February 21, 2012
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Growing up, I experienced very little liturgical culture. I heard people talk about this thing called "Lent," but just assumed it wasn't for me. During college some friends of mine headed to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and came back with all sorts of hedonic stories which further settled my assumptions of Lent.

Then I moved to Central Pennsylvania and was inundated with the Scotch-Irish influence over Cumberland Valley, as well as the Pennsylvania Dutch's German traditions. Turns out, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday or Fastnacht Day or Marti Gras or whatever you call it, and the 40 days that follow, are a big deal to a lot of people.

My kids noticed the signs around town, and asked what "marty grass" and "fast nached" meant and what exactly was so great about February 21st this year? For their curiosities' sake, I finally learned about Lent, its traditions, what was being celebrated, and why. I concluded I wasn't into the putting ashes on my head bit. But I was in awe of the concept of seemingly rote sacrifice training me to allow Love to lead my actions. It dawned on me that this was actually a pretty neat thing to do. I surprised myself by asking the girls if they wanted to participate in our own Lent-ish tradition this year.

They did! We talked about how making sacrifices teaches us self-control. How it reinforces the importance of keeping our commitment to be unselfish and serve others. How true sacrifice is cheerful. And how Love fills the void of sacrifice. Everyone brainstormed their sacrifice.

In Gaskinland, the kids earn screen time/treats redeemable only on Saturday. The whole week you don't eat any junk, and you don't watch TV or play video games. But on Saturday, you're allowed to enjoy what you earned during the week. We all plan for and anticipate the treats awaiting us at the end of every week. It's a big deal around here. And amazingly, this is what the girls chose to give up.

Alexa wants to use her treat money to literally sacrifice her junk food and give it to friends. Ronnie wants to use her screen time to make cards and presents for residents of nursing homes and to visit them. She wants to spend her treat money on bus tickets so the next time we run across someone at the bus stop who asks for change for bus fare, she'll be ready to help.

Penny is only three, and doesn't entirely get why we're doing what we're doing, but she's along for the ride, and I am honored to be the mother of her big sisters who are being such a good example to her.