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Lent always comes at a difficult time for me; my birthday comes smack in the middle of Lent every year.  When I was growing up my parents tried to make it as special as they could while still honoring the Lenten fasts.  I did get a cake every year, and my mom usually made a German chocolate cake for me because it was my favorite kind. 

I have always given something up for Lent, and when I was growing up my parents would allow me to have whatever it was on my birthday as a treat. So, if I had given up television I was allowed to choose one show to watch, or if I gave up sweets I got a candy treat.  my dad explained it by saying that my birthday was a Feast, and you can’t fast on a feast; the same rationale for why Sundays aren’t part of the Lenten 40 days.

Now, when I think about how my Lent will be lived I am less concerned with what I will give up and more concerned with how I will make my life a conversion experience.  I try to strip away the things that don’t help me tend toward God.  I try in the 40 days of Lent to simplify my life as much as possible.  The Church gives us the three-pronged strategy of prayer, fasting and charity.  As often as possible I try to find an overlap in these three areas in my Lenten journey. 

For instance, last year I lost quite a bit of weight, and had an overabundance of clothing that no longer fit.  During Lent I spent a few days each week going through my clothing and sorting the wearable clothing that I could no longer use so that I could send it to charities in town.  As I worked I spent time in prayer.

Another option I have used is to give up a character flaw for Lent.  One year I gave up worrying for Lent.  Last year I gave up road rage:  each time I began to feel anger toward another driver while in my car I would turn the moment around and bless the drivers instead.  I would pray for their needs, and ask God to extend grace to them. It didn’t happen immediately, but after a week or so I did begin to sense more peace in myself.  God’s grace is so abundant that the grace I asked for the other drivers was flowing back toward me as well.

Those are just a few ideas of how I have shaken up my Lent.  What are you thinking you might try this Lent to clear away the stuff that gets between you and God?