Thursday, April 16, 2015

Forty Days

My husband grew up Catholic, and he has always followed the Lenten practices leading up to Easter, even though that is not something our church promotes.  When we first started dating, I had a lot of questions about this.  Todd explained to me that it is just a small way to remember the sacrifice that Chriset made for us.  That made a lot of sense to me so I have done it too since we got married.

The first year I decided I would give up chocolate.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that chocolate is the very lifeblood running through my veins so this was a pretty big deal for me.  Right after Lent started, I went to a conference for work.  I don't remember anything about that conference except that they served the biggest, most delicious-looking piece of chocolate cake I have ever set my eyes on.  I can still see that piece of cake in my mind; it makes my mouth water a little when I think about it.  Well, this was most certainly a test, and I was tempted.  VERY TEMPTED.  Someone at the table must have seen the dilemma I was having because they asked me what was wrong.  Their advice was to just eat it anyway because my husband would never know.  Oh, that didn't work for me because I would know.  And, more importantly, God would know that just two days into my promise I gave into temptation.

Later on, when  I was telling Todd the agony I faced in resisting that piece of chocolate cake, he had no sympathy for me at all.  He said, "Jesus gave up his life for you, and you can't give up a piece of chocolate cake?"  OUCH!  That cut right to my heart, and the sacrifice that Jesus made for me has never been more clear.

Over the years, I have given up different things during Lent to help me remember what Jesus did.  What I have found year to year is that no matter what I give up, it is only difficult for about three days.  After that, it does not require all that much effort.  I have also found that what I give up is really only a benefit to me.  It doesn't impact anyone else at all.  (Except the year that I gave up chocolate and caffeine--I am pretty sure that was not beneficial to anyone who had to be near me!)

So this year I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do something that would benefit other people.  I prayed about it, and I began thinking about how Jesus treated people.  He was loving.  He was kind.  He was encouraging.  And those are all things I would like to be too.

I decided I would do 40 Days of Encouragement.  Each day I took the time to write a simple note to someone in my life. It wasn't lengthy or anything really earth-shattering.  Just a handwritten note that said I appreciate them.

I started by making a list of people that would get a note from me.  Some were family; some from church, and some from work.  A couple were for people who had an impact on me years ago, but haven't had much contact with recently.

It is funny how the Holy Spirit works.  I would often wake up thinking about a particular person, and I would write a note to that person. About half of the people were from the original list I made, and the other half were people I had not thought of on my own.  Some of the ones I wrote to are people  I barely know.

The really cool part of this project was how many times someone came up to me and said, "Thanks.  Your note came at the perfect time.  I really needed that right then."  Well, that is not my timing.  That is all God.  He knew who most needed some encouragement; that did not come from me.

I really enjoyed seeing how my words brought a smile to someone else.  Something I did made a difference to someone else.  That was a big blessing to me.

It really is true that we reap what we sow.  Out of the blue, I received an email from a mom of a student I worked with a few years ago.  She told me her student had just been accepted into National Junior Honor Society, and she attributed a lot of his successes now to the time I had invested in him.  WOW!!!   I was totally blown away.  Not only did she send that to me, but she sent that exact same message to my principal, my assistant principal, and my superintendent.  I was totally and completely humbled and blessed by her taking the time to do that.  And then I got a very similar note from a different parent the next day!  Since neither of these moms were people I had written a note to, that made it even more special.  I have to believe it was a direct outcome of me taking the time to notice other people.

My 40 Days of Encouragement were not terribly difficult to accomplish.  It did not require a huge sacrifice of my time, willpower, or finances.  Some days I forgot to write a note; some days I wrote two or three at once.  But what I learned was the importance of taking time out of my own little world to notice someone around me.  To say thanks.  To say I appreciate you.  That is something I need to do all the time-not just forty days a year.

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