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Living the Vintage Years: Forget your New Year’s resolution? A second chance awaits

Although I do not make New Year’s resolutions, some of my friends do. And, not surprisingly, several have told me they already broke their resolutions, just a few weeks into this new year. Not all is lost, however. A second chance is coming in February.

Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Good Friday.

Traditionally, Lent has been a time of penitence and fasting, similar to the fasting of Jews on Yom Kippur and Muslims on Ramadan.

These acts of self-denial help us realize life is not always abundant. Self-denial helps us understand we are spiritually strengthened more by our sacrifices than by our material acquisitions.

Lent also is a time for reflection - looking inward to determine how we are living and where we might improve. It is a time to give thanks for the many things in our lives that we take for granted.

When we give up something important to us during the Lenten season, our sacrifice may lead to greater introspection and awareness.

Many people still observe Lent by giving up something significant in their lives, but observing Lent is so much bigger than what we give up.

Some folks have turned the practice around and now make Lent a time of adding something meaningful to their daily routines. One friend said in the past he has taken on exercise and Bible reading during Lent. Obviously, his plan was to enhance both his physical and his spiritual well-being.

Over the years, I have engaged in various forms of sacrifice during Lent. I gave up buying lottery tickets. I gave up all sweets. More than 25 years ago, I gave up eating all meat and fish during Lent, and I never resumed. For me, the experience felt physically, spiritually and morally cleansing, and I have not wanted to eat any animal since.

Most Lenten practices are not that dramatic, but, like mine, many are life changing.

A friend said one year she pledged to give up gossip during Lent, and to this day, she is more mindful of her words, seeking always to be kind.

Another woman gave up anger and negative thoughts directed at others. A male friend gave up smoking.

Their sacrifices became habits and continued after the Lenten season ended.

A pastor friend encourages people to give up time and undertake new service projects. This is a great way to both give up and take on something important during Lent.

Along these lines, a woman I read about said she chooses to change her heart, not her waistline, during Lent, so rather than give up favorite foods, she opts to do something good, such as volunteering at a local food pantry or soup kitchen.

I have taken that approach myself. One Lenten season, my late husband and I undertook the thrice-weekly cleaning of two inner-city historic cemeteries. That lasted for 20 years! Another year, we decided to volunteer at a church that served meals to the homeless. That Lenten practice continued for about 15 years.

With Lent comes a new opportunity to change our lives for the better. It is our second chance, if our New Year’s resolutions already failed.

Whether we take on good deeds or we sacrifice something of value to us, Lent can be an inspirational period for reflection and improvement.

Forget the mathematics rules. This is a time when either adding or subtracting (or both) can equal the same beneficial results.