Focusing on giving thanks may seem an odd choice for Lent when all is bareness and sacrifice, but I think it is an important mid-way stop in our Lenten Journey. Thinking about giving thanks can help us refocus on why we observe Lent in the first place (because let’s face it – by now we are getting a little weary of this 40 day journey,) and why we have chosen to enter the wilderness at all. What better time to contemplate giving thanks, than when we are feeling just a wee bit “over it?”
Every Sunday at our church we pray a prayer of confession that begins with these words…
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
It is that last sentence that gets me every time, as it is the things that I have left undone that sting the most, and it is the sentence that speaks to me of thanksgiving. It reminds me of all those times I have failed to be grateful. Those moments when I have left something kind unsaid out of laziness or pride. Those times when I didn’t love my neighbor or go out of my way to be helpful or to show mercy.
Lent is a season of repentance, and recalibration. It is an opportunity to spend time reflecting on the good things in our lives that we take for granted, and to repent of our un-gratefulness and lack of attention to them. It is a chance to repent for all the times we haven’t been thankful, and to begin again to live a life that reflects our thankfulness in word and deed.
I recently read the following statement on the Humans of New York Facebook Page –
I wish I’d had more of an instinct for expressing love to my wife when I was younger. It was so much simpler than I realized. It can be as simple as, ‘Honey, I’m going to make myself some coffee, would you like some too?’ Or: ‘Do you need me to help put those groceries away?’ – Humans of New York
This to me is a perfect example of “the things we have left undone,” and it is the perfect example of how there are opportunities to show our thanks all around us all the time. This week as your family makes its way through another week of Lent, consider focusing on how you can each give thanks through word and deed. Take some time – while walking the dog, or folding the laundry, or making dinner – to talk about what the things are that you each leave undone and how you can change that. Ask the question “Do we live lives that reflect thankfulness?” then celebrate the ways in which you do, and spend some time brainstorming on how you can improve on the ways you fall short.
6 Ways to Give Thanks This Week
1. Make little thank you notes to leave for all the people who help you in your life – Teachers, Janitors, Mail Man, Babysitters, Pastors, Priest, Health Professionals, Admin Assistants, Principles, Housekeepers, Store Clerks, School Cafeteria workers, Trash Collectors, Waitresses, Coaches…. You can use these Printable Thank You notes. There are styles for every age and style.
2. Offer to help someone with a chore or job that is hard or outside your comfort zone. Tell them thanks for all the times they do it alone or unnoticed. There is no better way to learn thankfulness than to walk in someone elses shoes.
3. Donate hours to a group who helps make your community a better place – Animal Shelters, After-School Programs, Food Banks, Soup Kitchens, Schools, Churches, Museums. Take a batch of warm cookies or bread with you for all the workers who are there serving each and every day.
4. Practice giving thanks on social media. Make signs that say “Thank You for Being You,” take pictures of your families holding the signs and tag people in your post who might often be overlooked, who don’t get a lot of online strokes. Link to post about things you are thankful for, or ask everyone in your house to post at least one “thanks” on social media each day this week.
5.Try and say a prayer of thanksgiving as a family once a day – at the dinner table, in the car on the way to school, or at bedtime. For bigger kids, think about printing out the prayer above (or another of your choosing) and sticking it in the front of their notebooks. Ask them to read & pray it silently throughout the day, and then talk about what impact it has on their day.
6. Give everyone a pad of Post-It notes. Have them write “Thanks!” on every note (or you can do this for smaller kids.) Then challenge them to tag all the places where they feel thankful throughout the week. Ask them to think about what life would be like without certain luxuries – running water, the internet, education, food in the fridge… Ask them to try to be extra aware of all the good things in their lives and then to leave a note of thanks in those places. They can then “tag” toys and other items in the house that they are thankful for, they can tag your car, o their play set, their books, the television, their bed, their iPod, their closet…. You can even take the notes into the community – leave sticky notes at the at the library, work, school, or at a favorite store. The list could go on and on of places to leave these little notes. The goal is to create a visual reminder of how many good things there in our lives. If we all did this seriously for one week, I wonder what our homes and communities would look like – would it be a festival of stickys? I hope so!
Here are a few other ways to inspire your practice of Thanks this week:
Movie to Watch:
Groundhog Day – Teen and Up
Mary Poppins – All Ages
Books to Read:
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson – 8 yrs and up
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne – All Ages
The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein – All Ages
Help, Thanks, Wow – Anne Lamott – Older Teen and up
Crafts to Make:
Are you creating A Family Lent box to keep tactile reminders of your Lenten practice in? If so, for this week ‘s theme Thanks, make a list of all the things you are thankful for and add it to the box. Or collect all your sticky notes at the end of the week from around the house and add them (Make sure to write where you found them on each note!)
Have a good week friends!
PS –Want to see ideas from the previous two weeks? Here they are:
Looking for more ways to practice faith at home? Try A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together