Friday, November 28, 2014

Faithful Friday: Thanksgiving

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  Knowing the week I would have, this post was started early, something I don't normally do.  I put the finishing details on it this morning, complete with coffee and PJs.  My hope is that your bellies and hearts are full by the time this reaches you.

Our Thanksgiving day was spent serving, a fairly new tradition our family started a few years ago.  As usual, God had great things in store for this year's event.  In the midst of the organized chaos, He never ceases to amaze me how it works out perfectly.  As the drivers were dispatched, trays of turkey and dressing in hand, calls began to come in.  "Where is this street? GPS can't find it."  And unexpectedly, "I have the same list as someone else!"  -oops.

The best message though came from a driver who shared that at his last stop, the lady answered and told him someone had already been there.  (Not the duplicate list mentioned above!)  As he was about to leave, she shared that her two sons were on their way.  As it so happened, two meals were what he had left.  I double checked all the routes and the lady was only listed on his.  Most certainly a God thing!

Thanksgiving had been a particularly difficult holiday for us, as it was our last one with Austin.  As such, there's a lot of painful - and bittersweet emotions around this day.  The first Thanksgiving without him I just wanted to ignore and avoid.  It was a welcome change and a perfect fit for a family focused on RAKs in the month of November to be a part of delivering meals to those in need.

Of course, with this new tradition, I no longer cook a big meal to have family over.  Instead, we eat lunch with the volunteers that day.  In some ways I miss it, but knowing how special our last get together was, which happens to also be my most popular post, gives me comfort in how it ended.  Time changes things and God has a purpose in it all.

The week will still be peppered with family, beginning with a Wednesday meal at my niece's (so strange to see her all grown up and hosting!), a visit at my grandma's, and ending with our own little turkey meal at home.  A new-to-Tina activity will be a night at the Shriner's circus, thanks to this girl winning tickets on the radio.  We haven't gone since the boys were little.  She is super excited and I'm thrilled to share this experience with her.  An added bonus is that my mom, sister and her littles will be joining us.

Folded in will be lots of Random Acts of Kindness as we wind down to Austin's Heaven-anniversary. We've done RAKs throughout this month but tomorrow will be the big day, complete with our favorite tradition, the Reverse Shopping Spree and a new one, backpacks for foster kids.  

Though we may do better year to year, prayers are still appreciated.  Keeping our minds busy doesn't take away the tug in our hearts.

Truly though, when I think back to those first holidays after losing him, it is amazing the healing that God has brought to our family.  I remember the broken, being lost in the darkness and depth of grief, and wondering if the pieces would ever come together again.

We will never have a day that we don't miss Austin but the pain, most days, does ease over the years.  And for that I am ever-thankful to my God.  He has returned JOY to us, even in the midst of our loss.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Hodgepodge of Help

In this season of thanksgiving, this spirit of helping others in need, I bring you a hodgepodge of helping opportunities.  My collection this week may seem random but all serve a purpose.

First of all an update to Habitat.  I hear they are still in need of Saturday workers.  Below is a message from the Baptist association:

"If you would like to help with this project I encourage you to call Steve Flener and 270-256-6950 for more information.  The home is located at 728 2nd Street in Beaver Dam and they usually begin work around 9am in the morning.  This is a great opportunity to help out one of our own! So even if you only have a couple of hours on Saturday please consider helping out.  Every volunteer hour that is recorded helps the Mason's out tremendously!"

A "hug from above" update on the food pantry, in that I heard they helped 232 people last week.

Now, to other needs around us.

"Betty's Buddies" is a beautiful new program, formed in honor of a wife battling Alzheimer's.  She is currently receiving care in a nursing home and her husband noticed how many others never receive visits.  BB is a "mentoring" type program where people can sign up to be a buddy and just simply visit someone, to make them smile and give extra company.  Right now, they are doing a fruit basket campaign by partnering with IGA to provide for every nursing home member in the county.  You can give a donation as small as $5 to help ensure someone gets a smile this season.

Thanksgiving is 1 week away.  Do you know someone who is home bound and will not have a meal this holiday, perhaps a neighbor or someone you know in need?  If so, please contact me personally, as our church delivers meal on this day throughout Ohio county.

Or, perhaps you could use this as your RAK opportunity and invite them over to your home?  Or stop in and surprise them with a plate and a quick visit.

With the holidays in mind, do you know someone who is newly grieving this season?  I just had a comment from a mom who lost her dear daughter just four weeks ago.  How I remember the firsts after losing Austin.  My heart goes out to those especially who see the anniversary of their loss around the holidays.

If someone comes to your mind now, consider that as a God-nudge asking you to do something for them this season.  It doesn't have to be big.  Maybe a note on their door or in the mailbox.  Everyone gets Christmas cards but how many get a card around Thanksgiving?  Or, as you are packaging up leftovers from your dinner this week, maybe you could deliver it to a new widower, who finds it hard to eat alone this season.  The next time it snows, maybe you could surprise them with a salted and cleaned driveway?  A simple act of kindness to someone grieving can go so far to their health, happiness and healing.

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday: There's No Place Like Home

Home is my safety net.  The ultimate comfort zone.  A haven at the end of a long day.
Where my family is gathered will always be Home.

Through our married lives, we've lived in several houses.  From tiny apartments to country rentals to life in the suburbs.  Owning a home was a dream of ours but one that didn't come right away.  And while it wasn't my dream home, I'm grateful the wish was fulfilled.

Ours is a simple home.  No bells or whistles and in great need of refreshment and repairs but it has a roof and four walls to contain the love within.  And though it be modest, I know we are blessed to have this home, even with dated wallpaper and tears in the carpet.  Because so many do not.

Working with families who can't find adequate housing, I know the struggles.  Everyone just wants a place to call their own.  A home.

One organization helping to meet this need is Habitat for Humanity.  Our county is blessed to have an active chapter.  In fact, the ninth house is currently being built - just a hop and skip from where we live.

There are many ways you could volunteer to help with the current or future projects.  From money to sweat equity, your donations can make a difference.  They are about 100 tickets shy of completing the gun raffle.  Another need I've heard they have is feeding the volunteers while they are at the job site.  Lots of potential RAKs with this project!

For some, the thought of owning a home isn't even on their dream radar.  Just having a place to lay their head is.  Homelessness happens, even in small rural counties like ours.  But a homeless shelter is in the works.

Actually as this posts, there is a planning and zoning meeting tonight concerning the shelter.  Pray that votes go in the shelter's favor for them to move to the next step.

How else can you help?

A big need is money.  The next lofty purchase for the shelter is a fire alarm system so watch for upcoming fundraisers and support them, or donate direct below.

Checks can be made to:  Promise Home
1081 Rochester Rd, Beaver Dam
Or take to Commonwealth Community Bank. 
Other donations or questions call Angela Porter Stewart at 2561504

Supplies are also helpful.  Here is a list of their greatest needs.  They do not have to be brand new but should be gently used.  Desks and baby beds have been filled.

Promise Home is a 501(c)3 organization so donations are tax deductible

If you're reading this from the comfort of your home, consider doing a RAK or helping someone in need of housing today.

Monday, November 10, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

Every November, I think to myself, "I won't participate in the gratitude challenge online this year. People probably get tired of reading those statuses.  Maybe I'm turning someone away from gratitude?" Yet, every year I do.

Kind of hard to see it as failing though when there's focus on the good each day!
Truly, I can't help myself.

No matter the circumstances, no matter the trials, there is always something to be thankful for.

But this attitude isn't just how my Novembers are spent, it is how I live my life.

Thanksgiving is not just a day, 
or even an month for me, 
but how I try to live every single moment.

There's research that shows people who express gratitude on a regular basis are happier.  I like to say the more thankful you are, the more JOY that comes into your life.  You appreciate the little things more.  See more silver linings.  And that makes every day brighter.

Go ahead, give it a try.  

In this very moment, what are you grateful for?  Think about it, dwell on what it is.

You're welcome.

Here's a few of mine so far this month.

Thankful for an impromptu family day full of 
laziness, snacks, movies, laughs and littles!

Today, I'm grateful for a job that allows me to make a difference in the lives of new families every day. They bless me each and every week. I'm thankful for new opportunities, a career change, and continued learning.

 ‪#‎thankful‬ to live in such a beautiful county and to be on the road this time of year.

 ‪#‎Grateful‬ for a cousin's night out. My first best friend. We don't spend enough time with each other, life gets busy and in the way. But I'm ‪#‎thankful‬ for opportunities like tonight to reconnect. Giggle. And have a sleepover.

Thankful my boy is stocking his momma's freezer! 
Will be even more excited for a batch of his famous ‪#‎deer‬ chili! 
And grateful for a wonderful dad who spends time with his son.

Thankful in every moment...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday: RAK Kickoff

Faithful Fridays will be temporarily on hold for the month of November, in order to bring you something timely for the Thanksgiving season.

November is a bittersweet month for us, a time of remembering what a special gift we had in Austin, but also in reliving the horror of losing him.  As the first anniversary of his death rolled around, something difficult to celebrate even knowing where he was, our family decided to do random acts of kindness in his memory.

The next year it grew as friends and family jumped in to remember our son.  Every RAK done for Austin is a hug for our souls!

I've pondered this year on how to roll out Random Acts for Austin and been in prayer for needs in the area.  Between last night's scene and an inspiring story on tv this morning, Thankful Thursday was born.

Each week, I'll bring ideas for our area of things your family could join in on in memory of Austin.  Now, I realize many of my readers are across this earth, so just use them as a springboard of inspiration.  There are always needs all around us, we just have to use God's eyes sometimes to see them.

A new activity our family plans to do this month is to fill a backpack for a foster child.  We happened upon this beautiful idea on social media and it instantly spoke to me.  You see, for those who are new to this blog, our niece unexpectedly landed on our doorstep 3 1/2 years ago, with only the clothes on her back.  Even though she was family, it was a difficult adjustment period and just stocking her with clothes and basics was quite an undertaking.  Thankfully God, friends and family helped us through.  Now, she has so much "stuff" we periodically have to purge and donate!

But I remember the look on her face, the shock and loneliness, even though she came to family she knew and loved.  I can only imagine the feelings foster children go through, as they are planted in a new place with unfamiliar faces and surroundings.  Most have nothing of their own to go with them.  These backpacks are a wonderful idea and I can't wait to go shopping with our kids to build some hope and love for two teens.  The link is above for Katie's project.  If you aren't in the area, you can donate to her cause.
**(when I went to copy her link, 123 shares was the first thing I saw.  Austin wink!)

Last night, on my way home from work, I passed a location that I drive by multiple times a day.  With the time change, it was already very dark but the lights from this building shone on the line of people waiting to get inside.  It was our local food bank.  My heart broke in that moment and I found myself praying for the people in line the rest of my drive home.

We've never gone without food in our life.  Growing up, I remember "tough times" and we poke fun of my mom for the month of dumplins we ate one year, but looking back I'm tearful and grateful for her dedication to ensure that no matter how tight finances were, she always had a hot meal on the table as we came home from school.

My children have never known hunger and for that I'm ever-thankful.  Yes, there have been rough moments, due to job losses and tragedies, but God has always provided.  Some meals the kids might not have listed as their favorite, but their bellies were full when they fell asleep.

Groceries are expensive!  Our own household has recently had a tightening, a readjusting of meal planning, in an effort to trim the budget.  But I cannot imagine knowing I didn't have anything to feed my family.

Below is the contact info for our local pantry.  I have a message in for what needs they currently have and will update this post when they call.  Search out your local pantry this month and consider donating to help those in need.

If you donate or do a RAK this week, post a comment and let me know. I have no doubt Austin is smiling down on all that will be done!  Thank you for giving of your resources!

Ohio County Food Pantry 
boxed, canned, perishable goods to the low income citizens 
1220 S. Main Street, Hartford, KY 42347
Telephone - (270) 775-5913

**Post Update:

The Food Pantry serves over 600 families a month in Ohio County!
So they are ALWAYS in need of food or money to purchase it.
If you're interested in donating, Pat (number above) will arrange for pick-up or delivery.
Thank you!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grief to Thankfulness

During October I participated in a photo challenge.  30 days of capturing the grief of child loss. Though it is something I live with daily, it was fascinating to see it visually.  To focus on a topic and a picture to describe my feelings each day.  Purposefully, I didn't really look ahead or think about what I would write each day; instead, I lived in the moment.  Capturing photos from where I stood in the day.  Where grief found me at various points of the day.

Goosebump hug - "23"1 posts on this last day

As I looked back this morning through my collection, a collage of grief, 
something stood out.  

Healing.  Truth.  Joy.  Life.  

For so long, in the darkness of grief, 
I didn't know that any of those would ever exist again.  
Below is Day 29.

Day 29: Reflect #captureyourgrief
All day I've thought "how can I sum up the past six years of #childloss in an Instagram post?" Impossible.
But driving home I saw this tree and turned around to capture a photo. It spoke to me about grief.
Ugly/beautiful. Gradual. Slow, like that of the seasons. Change. Death and yet, life.
After taking it, I looked down and noticed the arrow. Moving forward. Looking ahead. Hope. #joy. And it's all a cycle. Yes, if a paragraph can sum it up this tree inspired that reflection... #whathealsyourheart
The project actually went through 31 days.  The final day we were to capture a sunset.  Day 31, Halloween, found me knee deep in trunks of candy.  Organized chaos.  The scent of chocolate.  An array of costumed kiddos.  And sleet.  Seriously, sub-zero temperatures and just as we began to set up - freezing rain!  We pushed through and, although very chilly, it was a beautiful night.  Even in the weather, over 700 kiddos came through within an hour and a half.

Needless to say, I didn't have an opportunity to capture a sunset.  (Or post for Faithful Friday.) Honestly, I don't know if a sunset was even visible.  But here are some photos of my last night of October.  A sweet ending.

A panoramic view of the start of the night - Trunk or Treat @ EHBC

Our trunk - Monopoly
and the cutest "Mr & Mrs Moneybags" ever!
Now...we are in November.  A bittersweet month.  

A month of memories, our lasts with Austin.  Remembering the pain, the nightmare.  But also, absorbing the gratitude.  A month of thankfulness.  

For what was... and what is...and what will be.

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