of that transition and about how my daughter will be impacted by our country’s leadership and how it will impact her.

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Clinging to Love

When I was a little girl, our family spent most weekends “down in the country.” This was, and still is, how my parents referred to the area where they grew up in Southern Maryland. Though we lived just ten minutes outside of Washington, DC, my parents always thought of St. Mary’s County as home. I came to feel the same way after spending so much of my childhood there. In fact, even as an adult, the dreams in which I am “at home” often take place at my grandparents’ house. My mother tells me that at the end of each weekend, I would cling to my grandfather’s legs and beg him not to let my parents take me back with them. While my parents are THE BEST, all I wanted was to be with my grandparents.

As I got older, I spent many, many weekends and extended summer stays with Granddad and Gram, as I always referred to my grandmother. Much of that time was spent crabbing, fishing, or “helping” Granddad with his tobacco crop.

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Share Your Love

This morning, my mother began taking down her Christmas decorations. As she frequently does this time of year, she replaced the decorations on her dining room table with the tablecloth that her mother-in-law made for her as a wedding present.

This tablecloth, with hours of love crocheted into every knot and loop, is one of my mother’s most prized possessions. She lost her mother-in-law less than ten years after she and my father wed, but Grandma Mac lives on every year when that tablecloth graces my parents’ table. For fifty-seven years, this tablecloth has been not only a beautiful reminder of my grandmother but a witness to baby showers and wedding plans and family dinners and all the sorrow and joy that comes from being part of a family.

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Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Nog

We’re in he midst of the holidays, and most people are still stuck at home. It seems that most home improvement jobs have been completed, the exercise equipment gathers dust, and Netflix binges are becoming stale. However, it looks like many are still cooking and baking and trying to come up with new recipes. We’ve been baking cookies, cakes, and pies and making hot chocolate bombs. Today, I’m going to experiment with pumpkin spice bread pudding. I can’t wait to taste it!

One thing that is always the hit of the party in our family is our homemade ice cream cake. At the end of Island of Promise, it’s what Kayla makes for Todd for his birthday, and subscribers to my newsletter received the recipe in my Island of Promise Companion Cookbook.

This year, my mother had the brilliant idea to make an egg nog ice cream cake for Christmas, and I decided to make my own version. We decided one a challenge to see what recipe seemed to be preferred. I can’t tell you that there was a clear winner because not a scrap of the cake was left over in either house. Clearly, this is one that may need to become a staple in our Christmas recipe file!

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A Little Bit More

When I was a little girl, I loved all of the Christmas specials. It was a big deal in our family when they came on TV. We all gathered in our basement recroom, the popcorn popper whirring the kernels around in the melted butter, the scent filling the air, as we waited in anticipation of shows that could only be watched when they aired that one time each year. My favorites were always The Little Drummer Boy and The Year Without a Santa Claus. I loved the latter because it proved that nothing could stop Christmas from coming–not a blizzard, not a heatwave, not a feud between two warring brothers, not Santa being sick, or lack of belief in the world. Mrs. Claus was determined that Christmas would happen no matter what.

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A Lifetime of Blessings

Last night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our now married daughter and her husband at their new home. This is Rebecca and Anthony’s first Christmas living together and the first time they decorated their own Christmas tree. I stood for several minutes and looked at the ornaments from their combined childhoods and thought about all the years we’ve collected ornaments for our girls. It felt odd to see Rebecca’s ornaments on a tree other than our family tree, but it was a beautiful, comforting feeling to know that a big part of her childhood hangs on the tree in her new home. We are still tethered together by tradition even when miles apart.

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