The Reverse Lent Challenge {Don’t give something up ~ Take something on!}

Take The Reverse Lent Challenge! Don't give something up, take something on! Visit KarenEhman.com to find out more.

This year for Lent, don’t give something up. Take something on.

For the last two years during the Lenten season leading up to Easter, I have tried a new spiritual practice. While I did not grow up in a church that observed Lent by giving something up for forty days, the practice always intrigued me, and so I did it anyway.

One year it was chocolate. One year it was soda. And one year I tried making it meat. But I loved me a good quarter pounder with cheese, so that pledge didn’t last very long!

For the last two years, I have observed the forty days of Lent in a different way. I decided that rather than give up something, I would take on something. And so I trekked off to the local department store and purchased forty cute note cards (on the clearance rack—whoo-hoo!). Then I stopped by the post office and purchased forty cute stamps. (I mean, I love and respect the American flag and all, but nothing cute-i-fies a letter quite like an adorable, whimsical stamp.)

I placed the note cards and stamps, along with my address book, in a rustic wicker basket and nestled it between the two chairs in our living room. Then, each morning upon rising, or each evening before bed, I took about three minutes to write an encouraging note to someone in my life.

One day I wrote to an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in ages. I recalled happy memories and explained to her just how thankful I was that our paths had crossed all those years ago.

The next day I felt prompted to jot a few lines to the teenager who had appeared on stage in a performance that weekend. I knew she had been very nervous trying out and even more afraid of her first appearance on the platform. I declared what a bang-up job she did and how proud I was of her.

Still another time I decided to send a message to our neighbors down the street, letting them know how much our family enjoyed their elaborate Christmas decorations each year, complete with a gorgeous antique-looking nativity. Their entire house, as well as a long line of pine trees at the edge of their property, made a beautiful display, especially when the snow was falling. We enjoyed its breathtaking and nostalgic appearance every year, but I had never told them just how much we did.

My little note-writing marathon was a wonderful experience. So many of the people to whom I sent a letter contacted me to say just how much it meant to them.

All day long we see words and are inundated with language. Most often this comes in the form of electronic words. We read tweets. We scroll through Facebook statuses. We read memos and answer emails. We work our way through our favorite blogs. But very seldom do we get an old-fashioned, handwritten sentiment delivered to our mailbox.

This year will you celebrate Lent backwards? It doesn’t have to be through letter writing. Just try out the concept. Instead of giving something up, take something on. In a way, you will still be giving up something: a little chunk of your time each day. Here are five simple ideas to try:

1. Jot a note.

Jot a quick note each day to one person in your life. To make it easy, purchase some simple note cards and stamps. Go ahead and place the stamps on the envelopes along with your return address. Place the pile of notecards on your nightstand or next to your favorite chair in the living room. Have your addresses handy. Each morning upon arising or every night just before bed, write a special message to someone. Or if you are a television watcher, do it during the commercials. At the end of Lent you will have made 40 souls smile.

2. Grab your phone.

Once a day during Lent, call someone in your life for no other reason than to tell them how glad you are that they are in your life. Set an alarm on your phone for each evening to remind you it is time to call someone!

3. Lighten a load.

Be on the lookout for ways you can lighten the load of someone in your family or at work. Was your son running late for school today and didn’t have time to make his bed? Make it for him, leaving a sticky note that says, “Love you!” Or do a child’s chore for them that day. Empty the dishwasher or sweep the floor and let them have some extra time to do what they would like. Pack your spouse’s favorite lunch. Take out the trash even though you might not be the one who normally does it. Think of what might help out a coworker. Or pick up their favorite coffee drink as a surprise to help them pick up the pace as they work. Be on the lookout for ways to lighten the load of one person each day.

4. Help a stranger.

While out and about, make it your aim to help a stranger. Open doors. Carry packages into the post office. Help load grocery bags into their vehicle. Grab change out of your purse when they are fumbling to find some in theirs. Pay for their drink or meal. Let them go in front of you in the line at the bank or DMV. {Now THAT is sacrifice!!!} Simply do one kind gesture each day for a stranger.

5. Serve a servant.

Who serves you in life? The mail carrier, garbage collector, your child’s teacher or principal, the pastor? What about the grocery store clerk or gas station attendant? The team mom who schedules all the snacks for your child’s sports team? Treat them to a little something as a way to serve them and show your gratitude.

Below is a favorite treat to make. They freeze well so you can bake up several batches and grab a few out each day to give. For a clever packaging idea, place these in cellophane corsage bags from the florist and tie shut with a pastel curly ribbon. Attach a hand written tag that says, “I’m grateful for you!”

Enjoy your reverse Lenten season!

Pecan Sandie Balls {my mother-in-law’s famous recipe!)

1 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons real vanilla

1/4  teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (divided)

2 cups unbleached or all-purpose flour

2 cups finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add in vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.

Blend in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. Stir in the flour and pecans, mixing lightly. Roll into 1-inch balls and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes being careful not to over bake. Immediately roll the hot cookie balls in the remaining powdered sugar and place on wire racks to cool. Once cooled, roll in powdered sugar again. Package as desired for giving. Makes four dozen cookies.

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Zip It, the 40-day Keep It Shut challenge by Karen Ehman.Karen Ehman’s 40-day devotional challenge Zip It—based on her New York Times best-seller Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All—offers practical ways to use our words to build, not to break; to bless, not to badger; to encourage, not to embitter; to praise, not to pounce.

Zip It covers eight major topics including temper, gossip, forgiveness, and how God’s word can alter our words. Each topic includes five daily interactive entries, so the 40-day challenge may be used over an 8-week period, Monday through Friday. Each day includes a scripture focus for the day, an anchor story with a teaching point, reflection questions to ponder, a challenge for the day based on the verse, and a prayer prompt.

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  • I am so glad I read this just now, very encouraging and inspiring…I will take part in the note sending and or an encouraging text to those that have touched my life and thanking them…Pay it forward?

  • What a great idea of using Lent to be a blessing to others. I’ve never gone to a church that observes it so it will just be hit and miss with me. I’ve been trying to start a new program for my health and this would be the perfect time for it. I convent your prayers. I want to give up drinking colas and drink more water. Start the healing leaky gut diet. Especially read my Bible more. Turning off the TV is a hard one for me. I have been addicted to it since childhood. I’ve been wanting to do these things for a long time and now it seems the approached time. I like your idea of random acts of kindness too. Bless you.

  • I have fallen out of the habit of observing Lent. Long ago I did the “give up something” but rarely finished the 40 days. I also tried the “add something” and did much better but I’d forgotten about it. Thanks so much for the reminder. I’m going to contact people — either by phone or sending a card. I know how much I enjoy mail and I know how rarely I receive any!! Thanks again for the reminder.

  • This is a great idea. Every year i try to think of something to give up that i will really miss and will matter to God. This way is much better when im giving something up its just me and God now it will be God helping me do something nice for someone else. Thank you for this. And since its still day1, i still have time to come up with somethinng.

  • I haven’t given anything up for Lent in years. I have tried to do more of something. Thanks for some more ideas. Have to decide which of your ideas to try.