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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 several 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!

Join #DoingLentTogether in 2020 on Facebook here or follow us on Instagram here.

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.


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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  1. I love the reverse Lent challenge! I will do the writing of cards idea. I have to go in for another knee surgery soon & pt rehab inpatient again. So kinda like the last time, I wrote note cards to the nursing staff who took care of me while I was there, expressing my appreciation for their good job they were doing. Their faces lit up when they received the cards; some had tears of joy trickle down their faces saying no one has ever done that before. So yes, writing of note cards is a fantastic idea.

  2. Last Lent I tried every day to do something loving, that I wouldn’t usually do-whether it be-good job by email, a note in the mail or a visit or call. Right now I am doing what a wonderful elderly neighbor of mine does. Prays for the people who send her Christmas cards. One each day, so she gets through the whole pile. I love the idea and I know one day it will be me she is praying for.

  3. I have always observed Lent by giving up something like desserts, chocolate, sugar, etc. I like the idea of doing something for others instead of taking away something from my life. (You do see a pattern to things I have given up!!) I will enjoy writing notes or doing little chores for those in my world! Thanks for the great idea!

  4. What a great way of recognizing Christs gift to us. Although it doesn’t seem like much, time is our greatest sacrifice since we never seem to have any. I’m going to do this and share it.

  5. Great ideas to help make Lent meaningful. I’m going to use your ideas and get my 8 year old daughter involved. Thanks!

  6. So many wonderful ideas that I would love to implement for my Lenten journey this year. Hand written notes, gratitude jar, paying it forward, simple gestures. Great blog! Thank You.

  7. I am inspired by this idea and love paying it forward! I practice writing in my Gratitude journal nightly, but can’t wait to include this practice too. I am so excited about this concept, I passed it on to my 26yr old daughter and we are planning on doing it together. She wants to create her own cards and I look forward to seeing the outcome.

  8. Hmmmm…..what a unique idea! Positive instead of negative! I am committing to this 40-day idea and I thank you for sharing. God bless you on this earthly journey!

  9. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS IDEA! I am going to use this idea to send notes to people in my life to tell them why they mean so much to me and what I find special about them. Thank you for this fabulous idea! I would LOVE to read this book, I am not so into reading but this book peeked my interest as I am ALWAYS wanting to find ways to communicate with people in more effective ways!

  10. I have gotten into the habit of observing Lent as a “whole” person: body, mind and soul – by choosing one thing I can change (make a habit, or break a habit) in each area.

    Body – I’m adding a daily challenge of 1 new core exercise

    Mind – hearing my own negative language and consciously changing it to something positive – out loud!

    Soul – I like the idea of touching someone else… I think I will take this note writing challenge on!


  11. This is beautiful! I have a pen pal who is a friend in prison and it’s amazing what just taking the time to hand write a letter means to someone in that position.
    Growing up, my mom would write us notes every morning that were often silly, but also had a serious message for the day. And while I was away at college she would frequently send cards and words of encouragement, appreciation, and love. I still have all of them!
    I will be intentional about taking the time to write a note of gratitude to one person each day of lent especially because I’ve seen the power in my life already!

  12. The concept of giving something up for lent came from sacrifice to bring yourself closer to God. I love this idea. What better way to praise the Lord and bring yourself closer to Him than by showing those around you that you care and are grateful for them. Thank you!

  13. I love this idea! Getting my hard copy address book out and starting in section A & going through to Z. This is a great idea! ????
    Just signed up for your newsletter! ????

  14. I loved all those ideas. I think I’ll do the 40 note cards to remind people how much they were in your thoughts. I also like the cookie recipe to share with someone special. They sound delicious. All these ideas that have been mentioned this year through your blog and been great ideas. Thank you for thinking about them and sharing with us. Have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends knowing you’ve made mine a little brighter.

  15. Thank you for redirecting me to fulfilling the second greatest commandment. Yes, I do need to redevelop the habit of writing encouraging notes to others. I have been hearing and feeling the Spirit’s push along these lines! I crave the book you are giving away because controlling my tongue and learning how to speak words without barbs attached are two deeply felt needs of my heart. Sometimes I hold myself silent when a response is needed, simply because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. Thank you for your ministry! Kathy

  16. I Love the reverse lent idea. I too, did not grow up practicing lent and have always been curious as to whether I should try. Thanks so much for the idea! I also could use the advice in your new book. BADLY. Love your blog, your testimony and realness! Thanks,


  17. About 2 weeks ago I started being intentional about sending a little note or card to two different people in my life each week. (This is my second year of already doing cards for birthdays and anniversaries for quite a large number of family members, but wanted to go beyond the “occasion” to send one.) I absolutely love doing it and plan to keep it up for some time! I love the idea of praying for each one of them and journaling the prayers though, so I will adding that! Thank you for these great ideas!

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