You would be hard pressed to find a Christian who doesn’t love Christmas. Me? As much as I love a good birthday, I look forward to the season of no meat Fridays, almsgiving and prayer. In a way, I feel like my new year officially begins with Lent, rather than the traditional January 1.
Most years it seems like I hear the chorus from friends about what they plan to give up—sodas, sweets, alcohol. Admittedly that’s been me many years. In college, I think I actually gave up fried foods one year. I am a southern girl, after all. As I’ve grown older and added more children to the brood, though, my faith life and my Lenten promises have matured.
One Lent we gave up eating out as a family. That included Friday “happy hour” runs to the Sonic Drive-in. The kids were not fans, but our dinner conversation was. We had some really spectacular meals around that kitchen table and we saved a few bucks along the way. We’ve added workout routines, donations to the local food bank and visits to the children’s hospital—all of which increased our gratitude and slimmed our waistlines.
This year, I look forward to focusing on my Lenten theme: gratitude. My husband recently came home from a stewardship conference with this quote: “A grateful heart silences a complaining voice.” I’ve decided to take that to heart, literally, and practice being even more grateful for my blessings. By nature, I’m a wee bit sarcastic and quick to offer my opinion. Sometimes good, sometimes not. Perhaps if I bit my tongue a bit more often, I might keep myself out of trouble.
I’m looking forward to performing random acts of kindness in a very specific way, you know because that’s how Type A people roll. Recently, I received a card—completely out of the blue—from a priest in our Diocese. No event sparked the correspondence; he just sat down and wrote us an extremely heartfelt note. When I asked him about it, he winked and said, “I’m a big believer in the ministry of the unexpected note.” I was so moved and inspired, that I’ve decided to pen my own unexpected notes to 40 people throughout the Lenten season.
I find it so easy to focus on the mundane things in life and let them weigh me down. It’s so convenient to grumble at the grocery store line that moves too slow or the car that forgets its blinker. It’s so “human” to gossip or pass judgment. It’s so accepted to flip on our cell phones and do a quick check of email, play angry birds or update our twitter and facebook accounts when we should really be engaged in conversation with our children.
Forty days of heaven are upon us. Don’t squander them. Make it count this year. Write it down and post it on your bathroom mirror. Whatever you decide to give up, start or take on this season, do it with gusto. The joy of Easter is waiting. God wants all of you.
Kathryn is the mom of five children and wife to Mr. Wonderful. She won’t be giving up Dr Pepper this Lent, but she will be giving up social media (eek!), writing notes and spending some time in prayer, possibly in a dark closet while her children bang on the door. She can be found online at www.teamwhitaker.blogspot.com.