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13 February 2013

Ash Wednesday 2013

Another year has passed and has brought about another Lenten season. I always look forward to Lent. It gives me more focused and dedicated time to contemplate my faith and to exercise the strength of conviction in what I believe. I look forward to the penitential nature of the season and the anticipation of Christ's resurrection on Easter morning. The three days leading up to Easter, the Paschal Triduum, are a few of my favorite days of the liturgical year, with each day being dedicated to a specific stage in Christ's journey to the Cross.On Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the Lord's Last Supper and many churches offer services that include the washing of the feet. On Good Friday, we collectively mourn as Christ is put to death for the sins of all mankind, including those to come more than 2000 years after the nails were driven into his flesh. Holy Saturday finds our church bare, with no sacraments offered (except to the sick), while we anxiously wait for our Lord to rise again. In many ways, our church is closed and lost to us, just as we are closed and lost without Christ's guidance. And then Easter arrives, a glorious new day and a new life dawning each year. We wake to find that Christ has indeed risen, and God's power and majesty silences us to awe and reverence once again. We are reminded of the greater plan that is far beyond any of our comprehension, and we are eager to celebrate and rejoice in our salvation. While Christmas has the air of excitement and promise, Easter has the air of anticipation and promises fulfilled. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For me, every Lent is different, but, in many ways, every Lent is the same. I begin each Ash Wednesday with a 7am service at  a local church. I think it important to receive my ashes (and communion) early in the day so the symbol of my sinful nature is worn openly and obviously all day. In many ways I want people to ask me why I have "dirt" on my forehead. It gives me the opportunity to explain what Ash Wednesday is and why I, like everyone else, am a sinner. After services, I rush to work where most of my students ask me those very same questions. I fast all day, only breaking for a small snack at some point (generally after dark), and the feeling of utter exhaustion that I feel at the close of the day reminds me of how I need God for strength just as I do food. I make promises of sacrifice and service that I will (try) to fulfill over the next 40 days. And this year is no different. I've attended my Ash Wednesday services, I've fasted, and now it's time to make my Lenten promises. 

As a part of my service promise, I'm going to be doing daily devotionals. This is hard for me given the stresses on my time, but I figure that if Christ can die for me, I can spare five minutes to sit in quiet reflection. My amazingly talented and insightful girlfriend in Houston Kirsten has published her Lenten devotional and I'll be using that for my daily meditations. Even though she's writing from a Protestant perspective, Lent is Lent. 

This year, I'm giving up more than chocolate. I'm giving up all junk food. I've realized that my vice isn't just chocolate but it's snacks and pop. So I'm going to make a bigger sacrifice and stop all of it for 40 days. I'll allow myself a home baked treat once in a while but the ice cream and soda and chips and candy and general junk is banished. 

I'll also be fasting every Tuesday during Lent. While I hate fasting because of the hollow feeling deep inside when I do, it is a useful exercise is reminding myself of where my true nourishment comes. 

I think, given the current state of my life, that three Lenten promises are enough this year. I always end of making too many and then I fail. I definitely try to meet all my promises, but too many is just too much. I'm going to focus my energy on completing three solid and meaningful promises.

12 February 2013

Cute kid roundup

It's been a while since I've posted some cute kid photos, so I figured it's about time. I mean, come on. My kids are adorable! Look at them!

The sisters looking cute (a.k.a. begging for food)

Brother and sister fighting over the ice cream leavin's in the bowl. 

My girl, curled up all cute like. 

The sone finally found a sunny spot that he could actually reach. 

Dinner time. 

Awkward pet photos

Sunny, the puppy, doesn't realize that she's not a lapdog. Here she is sitting on my mom's legs which are resting on the ottoman so she can be close.

Making Auntie happy

The best part of the weekend? Seeing my precious first niece try on prom dresses just to make me happy. Her first prom will be this year, but I won't be around to see her since we live 700 miles apart. After two solid days of badgering, she finally agreed to try on two dresses just to make me happy. It almost made me cry to see her all grown up! I remember holding her the day after she was born! And now she's in big girl dresses!!

This is so her ...

I knew she had some sass in her!

Visiting Duke Gardens

My mom gets stir crazy when she comes to visit. By Friday morning (she got here Thursday afternoon), she was cleaning my counters and hand cleaning the floors. She literally can't sit still. The fact that the weather wasn't amazing made matters worse because she couldn't get outside. We finally got some good weather on Sunday, and we headed over to Duke Gardens to check out the campus and the pretty scenery. Sami had never been to the campus, so I thought she'd enjoy seeing a baby Ivy campus. And I knew Mom would love the gardens because they are so beautiful.

The weather was only in the upper forties/low fifties and it was pretty overcast. But the sun slowly started to peek through, and it made for a pretty day.

The Canada geese and the blue-necked swan in the asiatic gardens.

More of the swan.

We also drove over to the chapel but we didn't go in because they were having services (it being Sunday and all). I would love to have shown Mom the inside because it is breathtaking, but the exterior is pretty impressive as well. Especially with a stunning blue sky as a backdrop.

We saw this little cart at the garden store, and I'm dying for my dad to make me one so I can have it on my patio. I love it!

Food is fun

When family visits, food is a requirement. We eat a lot and focus our days around when and where we are going to eat. Let's face it. I come from a people who like to eat. In fact, most of my vacation planning usually involves food planning.

So, apparently our dogs got the memo about our love of food. As soon as Mom sat down with some pretzels, all three of them were all over her. It did make for a cute photo though.

Just a little bite, Grandma?
We also hit up Ben and Jerry's in Chapel Hill. Sami had never been before, and I ADORE their Seven Layer Bar which you can only get in the scoop shops. From the looks of it, she enjoyed her experience.


Grandma brings gifts!

My mom and my eldest niece Sami came down to visit this past weekend. It was my niece's first flight in a plane, and this is the furthest south that she's been. Mom and Dad usually come visit me each spring, but Dad was hesitant to leave home given the weather (which was probably smart given that Winter Storm Nemo hit them pretty hard and someone needed to be home to handle it). So my niece came, and we had a pretty great time. Mom and Sami were our first official house guests since we moved in (we've had other guests but we weren't really moved in yet), and the kids were pretty excited to see some of their NY family.

Mom is pretty handy when it comes to sewing, so, of course, she brought gifties for all the children.

I love her little labels

Pickles sporting his new jacket. 

Some of the children liked their gifts more than others.
Bailey wasn't so impressed. She hates clothes.
She's a nudist.
I got a giftie, too! A wicked cool fancy-schmancy whisk! While it may not seem like much of a gift, I saw Mom's when I was home last and tried to steal it. She stopped me but then bought me my own! (I think she ordered it off Amazon here.)

Not only did the kids and I get gifties, so did EG. She got a new American Doll (Sally) for her birthday, and I asked Mom to make her some clothes. And, of course, Mom went overboard. She made her a ballerina outfit (for which I bought little pink pointe shoes), some pyjamas, and a robe. And, of course, she made a matching robe for EG as well. EG was thrilled. It was pretty adorable.

One of my favorite things about Mom's visits is that she is so generous. She loves to do wonderful things for other people just to make them happy. That's what makes her so great. 


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