Gratitude Letter Challenge

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21 Day Gratitude Letter Challenge

Wow, we made it through the day! If your social media feeds were anything like mine, a broad spectrum of thoughts, raw emotions, declarations, and many opinions stemming from the election were represented. Today, I sat quietly on the other side of the screen, reading and liking comments here and there, and cheering on friends who offered positive suggestions for moving forward (regardless of their political stance.)

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the benefits of choosing gratitude over grumbling. I noted several positive benefits to a thankful attitude and mindset. I love the brain research on this topic and could write and discuss much more about it but I want to give you a way to put into action the information I wrote about.

I have heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. Although this may be a myth, I think 21 days is a good place to start moving forward with positive change. The recent election has put a lot of focus on the differences between people, thoughts, and ideas. I would like to challenge us to take the next 21 days to try something to help us switch the focus off of our differences and put them on our similarities. Something that will help us highlight the things we are grateful for in each other.

We are going old school, bringing back letter writing and snail mail. You will need, paper, a writing utensil, envelopes, and stamps. Each day, try to find about five to ten minutes to write. It does not have to be an uninterrupted time period. It could be a minute here and a minute there. You can write at a desk, the kitchen table, in the carpool lane, or in the bathroom. It does not have to be a letter filled with long, elaborate, flowing words and rhymed prose (although that would be totally awesome) but it does need to be genuine and point out one or two things you appreciate, admire, and like in the person. Seal up the letter, write the address, and drop it in the mail. And smile!

If you need a little help thinking about who to write, I created a document/picture (see above) with letter prompt ideas. This is just a suggestion, please write to whoever you like. Be creative. Use your church directory, address books, MOPS group directory, pull names out of a hat. Include your kids in this challenge. I believe these letters have the power to strengthen and change relationships.

Will you consider joining me in spreading some kindness and gratitude? I would love to hear from you if you do. And if you want to really take the challenge up a notch, hand deliver your letter and spend some time with that person. Oh, just think about that! What a way to make someone’s day brighter!

PS You can post on social media and follow along at hashtags #embraceletters, #embracegratitude


Kindness ROCKS

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Keep your eyes open and you might find one! Love, peace, joy, or a smile! The kids and I have been inspired to spread kindness in the shape of rocks. Following the example of the following four organizations, I bought five bags of black river rocks (at the dollar store.) We painted hearts, rainbows, crosses, smiley faces, and other things that might make one smile and we have been hiding them all over our town.

Our hope is that each rock is found at the perfect moment and it will bring a smile to the finder’s face. If you do find one, we would love to hear about it! We would love to know what happened to the rocks after we left it somewhere.

Check out these beautiful stories of others who are spreading joy and kindness one rock at a time.

Love Rocks  (A beautiful, courageous story of how one family is overcoming loss and grief with love and joy!)

The Kindness Rocks Project

Word Rocks

The Rainbow Rock Project (A story that tells you are never to young to make a difference!)

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Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti

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On Tuesday, I celebrated my thirty-eighth birthday with the police and fire department, complete strangers, and Bob Goff.

I love birthdays and everything that comes with them.  Crepe paper, confetti, cake, gifts, and surprises. I once flew 3,000 miles to an Olive Garden in Rhode Island to surprise my dad on his birthday. The look on his surprised astonished face will never be forgotten and I loved playing my part in the surprise. But on the morning of my birthday, I wasn’t very excited about the day. It wasn’t the fact of being a year older that upset me. It was the mountainous list of things to complete looming over my head. If only I could get through the list, then I could relax, rest and celebrate. The idea of giving preference to checking off my to-do list instead of celebrating my birthday straight up annoyed me.

My lousy mood and to-do list tackling was divinely interrupted by my parents calling to sing me Happy Birthday.  After their sweet song, they asked me how I was going to spend the day.

“Well,” I said. “I have a lot to do. There is this and that and so I just have to plan on celebrating after this week is over. I just have so much to do.”

As I heard the words coming from my mouth, I felt like I was betraying my true self. Who was speaking? I know my parents must have been thinking that too but my mom politely said something to the point that I was serving other people and working on my birthday and that was a good thing.  I felt disappointed.  I paused, prayed and thought. Was a completed to-do list really worth missing the day that I usually love and look forward to? If I did not have a list of things to do, how would I be spending my birthday?  What would I want?

I knew that I did not want any more material things. I already had everything I needed and more. I thought about the things that make me happy. Jesus, my family, my church family, MOPS, people, my community. I thought about the things that that I am good at. The plan started to take shape. I love those videos where people surprise a random stranger with a gift card, word of encouragement or kind action. That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to spread kindness through the community with surprises for people I know and random strangers who God knows.

Five years ago, I might have thought this was a crazy idea. But hey, call me crazy! Crazy about Jesus and crazy about loving people!  The idea ignited so much excitement that I literally pushed my to-do list aside, ripped a new piece of paper from the notepad and started scribbling a new list. A new list with thirty-eight kind actions, one action for every year I have been on this earth. With new list in hand and a changed attitude, I was ready to celebrate….celebrate with confetti made out of kindness.

Before we go any further, please note that my intention of sharing this post is not to gain attention to myself or to brag about good deeds. Or to make you feel guilty. Many birthdays I have spent on me and just me. We all need those days.  My prayer and hope of sharing this post is to make you smile and inspire you to spread love and kindness in a way that you can give. Kindness comes in many shapes and sizes and does not look the same; but kindness will always be a blessing to those who receive it.

38 Acts of Kindness

1.) Called Bob Goff.  One of my acts of kindness was to write a favorite author and thank him/her for their work. I had just finished reading Love Does  (AGAIN!!) and remembered that Bob put his phone number in the back of the book. Why not call him instead of writing ? I mean who would really put their phone number in the back of a best-selling book.  I dialed, the phone rang but a recorded message came on stating I missed Bob and I could reach him by email. I wasn’t prepared to write his email address down and had to call again to make sure I had remembered what I heard correctly.  The phone rang again, and again, and then Bob Goff actually answered!! That’s right! He’s the real deal!! I told him it was my birthday and how I was going to spend it and then I asked him if he could give me some advice on kindness. He directed me to Matthew 25: 31-46, specifically verse 35.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

He told me a great place to start spreading kindness is to look for people who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick people, and prisoners. When we share kindness with them, we are experiencing Jesus. I thanked him for the advice, thanked him for his book and what he is doing for God. He wished me a Happy Birthday and told me he was just about to get on a plane. And that was that. He was off to go inspire another group of people and point them to Jesus and I felt charged and ready to do the same.  Hope its was a good flight, Bob!

 

 

2.) Wrote a thank you letter to our mailman and leave it in the mailbox with the flag up.  The kids were looking out the window when the mailman came to deliver the mail and we spied on him as he reached into the mailbox to grab the letter for HIM!  We couldn’t see his face. But we saw him take it, pause a moment and then turn it over before he drove away. I hope it blessed his day!

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3.) Sent a card to my mom on my birthday.

4.) Told people that I loved them.

5.) Called off homeschool and built a “Kindness Crew.” I enlisted the help of my kids with this day of kindness. They helped me write cards and cut out compliments to leave on cars in parking lots. This day turned out better than a school day would have been. As we were out and searching for people who needed encouragement, I noticed that they were becoming more aware of their surrounding and looking at the world with a hightened sense of compassion. They became just as excited as I was when we were able to bless someone.

6.) Complimented the sample lady at the grocery store and bought what she was selling. It is hard to be a sales person!

7) Delivered flowers to an amazing mom, mentor to many, and a Godly woman!

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8.) Paid for the car behind me in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.

9.) Paid for the car, behind the car, behind me in the Dunkin’ Donuts line.

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10.) Brought a dozen donuts and thank you note to the fire department.  Our fire department is amazing! The firemen brought us through to the garage and let the kids climb in the fire truck and use the water hose. Sometimes acts of kindness are returned with an act of kindness.

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11.) Delivered flowers to another amazing mom who we surprised at work! This mom is a mentor to me and has prayed over me and with me for many years. She has also gently helped me say no to things and supported me through many things. She is just amazing and I love her! It was time for me to bless her.

12.) Delivered a dozen donuts and thank you note to the police station. 

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13.) Prayed for the people in jail while we sat in the police station parking lot. I talked to the kids about choices, mercy and forgiveness.  It was a deep little moment in the back of our mini van.

14.) Gave flowers to a random stranger. I was driving by the Salvation Army Store when I saw a woman exit the door, I felt like she needed flowers. So I whipped into the parking lot but by the time I had parked, she was already in her car. That did not matter to me. I walked up to her car, knocked on her window. The window rolled down slowly, I held out the flowers and told her I wanted her to have them. She looked really confused and most likely was questioning if I had lost my mind (it was awesome!) I reassured her that I was not crazy just out spreading kindness and she needed some today. She brightened up and was really happy by the time we said our goodbyes. I wonder where she was off to and what she was dealing with that day.

15.) Held doors for people.

16.) Put post-it notes on the diaper changing table at Target so when a mom goes to change her baby’s diaper she will see how awesome she is!

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17.)Bought five Starbucks gift cards. Searched Target for a moms to give the cards to. The kids were really good at this. We listened for crying and tantrums and steered the cart in that direction. First card given to a mom with a baby.

18.)  Gave another Starbucks card to a mom with toddler. She was very appreciative.

19.) We left a few dollars in the bins of the dollar spot section of Target.

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20.) There was a lost lady walking around the parking lot looking for her car. I gave a card of encouragement just before she found her car.

21.) Put note on a windshield of the car parked in front of us.

22.) Went to the grocery store to search for more moms with cranky kids. Gave Starbucks Card #3 to a mom of two boys.

23.) Gave Starbucks Card #4 to a mom with toddler and baby.

24.) Gave the sun some encouragement. It was a hot day and standing by the road and waving in a giant sun costume is hard work! So I pulled over, walked over to her and told her she was doing a great job. I wish I had a bottle of water to give. Next time, I will be more prepared.

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25.)We purposely smiled at people.

26.) We helped picked up things that fell onto the floor of the grocery store.

27.) The kids and I bought food to be added to food baskets given to families in need.

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28.) Left lottery tickets on the gas pump and stayed around to watch who would take them. We sat and watched for a good thirty minutes, cars came and went, and everyone left the tickets where they were. We must have a lot of honest people in the community who do not take things that do not belong to them.

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29-33.) Left notes of encouragement on five more cars.

34.) We took time to stop and talk with church members who we ran into while we were out.

35.) I offered to help a women on the crutches. She refused but at least I offered.

36.) Met a friend for dinner.

37-38.)  We ran out of time to do the last two acts of kindness but we plan to put the rest of the cards on parked cars and in random library books at the library.
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It was an absolutely wonderful, exhausting day!  My heart was filled beyond capacity and I felt at peace. An amazing contrast to the way my day started. Turns out that there were things on my to-do list that could wait. They were still there when I woke up on Wednesday morning but I was better prepared to conquer the list with a new, refreshed heart. You never are too busy to celebrate.

One last thing, a birthday blessing for me!!!  During the day, I was searching for something in a forgotten pocket of my purse. My hand hit a small, scroll like object. I pulled it out and unrolled a birthday surprise. I had completely forgotten about this piece of paper. I had pulled it out of a fish bowl filled with random compliments at MOMcon (MOPS International’s Leadership Conference.)  I thought it was a good word at the time. BUT to rediscover the smallest paper, in a pocket I forgotten existed, on a day when my purpose and intention was spreading kindness, was more than a coincidence to me. It was reminder and confirmation of the love and kindness and the reason why all these acts were done in the first place. Not for me, but for Him. The most kindest, loving One who all hope and mercy comes from. I am just a humble servant trying to follow directions. 🙂

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78 Kind Things to Say to Your Kids

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Yesterday, I wrote about the power of words and how the loudest echos can be created from the quietest, smallest voice. Today, I want to challenge you to start looking for ways to use kind, powerful words with some of the smallest people we know- our children.

Words have a way of lasting years and years after they are said. When we speak encouraging words, we are giving our children an emotional boost of hope, support and confidence. Pray for opportunities and quiet moments to embrace and use those times to support and build up your children. Read Bible verses that speak to their identity in Christ.  Pray that God’s life-giving words and our kind words would root deeply into our children’s hearts. Root so deeply, that when they are faced with challenging and difficult situations they might sow the strength and confidence those words have grown.

Here are 78  “starter” phrases for you to use. They are not only for our smallest children, they work for our children who may have grown taller than us too. If speaking words of affirmation is difficult for you, try saying one or two words 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 your children will benefit from your practice.  I would love to hear from you and add your ideas to this growing list.

  1.  You are loved.
  2. You make me smile.
  3. I believe in you.
  4. You are a hard worker.
  5. Can I help you?
  6. I’m sorry.
  7. Will you forgive me?
  8. I forgive you.
  9. You are creative!
  10. Great discovery!
  11. You are kind.
  12. You are a good friend.
  13. You are a good listener.
  14. I’m listening
  15.  Your ideas matter.
  16. You can say no.
  17. You make a difference.
  18. You belong!
  19. Here is a place for you.
  20. Tell me what you are thinking.
  21. Thank you for helping me.
  22. Would you like to help me?
  23. Thank you for trying.
  24. Great job!
  25. I like how you ______.
  26. I see you trying.
  27. You are brave.
  28. You can learn from your mistakes.
  29. Your mistakes do not define you.
  30. Keep up the good work!
  31. I like you.
  32. Thank you for being you.
  33. God made you special.
  34. You have a lot to offer.
  35. I like spending time with you.
  36. You are fun to be with.
  37. I am excited to see you try.
  38. You figured it out!
  39. Well done!
  40. Thank you for following directions.
  41. Thank you for sharing.
  42. I trust you.
  43. I appreciate you.
  44. Thank you for being honest.
  45. You are joyful!
  46. You are loving.
  47. Thank you for waiting.
  48. You are patient.
  49. You give the best hugs.
  50. I like when you hold my hand.
  51. Please sit next to me.
  52. I am grateful that God made me your mom.
  53. You have a great sense of humor.
  54. You have a sweet and gentle spirit.
  55. I will help you with that!
  56. What a fantastic idea.
  57. Let’s do it together.
  58. Good thinking!
  59. Thank you for answering me.
  60. That was a kind thing to do.
  61.  God gave you special gifts and talents.
  62. Let’s pray about it together.
  63. You are good at ______.
  64. You are important.
  65. Thank you for helping your friend.
  66. That is wonderful news.
  67. I am proud of you.
  68. You mean the world to me.
  69. I love you to the moon and back.
  70. You are beautiful inside and out.
  71. You made my day!
  72. You are generous.
  73. You are helpful.
  74. Don’t give up.
  75. That’s a great question!
  76. I learn new things from YOU
  77. I love your enthusiasm.
  78. I LOVE YOU!

 


A Web of Kind Words

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Words are powerful. They can be used to express love or hate, help create or destroy, strengthen or weaken, bring hope or despair. History is full of characters who have used wise and foolish words resulting in both successful outcomes and precarious situations. Bible verses and proverbs caution us to think before we speak.  Many famous, important people have said many grand, important things regarding the weight of our words. But…

Sometimes the gentlest voice creates the loudest echo.

The other day, I was reminded of one of my favorite books. Charlotte’s Web is a beautiful story of kindness, love and friendship. Charlotte, a well-spoken, common house spider befriends an insecure, innocent runt of a pig. The story takes place on a farm where the changing seasons are a force that dictates new beginnings and endings. One day, Wilbur discovers the truth of his fate as a farm pig and the news throws him into a state of “hysterics” and despair. Charlotte uses her quiet voice and calming words to help Wilbur compose himself. With compassionate resolve, she vows to think of some way to save her friend’s life.

Charlotte’s plan is masterfully thought through and put together. In a mysterious, quiet way, she does what a spider does best. Charlotte weaves together a miracle.  Her web is much more magnificent than the average spider’s web though. In the center of her dew covered, glistening web, are the woven words “SOME PIG.”  Those words ultimately change Wilbur’s future and the course of his life.

The miracle is not in the actual creation of the web but in the influence of her words. Four times, Charlotte quietly weaves life and confidence into Wilbur. At first, he is unsure, insecure and hesitant to believe, but in time he rises to the occasion and begins to see himself as Charlotte sees him. A terrific, radiant, humble pig!

How often do we refuse to see ourselves in the GOOD ways others see us? Are we quick to dismiss a compliment or word of encouragement? Do we answer life-giving words with negativity? “But I’m not patient.” or “No, you are wrong. I am just about average.”  Do we dismiss compliments with a joke and a let down? “Oh, you cannot be talking about ME leading worship. I have a horrible singing voice.” (I said that one yesterday morning!)

Maybe we should start accepting rather than dismissing. Start thanking instead of throwing away.

AND…. We can all be Charlottes. All of us have the ability to weave webs of words that encourage and support someone’s hopes and dreams. Charlotte was small in size but big in the heart and bright in mind. She did what she could with what she had to give. She quietly, lovingly and creatively made a difference. Her words created lasting echos in Wilbur’s life.

Whether is be your husband, children, neighbors, friends, store clerk, or the local barista. A kind word can be replenishing and restorative. It can help build up and encourage. Kind word are actions. They do not stay static and often their effects gets multiplied and passed on and on and on to others.

This week, I want to encourage you to use what you have. Be bold and creative. Speak quietly or loudly or write and weave. Use what God has given you to make a difference in someone’s life. Speak kindness and goodness that creates loud echos in another person’s life.

Sometimes the gentlest voice creates the loudest echo.