Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mission Accomplished

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
--Maya Angelou

We completed all 28 acts of kindness! It took over a month, but we finally did what we set out to do: to make our community a better place through kindness.

Here's a final list of what we did:
-Left 6 encouraging notes in random library books and magazines
-Gave up my "free coffee" punch card to the barista to pay forward to a random customer
-Put 3 encouraging notes in random rest stop stalls on our way to Michigan
-Gave $1 to the library circulation desk to randomly cover someone's library fines
-Wrote encouraging notes to the girls' teachers
-Left a McDonald's toy at a local restaurant's kids' area (Maddie's idea!)
-Purchased Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed to add to the girls' classroom libraries
-Made muffins for the girls' teachers and aides
-Gave away 4 goodie bags to 3 random people and our cashier at Wal Mart
-Made 4 snowflakes and sent them to Sandy Hook Elementary

Sometimes people's reactions to our acts of kindness were surprise or shock. Mostly, people didn't know how to respond. But after a moment, if you looked him/her in the eye, you could see love, kindness, and genuine gratitude.

Our actions wield so much power. Imagine if our intentions were always to show love, like Christ's unending love for us.

What acts of kindness have you done lately? What was the response?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two things you should never blog about...

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:11 NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Religion and politics.

Nothing shuts down (or fires up) a conversation quicker than mention of government, guns, or God. But when you are in a ministry family, it's hard to avoid speaking about religion in casual conversation. It's a part of who you are.

I pride myself on being open-minded. I have the ability to disagree with someone without changing my personal opinion of him/her. But I've learned the hard way this week that not everyone has the same capacity. Trying to have an judgment-free, intelligent conversation about an emotionally-charged subject isn't always possible with everyone.

Social media can be a wonderful tool. But it can also be destructive. An innocent inquiry or comment can become a firestorm. Assumptions are made. Sides are taken. Names called. Trouble stirred. Anger stoked. And in the end, the conversation goes nowhere.

It's hard to remain silent when you or people you care about are being attacked. But that is exactly what Jesus asks of us, as evidenced in the above verse from Matthew.

I was tempted to let some very unwholesome talk fly on Facebook (sorry, Saint Paul). But instead, I waited. I prayed. I sought wise council. I remembered that it is more important to build up the Kingdom of God than it is to be "right". It is not my job to judge. My actions are a reflection on Christians everywhere. In the end, I tried to reach out to the person with whom I was disagreeing. I invited this person to meet for coffee.

A year ago I would not have been able to do that: reach out to someone who had hurt me. But since my focus this year is to EMBRACE my daily situations and struggles, I felt called to be compassionate in the face of anger. God is working on me!

I'm not sure how Jesus would handle a discussion of current events at a dinner party or PTA meeting, but I do know this: He would answer with love and without judgment. And He wouldn't plaster it on Facebook.

How is God working on you today?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fair isn't equal

...Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7 MSG)

I've been subbing a lot lately, mostly at Ava's preschool and the 4th-5th grade building here in town. Its awesome to observe how kids are mostly the same whether in public school, private school, city, or country. They want to learn, they care for others, and they fight for fairness.

This was evident last week when I subbed for a fourth-grade class. I'm learning the routines and the students at Reagan, but sometimes it's hard to keep up with what kids go where at what time. Some students get pulled out of class for instrument practice. Others go in and out of class to receive special assistance in math, reading, or speech. I could barely keep up! The kids knew just what was going on, but they were a bit misinformed. They thought the kids with special needs were getting something "extra". And that wasn't sitting well with them. So I pulled out my all-time favorite example of equality versus equity.

Suppose I were to offer to buy an entire classroom a pair of shoes (generous, I know). If I were treating everyone equally, I'd buy everyone the same style, color, and size of shoes. But if I'm being equitable, I'd buy everyone the style, color, and size that fits their needs. So, which is more fair: equality or equity?

It's absolutely essential that teachers and parents teach their children that equal isn't necessarily fair. In schools and in our families, not everyone will need the same attention or assistance. We are all created to be different, with different likes and abilities. We need to acknowledge our differences and understand that our schools and teachers will do their best for each of us. Even if we don't get the same attention, we're (hopefully) still getting what we need.

This idea of equity and equality carries over into marriage, too. I am thinking especially about division of labor and household duties.

Todd will be coming home tonight from an eight day seminary-related field trip. He was able to complete an entire course in eight days. This was a good choice for him, and I'm glad it worked out. I was not glad, however, to be facing eight days and nights by myself with the girls and Ollie.

We managed through a temperamental pilot light, missing car keys, an overnight stay at my sister-in-law's house, a big presentation, two subbing calls, my normal tutoring routine, cooking, cleaning, laundry, the stomach flu, and more laundry. It would have been a challenging week even with Todd home.

I'll be grateful and relieved when he arrives home tonight. But I'm just a bit worried about how to fit Todd back into the mix. I don't like interruption to my routine (and my authority). And my feelings of parenting/housekeeping inequality might cause some tension. You know that explosive feeling in your head when your husband asks what you've done all day?

My favorite verse from 1 Corinthians tells us that love doesn't fly off the handle or keep score. It doesn't put "me" first and can put up with anything. When I start feeling put-upon, I need to step back and evaluate my heart. Am I giving and receiving the love I need? If not, what do I need right now to feel more loved?

It's hard to ask for what we need. Sometimes we feel like our spouse should already know. But what I've learned from 10 years of marriage is that we are both terrible mind readers.

Although God's love is perfect and all-encompassing, our love here on Earth isn't always equal or equitable. All of us go through seasons where we need more or less attention and support depending on our situation. But hopefully we can learn to give and receive love equitably: exactly what our spouse needs when he or she needs it. I pray we can learn how to talk about these feelings openly with our spouse. And find comfort that God will raise us up and love us in the low times.

How do you handle equity and equality in your home?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Photographic Year in Review

I'd rather show you than tell you about 2012. Here's a photo recap. Click the link below for a larger version of the photo collage (made using the iPhoto app).

Have a blessed New Year! Bring it on, 2013!;CAEQARoQWVI_3T8Z2EsGYPLeLYpNmA;B29E854D-03FB-463C-8D11-71D7E75D85D7