Month: August 2015

Kindness Matters Monday: A Birthday Heart Attack

“My mom turned 70, so we gave her a heart attack.”

Doesn’t sound much like a Kindness Matters Monday post, does it?

Kindness Matters Monday

But I love this story, and so will you. One Creative Mommy shared this awesome story on her website today about her mom who, when asked, said she didn’t want anything for her birthday:

” … When asked again, she replied, “I don’t really need anything. Why don’t you all just do something nice for someone else?” LIGHTBULB! Operation Service was born. With only a few weeks until her birthday, I divided the number 70 among my extended family (3 each), and asked each person to perform 3 acts of service for someone else before Grandma’s birthday.”

To read the story (and to see her cute pictures), click here to read her wonderful blog post. I love this story; what an amazing gift to give to someone who really doesn’t need (or even want) any more “stuff”. And what a wonderful teaching opportunity this was for the children in her family!

 

Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of our Blog-iversary giveaway is …

It's our BLOG-IVERSARY

Nancy! 

“I think my favorite challenges are the homeless challenges. The needs are great and I love being reminded that little things can help.”

Thank you so much, Nancy, for taking part in our service challenges with us! Please leave a message here, or e-mail me at [email protected], and I’ll send the Mercy House gift certificate your way!

It’s Our 1st Anniversary! Time To Celebrate!

A year ago, a sweet friend asked me if I’d ever thought about starting a website.

My answer was … Well, I didn’t have time to answer. Because before I could tell her the reasons why I didn’t think I could do that, she started telling me why she thought I should give it a try. So I spent a few days thinking about it, pondering website names, wondering if I had anything to share that anyone might want to read.

And tomorrow marks one year from the day I first clicked the “Publish” button and opened my heart to you.

I am so, so glad I began this journey.

The Quarter Challenge

And I am unspeakably grateful for those of you who have joined me along the way.

So today, instead of our normal Service Thursday post, we’re going to celebrate. And since fun party favors are pretty much my love language (no joke – ask my friends), I have a little giveaway for you.

Several years ago, I discovered a website written by Kristen Welch, a “regular mom” from Texas who had the opportunity to go to Kenya with Compassion International to see the work they do and to blog about it. Hours later, my husband came into our office to find me sobbing over my computer. I read her words, and I just couldn’t shake them. She opened my eyes. She broke my heart. And suddenly, I wanted to do more.

Through her influence, my family decided to sponsor two boys through Compassion International. If you haven’t read this post from my husband, I’d love for you to take a moment to read his story. He had the opportunity to travel to Colombia to meet our boys, and his words make me cry every time I read them.

Meeting the boys

I have followed Kristen’s journey as she began a remarkable new ministry. She realized that there were countless young Kenyan girls who were pregnant and living in absolutely desperate situations. These girls all had a different story, but they shared a common thread – heartcrushing poverty, despair, and hopelessness. She realized that these girls had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Their fate seemed determined. They would give birth, and assuming they survived, they would raise their children in the same desperate poverty.

That’s not okay with me.

That’s not okay with you, I know.

And it was not okay with her.

So she began one of my very favorite programs – The Mercy House. They do so many amazing things (you can check out their website here to learn more). But basically, they take in pregnant teenagers for several years. They give them not just shelter, but a home. They LOVE these girls. They teach them how to take care of themselves and how to care for their babies. They teach them to cook nourishing food. They give them an education. They provide desperately needed therapy. They give these girls a safe place to grow stronger. They teach them life skills and prepare them for higher education, for employment … for success. And by the time the girls leave, they are transformed.

One girl in particular, Violet, had a heartbreaking story. I sobbed as I learned about her and the heartbreaking “childhood” she had experienced. I cried when The Mercy House had to raise $10,000 to pay for reconstructive surgery on her feet, which had been severely burned by her “employers” – and I wept as the money poured in within 24 hours by people all over who stood together for mercy. And then last year, as they announced their new sponsorship program, I joyfully selected the young Kenyan mother that I wanted to sponsor through college.

Sweet Violet.

This is one of the most stunningly beautiful programs I’ve ever seen.

It’s faith in action.

It’s redemption.

It’s hope.

Months ago, I had the opportunity to give away Kristen’s fabulous new book. This was truly one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. From the very beginning, I was hooked. Kristen has encouraged me to figure out what my “yes” is.

Rhinestone Jesus - Just Do Something

One of the biggest “yes”-es of my life was starting this website.

So it is only fitting that today, as I prepare to celebrate one year of writing and serving with all of you, I share a bit of The Mercy House with you.

The girls who live in The Mercy House, as I mentioned, are taught life skills. They’re also given the opportunity to learn to earn money. For girls who were formerly on the streets, the opportunity for honest employment is priceless. So they make necklaces and bracelets and other beautiful crafts, and they sell them at The Mercy Shop. The girls get to keep a portion of the proceeds so that when they graduate from the program several years later, they have a bank account.

That bank account doesn’t just mean money.

It means security. It means confidence. It means hope.

So this weekend, I am giving away a $20 gift certificate to The Mercy Shop to one of you. This is not sponsored or affiliated with The Mercy House in any way. I just love, with my whole heart, the work that they do. And I want to share it with you.

It's our BLOG-IVERSARY

Here’s how you can enter our giveaway! You can earn up to three entries. Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

  1. Leave a comment here letting me know what your favorite Service Thursday challenge this year has been! It can be something you’ve participated in, something that has touched you, or something you’d like to do in the future. If you’re new to Let’s Do Some Good Today, you can browse through our weekly service challenge posts here.
  2. Visit The Mercy Shop’s website and let me know what your favorite item is.
  3. Share this giveaway on the social media platform of your choice, and come leave me a comment letting me know you did so. I’ll be putting a post on Facebook and you can just click “share” on that, or you can share in whatever way you prefer.

This giveaway will close on Saturday, August 29th at midnight (central time), and announced by Sunday, August 30th at 2:00 pm. The winner will receive a $20 Mercy Shop gift certificate, which will be delivered via e-mail.

Thank a Police Officer

Thank you for doing good with me this year.

And thank you for loving mercy.

Kindness Matters Monday: They’re Listening

I have two kids. And of the many things that they need to be taught (and kids need to be taught EVERYTHING), at the top of my list right now: kindness, compassion, manners. I try to teach these lessons at home, away from home, with family, with friends … I try to be vigilant in reminding my kids to look people in the eye when we say thank you, to hold doors for strangers, to always find something to compliment, to choose to use good manners even when we’re tired.

And y’all. It’s exhausting.

Sometimes I stop and wonder if they’re learning anything, and if these years of training will pay off. Because sometimes, when they’re squirting all of the moms in the swimming pool or fighting over who had more cookies or basically acting like two wet cats tied up in a sack … it’s easy to think I’m not getting anywhere.

(Can I get an Amen?)

But the other day, as my kids and I were walking into the YMCA, a family was leaving. A mom and her kids were walking towards their car. And then suddenly, her teenage son noticed us. Without hesitation, he hurried back to the door. He held it for us. He smiled at my kids. And he walked away.

And I stood there, a little bit speechless.

I looked at my son, who I am diligently trying to teach to be a gentleman. I looked at this young man whose mother had clearly been teaching him the same things. And I smiled.

Because parents … it does pay off.

I am no parenting expert. I am seven years into this journey. I haven’t seen the “end result” of my work yet.

But I can see the result of other people’s work. And I love what I see.

I love seeing teenage boys who run out of their way to open a door for a woman and her children. I love seeing teenage girls holding the elevator door at the mall for a lady with a baby in her stroller.I love seeing big brothers helping little brothers on the playground, and I love seeing big sisters helping little sisters walk to the bathroom at Church. I love seeing it because it reminds me, “Keep going, Mom. It will pay off.”

So to you parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers of children … keep going. Keep teaching these little ones to be kind.

They’re listening.

Kindness Matters Monday

 

CVS Clearance – Bargain Shopper Alert!

If you have a CVS nearby – today is a great time to stop in, if you want to serve on a budget!

At both of the CVS stores near my house, many of their summer-ish dollar items are on clearance for 75% off. And neither store had any kind of signs up, so there was a ton of stuff on the shelves! Everything pictured here was just 25 cents. If you see these items at your store, check them out at the red “price check” machine. (And make sure to scan your CVS card at that machine, too. It prints coupons!!)

25 cent deals at CVS

* The sunglasses, hair accessories, and stickers are all great for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. That’s probably what I’ll use them for. But they are also a great donation item for a local shelter!
* The sandwich sized Ziploc bags are also great for shoeboxes – I always double-bag my candy and my soap, in the hopes of (somewhat) preventing the candy from tasting soapy. The quart-sized bags are perfect for making blessing bags!
* I had a few minutes, so I scanned a lot of the summer items and found about half of them were on clearance. I bought a jump rope for 74 cents, and my son got a fishing game for $1.49. It kept him busy for half an hour. Priceless. 🙂
* If you’re ready to really put on your bargain-shopping brain on, there’s another great deal at CVS this week. If you spend $10 on CVS toothbrushes or toothpaste, you get back $8 in Extra Bucks (which can be turned around and used immediately). So if you are planning on spending some money at CVS anyway, buy some toothbrushes (I stocked up for shoeboxes and blessing bags), get your $8, and then turn around and use that $8 coupon to buy your clearance items! The deal has a limit of 2, so I bought $20 of toothbrushes and got $16 back.

Please feel free to leave any questions for me!

Back-to-School Teacher Appreciation Challenge

One upon a time (okay, seven years ago), before I became a Mom, I was a full-time teacher. I have loved being a stay-at-home-mom, but as my babies are growing up and heading to school, I have decided to dip my toes back into the teaching field again. This year, I will be teaching music at my son’s preschool. (Very exciting!!)

This week we began our teacher training. As I sat in meetings, looking around from face to face and seeing a room full of professionals who are compassionate, dedicated, and very committed to taking care of children, I was inspired. And as I walked through the halls on the way to my new-to-me classroom, I watched them bustle around, trying their hardest to create a wonderful environment for their future students to create in, to feel safe in, to learn in.

These teachers are not being paid for their overtime. Often, they are not even being reimbursed for many of the items that they buy for their classrooms. They go above and beyond for one simple reason: they care about their students (even those who they have not yet met), and they want them to succeed. And as a mother, I am humbled and grateful.

So this week, as many kids are back in school (or preparing to head back to school), it’s time to repeat the Teacher Appreciation Challenge.

Just a reminder – this challenge is NOT just for those who have young children at home. If you’ve had a great teacher at school … if anyone is teaching you in another facility (work, church, etc.), if you or your kids are involved in a sports league … even if you even KNOW a teacher who is putting in a lot of effort this time of year, this challenge is for you!

Teacher Appreciation Challenge

One more idea I’d love to add to the original challenge … I found this awesome post on Pinterest: “The Best Teacher Appreciation Gifts, Told By Teachers“. (This link will send you to a roundup of ideas. If you see a printable you like, just click on the “source” button right under the picture.) While you might not be thinking about teacher gifts right now, I love the idea given in this post to send your child to school the first day with a “Getting To Know You” paper for the teacher, asking questions like “Where is your favorite restaurant?” and “What is your favorite drink?” Both of my kids are going to be headed to back-to-school night with one of these forms! They will only take a moment or two for the teacher to complete, and they will allow me the opportunity to make sure that I’m able to give their teachers meaningful gifts throughout the year. (Once again, these don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but something as simple as knowing your teacher’s favorite candy bar can go a LONG way toward letting that teacher know you truly appreciate the work he or she does.) And make sure not to forget classroom aides! They work hard and love to be remembered and appreciated.

So happy back-to-school time, everyone! Let’s let teachers know how much we appreciate them this week. Please remember to check out the original Teacher Appreciation Challenge here for lots of ideas – including things you can do on a $0 budget.

Kindness Matters Monday: The Crayon Initiative

Today for our Kindness Matters Monday story, I am excited to share a new-to-me website with you: The Crayon Initiative.

You’ve likely been to restaurants that provide crayons for children to use while they wait for their food. Have you ever wondered what happens to these crayons?

Some are taken home. Most are just thrown away.

Enter Bryan Ware.

If you’d like to hear a cool story about people taking an ordinary object – what some would consider to be just trash – and making an awesome product for hospitalized kids – read this story. And check them out on Facebook if you like reading cool stories about people making a difference.

Which, I’m guessing, you do. 🙂

I’m so grateful for a world full of so many wonderful people!

Kindness Matters Monday

Serving In Our Own Communities

Today, I saw a heartbreaking story online. Have you heard of Humans of New York? It’s a website that is made up of pictures and snippets of stories. A photographer goes around the streets of NYC and asks people questions. And in the few sentences he gives us, we see people’s hopes and dreams, best and worst memories, insecurities, fears, triumphs … it’s fascinating. It’s a fantastic reminder to always be kind to strangers, because we never, ever know what lies beneath the surface.

Right now, Brandon (the photographer) is touring Pakistan, and on my Facebook feed this morning, I saw a sobering picture of a crying woman holding a small child, and this chilling quote: “I left an abusive relationship and I have nowhere to go. I have Hepatitis C, so no one is willing to take me in. I don’t know how long I will live. I tried to give her up for adoption so that she’d have a good home. The wife of a minister told me about a place where I could drop her off. But when I got there, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Within minutes, there were thousands of people speaking up. “How can I help?” “Is there a GoFundMe page set up for this woman?” “I wish I could do something!!” On and on and on the comments went. And I was right there. I anxiously watched HONY’s Facebook page, hoping that they would post a link that gave me an opportunity to help this woman.

As I waited, I had a thought.

How many people in my own area are faced with problems just like this?

Now one point I’d like to make clear: I have no problem AT ALL with helping people in distant countries. I am passionate about several international aid programs. My family sponsors two young boys in Colombia, and I sponsor a sweet young mother in Kenya. I love these young people I’ve never met. I pray for them. I believe that we should help wherever our heart pulls us, and my heart pulls me to Compassion International and The Mercy House.

But still, the question remained in my mind: how many people in my own area need my help today?

As I’m waiting to see how I might be able to help this woman on the other side of the world, how many people within a few miles of me need help right now?

There’s a women’s shelter in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve taught those wonderful ladies. They need support.

There’s a hospital for low-income families in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the homeless camped nearby. They need support.

New mom care package

There’s a shelter for homeless teens in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve brought donations and toured the facilities and talked to the director. They need support.

There are problems right in my neighborhood. There are people who need me.

There are problems right in your neighborhood. There are people who need you.

So for this week’s service challenge, I want you to choose an area in your community that needs your help. If you’ve been around this site for a while and participated in our service challenges, you know what to do. 🙂 But if you’ve never done anything like this before, don’t be nervous – it’s really simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

* If you don’t know where to start, ask around, open the phone book, or just do an internet search for “homeless shelter” or “women’s shelter” or “food pantry” or “animal shelter” and your zipcode. I just did that (I searched “shelter” and my zipcode), and discovered a family shelter that’s only 10 minutes away from my house. (I recently moved – just to the city next door – and I’m discovering new things all the time. I love participating in these service challenges with you – they help me learn so much!)

* When you’ve found a program in your area, call them or see if they have a website. And find out what their greatest needs are! You can do that in a variety of ways … “I have $10 to donate. What do you need today?” “What items do you run out of quickly?” “Are there any items that my friends and I might be able to share with you?” “Do you need volunteers?”

* And then … get to work. 🙂 Bargain shop (for a few budget-stretching tips, check out this post). Show up and volunteer. Gather your friends and have a blessing bag party. Even if you only have 5 minutes right now, that’s enough time to find a local shelter, learn their greatest needs, and share on social media. You can check out this post if you need a little more inspiration.Blessing bag

As I was writing this service challenge, I stopped to re-read our shelter challenge from nearly a year ago. I wanted to share these thoughts with you again.

Once you know what the needs are in your community … well, you won’t need me to tell you what to do after that.

You might realize you have an extra $5 you can donate.

You might pass by a clearance rack at Target and notice an item that’s on your shelter’s “urgent needs” list.

You might realize that you have a few hours you can use to volunteer.

You might grab an extra box of granola bars the next time you’re at the store. Or maybe an extra pack of socks, or a bottle of laundry detergent.

You might decide to take some donations to a shelter for homeless teens, and while you’re there, you might realize for the first time that right in your city, there are teenage girls who are selling their body for food. You might realize that you had absolutely no idea that there were people in your very city who are so absolutely desperate. You might get angry – FURIOUS – that this is the reality for so many. And when your fury subsides a bit, you might realize that you might not be able to fix all of the problems in your community, but you are able to donate a bit of food. And with that bit of food, someone will be able to eat tonight without resorting to desperate measures.

A broken, defeated woman might be able to take a shower tomorrow morning and start to feel a little bit more feminine because you donated a bottle of nice shampoo to the shelter she has fled to.

A man might be able to button up his new-to-him dress shirt (that, as of yesterday, was hanging in your closet) and go off to a job interview, confident that he looks professional and competent.

Tomorrow someone might read your Facebook post … “Hey, local friends – did you realize that we have a women’s shelter that’s at risk of closing because they need more donations? Come on – let’s help!” Or “Did you know that our local animal shelter is going to have to put down three dogs this weekend unless they find homes? Anyone need a new pet?” And your friend might realize, thanks to you, that there is a need that he or she can meet.

Will you join me?

You can give. You can advocate. You can learn and share. And you can make a HUGE difference in the lives of the most vulnerable in your community.

I don’t know what you’re going to do with this week’s challenge.

But I can’t wait to hear.

School Supply deals – updated

If you’re participating in this week’s “Serving with School Supplies” challenge, I wanted to pass on a great resource. One of my favorite websites (and Facebook pages) is Clip with Purpose. These ladies are huge Operation Christmas Child shoebox packers, and all year long, they find the best deals on items that would be a good fit for shoeboxes. This week, they’ve put together a list of the best school supply sales that they could find. I’ll be hitting up Walgreens for the 39 cent scissors, and Walmart for the Dixon pencils priced at 20 for $1.

If you’d like to check up their great roundup, here it is.

Happy shopping!

Kindness Matters … In The Parking Lot

So here’s the thing about me, y’all.

Driving? It makes me a little twitchy.

Parking garages? Not my favorite thing.

Driving downtown? Makes me a bit ill.

And today, I had to drive downtown to my chiropractor’s office, and I kind of got stuck in the parking garage. For me, it was a panic attack just waiting to happen.

The garage was totally full when I arrived, which had never happened to me before. Luckily, just as I was starting to panic (I had no idea where else to go), someone left, and I was able to snag their spot. It was the worst spot in the parking garage – cars were tightly packed on either side, and a huge pole (and a row of cars) right smack behind me. But I didn’t care. I took the parking spot, feeling grateful, and hurried into my appointment.

But when it was time to go … well, I had a hard time backing out. Managing to maneuver so I didn’t scrape the cars next to me, the cars parked behind me, or the giant pole … I was so thankful that there was no one behind me waiting to get out. And equally grateful that there was no one watching my awkward 13-point turn.

Until suddenly, there was.

Kindness Matters Monday

Suddenly, a man appeared in front of me. I was a little bit startled – I’d been so busy looking behind me and to the sides, I hadn’t even noticed him walking toward me. I wasn’t sure what he wanted – until he began to wave me forward, a big smile on his face.

That kind man – a total stranger – helped guide me out of my precarious parking space and sent me on my way with a friendly wave and smile.

I have no idea who that man is. The chance that I’ll ever see him again is very slim. But today, on Kindness Matters Monday, I am so grateful for him. I’m grateful that he took a moment out of his busy day to help a stranger, and that he did so cheerfully.

Thanks, kind stranger.

You matter to me today.