Saturday, December 31, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook December 31, 2011

A friend of mine utilizes The Simple Woman's Daybook in her blog.  I love the way it forces you to slow down for a moment and take in all that is around you.  I thought I would give it a try so here it goes! 
 FOR TODAY ~ December 31, 2011

Outside my window... it is still dark outside.  It is rather chilly and I am keenly aware that my husband has already been working for over three hours out there.

I am thinking... I hope all the work my husband and I have done for a special present will be appreciated.  It has taken quite a bit of time and it is something so personal and from the heart.

I am thankful... for my husband that joyfully gets up every morning at 3:10am to go milk the cows.  He never complains, but is almost always found singing.  I am incredibly blessed!

In the kitchen... I am finishing up my meal planning for the next two weeks on a significantly reduced budget (I'll post about that tomorrow).  I am thoroughly enjoying a nice shiny stove top after a couple hours of scrubbing and waxing!

I am wearing...sweatpants and a thermal top.  We live in an old farmhouse and it gets chilly in here!

I am creating... I am hoping to create corn heating bags for the family.  I still have to figure out how to thread this sewing machine though!

I am my mom's house to making applesauce today.  We were blessed with a large gift of apples from Kentucky!  This will be my first canning experience as an adult.  I have so much to learn!

I am wondering... if I will ever be the woman I feel my husband deserves.  

I am reading... The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.  It is convicting to say the least!

I am hoping... to have a great time and really connect with my son, Michael, today as we go on a "date".

I am looking forward to... resting my head on my pillow tonight knowing that God has blessed us tremendously this year.

I am hearing... my son whistle while he cleans his room and my daughter talking to herself in the bathtub!

Around the house... it seems so bland.  All the Christmas decorations are put away and the house seems to have lost something.  It gives me a desire to create more things!

I am pondering... what an amazing journey 2011 has been for me.  I got married, moved, became a stay-at-home mom, started homeschooling and began to discover that I actually can be somewhat crafty after all!  And I enjoy all of it!  I wonder what 2012 holds.

One of my favorite the super thick quilt that tops our bed.  It helps to keep me warm when it's only 60 degrees in our bedroom.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Sew corn heating bags, begin our "snowball" pom-pom wreath, start back into school and possibly host our church's mid-week prayer meeting.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing... I pray that I never get too busy being a "good mom" to take time for impromptu trips with my kiddos.

Visit Peggy and enjoy more Simple Woman's Daybooks:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My New Year's Resolution ~ starting Dec. 29th

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions.  It seems to just give people an excuse to put off changes they know need to be made until the "magical" hour.  Plus, most of the time the resolutions are too grand and lofty without any practicality and don't seem to stick much past February.  However, I do think that anything that causes you to reflect on your life and areas that you need to improve is definitely a good thing.  
One of the things God has been laying on my heart lately is the 24 hours He allots to me each day.  Every morning I get a fresh start and approximately 16 hours (give or take depending on sleep schedules) to do with whatever I please.  Some days I am more efficient than others.  There is not one day that I can claim that I am perfectly efficient.  Each day I waste some of the precious time God has given me.  
Lately, I have become more aware how 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there can so quickly add up to hours lost.  Now please understand, I am all for down time and getting sufficient rest (even if that means a nap when needed).  I'm not talking about scheduling every moment of every day.  That is just as bad in my opinion.  What I am talking about, is making the moments count and being wise in my use of time.  There are so many time wasters in our home.  Between the phone, the computer and TV, there is always something that calls to pull my attention from what matters even for "just a minute".  There are days when those "minute" interruptions turn into half an hour or even more!  And that time adds up to more and more till the end of the week and I'm left frustrated because I didn't get everything done that I should have and tired/exhausted because I didn't get enough sleep.  It shames me to even say that, but it's honest.  
The past month has been worse.  I can try to blame it on the holidays, but in reality, I have just let things slide.  I am usually a religious list maker.  My dad (who successfully ran his own business for 30 years) was an avid list maker.  I remember as a child in elementary school being asked by my dad what was on my "punch list" for the day.  I thought it was so odd then, but now I see the tremendous value to it.  Every day I saw his list sitting on the kitchen table.  What a great example he left me!  That being said, I haven't made a to do list in about 2 weeks!  That might not seem like a big deal to some, but for me, that means that I'm not getting much done.  If I don't have a goal set in front of me when I start the day, it is way too easy to flit and float through the day and not accomplish half of what I could be doing.  Well, today that changes.  I'm not going to wait till the magical January 1st.  I have already made my list and have started crossing things off (what glorious satisfaction there is in crossing things off!).  I am determined to honor God with my time.  To put Him first in all I do includes how I manage my day.  If I have planned ahead, I can be more efficient and therefore offer something better to my God, my husband and my children.  In this simple way, I can be a better wife and mother, and isn't that the goal for which I am always striving?
So I will finish this post and cross off another item on my to do list.  At the end of the day, hopefully my list is complete.  But even if there are a couple of items left till tomorrow's list, I can be satisfied that I made a plan, accomplished much, and utilized my time wisely.

Monday, December 26, 2011

RACK ~ conclusion?

I guess we are officially done with RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness).  I have blogged our journey here and I'm sure I will go back and reminisce from time to time.  I have to say that when we pulled away from our last RACK yesterday, as happy as I was for what we had just done, there was a bit of sadness.  I have loved this journey.  My children have loved this journey.  It has been so fun to discuss our RACKs around the dinner table at night.  It has been amazing to watch how God has worked.  To see Him so clearly direct us to certain people and specific circumstances has been an unrivaled joy.  I have watched this journey transform me and my children.  God has led us to pray for perfect strangers; to look well beyond ourselves and our little lives; to maybe for a moment in the smallest of ways, to see the world as He sees it.  We actually pay attention more to those bustling around us.  Even while I am driving, I wonder what the person in front of me or behind me is dealing with in their life.  Are they in a state of pure joy?  Or are they in the deepest well of depression?  Are they numbingly stumbling through their life looking for a purpose?  I feel like I am beginning to see people.  Not just bodies moving all around me, but real people.  To look past the uniform of our mail carrier, delivery person, cashier, server, utility worker and garbage collector and see the face, the person, the soul standing before me.  This has affected all of us.  My children seek out ways to help and to be an encouragement.  This journey has opened their eyes to see beyond the four walls of their rooms and their needs and desires.  I don't want that to end.  I don't want to lose what we have learned.
I understand that we can always do Random Acts of Kindness anytime, any season.  However, this has been such a joy to set out purposefully each day seeking the one that God has for us to bless.  I am fearful that without that express purpose, I will slip back into my own little world and I will miss opportunities God places in my path.  This is going to be something that I commit to prayer.  I will have to work to keep my heart in tuned with God's heart.  I will have to focus on listening to the Holy Spirit's still small voice in the busyness of our every day lives.  I want this RACK journey to simply be a beginning point for our family.
When we started down this path, I had no idea where it would lead.  It wasn't always easy.  We dealt with sick kids, busy lives, changing circumstances and even rejection.  Several times we tried to RACK someone and they rejected it.  We offered coffee to someone ringing a Salvation Army bell and we were turned down.  We offered to buy a couple different cashiers gum or a snack or a drink to no avail.  We offered to return a cart for a store employee.  I tried to give hot cocoa to some men working on our house but by the time I got the cocoa ready, they were done and gone!  Not to mention the times that we had the best laid plans that completely fell through (I cannot tell you how many times I tried to catch a delivery person to give them a little something but I failed.  They move awful quick in this busy season!).  However, all those "failures" just makes me more determined to reach another one (One of these days, I WILL snag a delivery person and genuinely thank them for hauling around all those packages day after day!).  It also makes me realize that God is in control of this all.  If I am listening to Him, He will always put the right person in my path to which I can minister.  If I am in tune with Him, He will lead me.  I just have to make sure that no matter how "loud" my life gets, I can still hear that still, small voice.  I also can't wait for my daughter's birthday (the next birthday in our family) when we will have an excuse to purposefully set out to do more Random Acts of Kindness.
All in all, this journey has humbled me, encouraged me, overwhelmed me, inspired me, blessed me, taught me and changed me.  What a great way to end a year!  For those of you that have followed us through this journey, I thank you for your words of encouragement and your prayers.  It has been a beautiful walk.  I can't wait to see what 2012 holds for this little family!

RACK 24 and 25

RACKs 24 and 25 were a two in one kind of thing.  I had been thinking about who would need encouragement on Christmas Day.  There are so many people that I could think of.  I settled on those working in the emergency medical field and those that might need that emergency care, specifically children.  From the trips that I have made to the emergency room with children, it can not only be scary, but overwhelming and draining for a child.  On top of the fact, any child in the emergency room, whether there as a patient or with a family member, is need of some extra love and care.  Well, earlier in the month I saw a bunch of Little Golden Books on sale and we stocked up.  I have a bit of a love affair with Little Golden Books.  I grew up on those books and seeing that gold spine just warms my heart and takes me back to a little girl sitting cross-legged on the living room eagerly flipping through the pages.  We took each of the books and taped a RACK card on the inside cover.  I had the exact amount of RACK cards left to fill each book!  We didn't quite have enough tracts, but we put what we had left in the back of each book.  RACK 24 was ready to go!
RACK 25 was definitely easy in preparation.  The day before we purchased a whole bunch of clementines (yet another love affair of mine ~ sweet little fruit that can be peeled easily with your fingers and no seeds!  What's not to love?) and a case of water bottles.  RACK 25 was ready!  :)
We loaded everything up in the car Christmas afternoon and headed to our local emergency room.  We walked in carrying all the goodies and we were greeted by a woman at the counter.  She asked us how she could help us.  I told her that we brought the clementines and water bottles for those that were faithfully working on Christmas to care for the rest of us.  To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement.  Another woman peeked around the corner and her face just lit up when she realized what was going on.  We then gave them the books and explained they were for any children that may be in the emergency room, either as a patient or with a family member.  They were so very grateful!
We quickly left and my children just exploded with joy.  They kept replaying everything the ladies had said and how cool they thought it was.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, a minivan was pulling in.  I wondered if there might be some poor child in that vehicle that we might be ministering to without ever meeting them.  Again, God only knows who will blessed by all the RACKs we have done.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


RACK 23 was yet another one of those rerouted ones that makes me sit back and wonder what God has up His sleeve.  He so clearly opens doors and closes doors to lead and direct us to different people.  It was Christmas Eve and with my husband's work schedule (cows don't take a holiday!), we were going to have to eat dinner in a quick hurry and run to make it to Christmas Eve Service on time.  My husband and I were both singing in the service and my son, Michael, was playing piano.  We had to get there early for sound checks and quick run-throughs.  My husband suggested that we just do pizza for dinner.  I feel bad for those people that have to work on holidays and I try not to patronize businesses during the time when people would rather be celebrating with their families.  However, this was a crazy early dinner (4:30 to be exact) and I had a plan!  We made up a platter of cookies to take with us when it was time to pick up the pizza.  I called our regular pizza place and they didn't answer.  I assumed that they were closed for the holiday.  So I called a place nearby that I had actually never been to before.  They were there and rather cheerfully took my order.  I asked them how late they were open on this Christmas Eve, and they said that they might be able to close as early as 7:00.  When it was time to pick up our fabulous Christmas Eve dinner, we grabbed our platter of cookies (and some canned goods as this pizza place discounted your pizza for donating to their food drive) and took off.  We drove right passed our usual pizza place.  Guess what?  They were open!  Huh.  They always answer their phone if they are open so I was definitely surprised.  This is when I just smiled to myself and figured that God was directing us elsewhere.  I ran in to get the pizza and gave the ladies at the counter the platter of cookies.  They were so surprised and appreciative.  The one woman said that this was nicest thing anyone had done for them all day.  The other lady was slightly giddy at the sight of some white chocolate cookies we had.  We left our RACK card and the tract and skedaddled on home to chow down.  We added them to our RACK prayer list and will continue to pray that God will use this little act of kindness and the info we left with them to draw them to Himself.  Mission accomplished
Only two more RACKs to do and I can't wait!  I am off to stuff stockings for the little ones before they come charging down the stairs! Merry Christmas everyone!

RACK 22 ~ and a soapbox

Well today I was able to do one of the RACKs I tried to do earlier in the week.  I was able to give blood.  A double red specifically.  This is one RACK that simply tops the level of "kindness" and it certainly is anonymous to the receiver.  I try to give somewhat regularly.  Who knows if one day it will be someone in my family or even me, that will need blood.  I know some people have a thousand and one excuses as to why not to do it.  If I wanted to, I could give those excuses.
When I first started giving blood, I had a very, very hard time.  I was just out of high school and very thin.  I passed out.  A lot.  I kept giving.  I started to tell the workers whenever I gave blood that I had a tendency to pass out.  They would take extra steps starting in the very beginning to prevent it. I started to give blood without passing out!  But then I had other issues.  My veins were very weak and they would collapse, they would roll, they would do all sorts of wonderful things that would frustrate the workers and leave me with big fat bruises.  I began warning the workers of these things and if I got a "newbie" inevitability they would switch out for a "pro".  Those problems soon dissipated.  There were still times that there would be a small issue, but they were few and far between.  It was not until this past August, that my iron was finally high enough to give a double (that's what happens when you actually care for your body and take a good multi-vitamin!).  This is a very different process and it uses a machine that does something that I still don't understand.  The first time I tried, I clotted halfway through and because of that I started bleeding from the needle site.  I won't go into details, but it was a bit of a mess.  And I was left with a pretty bruise.  Humph!  Oh well.  I was due to give again in mid-December so I made sure I took my vitamins so that I could try for a double again.  I'll be honest with you, I was a bit nervous when I went in yesterday.  I went through all the questions and the testing (that finger needle prick thing ~ so much worse than actually giving blood!  I am a total wuss when it comes to that!) and I was indeed had a high enough iron count to give a double.  Yay!  I got all situated in the chair and the wonderful worker went over the last minute instructions and we were off to the races.  Now, with giving a double, there are some side effects from it. Through all my different blood giving experiences, it has taught me to really listen to my body.  So with this being a new experience, I listened closely.  Things went great!  I did get cold (not a big surprise as I am usually the cold one in the room!) and my lips got a bit tingly when the saline was put in my body, but it all went great!  One of the beautiful things about giving a double, is that you feel better afterwards due to the platelets and plasma being returned to your body with some wonderful saline solution.   When giving a single unit of blood, sometimes I would feel a bit weak.  After this donation I was ready to take on the world!!  Ha!  I didn't even need the juice and cookies they offer after each donation (oh don't worry!  I still took my cookies!).
I write all this about my donation experiences simply to show that even if you are one of those RARE people that struggle with some of these things, it can be worked through.  It is so very important to give blood.  Get past the "eww, that's gross" or the "I can't stand needles" thing.  You are literally saving someone's life!  Just think about that.  Not many of us would hesitate if we saw a car accident or a similar situation to try to help the person in need.  This is the same thing, except you can schedule your superhero work, you get to recline in a comfy chair and you get a snack!  This takes maybe 45 minutes or so of your time and you can save the life of a mother, grandfather, child or who knows?  I pray that someone in my family is never in a situation that they need a blood transfusion, but that day may come.  Am I going to wait until then to start caring?  A friend of mine has a very sick little girl that her life depends on getting regular blood transfusions.  Who am I to say that it's not convenient to give blood, or I had a bad experience once, or yadda, yadda, yadda.  Please, if you have never given blood, consider doing it.  If you have fears about it, be honest with the workers.  Trust me, they want a problem even less than you do!  They deal with this all the time and they will work with you and help you.  If you have given blood in the past, but haven't done it recently, do it!  Pick up the phone or set up an appointment online.  This time of year is when there is the greatest need.  Don't hesitate.  Forget the excuses.  Save a life.  The place that I go to is LifeShare.  You can look up a place near you and get all sorts of info.  There are other perks to giving, too.  It may be a t-shirt (I get one when I give at our local fair each year), a coupon, or LifeShare currently has their "Loyal for Life" program where you can earn gift cards for each time you give during the year.  See?  Perks!  Plus the cookies!  Have I mentioned the cookies yet?  Seriously, take a moment out of your busy life to save the life of another.  What can be more kind than that?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

RACK 18,19,20 & 21 ~ all in one day!

It's been a busy week and a busy day!  We got caught up a bit with our RACKs though.  I finally (after 3 days) finished the baking and that meant that we could start delivering!  Our first RACK of the day was a bit rerouted so to speak.  I was planning on giving blood first thing in the morning.  I gathered up some rather groggy kids and headed out.  We stopped and picked up some Peppermnint mochas/hot cocoas (noticing a theme here?) and headed to our local blood donation site.  We got there just in time for them to open.  Except they didn't open.  Huh.  We hung out for a while and waited until the main office for our area opened in a nearby city so I could call and find out what was going on.  Come to find out, there was an organization wide training that day and all the sites were closed.  Foiled in our pepperminty plan!  Well, now we had all this peppermint goodness and no one to bestow it upon.  The kiddos got to thinking as we headed back through town.  We ended up stopping at a pharmacy and taking it in to the workers there.  Wow, were they shocked and so very appreciative!  I couldn't help but think that maybe God knew that the workers at that pharmacy needed it more.  After all, He wasn't surprised that the blood bank was closed!
So with one RACK under our belts by 9am, we moved onto RACK #2 for the day.  We put together a platter of cookies (all the cookies we had overflowing our home after nearly 3 days of baking!) and bee-dopped on up to our chiropractor's office.  They were super excited.  They didn't even seem to mind that some of the frosting on the some of the cookies got all smeared in the travel while the kiddos held onto the plastic wrapped platter.  I have this thing about "presentation" being part of the gift, but our grateful chiropractor people seemed pleased as punch with the less than perfect presentation.  WooHoo!
Later that day we set out to complete another RACK that was long in coming.  When we first made up our RACK list, we knew that we wanted our local Police Department at the top of the list.  Well, we were getting down to crunch time and we had not made it out there yet.  So since we were on a RACK roll, we made up another platter of cookies and put together a quick fruit basket (they need more than just frosting and chocolate to do their job after all!).  We loaded it all up and headed in to town for a second time that day.  We walked into the station and the officer behind the counter looked at us, looked at the goodies in our hands and with a bit of a confusing countenance, asked if he could help us.  I quickly explained that we just wanted to drop off the goodies for them.  His confusion quickly turned into a smile from ear to ear.  He quickly left his window and went around to unlock the door to accept the yummies.  He asked me who we were and why we were doing this.  I hesitated, but gave him my name (despite the my anonymity desire, no matter what question a police officer asks, you answer!) and directed him to read our little RACK card we placed in the fruit basket.  He said thank you several times over and we scurried out the door.  Yay!
At that point, I thought we were done RACKing for the day.  I took Isabella to her ballet lessons and remembered that I had forgotten to get her ballet instructor a little Christmas gift.  Thankfully, right below the dance studio is a delightful little coffee shop that offers all sorts of goodies from pastries, soups and sandwiches, breads and of course yummy flavored coffees to enjoy!  I ran down there to pick a little something out (they were so very smart and had little gift baskets already made up!).  I quickly found something for Isabella's instructor while amazingly avoiding the temptation to buy myself something equally delightful.  When I went up to the cash register I was greeted by a cheerful but tired looking young lady.  She quickly and politely rang me up and wished me a Merry Christmas.  As I started to put my cash back in my wallet, I noticed the little tip jar there.  I hesitated for a mere moment before dropping a five dollar bill into the jar.  The tired yet still cheerful girl's eyes just lit up.  She sputtered, "Did you just put a five in there?  Did you really just put a five in there?"  I simply nodded and the sputtering continued, "I have made like (her words not mine!) two dollars all day!  You have made my day!  You really made my day!"  I wished her a Merry Christmas and skipped my way out of the delightful coffee shop.  Okay, I didn't really skip.  I'm not quite that confident in my lack of clumsiness, but I was skipping in my heart.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable RACK-filled day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RACK 16 and 17

For RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) 16 we went to a local nursing home one evening and Michael and Isabella played the piano and handed out cards they made to the residents.  This was the idea of their piano teacher (wonderful woman!).  It was so great to see kids get over their fears and play for complete strangers.  One of the residents there had just buried her husband that afternoon and she was so thrilled to be able to enjoy children and music at the same time.  My son pushed one resident all the way back to her room for her.  I was so proud as I watched him carefully guide her out of the room and down the hallway.
RACK 17 was another one of those fun "I wonder . . ." type RACKs.  The children and I went to see the "Nutcracker" with our Homeschool group.  (It was wonderful by the way!  I don't have the opportunity to take in the fine arts as much as I would like, so as the ballet began I was literally fighting back tears of joy.)  After it was over we stopped at a diner type restaurant.  We talked about looking for someone to RACK.  Again, I was a bit discouraged as we didn't see anyone right away that we thought may be in need.  Just as we were about to leave, an older couple came in and sat down.  It was obvious by their clothes that they struggled to make ends meet.  This seemed to be a rare occasion for them to eat out, even at a little diner.  The three of us formulated a plan.  As the kids cleaned up the table, I went to register to pay for our bill and I bought a gift card.  When I got back to the table I got out our RACK card and one of the tracts my aunt have given us.  With giddy grins we headed toward the couple.  I placed everything on the table, told them how much was on the gift card and said "Merry Christmas!"  They were so surprised but immediately said, "Thank you".  They kept saying thank you as we walked away.  How cool!  The three of us just giggled as we pulled away.  That couple has now been added to our RACK prayer list.
We haven't made it to RACK 18 yet, but not for lack of trying.  Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to do some more RACKing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RACK 13,14 & 15!

We've been busy and I haven't had a chance to catch up the blog.  I will fill you in on what we have been doing! For RACK 13 we gave a family that has a foster daughter with gluten allergies a basket filled with bulk gluten free baking supplies.  I included directions as to how to mix the different flours and one of my favorite gluten free recipes.
For RACK 14 we paid for a man's breakfast order behind us in line at McDonald's.  I could see him having quite a discussion with cashier.  He must have been so very confused as to why someone he didn't know was paying for his breakfast.  
For RACK 15 we took hot cocoa took a family that was ringing the Salvation Army bell at our local grocery store.  They were so thrilled!  It was so neat to see these giant smiles break out across their faces.
My aunt was gracious enough to give us these tracts/little booklets that give the full Gospel message.  We have been handing those out with our RACK cards.  We continue to pray daily for those we RACK.  It's so fun to wonder how God may use these little acts of kindness.  Just think, what if even one person we RACK comes to know the Lord through this.  They then have a whole new circle of influence that I would never be able to reach otherwise.  Their family, friends, neighbors, who knows!  And that's just one person!  It's so neat to think about this.  Even on the crazy busy days, this is what keeps us going.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RACK day 12 ~ "Awesome!"

Another super fun anonymous one!  I had to do some grocery shopping yesterday afternoon and we typically go to our Aldi store in Elyria.  Yesterday though, I needed to pick up some craft supply things and that is in Amherst.  So in the interest of two birds, one stone, we headed to the Amherst Aldi.  Our initial plan was to stick quarters in a bunch of the carts, but when I tried to go to the bank, they were closed (who closes in the middle of the day on Monday when it's NOT a holiday?).  Humph!  The kids were disappointed but I filled them in on a possible Plan B.  We would get a gift certificate while we were at Aldi and give it to someone we felt was in need.  We got the certificate (it wasn't much, but you don't need a lot to get a good amount of food at Aldi), but we couldn't really find someone we felt we needed to give it to.  I was about to give up.  I thought that I could just hang on to it and take it with me the next time I went to Aldi.  I went to return the cart and I noticed an elderly man getting his cart.  He walked slowly, with a cane, but he came prepared with his reusable Aldi bags.  I went up to him, handed him the RACK card and the gift certificate.  I told him that this was a gift certificate to use in the store.  He looked up at me with absolute shock.  He started to question me and I simply said, "Merry Christmas!"  I put my cart away and he was still standing there reading the RACK card and still in shock.  He started to question me again, and again I simply wished him a Merry Christmas.  I had to walk away quickly as I was both wanting to burst into gleeful laughter and cry at the same time!
Right as I was giving him the gift certificate a woman was walking out of the store.  She noticed what I had done.  As I made my way back to my car, I passed her and she said to me, "That was awesome!"  She wasn't parked very far from me, so I got another RACK card out of my car.  I walked over and handed it to her and told her that this would explain what my family was doing this Christmas season.  I wished her a Merry Christmas and started back to my car.  She immediately started reading the card.  When I was about to get in the car, this lady raised the card over her head and shouted, "THIS IS AWESOME!"  The kids just loved that!  
As we pulled out of the parking lot, we all had smiles just bursting on our faces.  Michael thought it was so cool that we RACKed two people at the same time.  Two different people were able to see the love of Christ and were left with a message and verse that might help bring them to salvation.  Isabella quickly disagreed with her brother though.  She said, "We've RACK'd WAY more than two people!  How many people have we RACK'd, Mom?"  To which I could answer thirteen.  That sent the kids into a bit of a tizzy.  (Yes, this is deliriously fun!)  They started talking about all the people that we have tried to minister to and wondering how this could change their lives.  They talked about how we need to pray for them.  They asked if we could do this all year long.  I talked to them about how we need to look for ways to be a blessing to others in our everyday life.  Even in the small things.  I also told them about The Birthday Project and told them that I wanted to do that for my birthday in July, but that we could do it for their birthdays, too.  They were so excited!
We are only half-way through this journey, and yet I feel as though we have been incredibly and richly blessed.  I love that this is changing my children's perspective from all the "getting" of Christmas, to the giving of Christmas.  I love that my children are so anxious to pray (sometimes fighting over who gets to go first) for those that we have RACK'd.  I love that they are looking for ways to bless people and their focus is slowly turning a little more off of themselves and more onto the needs of people.  I'll give an example (and I'll try not to brag).  Sunday night after the RACK we did for our church, my husband and I had choir practice.   As we practiced I observed my ten year old son performing a RACK of his own.  If you read the previous post, RACK day 11 ~ Phew!, you know the current circumstances with which we are dealing regarding our church building.  You will also know the great amount of work that has to be done every Sunday morning and every Sunday night.  Anyway, Michael started helping out with all the clean-up.  He likes to work and just about every Sunday evening he tries to help out our pastors and a couple other people that stay later to clean up.  He absolutely outdid himself last Sunday.  He helped put away chairs and tables, he swept the floor, he emptied the trash cans and took the bags to the dumpster (plus he put new bags in the trash cans, something I have to remind him to do at home all the time.  Hmm?), he packed up all the food stuff that we brought and took most of it to the car (he wasn't allowed to carry the one fruit basket because it was heavy and the basket was a bit weak), he vacuumed the hallway, he helped take hymnals out to the church van, etc, etc, etc!  I was just beaming to watch him do all these things, without being told.  I was so very, very proud.  I couldn't help but think that part of that is due to our RACK journey.  It is a journey.  This has gone so far beyond a project that has a definite completion.  This is a journey that we have started and I pray that we can continue these things in our day to day well beyond just Christmas and our birthdays.  We are called to be servants, not self-serving, "I'm in rush and have important things to do", push others aside type of people.  Be cautious that you don't get so involved in "organized" ministry that you overlook the little things (and people) God puts in your path that He wants you to bless.  Every person you meet, God has ordained for you to be there at that time, with that person.  This makes me think of three things:
               1) A quote that I saw at a friend's house that reads, "A man too busy to pray is a man that is busier than God wants him to be."
               2) Another friend of mine owns his own business and as busy as he is from time to time, he consistently looks for ways to minister and witness to and pray for those that he interacts with on a day to day basis.  It is humbling and convicting to hear him talk sometimes.  
               3) What is becoming kind of our "theme" verse for this journey, James 2:15-17 "If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"  I can't fix the world.  I can't give every homeless person a home.  I can't reach across the entire world and share the Gospel.  What I can do though, is to support ministries that are doing these things.  And I can try to reach the ones in my little world in Wellington, Ohio.  Mother Teresa is credited as saying, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."  Pray that God open your eyes today to some small way you bless those that come across your path.
Have a blessed and Merry Christmas and keep checking back to see how God is working!

Monday, December 12, 2011

RACK day 11 ~ phew!

This one was A LOT of work, but oh, so worth it!  This one also requires some serious background info, but I will try to pack it into a nutshell!
We have a big beautiful church building that is only about a decade old.  Seriously, beautiful.  It's not all ornate or anything, but it has a simple beauty.  I love it.  However, lurking underneath all that beauty was the ugliest of the ugly:  mold.  Not just a little mold, but lots of mold spread all throughout the church.  A couple months ago, we abandoned this building for work to begin (we had already closed off the areas where mold was visible while we planned to move out).  Now we are the gypsy church.  For the most part we meet  in the local town hall, although we have met at a building at our local Fair Grounds, we have met in the church's maintenance building (not heated, not so much fun!) and even in homes.  It's really been very interesting.  At the town hall, we sit in folding metal chairs in a room with linoleum floors (hello acoustics?) and we have to break down our church every Sunday night.  We haul music stands, hymnals, a keyboard and stand, sound system, etc, each week to and from.  It can be quite an undertaking. We don't even know exactly when we will be able to get back into our church as the mold situation was discovered to be much more extensive than was originally thought once the workers started tearing into the walls.  :(   It's been difficult and discouraging, but we are confident that God sent this to us for a reason.  It has pushed us out of our comfort zone and has forced us to take stock in different things.  Our pastors and secretary have moved their offices to a trailer in the parking lot.  We think it's difficult for us on a Sunday morning because we have to sit in metal chairs (that may or may not be in our "usual" seats), but those that work day in and day out for our church are crammed in a tiny, chilly trailer.  All this to say, it's been quite a journey.
Now, add to this that this Sunday after evening service we were to have a business meeting.  Now I have to throw in a little disclaimer here; business meetings are necessary, but I doubt anyone would characterize them as fun.  However, the members of our church deal with each other in love and genuine respect, even if there is a disagreement.  I hear horror stories about church meetings getting out of hand and people yelling at (and sometimes even hitting) each other.  That is not at ALL our church's experience.  After the business meeting, we still had ensemble rehearsal and choir practice (Christmas season, ya know!).  It was going to be a long evening.  That is the background in a nutshell!
So, that led me to ponder RACKing our whole church, which we did!  I got to baking and the kiddos got to planning.  What we ended up with was providing snacks after the evening service just before the business meeting.  I made 5 different kinds of muffins.  That's lots of muffins!  We took apples, clementines and grapes.  We took fruit snacks (can you see the kids' influence here at all?), chocolate covered pretzels and mini candy canes.  It was definitely not enough for someone's meal, but a nice little snack to tide over a hungry soul.  We also brought napkins and little dessert plates.  It was great!  I had spoken to one of the pastors about doing this and he agreed to meet us a little early so we could set up.  We put all the food out and then covered it with a tablecloth (we didn't want any little fingers to be tempted to start snacking before church even began!) until the time was right.  I had also asked that our pastor not announce who provided the goodies when he announced that the goodies were there for the taking.  Yes, I have given up on remaining truly anonymous (lesson learned.  Public blogging pretty much takes that away!), but I absolutely did not want last night to be about people saying thank you to us or anything else.  It was about the people of our church enjoying a little blessing and giving us a chance to fellowship a bit more.
So after the message, our pastor announced that we would take a quick stretch break and then start the business meeting.  He then told everyone that refreshments had been provided.  We uncovered the table and people immediately started lining up.  My husband and I sat back and just watched as people munched and talked with each other.  It was something so unexpected that even though it wasn't much, it was a blessing.  I simply loved it.  And can I tell you what else I loved?  We didn't have a bunch of people running up to say "thank you".  It was not known (save a handful of people) who provided it.  I loved being able to enjoy the giving without anticipating the gratitude in return.  It was a sweet moment.  Once pretty much everyone had gone through, my hubby and I went and got our goodies.  It was great.  By the time everything was over, we took home some clementines.  That was it!  Everything else had been devoured!
On the way home (we didn't get home to close to 10pm and I was seriously exhausted.  I had been up since 1:30am!), my husband pointed out that we could not have done this if we were in our big beautiful building.  In our church building, we have our business meetings in the sanctuary.  Any food activity is in the fellowship hall (linoleum floors, kitchen, etc).  It would have been very difficult to get everyone to go get food and then try to get everyone back into the sanctuary (after the food was eaten) to start the meeting.  Since our current place of worship IS a hall, people could get their food and take it back to their seats.  Yes, we conducted our meeting while people were nibbling and munching (not the ones speaking, mind you).  I love my husband.  As much as I had enjoyed that moment, he brought out a little special observance of which I had not even considered.  All in all, it was a wonderful night!
Now, for a little side note!  Last night I was actually dreaming of RACKing people.  I won't bore you with all the details, but this is evidently ingrained in my little head now!  I woke up smiling ~ and that's never a bad thing!  Have a blessed day and look around for ways you can bless others throughout your day!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RACK day 10

The best laid plans . . . I was never able to do a RACK today.  I tried, a few times. But it just didn't work out.  Ugh.  Well, I'll catch up on Monday or something.  RACK 11 is turning into a lot of work.  I'll update with the details after everything is done.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

RACK day 9

Yes!  Another anonymous RACK!  We took the kiddos out to eat (their favorite Chinese place and we haven't been there in quite a while!) before going to look at Christmas lights.  My husband was done with work (side note: being a dairy farmer your never really done with work.  He was relieved by another worker who took over the milking so my husband could be with the family.) earlier than usual so we were able to get out to the restaurant a little before the typical dinner hour.  We sat down and there were only a couple other tables with patrons there.  Soon enough, the restaurant completely filled up.  We had one amazing waitress.  She was quick, efficient and friendly.  I love having a good server.  I also strongly believe that if you are going out to eat, you need to plan for a tip.  Not just a bare minimum 15%, but the ability to leave a generous tip.  I have never been a waitress, but I think they deserve to be treated with respect and paid appropriately for their service.  The waitress we had for dinner was exceptional.  Early on in I asked my husband if we could RACK her.  We had not RACK'd anyone yet and our waitress seemed to be a perfect "target".  As the dinner went on, I quickly saw what a great waitress she was.  When it was time to pay the bill, I tried to discreetly pull out on of our RACK cards from my purse.  I folded the card in half and tucked a large tip inside.  I have no idea what was going on in this girl's life, but I do pray that she was blessed.  I love this stuff! :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

RACK day 8

Our eighth RACK was fun!  One of the beautiful things about this time of the year is the arrival of yummy seasonal goodies.  One of which is Peppermint Mocha.  Yes, Peppermint Mocha is the sparkly glitter that perfectly compliments this season.  It gives you that caffeine boost in the midst of the busy hustle and bustle yet the sweet aroma is enough to slow the whole world down for just a moment.  Ahhhhh . . . .!  Yes, I am a fan.  :)
Anyway (back to RACK), we picked up some Peppermint Mochas and dropped them off at my salon.  The girls there are so sweet and truly kind.  The owner, Patti, is my stylist and she is an absolute gem!  I don't just get a pedicure or a hair cut.  It is a chance to connect and rejuvenate.  Since we live in a small town, I see these ladies periodically out and about as well.  They are sweet hardworking ladies.  So, they made our RACK list.  I took my favorite holiday beverage to my favorite stylists!  The kids were so excited to walk in with all these Peppermint Mochas.  They were also excited because I let them have Peppermint Hot Cocoas for the first time, too!  When Isabella handed Patti the RACK card, she smiled and laughed.  She also had been following my facebook and blog posts.  It was a small RACK, but it still brought smiles and a blessing to someone not expecting it!  I love this stuff!  Back to anonymous RACKing tomorrow.
Oh, and since I love this salon so much, I'll put a little plug in for them!  See the link to view their site to get details about one of my favorite places!  The Grand Strand Salon and Spa

Thursday, December 8, 2011

RACK day 7 ~ biggest one

I am not quite sure how to title this post.  It is about our 7th RACK and it was the "largest" of all our RACKs, but it has turned into so much more.  Before I dive in, I will give some background.  This is the RACK that I have been so excited about.  We decided to "adopt" a family from our church.  I thought long and hard about this.  I enjoy giving to perfect strangers (it is so unexpected for them!), but I view our church as our family.  I love our church family.  They have been there for me in so many ways exactly like (or more so) as a biological family.  There is bond between us that we share because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  One of the things that hooked me on committing to our church was their mid-week prayer meeting.  Granted, the attendance is not what I would love to see, but those that are there are involved in something far beyond themselves.  To a casual observer, it probably doesn't look like much.  But to me, even when I had first started attending, I see so much more.  I see men, women and children taking time out of their week to come together to share in the joys and burdens of others.  Our pastor leads us in a short devotional each week and then we go over our prayer guide (simply a sheet of paper with praises and requests given to our church staff throughout the week).  We then have a time for any updates and any new requests.  We then break up into small groups (men with men and women with women usually) and spend time praying.  A few men that attend will physically get down on their knees while they pray.  Again, it may not seem like much, but there is something so powerful happening there.
First, I am always keenly aware that in many, many countries around the world to meet like this is simply not possible.  To be found meeting this way to speak of God (not a god, but the One True God, our Lord Jesus Christ) is punishable by jail (sometimes lifelong) or even death.  I am so very blessed to live in a country where I have no fear of such things.
Second, it is a much more personal, intimate setting.  While you may not have the opportunity (or feel comfortable) to share a personal request on a Sunday morning or night with the entire congregation, here you have a small group of believers dedicated to lifting each other before the throne of God.  There is nothing more powerful one believer can do for another.  Never lose sight of that!
Third, attending this meeting allows me to learn of practical ways to help each other out.  Sometimes it is sending a card or note in the mail to someone that may need encouragement.  Sometimes it is passing on clothing to a family with children that has suffered a tragedy or is simply having a hard time making ends meet.  Sometimes it is taking a meal to a family that is struggling with health issues or is simply in one of those stages in life when things can seem overwhelming.  It can be so many things.
This mid-week meeting embodies the spirit of a church family.  In a family there are good times and difficult times.  I certainly do not always agree with everyone in our family and there can be hurt feelings at times.  However, that is part of what makes us family.  We stick together, we work it out, we ask for forgiveness and above all, we never stop loving each other.  Because of that, I wanted to be sure to reach out to our church family in a practical way while we did our RACK.  Due to the size of our church, I cannot possibly be aware of every family that may need encouragement or that is struggling.  For this I enlisted our pastors' help.  I asked them if they could possibly think of a family that was either needing encouragement or was simply struggling with physical needs.  I asked that not only our family remain anonymous, but that we not even know who we were "adopting".  Withing 24 hours they got back to me with some basic info.  I was thrilled and started working to put things together.  What we ended up doing was providing gift cards (one for groceries, one for gas and one for a local restaurant), chocolates (yes, I have to pass on my adoration of quality chocolates!) and a Christmas dinner (a ham, biscuits, green beans, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and whipped topping) for the parents and for the child some little gifts and a gift card to pick out something special at the store.  My plan was to go early to church one Sunday and pass everything onto the pastors and let them pass it on to our family.  Then this Sunday my daughter was rather ill and I was stuck at home.  I had already burdened my dear husband with passing out all the Christmas cards/letters that I had gotten done by that point, so I didn't want to add anything more.  I figured that maybe we could try for next Sunday.  I was a bit disappointed, but it is what it is.  My husband and I talked about it more and he suggested that maybe I could just take it to the church office and maybe have them call the family and they could come pick it up.  I wasn't sure if it would work or not, so I called the office and spoke to our wonderful secretary.  She offered something even better.  She stated that she could take the gifts right to this family's home for us that evening!  Yes!!
When we took everything to the church office, I was about to just bubble over with joy.  I was so excited!  The next morning I checked my facebook account to discover this note on my wall, "We were RACKed today . . . This was such a blessing because we really have no family outside of our church family.  Being RACKed made us feel like we belong and are loved as a family.  Christmas can be a very lonely time for those with no family.  Many a joyful tear has been and will be shed over this."  Yup, not only did I know the family, but they were on facebook with me and following my blog posts about our whole RACK thing.  (I guess if I really wanted to stay anonymous I probably shouldn't be blogging the whole thing!)
This led me to really think and ponder for a bit.  Although I was disappointed about not remaining anonymous, I feel that God had His hand in all of it.  I'll give a little more background to explain.
Last November I was blessed to be living in a huge, beautiful farm house (one of these days I will blog about how God has provided in miraculous ways for my little family).  I was a single mom with two children trying to make ends meet.  I had moved into the house during the summer for what was supposed to be a short term stay until I could find something else.  The couple renting me the house told me that no one could afford to live there in the winter due to the house being old and large and it could be near impossible to keep heated.  My landlord had decided to install a wood burner to help offset the costs.  Sounds great right?  Except that I was a single mom that knew nothing about chopping wood.  Yeah, wood is needed to run a wood burner!  My wonderful church family stepped in for me yet again.  We had a "wood cutting party" at our house.  People came out of the woodwork (forgive the pun) to spend a cold day working exceptionally hard chopping and splitting enough wood to get me through the winter.  It was an amazing day of blessing!  I knew most of the people that came to my house that day except for one family.  They were still new to the church, but they were anxious to minister in any way they could.  I was so blessed by their presence.  Here they volunteered their time to come help out someone they didn't even know.  And this wasn't simply sending a card.  This was hard, difficult and demanding work in the middle of a cold November in Ohio.
Well, guess what!  This same family is the one that we ended up adopting.  Isn't God just so cool?  I love the way He works.  When I realized that I knew the family, I sent an email requesting their permission to blog about this particular RACK.  The email that was sent back pretty much sums up the beauty of a church family.    I will share some excerpts here:  "Please feel free to share this in your blog. There is no shame in perfect love and love is perfected through Christ Jesus and His directions through us.
I understand how your intentions to keep this in secret have caused you some angst. However, I truly feel His glory was in your heart and you wanted nothing more than to do His works with a humble and sincere love in submission to His will.
I think the world should have a clear vision of how we care for one another as one in the same body. There is so much in-fighting and back biting within the confines of American churches we need to make a stand to show the truth of how we should operate and what it is to follow Christ.The fellowship of the saints is one of the key factors that intrigues and allures the hearts of man into the union with the Creator. . . . It is amazing how God works and he brought our two families together like this. . . . Thank you for opening your heart to us, for the wonderful gifts and more so for loving the Lord. We feel so blessed to be loved by your family, by Camden and to be side by side in this time as we await the return of our Savior."
I don't even know what else I can say.  Here we are out to try to bless others, and I feel more blessed in return.  I am at a loss for words as to how God has worked.  This, this is why He calls us to be united with a community of believers.  This is God at work in the hearts of those that love Him and seek to honor Him.  This is love.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RACK day 6 ~ best one yet!

Today was definitely my favorite so far.  It wasn't even what I was planning for today.  We had to go to Walmart to get our oil changed and pick up a few miscellaneous items.  The store was actually not that busy.  When we got in line to checkout, there was one lady ahead of us.  After she was finished, a new cashier took over.  She looked young, but tired beyond her years.  There was a still sadness in her eyes.  She was tiny, but very pregnant.  I was buying a restaurant gift card for a friend and I added a Walmart gift card to our purchase.  Not much, but something.  When we had finished and were ready to go there was no one behind us in line so I slipped one of our RACK papers out of my purse (always prepared!) and handed it and the gift card to the cashier.  She looked at it and then at me in confusion.  I simply said, "Merry Christmas" and started walking away.  Shock took over her face as she looked down at the RACK paper in her hand.  She looked as though she may cry.  I hurried away (I was about to cry) and quietly explained to the kids that we had just RACK'd our cashier.  They thought it was pretty awesome.  So did I!  As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I reminded the kids that we need to pray for the people we RACK, especially this girl that we didn't even know, that they may come to know the Lord.  Isabella was quick to point out that she was pregnant and that maybe if she got saved, she could lead her baby (when older) to salvation too!  I was not planning this one, but as I stood there watching her scan items, with an emptiness in her eyes, I felt God was telling me that this was the one.  This was who He put in my path to be a blessing to today.  Let me just say, my heart sings a little wondering how God may use this small act.  If you think of it, pray for our "Walmart Lady" today.

RACK day 4 & 5

Since illness kept us in for day 4, we did two days in one today.  First, we left a note, a water bottle and a Malley's "survival kit" (a fabulous box of misc. chocolates and candies) for our mail carrier.  It was a dreary rainy day and we live on a busy road, so I didn't risk taking a picture.  :(
Our second RACK was to send a care package to a college student going through finals week.  We sent all sorts of goodies including chocolates, mac and cheese, Twizzlers, gum , pretzels and so on. When we went to our small town post office to mail the package, it was extremely busy.  This place is never that busy (they have a bell on the counter in case you come in and no one is there).  This just reiterates that taking goodies to our hard working postal workers is definitely on the RACK to do list!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas letters ~ yay or nay?

On top of doing RACK, this weekend we were able to get our Christmas tree up, I got all the presents wrapped and I am just about done with Christmas letters. I'm still waiting on a few addresses. It feels so good to get this stuff done, almost. I really debated this year as to whether or not I would do a Christmas letter. It seems to be a fading tradition. I remember as a kid we would get tons of Christmas letters and they would be passed around for each member of the family to read. Yes, some of them were boring (usually just because they were friends of my parents and I didn't really know them), but it made me feel like I had some clue what was going on in people's lives. Especially relatives that maybe didn't live close or that we just didn't see as much as we would like. But now with social networking sites, we can stay connected so much easier than before. And quite frankly, fewer and fewer people even bother to send a Christmas card anymore. So I debated. It's a lot of work to do a letter and it costs money to print it out (ink is stinkin' expensive!). And I wondered if anyone would even care if I wrote a letter or not. Then I thought of those that I long to stay in contact with that are not on a social networking site. And I thought of how rare it is to get a real honest to goodness letter in the mail. And then I thought this is a way to minister to people as well. It's a chance for me to share a little bit of how my faith in Christ affects my day to day life. So call me old-fashioned (I prefer sentimental), but I thought I would give it a go. I wrote the letter and printed off a gazillion copies and started stuffing Christmas cards. Yes, most of the people getting the cards will already know what is in the letter. But, it still shows an effort to connect on my part. In a small way that I feel like I am telling those that receive the letter, "I value the relationship we have. You are not expendable to me in this 'unfriending' world. I care enough to update you in a more personal way and hope that you will keep me updated on your life as well." I hope it will not be seen as a waste of time and paper by people, but even if it is, I am still glad that I did it. People are important. And getting something personal in the mail is a small joy that often gets overlooked. In the midst of bills and the crazy materialistic push this season brings, I hope that for even a moment, someone I care about has a moment, an excuse, to stop and slow down. And maybe, just maybe, the verse in the letter or some words I wrote will be used by God to reach someone's heart. I pray for those that I send the letters to. I do. So I believe that it is worth the extra effort and the extra cost and the extra time.
Ahh. Now back to my busy day and seeking that fine balance of getting things done, caring for my family and keeping God and His Word in the forefront of my mind.

RACK day 4? Where fore art thou?

I was so very excited to do RACK 4. God had different plans. At 3:52 am yesterday morning I was awaken by a phone call telling me that my daughter was sick and wanted to come home (she was at her dad's house). She had a bad cough and was just plain exhausted. She slept most of the day, and when she was up, she laid on the couch. So I never left the house. I don't want to get behind on our RACK so I will try to do 2 different ones today. The one planned for yesterday needs to be done on a Sunday. At least I'm pretty sure. So that will be bumped to next week. Yes, the anticipation just may kill me, but it will be worth it all!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rack day 3

Today I took the flowers that the kids and I picked out yesterday, a box of diapers and a small gift card to a new mother. When I got there she was sleeping, so I left everything with her husband. They were so appreciative! Yup, made my heart smile!
Now I have to put the finishing touches on tomorrow big RACK. This will be our first truly anonymous RACK. So far, everyone we RACK'd knew who we were. Tomorrow the recipients will have NO idea where this is coming from. This is what I love! I just love sitting back and seeing the joy on someone's face when someone they don't know reaches out to them.
I remember when I was in high school, I found out about a family that was struggling to provide basic needs for their kids. I had saved up some ministry money*(see note below) and I went to ALDI and bought several bags of groceries. I got a lot of the basics and some of the fun splurgey-type things. They had a cat too, so I purchased some cat food for them. I took everything over to their house and very quietly and cautiously set all the bags on their front porch. As soon as I was done, I rang the bell and sped away. I LOVED it!! Little did I know that many years later as a single mom, so many people would touch my life in the same sort of way. So many times I had no idea how I was going to pay my basic bills, and God ALWAYS provided. We never went hungry. There were times that the only meat we could afford was one pound of ground beef a week, but God is good. I never had any utilities shut off (came scary close a couple times) and we were always provided for. Many times, when things looked so bleak, someone would give us just what was needed. I will never forget one Sunday morning I sat in church clutching my tithe money. I was keenly aware that if I gave my tithe, I would not be able to buy groceries for my two children. Quite frankly, I was scared. However, I had made a commitment that my tithe always came first, no matter what. I had to trust that if I was faithful to God, He would provide. I put that money in the offering plate and although I knew it was what was right, I still had knots in my stomach. How am I going to feed my children. Honestly, I never heard much of the message that day. I spent that time pleading with God to please take care of us. I got home from church that day and sat my Bible down. Inside the front flap of my Bible was four times the amount of money that I gave in my tithe. I still get teary now just remembering how I felt. To this day, I have no idea who slipped that money in there and how on earth they did it without my knowing. I think that is why this kind of thing is so close to my heart. I always promised myself that one day, I would be on the giving end of things. And that is why I prefer to remain anonymous when I do this kind of thing. Of course, I don't even know who the recipients are for tomorrow's RACK. I'll explain more tomorrow. So crazy excited!
*Saving up "ministry" money is something that my aunt suggested that I do. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. It's money on top of your tithe that you set aside to use when you see a need. Please don't think that you should not give to your local church in order to do this. Your pastors, staff and the church ministries depend on our giving. This is just a little extra set aside for the specific purpose of filling a need when God lays something on your heart. It doesn't have to be much, just a little here and a little there. Even you loose change saved up can purchase a couple bags of groceries for someone. Just a thought!
James 2:15-17 "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"
In other words, put some feet and hands to that faith and love like Christ! Trust me, your joy will overflow in new and marvelous ways! :-)

Friday, December 2, 2011

RACK day 2!

Today was the kiddos' idea. We had talked about taking flowers and cards to someone in a nursing home and the kids thought of the idea of taking them to their dad's wife's mother (got that?). She is suffering from dementia and they had visited her before. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Not only is it a chance to bless this lady, whom I have never met, it was also a chance to bless my ex-husband's wife. The kids picked out a crazy cute arrangement (I forgot to take a picture!). They were so excited to do this. I can't wait to hear how it went when they get back on Sunday.
On a separate note, I also purchased the flowers for tomorrow's RACK. Plus, we finished getting the gift cards for our largest RACK that will be Sunday's special RACK. (Let's see how many times I can put RACK in a sentence!) I can't wait to give the details on what we are doing Sunday. I am so excited about this one for so many reasons!! So stay tuned!! :-)


The real reason I can't do the grapefruit diet: Grapefruit and coffee don't mix. It just makes my coffee taste like broiled rubber. Grapefruit v. coffee ~ just guess which one I will quit! :-)

RACK day 1

On our first day of RACK, we took Isabella's ballet teacher a hot cocoa. Isabelle was so excited to give it to her. We got there a little early and every time the door opened Belle would sit up and look anxiously at the door. When her teacher came, she gave her the hot cocoa and our little RACK note. Her jaw dropped and she said, "This is just what I needed today!". Yup, good way to start!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Today is December 1st! That means the beginning of our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. I am so excited and so are the kids. We can't wait to get started. We compiled a list (I'm sure we will add to it as we get more ideas) that I've included below for ideas. We have more ideas than days, so some won't get done at this time. That doesn't mean that we that we can't continue this after Christmas!! I also made up little cards that we are going to post with our RACKs.

Random Acts of Kindness

Purchase and donate coloring books and crayons to a hospital waiting room.

Tape microwave popcorn to Redbox machine

Shop for and donate a Thanksgiving/Christmas meal

Take holiday books and leave at a children's play area in mall

Buy hot cocoa for Salvation Army bell ringers

Tape candy canes and notes to atms

Offer to buy a pack of gum or mints for the checkout person

Take peppermint mocha to a local childcare for the workers (I've done that job, they need extra energy!)

Hand out holiday flowers

Take baked goodies to library staff

Take thank yous and baked goodies to police

Take thank yous and baked goodies to county sheriff's office

Take thank yous and baked goodies to fire station

Pay for someone's santa pictures at the mall

Go grocery shopping specifically to give away in the Food for Families box

Pass out candy to those mailing Christmas cards at the post office

Collect canned goods for the food pantry

Collect clothes for the Community Center in Cleveland

Take small gifts/goodies to our hard working postal employees

Leave a gift basket/fruit basket on the doorstep or a family in need

Give cookies/treats to employees with words of thanks

Leave a treat and thank you in the mailbox for our letter carrier

Give our garbage/recycle driver hot cocoa & treat

Christmas Eve: Take mocha & cookies to store employees working night shift

Christmas Day: Deliver special goodies to those working/recovery in the hospital.

Buy coffee for a stranger at Starbucks

Pay past due library fees for a stranger

Donate used books to a school library

Buy a grocery gift card and give it to the person behind you in line

Buy $5 fast food gift cards and hand them out.

Make muffins/cookies and take them to church some evening

Leave quarters at the laundromat

Pump a stranger's gas so they don't have to get out in the cold

Take water bottles to busy nurses

Deliver balloons/small stuffed animals to the children's floor of a hospital

Hide book store gift cards in random books

Give a random family a restaurant gift card (walk up, place it on the table and leave)

Help load groceries in the car of an elderly person

Adopt a family for Christmas (buy small gifts/gift cards and donate anonymously)

Leave quarters in the carts at Aldi

Take cookies to neighbors and invite them to Christmas Eve service

Send a care package to a college student with popcorn, hot cocoa and goodies

Send a card/flowers/balloons with pictures made by kids to a shut-in

Send a card/package to a soldier

Leave a generous tip for a waitress or in a tip jar

You have been RACK'd!

Random Acts of

Christmas Kindness

This Christmas season we are counting down

the 25 days of Christmas by performing a


We pray that this little act may bless you and that

you may discover God's precious gift this Christmas season.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world

that He GAVE* His one and only Son,

that whoever (this means you!*) believes in Him

shall not perish but have eternal life."

*emphasis added by us!

Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comment section!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

I have always been a big fan of Random Acts of Kindness. When I used to take the toll road to work, a couple times a week I would pay for the person's toll behind me. I love doing little things like that. Then when I stumbled across this blog, I knew we had to do this. It's 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Each day in December through Christmas Day, we will purposefully set out to complete one Random Act of Kindness. She has a bunch of ideas, but if you ponder you can come up with so many more. This is something I can do with Michael and Isabella and it will help to keep up us grounded in the midst of the materialistic environment Christmas has become. I am so very excited to do this! I will try to post each day what we did for the day. Stay tuned!! :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gingerbread boy & girl wreath

This wreath was ridiculously easy and can easily be used as a template for an innumerable amount of themes. I choose the gingerbread theme because I wanted something to hang in my kitchen. I am a bit of a cookie making machine when it comes to the holidays, and my kitchen takes on a gingerbread theme in decorations. Let your creative juices flow and this wreath could be tailored to fit any room in the house. And it only takes about half and hour!!
1. Get your supplies! From the previous post, you will see that this can be the best part of this. Walking through a craft store can fill you with all sorts of ideas! Basically though, for this wreath you need a wire wreath frame (I used a 12 inch), ribbon of your choice (just be sure not to get anything too "loud" so as to distract from the embellishments) and your embellishments. This was made easy for me as I found gingerbread boy and girl Christmas ornaments. I simply cut off the string put there for hanging. Soooo simple!
2. Wrap your wreath frame in ribbon. Simply loop the beginning of the ribbon around the first wire on the frame hot glue (yes, I am still learning/burning myself/making a mess) it to itself. Then start wrapping. Keep the ribbon taunt so that it doesn't slip. When you run out of ribbon on one spool, start a new and glue the end of one ribbon to the beginning of the new. Wrap around that section a couple times to add stability.
3. Once the frame is wrapped, plan out how you want to arrange your embellishments and start gluing.
4. Fabulous! You are done. If you want to loop a ribbon around the top on which to hang the wreath, go ahead. I just left my simple and will hang the wreath directly on the hanger. Ta-Da!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Wreaths

I made my first wreath a couple of months ago when I made a yarn ball wreath with Autumn colors. I fell in love! I knew right then and there that I would repeat at least the yarn ball wreath, but maybe venture into something new as well. Well, here is my Christmas themed yarn ball wreath for the living room and my gingerbread boy and girl wreath for the kitchen(pics will be coming soon!). I took pictures of the steps this time so it would be easy to duplicate.

Yarn Ball Wreath
1. Get your supplies! This is the fun (and dangerous) part! Head to the craft store and let the creative juices flow! I like the look of yarn ball wreaths, but I prefer to add more texture and "pop" to mine, so I look around for little embellishments. For the Christmas wreath, it was easy. I found little ornaments that would coordinate and some little pom pom things. Pick up a wire wreath frame as well (I used an 18 inch). Try not to get too distracted and to NOT buy the entire store!
2. Make the tin foil balls. So easy. They don't have to be perfect balls, just don't make them too tight (it helps to have a little give in the balls when putting the wreath together). Make them a variety of sizes from grapefruit size to a small plum size.
3. Start wrapping away. I grabbed my kiddos (ages 10 and 6) and we popped in Polar Express and wrapped while we watched. It made the time go faster (it does take a couple hours to wrap all the balls) and the kids were able to be involved in the craft. It was great!
4. Once they are all wrapped, take the larger ones and simply place them on the wire frame. This will give you an idea of how you want everything placed. There will be gaps, but they will be filled in later with the smaller balls and embellishments.
5. Start hot gluing! This seems so simple for some people, but for a novice crafter, this takes some doing. I burn my fingers, end up with glue all over things and have those annoying little stringy, spider-webby things everywhere. Seriously, is there a class on how to use this thing?! Anyway, I pour on the glue so I'm sure everything will stay put. As you glue, gently yet firmly push the the yarn balls into the frame and together. This is where it is beneficial to have a little give in your balls.
6. Lift the wreath up to eye level (or higher depending on where you want to hang it) and start evaluating where gaps need to be filled. This is when you get to put in the little ones and the embellishments. As you do this, it is very helpful to periodically hold the wreath up to look at it. It is a very different perspective.
7. Once you are happy with the placement of everything and it is all sufficiently glued, you can choose to add a ribbon by which to hang your beautiful creation. It could also do without the ribbon and simply hang on wreath hanger.
8. Step back and marvel at your craftiness! Sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee (or hot cocoa) and be amazed at what a talented little crafter you have become!