Let me ask you: What did you do with all of the Christmas, holiday, or New Year’s cards you received back in December and January?
If you’re like me, you held onto them for weeks, believing that one cold winter day you would sit down with a big mug of tea and re-read them, save the extra-special ones, and maybe even call or write those super-human individuals who had taken extra time to pen novellas of their lives in the past year. (Those people always impress me; I can barely get my cards mailed by Dec. 22nd, much less tell everyone what we did in the previous 12 months!)
Or maybe you even had grandiose plans of crafting with the cards you received – making a collage or ornaments out of them. Yes – one ambitious year perhaps you even admired all those sweet faces of your friends’ kids and planned to photograph each card, saving them to your hard drive or the cloud! (I actually did this. Precisely ONE time.)
But in all likelihood – you did none of that. You eventually let out a big sigh of co-mingled regret and relief, and recycled the colorful stash, secretly hoping that no one would ever ask you to recall the cards’ contents.
By now, the cards my family received would usually have been appreciated and tossed. But not this year.
This year, we are trying something new: we are making the cards a part of Lent.
In our home, we “say grace” before meals. It’s a good habit – one that’s meant to remind us from Whom we receive our nourishment.
Typically, we say the traditional Catholic blessing:
“Bless us, O Lord,
and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive,
from Thy bounty,
through Christ Our Lord,
It covers all the most important points and when said with genuine heartfelt devotion, offers the gratitude that’s due.
There is danger in repetition, however. After awhile, it can be tempting to ignore the words – to just go through the motions of saying them without concentrating on their meaning.
One way to recharge a mealtime prayer with its intended significance is to change it up a bit – not by re-wording it necessarily, but by adding to it.
So at every meal this Lent, we are taking a couple Christmas cards from our stack and praying for the families that sent them. Our prayers are not fancy or flowery, just straightforward expressions from the heart that the One who sees and knows all will grant our friends the virtues and strengths they need most.
If you wonder what that looks like, here’s what I said last night after the basic blessing:
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for our dear friends Pete and Amy and their children Brendan, Zach, and Ellie. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen them but we know they are in Your loving hands. Please watch over them and bring them closer to one another in 2018. We pray too for Uncle Bill and Clara. May you bless their new marriage and new home in California. Amen.”
Sharing these cards every night has given my husband and I opportunities tell our kids a bit more about old friends – people with whom we ‘swap’ Christmas cards but rarely see – people we knew long before the kids came along. It’s a side benefit I wouldn’t have considered before starting this Lenten effort.
Remembering people and holding them up….
We can start anytime.
Flip through your phone’s address book, glance over your Facebook friends, make a list of names.
Fold your hands and lift up a friend. Today.