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The Lenten Season began this week, and most of us feel like the last year has already been 40 days in the desert. We’ve lost so much – time with people we love, hobbies we enjoy, community gatherings like church services and sporting events – that it’s hard to imagine much left to sacrifice.

What else can we give up? That was the question churning in my mind as I began preparing for Lent with my sons and husband. And then I flipped my perspective and thought about what a blessing it is to sacrifice.

The giving experience of the past year has shown us just how important our personal relationships are, and it’s felt good to nurture them in a unique way. I would say many have taken precautions not just for their own safety, but mostly because they want to keep the people they love safe and do their part for the good of the community. It’s been a daily reminder of what – and who – is important in life.

It’s also been a good reminder of the awe-inspiring sacrifices made by everyone who touches Good Shepherd. It can take your breath away to think about what our clients give of themselves: The selflessness of parents working tirelessly to meet needs and try to get ahead, the comforts we see single moms give up every day for their children, the youth the new moms in our shelters forego to create a better life for their little families.

Our staff gives of themselves by doing extremely difficult, often thankless work. Our donors and volunteers make sacrifices to support us. And when you step back and look at all of it collectively, these sacrifices can make you feel… hopeful.

We don’t sit in sorrow during Lent, suffering for suffering’s sake. We do it because there is hope in the struggle. Experiencing God’s sacrificial love for and from ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can know.

I look forward to spending the coming weeks focusing on how mindful sacrifices bring us closer to the things we cherish.

And enjoying some cookies. I’m not giving those up for Lent.