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Struggling? And it’s only day two of Lent? May I suggest something I recently read by Alyssa Bormes that makes me excited about this year’s season of fasting, prayer and alms giving? Offer up your Lenten sacrifices for a particular person as an added motivation to keep going…and then let them know about it. Each day write that person a note of encouragement telling them how thinking of them and offering up for them helped you this Lent. For those who have an aversion to letter writing, perhaps a simple text will do or keep a small journal and give it to them at Easter as an encouraging gift. This could even be done for a person you find particularly challenging to love --but obviously-- don’t tell them that! I bet you will be surprised how your feelings change after this sacrifice of love. (See story below).

On April 10 and 13, right before Holy Week begins, Something Greater Ministries will be hosting our annual Women’s Retreat entitled Blessed” (Hurry! Don’t wait! Filling up fast! Sign up HERE!). The Three-Time Grammy Winner, Singer/Song/Writer Ashley Cleveland will be coming up from Nashville to share her life and her music with us. Below is the Introduction to her new book about her mother entitled: ”Eighty-Five Things I like About You.” See if her story (even this tiny tidbit) does not inspire your story this Lent. And as you gratefully offer your fasting, prayers, and sacrifices to God (propelled forward in part by doing it on behalf of others), may you be encouraged to persevere on your Lenten journey and be filled to the very brim with the presence of God Himself. #LOVELENT.

Short For Nothing by Ashley Cleveland

"Burney (short for nothing), Joan (considered dull and dropped), Parrott (beloved maiden name), Cleveland (ill-fated first marriage), Sheeks (at last, love) stood in front of a hall full of women. Earlier that morning I heard her in her little galley kitchen tuning up her public speaking skills, modulating, enunciating, delivering as if to Congress. She was ready and eager having just finished a ‘story core’ class that involved writing short (or, in her case, not short) biographical excerpts and reading them aloud. Burney is my mother and I looked forward to her presentation because she is funny and interesting and occasionally shocking. But I was not prepared for the schooling I got in my mother’s life and midway through her 30 minute talk as she held the room in her manicured, age spotted hand I thought,

‘This is a book.’

Nearly ten years prior as her seventy-fifth birthday approached I lamented to my friend Lydia my inability to come up with a suitable milestone gift. Lydia told me of the inspiration she had with her own mother. The two of them had become close after her father’s sudden death but it was not always that way. She said that at one point she sought therapy to work through some of the difficulties of their relationship and as the session unfolded the therapist asked Lydia what she liked about her mother.


She was given homework to come up with five things she did like. Lydia insisted she would bring back an empty page and the therapist responded:

“Surely you can think of one thing.”

When she sat down to write, convinced of a bleak outcome, she was surprised to discover that the ‘one thing’ dropped neatly into her thoughts, followed swiftly by another and another. It was the beginning of a new and devoted era that flourished and lasted until her mother died.

Now Lydia said to me as we trudged up the hill of our favorite walking path:

“On mom’s seventy-fifth birthday I bought a journal and titled it Seventy-five things I like about you on your birthday.”

She filled those pages with anecdotes like:

“You hide chocolate from yourself”.

Needless to say it was a hit and she suggested I do the same thing for my mother. I did and needless to say, it was a hit.

Burney (short for nothing) is approaching eighty-five and after hearing her story core presentation I thought it might be interesting to create a book around eighty-five essays filled with her history, her humor, her wisdom and her way of being in this world.

I think I was forty when the notion of looking back in order to look forward and linking the generations began to be important to me. Before that, I was immersed in separating, asserting my individuality, guarding the space between me and the ones I stem from. I still hold my space and relish the differences but the threads of connection have fattened into cords as I’ve begun weaving them back into my life and I know that I am who I am in large part because of who they are and where we came from. I know too that many of the traditions and practices handed down are precious and worth keeping.

As a result this book represents a good bit of my history and my way of being in this world too. It is made up of memory, weekly conversations (when my mother could find her phone) and a lot of laughs.

We have not always been friendly with one another and I know that there were long stretches when, had either of us been asked what we liked in the other one, we too would have said:


But those days are largely behind us, though we still cannot discuss politics and I develop an immediate fever when she takes something out of my hands to show me how to do it better. With time, we have lived, we have mellowed, we have survived and recovered from alcoholism, we have made genuine amends and we have found each other, two women, distinct yet scarily alike. I hope for this with my own daughters. So here she is, dear readers, Burney, truly short for nothing, Sheeks.”

I, for one, cannot wait to read more! Come meet Ashley (pictured above with yours truly) and hear her music and stories LIVE, April 10 or 13 at the "Blessed" Retreat.

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Dear Lord,

May I be encouraged to persevere this Lent out of love for You and for others. And may I in turn be an encouragement to others, as they are to me. Thank you for the grace of friends, family and community. May I always be truly grateful.

I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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