A fresh perspective on an old tradition.
Am I the only one who gets slightly perturbed at the sight of bunnies, everywhere, during the Lenten season?  

Every year, I find myself struggling to shift the focus off the bunny and to pull Christ back into the center of our Easter preparations.  

And then, last year, I realized that Lent is the perfect way to prepare my family's hearts for Easter. 

Although my childhood church observed the season with several Lenten traditions that I cherished, I never understood the “why” behind Lent. And, as an adult, when the churches I attended did not observe Lent, my Lenten observances lapsed into distant but fond childhood memories.

It wasn’t until I was reminiscing with two friends over coffee on a cold January day last winter that the question of “why” was resurrected. That night, with my family was tucked safely into bed and sleeping soundly, I turned to Google and typed: “Why do we celebrate Lent?”

Wow. What I discovered was both beautiful and amazing.
“The more we understand that our identity in Christ is continually secure and that no misstep, rejection or judgment could ever change that, the more liberated we become from the opinions of others. As the gap increases between God’s opinions and others’ opinions, we are able to live more freely and are more consumed with the idea that heaven is our home and earth is the place to make him known.” (Uncommon Woman)
Meeting Susie at a retreat last fall.

I first read these words by Susie Larson several years ago. As someone who was bound by a fear of failure and insecurity regarding others' opinions of me, they were profound.

All my life I've hid my mistakes, ran from failure. Too embarrassed to share with others what I was truly like, I put up a front that everything was fine, desiring so much for others to see me as successful and not as the failure I felt like inside.

Susie’s words were some of the first I read that were truly honest.
Instead of leading like the boys, let's lead like Christ.
My daughter almost got off the school bus on a bitterly cold, Polar Vortex day -- and no one was there to meet her.

The communication mix-up was worthy of a sitcom script, and while the day was saved by the sharp eyes and gut feelings of her bus driver (who made a phone call and a return trip to her school), I learned something important about my daughter.

My quiet life.
I live a quiet life. I’m not the life of the party. In fact, I'm a bookworm. An introvert. I’m not in charge of hundreds of workers or responsible for millions of dollars. The fate of the free world will never rest on my shoulders.

So when I was asked, "What brings you joy?" I thought of the obvious answers: Family, friends, faith, a fulfilling life. But then I wondered if those things -- the small things, the quiet things that bring me joy -- really matter in the grand scheme of it all. Which led me to wonder: Do I matter? How do you quantify a life well-lived? Does the sum total of my life add up to something meaningful? 

And then I remember:

My hometown.
The sound of gravel kicked up on the car on dusty back roads
A brown stucco house with ivy-climbed sides
Schools smelling of dried glue, chalk dust, and endless lunches of French toast sticks and cooks' choice

A 5th-grade spelling bee lost because of “proboscis”
The fierce roar of green-and-white faces at state basketball and wrestling games
The insistent thumping of marching band drum cadences, French braids mashed to sticky heads under heat-trapping hats
Jumping on trampolines on stifling summer days with a best friend, humidity so thick it clogs pores and tears your eyes. 

Last night I sat down for a minute to scroll through Facebook on my iPad. While enjoying pictures of friends' dinners and funny stories of their kids, I came across a newspaper article about a house fire in the Twin Cities where five of the seven children in the fire died. Their dad had tried to save all of them, but was only successful at getting two out.

As I’m reading the details, I gasp and whisper, “sweet Jesus,” unaware that my five-year-old daughter had just come in the room. Snuggling up next to me, she peers over my arm at my iPad.

“Whatcha reading, mom?”

Sighing, I look at her, deciding whether or not to tell her. What do you say?

Not wanting to scare her but wanting to be honest about the realities of this world, I try to explain:

“Sweetie, there was a fire the other night and some children died. Their dad tried to save them, but he couldn’t get to all of them.”

Good morning, friends! If you're in the midst of winter doldrums, we've got a bit of cheer for you today: a book giveaway and a guest post for (in)courage, a site we simply love and are thrilled to be featured on.

First, we're giving away two copies of our book, The Ruth Experience. To enter the giveaway, simply comment below, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to receive our emails. The more things you do, the more entries you get. Winners will be announced next Monday.

Today I'm also thrilled to be a guest contributor at (in)courage, where I'm writing about how an accident in the kitchen led to an unexpected revelation.

Here's a portion of the post, "When You're Crying Over Spilled Oil":

I wasn’t crying over spilled milk, but oil. Smoked hickory grapeseed oil, to be exact. And though I knew it was silly to cry over, the tears welled up in a relentless wave before I could duck my face to hide them. Knees cracking, I bent over to sop up the mess of oil, glass, and crumbs from the pantry floor.

My husband’s voice stops me. “Don’t,” he said, his gentle voice a sharp crack in my already bruised heart. “I’ll do that.” 

It was an accident. Not my fault. Our teenage babysitter and surrogate daughter had been trying to help, reaching to get the toaster out of the pantry to stop the baby from her jagged crying and our toddler’s incessant whining, when the bottle slipped and fell.

I take a deep breath, used to cleaning messes of PlayDoh and stray crayons, ancient raisins in kitchen corners, smeared handprints on glass — and then I realize that the oil has spread to a giant, 25-lb. bag of sugar I had just purchased with the intention of making more jam than one house could possibly use. 

And suddenly, it feels like too much.
You can read the rest of the post here.