100 Kind Things to Say

I went to put my purse down and noticed the small puddle filling the center console of my van. My five-year old son had “given” me his cup of water, which really meant he had half-haphazardly placed it on the uneven tops of the odds and ends we keep in the tray. Now the cup was on its side, water trickling out near the straw. Soggy receipts were turning to watercolored prints. Drowned coins reflected in the shallow bottom of the compartment like in a small wishing pool.  

I took a deep breath and made a conscious effort not to say something snarky or say something I would regret. Yes, he was being impatient and had not wanted to wait for me to take his cup. Yes, my patience had been tested many times today.  Yes, this was one more thing to clean up. Yes, this was an minor inconvenience. But really this was just an unintentional accident and an opportunity to show a little grace.  

I started to mop up the water with some napkins I had just grabbed while we were at the coffee shop. I didn’t realize they would be used so soon. It was quiet in the van- a rare moment of silence. My son was thinking and watching. When the last napkin had been used,  he declared with admiration, “Wow, Mom! You are always prepared. Really, always!” These words seemed too big for his sweet little voice. A compliment so gracious it disarmed any lingering sour feelings. I had almost traded kindness and grace for irritation and annoyance, but I hadn’t. This time I hadn’t let my emotions hijack the situation. Kindness won! “Thank you, Bud! Mommy tries,” was all I could reply.     

Words…powerful little things that add up to big consequences. When we stop and think before we speak, we can change someone’s day.  (We can change our day.) I have no doubt if I had said some things I had initially been thinking during the water spill, it would have left a dark shadow over the hour. Instead, it turned a small incident into a moment of positivity. When we speak encouraging words, we are giving people around us an emotional boost of hope, support and confidence. We are building stronger relationships. 

About two years ago, I wrote a post called “78 Kind Words to Say to Your Children.” I thought I could do better than just 78 and came up with more things to say. So, here’s a new list- “100 Kind Things to Say.” Originally, I had thought to use this list to encourage my children but there are many things on this list that would encourage anyone- family, friends, and co-workers too. 

And one more note, some of us have a natural inclination or a gift to speak words of affirmation and encouragement. For others it can be difficult and takes practice. If you feel like it’s difficult, do not be discouraged. Try saying one or two positive, encouraging phrases at a time and work up to speaking several each day. Like with anything new and with some practice, speaking encouraging words will start to feel easier to do and the people around you will benefit from your practice.  

  1. You make me smile.
  2. I believe in you.
  3. You have great ideas!
  4. You are a hard worker.
  5. You make a difference.
  6. Can I help you?
  7. I’m sorry.
  8. Will you forgive me?
  9. I forgive you.
  10. You are loved.
  11. You are creative!
  12. Great discovery!
  13. I admire you.
  14. You are kind.
  15. You are a good friend.
  16. You are a good listener.
  17. I’m listening.
  18. I want to hear what you have to say.
  19. Your ideas matter.
  20. It’s your decision.
  21. You can say “no.”
  22. You belong!
  23. We need your help.
  24. Here’s a place for you.
  25. I like spending time with you.
  26. Tell me what you are thinking.
  27. Thank you for helping me.
  28. Would you like to help me?
  29. I see you trying.
  30. Great job!
  31. I like working together.
  32. I like how you______.
  33. It’s okay to be nervous or scared.
  34. You are brave.
  35. We can learn from mistakes.
  36. Mistakes help us grow.
  37. Keep up the good work!
  38. I like you!
  39. Let’s share.
  40. Thank you for being you!
  41. God made you special.
  42. You have a lot to offer.
  43. You are right!
  44. You are fun to be with.
  45. I am excited to see you try.
  46. You figured it out!
  47. Well done!
  48. Thank you for following directions.
  49. Thank you for sharing.
  50. I trust you.
  51. I appreciate you.
  52. Thank you for being honest.
  53. You are joyful!
  54. You are loving.
  55. You are helpful.
  56. Thank you for waiting.
  57. You are patient.
  58. You give the best hugs.
  59. I like when you __________.
  60. Please sit next to me.
  61. You have a great sense of humor.
  62. I can help you with that.
  63. I want to help.
  64. What a fantastic idea!
  65. What do you want to do?
  66. Let’s do it together.
  67. Good thinking!
  68. Thank you for answering me.
  69. That was a kind thing to do.
  70. You have special gifts and talents.
  71. You are a gift to others.  
  72. Let’s pray about it together.
  73. You are good at________.
  74. I can tell you really tried.
  75. You have a big heart.
  76. You have the best smile.
  77. You are important to me.
  78. Thank you for helping your friend.
  79. That’s wonderful news.
  80. Tell me more.
  81. I am proud of you!
  82. You mean the world to me.
  83. I love you to the moon and back.
  84. You are beautiful inside and out.
  85. You made my day!
  86. You light up the room!
  87. You are generous.
  88. Don’t give up!
  89. That’s a great question.
  90. You can try again next time.
  91. Let’s take a break and try again.
  92. It’s okay.
  93. It will get better.
  94. I’m here for you.
  95. You inspire me!
  96. You are a great example to others.
  97. I am a better person because of you.
  98. You teach me new things.
  99. I love your enthusiasm.
  100. I LOVE YOU!

December Acts of Kindness Calendar

Although kindness and charity should be given in every month, December brings a special focus to these things. It’s a month of reflection. An opportunity to focus outward instead of inward. A time to give rather than receive. If you are looking for a few ideas to practice acts of love, kindness and giving to others, check out our plan for December.

Each morning, our Kindness Elves, Amelia and Olivia, will suggest the daily act of kindness to complete as a family. There’s something for everyone on the calendar. Some of the ideas, like donating blood, are obviously for the adults (that’s the one that is going to stretch me the most!) Some of the ideas will take a little longer to complete than others. All of the activities can be done together with each other’s support and encouragement. 

Just a note…This calendar is not meant to add to the holiday hustle and stress. It’s not to give us one more thing to do. Rather, it is a reminder to slow down, gather around a table, have good conversations, create for and think of others as a family. 


They’re Here…. Kindness Elves and Advent Calendars

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Our family has done many things to celebrate the days before Christmas. We’ve eaten our way through chocolate advent calendars. We’ve counted down days with a chain of linked construction paper rings. And we’ve made daily ornaments with Truth in the Tinsel and inspired by Ann Voskamp’s  “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.”  For the third year, our Kindness Elves have returned adding to our special Christmas traditions. Amelia and Oliver, come to America every Dec. 1 from England to help us spread kindness and think of others during the Christmas season.

I stumbled upon the Kindness Elves about a four years ago and fell in love with the idea. Created by a UK school teacher as an alternative to the “elf-on-the-shelf” tradition, Kindness Elves place the focus on positive, character-building activities while giving families opportunities to teach and practice acts of love, kindness and gratitude.

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Our Elves were shipped in their sweet, little home, complete with a working mailbox. Throughout the month they appear somewhere in our house with an introduction to the kids and notes suggesting an act of kindness to complete for the day. It is suggested to leave the elves besides an object needed for the day’s suggested activity. e.g. inside a mixing bowl ready to bake some cookies as a gift.

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Here are other ways we plan to use our elves as suggested by the creator of the Kindness Elves. I love the idea of the “Little Book of Big Kindness.”

  • When the elves see the children doing kind and lovely things, they leave a little note for them to find in the morning e.g. “Oh I loved it when I saw you sharing your new book with your little sister” or “you were very kind to help your Mummy load the dishwasher!” etc These notes can be collected into the Little Book of Big Kindnesses as a record keeping journal.
  • Some mornings they may wake up to find the elves have lined up their shoes, tidied their coats, got the breakfast things ready or fixed a broken toy etc. Modeling direct ways to be kind and helpful as a prompt for the children in the day.
  • Occasionally they leave a treat out as a thank you!
  • On the last day (Christmas Eve usually for us) the Kindness Elves leave a little goodbye letter, thanking the children for their wonderful stay and sharing so many lovely experiences together. They say that they might pop back throughout the year for birthdays or other special occasions and that they can’t wait to come again next Christmas!

One year, I only wrote a quick sentence on elf size heart notes. I punched hearts out of red paper. Here is a link to a sheet of heart templates to use if you do not have a punch. http://www.timvandevall.com/wp-content/uploads/Heart-Template-Printable.pdf  They are perfect elf size. 🙂

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Last year, my daughters took to being “pen pals” with the “elves.” Which obviously meant, we got to be pen-pals. I look forward to this the most. There is something special about writing and receiving a letter. It’s an act of kindness in itself. We wrote about stuff  we sometimes forget to talk about during the day- places we want to visit, dreams, hopes and wants. A few minutes of extra thought and care is worth seeing into the windows of my daughters’ hearts. And I’m taking it all in now, praying the little extra effort is making a clear path for open communication in the future.

The Kindness Elves are adorable and we will enjoy them, but honestly, they not necessary to complete acts of kindness this season. I will be sharing our calendar of Acts of Kindness in a future post. Until then, check out the following Acts of Kindness Advent Calendars and start sprinkling kindness today.

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendars and Ideas:

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http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/random-acts-of-christmas-kindness-advent-calendar/

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http://www.muminthemadhouse.com/alternative-advent-calender-24-acts-kindness-kids/

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https://thechristmasangel.com/blog/activities/25-days-of-messages

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http://nourishingjoy.com/service-projects-for-kids-advent-calendar/

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http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/100-acts-kindness-kids/


The Joy Bombs

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History has proved New Englanders to be revolutionaries, passionate and determined people, overcomers of all types of difficulties, including wild weather. If there’s one prerequisite to being labeled a “New Englander,” it is the skill of talking about and complaining about the weather. You really can’t blame us. If you have spent any amount of time in New England, you know our weather is unpredictable and always changing. It could be sunny and fifty degrees one day, only to wake up to an outrageous, snowy nor’easter the next. Mark Twain accurately summed up our weather, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

Well, we’ve been waiting more than a few minutes and the weather seems to be stuck on the winter channel. Even though the calendar says it is spring, snow is in the forecast AGAIN. It appears the snow in unaware of proper seasonal boundaries.

My daughter tells me the recent snowstorms are a test of our patience and joy. That’s a great way to look at it. We will persevere and when spring weather FINALLY comes it will be even sweeter. BUT until then, it seems (from Facebook feeds and the word on the street) not everyone feels the same. Most people are pretty bummed about this winter weather and I get it. So, the kids and I thought we should do something about the low morale and cheer people up.  We came up with an idea to go out into our community to help people find some joy and give a few people something else to talk about instead of the weather.

We grabbed some balloons at the dollar store, purchased some cookies and hot chocolate at Walmart, and made bundles of joy (or as my youngest daughter called them, “joy bombs.”) We tied a poem to the package, prayed, and followed wherever the Holy Spirit led us. Our goal was to make people smile and brighten their day.  The following is our “adventure log.”

 

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JOY ADVENTURE LOG:

1.) Left one “joy bomb” by a car in a parking lot.

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2-3.) Brought two “Joy Bombs” to a local breakfast cafe. Asked the waitresses if they would pass them on to two customers. They seemed happy to do so.

4.) Stopped an older couple pumping gas at the gas station.  I am not quite sure if they heard or understood what we were doing (or if they thought that I was slightly off my rocker.) Regardless, they took the cookies, hot chocolate, and the balloon. As I was driving away, I saw a huge smile on the woman’s face as she pointed to the bag and explained something to her husband

5.) Pulled into the parking lot of my hair salon. Saw one woman getting into the car next to us. (Let her get in the car first so the snow did not wreck her freshly styled hair.) Asked her how she felt about the weather. She looked a little suspicious and a bit confused. We explained what we were doing. She said something like, “No, that’s not me. I am fine with the snow.” Well, that’s great! Save “joy bomb” for someone else.

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5.) Left one for Lala, my fabulous hair stylist. I figured Lala would be hearing all about the weather and people’s problems while styling clients’ hair. Asked the receptionist to tell Lala to pass the “joy bomb” on to someone who really needed it.  Will follow-up.

6.) Stopped a dad and his toddler who were walking through a parking lot.Told them the balloon and cookies were just for them. My daughters thought I knew them because of the way I spoke to them. It touched my heart that my daughters observed and commented on this. This project isn’t just about blessing community members but also about meeting the people we share our town with and modeling interactions for my children.

5.) Coffee house. (Seriously, how have I not been to this place before?) Very friendly service and the two young men working the counter happily took the “job bomb” and will be passing it on to someone.  Side note: How cute is this little journal area? I have lots of thoughts and dreams I could add to one of those journals. I will be back soon.

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7.) Brought one to a church family. My girls asked if they could bring it up to the door by themselves. And they did! 🙂

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8., 9., 10. ) Left three at neighbors’ doorsteps. The only other time we come to these doors are to receive something- candy at Halloween. It’s feels good to give and not just receive.

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11. 12. 13.) Town Hall- I gave each kid a “joy bomb” and we walked into town hall. There were three beautiful, friendly, women to receive joy from each child. They were so touched, they gave us balloons leftover from someone’s retirement party. One balloon for each kid and then four more to pass on to others. We happily took them and promised to pass them on. One of the ladies asked if I was the one that did the kindness rocks. I love that connections are being made.

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14. 15. 16) Retirement Home- My girls decided they wanted to give their balloons away to the residents. At first my three-year old was adamant about keeping his balloon and that was completely fine with me. My oldest bent down next to him and quietly explained who and why they were giving their balloons away and before I knew it my son wanted to give his away too! Kindness was multiplying before my eyes and my daughter reminded me of the power and influence of using soft, gentle words. What a blessing this stop was! We walked in and residents’ faces lit up. We stayed for a few minutes and talked with some of them. Then they surprised us with a cookie and told us we were welcome anytime.

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17.) Brought a “joy bomb” to the pastor at the Episcopal Church. I drive and walk by this church often and I always think it would be nice to stop by and say “hi.”  Well, today seemed a good day to do it. 🙂 (Why did I wait so long?)

18.) We brought one to a church friend.

19.) My kids had it on their hearts to bring one to a fellow homeschooling family who lives down the street. We left the “joy bomb” on their step along with the rest of the balloons from town hall. My kids were thrilled that they had some say in this project and their voice mattered.

20.) The final balloon, we brought to a neighbor who we do not know well but know they could use some joy. We left the “joy bomb” at their door.

All twenty “joy bombs” prayed for and delivered. Throughout the morning, I kept thinking about what this adventure was teaching my children. We had inadvertently worked on project management skills, math skills, map skills, conversational skills, and teamwork. We had witnessed the power of prayer and kindness within our interactions with each other and with other people. As a bonus, we met new friends and found new places in our town to visit.

When we pulled into the driveway, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I feel like I have been hugged ten thousand times.”  That’s a pretty great and accurate description of how I felt too. The weather seemed so insignificant when we placed our sights higher and on other things. I don’t think winter weather is quite over yet and that’s okay. It’s a pain to deal with but we are New Englanders. We’ll get through it and how we wait “the few minutes” matters. Let’s try to be cheerful, spread some joy, and help where we can. If you are able, grab an extra shovel and help clean off cars and walkways, take cookies to a neighbor, smile to those you meet. You never know how the smallest interactions will influence someone’s whole day.  Stay warm and stay positive. Spring will be here “soon.” ❤

 

 

 


Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti-The Podcast

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Photo Credit: MOPS International

I am so excited and honored to have one of my talks turned into a podcast! I gave this talk during MOPS International’s Coach training in Milwaukee last fall. The whole experience was humbling and surreal. I praise God for leading me out of my comfort zone and stepping into new things for His glory. I thank MOPS International for believing in me and allowing me to share my heart. I hope you will listen, be blessed and be encouraged. If you would like to know more about MOPS International and what they do, I would love to talk with you.

(Google Play link to the podcast below. It is about 12 minutes long.)

https://play.google.com/music/m/D4xz4cy52fqhn2d3gfdnv76c2im?t=Throw_Kindness_Around_Like_Confetti-Connections_Podcast 

“When Shanna woke up on her 38th birthday, she had a to-do list that didn’t excite her much. So she threw it out and made another list full of kind things she wanted to do that day. With her new list and a new attitude, she spread kindness around like confetti. All year long, we should strive to walk in grace and do good works and love each other in the name of Jesus.”

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A Safe Place with a Pint of Ice Cream

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Twelve hundred. That is the exact number of calories in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Super New York Fudge Chunk. Long before my hips showed any adverse signs from indulging in excessive amounts of sugary treats, I would down a pint of ice cream in one sitting.

I was never alone in the endeavor and I always had two pints of Ben & Jerry’s with me. One for me and one for my best friend. Eating a pint of ice cream was the extent of our high school craziness. This was one of the many reasons why I loved her. Instead of going out and partying, we were both happily content staying in, talking, and watching the TV edited versions of Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

I vividly remember the laughs, the tears over broken hearts, the questions we tried to answer, and sharing our hopes and dreams. When I think about these times, the thing I treasure the most is the feeling that has lingered all these years. I remember feeling safe.

My friend had provided a space where I could be vulnerable and authentic. She was always the first one I wanted to run to and tell the things on my heart. And she always received me with patience and kindness.I knew I was loved no matter what I shared.

I am sure we had our disagreements and differences but I seem to remember more agreements and similarities. Boys, distance, and life took a toll on our friendship and eventually separated us. Over the span of twenty years, I have thought of my friend often. At every big life event. When hopes and dreams have come true. When loved ones have passed. When I watch a romantic comedy. And every time I eat Ben & Jerry’s.

It’s because of her that I think the solution to most of life’s problems can be worked out with a good laugh, a good cry, and a pint of ice cream shared in a safe place where hearts can be exposed.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my friend and the gift of friendship. It doesn’t take much to see and hear the scary, confusing, unjust things happening in our world. In all of our interactions, I wonder if we are thinking before we speak (or post.) Are we responding to others in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?1 Or are our responses filled with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, or envy? 2  Are we providing a safe place for hearts to be exposed?

There is a little piece of scripture I have read a thousand times but I keep going back to read. It captures the interaction of two women who were very dear to each other. Two women who were thrown into unplanned circumstances.Confusing, possibly scary circumstances that included many unknowns in the days to come.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”–Luke 1:39-45

“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned home.”–Luke 1:56

This passage makes me think of God’s power, his glory and the miracles in impossible things. But I also think of God’s incredible KINDNESS. Kindness to knit two women together, to be there for each other, to support and help each other through their callings and life’s situations. I wish I could have eavesdropped on Mary and Elizabeth’s conversations in those three months. The passage highlights the joy they shared. Wonder, amazement too. But did they also share a lot of laughs and cries? Did they discuss their futures-share their hopes, dreams, and fears?  Did they expose their hearts?

I think yes to all of those questions. Mary and Elizabeth were like us in many ways and I think God shows the same kindness to us. He brings people in our life that pour into us when we need it most and who can help us navigate through callings and life together.

In a world that might not feel safe, we can be safe places for each other. We must think wisely before we speak. Pray for patience, kindness, and self-control before we hit “post.” Listen with our hearts. Speak life with our words. Find purpose in our days to use our time wisely and leave people better than how we found them. We can provide safe places for hearts to be exposed, allow raw emotions to be displayed, and with joy share in people’s hopes and dreams. And finally, we can praise God for the gift of friendship, community…and good ice cream. 😉

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1.- Galatians 5:22-23

2- Galatians 5:19-21


A Wrinkled Heart

I was in eighth-grade and one of the first to arrive at the door of my next class. The hallway was dimly lit and quiet compared to the rest of the school. The linoleum checkered-floor shined from the previous night’s cleaning. A group of popular girls gathered next to me, one by one they joined the gaggle of giggling and whispering and formed a small circle of exclusion. I was an outsider. I did not belong.

I do not remember what the class was about, how long it lasted or if any of my friends were in the room with me. I remember waiting in line to exit the room and then stepping into the hallway. One of the popular girls was waiting right outside of the door, she stopped me and looked me straight in the face.

“You have a horrible laugh and smile. I do not like it,” she said with a mean smirk. Then she went bouncing away down the hallway to join her snickering friends.

Shocked, stunned, and confused, I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the scene. I felt so alone. The hallway was a blur through my tears. I do not remember the details of the rest of the day but those words stuck with me for many years after.

Even twenty-something years later, I can still remember how those words felt as they passed through my ears and penetrated into my heart. The sting has long disappeared and been relieved by others’s kind words and actions. Years of growing in faith, wisdom, and self-confidence has made the comment irrelevant and a bit silly now. Just ONE mean girl’s opinion. But a wrinkle in my heart forever remains from the experience. And sadly, I am sure there have been many times I have put wrinkles in other people’s hearts by my unkind words and actions.

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My girls are at an age when friendships are starting to get more complex. They are learning how to navigate the broad spectrum of personalities, feelings and emotions that comes with relationships. I have found myself thinking back to my school years and the opportunity I have to share some of my experiences and bring a little wisdom from a perspective gained over the years.

In teaching my children about friendships and the importance of kindness, I came across this wonderful idea. It is hands-on, engaging and helped to open a new dialogue with my children. It is a great visual for adults too.

For this activity, you will need is a piece of paper (any color or size will do) and a pair of scissors. Cut the paper into a heart.

Have your children feel their own heart and explain that everyone starts with a heart as nice and smooth as the paper one. Discuss how words and actions can make others feel good or hurt other’s hearts and feelings. I shared a few examples of times when words and actions have made me feel good or bad.

I asked my children to give me examples of UNKIND words and actions they may have heard or someone has said to them. With each example, I folded part of the heart until the heart was completely folded. Then, I asked my children to give me examples of KIND words and actions. With each example, I unfolded the heart until it lay flat and wrinkled. I asked them what they thought of the wrinkled heart. We discussed how important it is to think before we speak because apologies can help to make the hurt better but the hurt sometimes never disappears. It becomes a wrinkle in their heart.

We were just about to move on to another activity when my daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, I think ___________’s heart is very hurt and wrinkled because she told me other kids don’t like her and say mean things to her. That makes me sad.” This led into a whole other discussion on how we can be good friends and come alongside each other. The activity was time worth spending. It got us all thinking and talking.

There are many great books written about feelings, emotions and the importance of being kind. Here are a few of my favorites that would go wonderfully with this heart activity. (They would make a great Christmas gifts too.)

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My experience in junior high was not for nothing. Over the years, it has been a reminder to me of how powerful words can be and to think before you speak. So very often I need this reminder…..

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