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Updated: Feb 18, 2021

I’ve decided to give up sugar for Lent. I’m telling a lot of folks about this, not because I want a hearty

“good for you!” or pat on the back. I need the accountability that comes from making a widespread declaration of this type.

I love sugar. Ironically, I don’t care for the “pure” sugar that comes from hard candies. I like my sugar in forms that include a nice fat accompaniment. I wish I could think of a better or more appetizing way to say that. I’m talking about birthday cake icing and those doughnuts that you race into the drive-thru to pick up before the red light goes away.

I come by this honestly - my parents were also very fond of sweets, as were my grandparents and great-grandparents - on both sides! I didn’t have a chance. I fully expected something to come up from my genetic searches that said, “this person has an abnormal dependency on sugar.” When I say I come by this honestly, I’m referring to one of the photos I’ve included with this post that shows my father presenting a beautiful, fully-iced cake to my daughter just because it was Tuesday. We had simply run out of holidays and excuses to buy cake, so we resorted to honoring the days of the week. It just had to happen. And, really, what better way to celebrate a Tuesday than with cake??

I remember the first time I tasted a birthday cake that was covered in those beautiful, colorful, roses. They shimmered in the light from the candles. I didn’t realize at the time that it was because they were not only sugar, but also a little (a lot) of that ‘vegetable shortening’. Doesn’t it sound much better that it comes from vegetables? If I say the name of the product, and I know you’re thinking of it right now, you will be disgusted at the fact that we eat this stuff. Some of us more than others, I know.

I came home from the party and told my mom that, first, for my birthday I did NOT want any of that ice cream that had the three colors: pink, brown and yellowish-white. All the colors tasted alike and they all tasted bad. I DID, however, want a birthday cake covered with thick, white icing and lots and lots of red roses. My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and I think I even cried a little when my mom appeared in the doorway with that beautiful cake, exactly like I dreamed about.

This was the first time, of many more to come, when I realized not everyone was “like us.” Some of my friends’ faces turned a little green after a few bites, and they asked if they could have a small piece with just a little bit of icing. Then, they actually asked if we had any of that 3-layer ice cream stuff - the perfect party treat - everyone can have their favorite flavor! But, really, no one does because they don’t taste like anything. I digress...I was on cloud nine and I knew there would never be another birthday treat in my future as long as white cake, white icing, and red roses existed.

I’ve really expanded my preferences and sense of taste, though. I actually enjoy the blue, pink and purple roses almost as much. My husband tried to surprise me and change my fixation on “real birthday cake” by purchasing a couple of ice cream cakes. That’s a novel idea, I thought, and at least it doesn’t have those flavorless layers of pink, brown and white. But it just wasn’t “my cake.” And the vegetable shortening roses on an ice cream cake, instead of shimmering in the candle light, become kind of hard and pretty disgusting to bite into - even for me. It turns out that ice cream cakes happen to be HIS favorite, so we had a nice talk about how that is not how it works on the honoree’s special day. He complied, for the most part. There were a few years of chocolate chip cookie cakes, and those actually are pretty great. They fill the desire I have for two of my very favorite desserts, in one! And you can even get roses on top.

My quarantine birthday was this past fall. Most of us have had one of those by now. Strange, right? No singing from all the friends and family members, no candle blowing, no dinner out at my favorite Italian restaurant (yes, we got takeout). I was a little “blue,” as my mother used to say and didn’t really feel much like celebrating. But then, my sweet, awesome husband came through the door with the piece de resistance! Don’t you love saying that? You used the accent, didn’t you? A birthday cake covered with roses - just for me! I didn’t even have to share because my husband is one of “those people” who states very firmly, “just a small sliver for me- not much icing!” Yeah, okay, whatever. And it wasn’t that light, whippy, buttercream stuff some bakeries try to pass off as vegetable shortening with a ton of powdered sugar. It was the real thing. The roses were purple, but they were wonderful.

Do you ever get a plate (yes, a plate!) of warm, chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven and savor each bite after it falls apart in your hands and then melts in your mouth? Of course, these must be accompanied by a tall glass of frosty, cold milk. Ah, this is surely the first food they will hand out after entering the pearly gates. Or, there actually may be a huge slice of cake waiting there for me with a big, gooey red rose on top. And it might be just a Tuesday or it might be my birthday, but I know I won’t care. And I won’t feel guilty for not saying, “Oh, just a tiny piece for me with hardly any icing.” I will relish every bite.

But, for now, it is Lent. And while I usually prefer to take something on rather than give something up during this time, I want to focus more on what God might be doing in my life and less on hot doughnuts, gooey icing, and chocolate. And, as you can tell from reading this, it will take some work, prayer, and self-restraint. But, He is worth it, and so am I.

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Feb 21, 2021

Good for you! Here's your pat on the back! I will pray for you...I suspect my cardiologist will want me to give up sugar for his own reasons. But surely, the red roses cakes and hot now lights will be just around the first corner of the streets paved with gold!

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