Gooble Up Those Holiday Moments!

 

Jeff, Mom, & Dad circa 1990'sWe have turned the corner and stepped into the busy season, or as my sister-in-law calls it, the “eating season.”  Either way, it’s busy because we have lots to do and lots of good food to eat.  When you find yourself tired and tapped out, I encourage you to build some pauses into your days.  Take time to remember the reason we are celebrating, and enjoy the special moments which come so frequently this time of year.

Do you know that old phrase, “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off”?

Once, when I was around nine or 10, I was at my grandparents’ farm when they butchered chickens.  Before that, I didn’t know that the chickens could actually run crazily around the barnyard without their heads…until finally after a few headless laps they would just stop.

This scene sent me running to the apple orchard where I hid in the top of an apple tree with my red bandana over my eyes and my fingers in my ears until the whole thing was over.  Hiding in the limbs of the apple tree was my way of escaping an overwhelming and unpleasant situation.

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Happy Thanksgiving, right?  Don’t stop reading yet.  I’m not encouraging you to go find a tree to climb in the middle of cooking Thanksgiving dinner or wrapping Christmas presents.  I’m just saying, sometimes we all need to step back from the holiday noise and activity.

This must be how we look to God sometimes.  We are running around  in every direction trying to do all the things we must in this life and sometimes we get so tired and overloaded that we finally just stop out of frustration and exhaustion.  We can look like chickens with our heads cut off running aimlessly in every direction without any focus…or like one of the kids in The Family Circus comic strip whose activity cartoonist, Bil Keane so cleverly tracked throughout their busy days.

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Sometimes, pausing means simply stepping off the treadmill of busy-ness to give yourself the chance to regroup and renew your strength.   This will also give you the opportunity to enjoy what is happening around you, to be thankful for your blessings, and to be mindful of the needs of others.

The world is much busier even during non-holiday times than it was when I was young.  I didn’t say “easier” as we had to do a lot more steps to do things that are now done at the touch of a few buttons from home, or remotely with our oh-so-smart phones.

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Besides our families and friends and jobs to keep track of, there’s that whole other world of social media out there.  I ignored and didn’t participate in social media for a long time because basically, I was so busy with my non-virtual life, that I didn’t want one more thing to have to do…or worse, to do halfway.  But then I realized, by not participating, I was missing out on the opportunity to connect with long distance family and friends more frequently and to keep up with the events in their lives.

In the midst of this busy, eating season, don’t forget to push the pause button to give yourself time to rest.  Only you know what you need to renew your strength…a power nap, some devotional time with your Bible, a visit with a neighbor or a friend, a favorite TV show, a massage, a call to your mom (to my kids…yes, call your mom), or perhaps simply a cup of coffee or tea and some quiet time.  Whatever gives you a chance to slow the activity level long enough to regain your enthusiasm for it.

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Life is not an infinite resource and we are only here for a short time, so don’t skim over the moments that make life grand and give it meaning.  And now that I’ve taken this wonderful pause to write to you, I have a cheeseball and some cornbread dressing and a few other family favorites to whip up.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Author’s note:  “The Family Circus” comic strip was originally titled “The Family Circle” and was based on cartoonist, Bil Keane’s own family.  Started in 1960, it has run continuously ever since.  Mr. Keane died in 2011 at the age of 89 and his son, Jeff Keane, now draws the comic and carries on his father’s work.  Check out The Family Circus website for a fun, new comic every day!  http://familycircus.com/

 

 

What Would You Put on Your Thankful Tree?

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When my children were growing up, every year at Thanksgiving, we had a “Thankful Tree” at our house.  One of my kids would use Sharpies and draw a tree on a poster board that I would then tape to the wall in the kitchen.  Usually, when my son, Matt drew the tree, there would be a turkey in sunglasses hiding and peeking from behind the tree, trying to stay out of the whole Thanksgiving event.

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We had blank leaves on which we would write the things we were thankful for and then we would each tape our leaves to the tree.  The tree would go up a week before Thanksgiving and by Thanksgiving Day our tree would be loaded down with thankful leaves.

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In the early years, my children would be thankful for things like toys (Ninja Turtles for my boys and her baby doll, Kristin, for my daughter) cartoons, comic books, baseball cards and candy, but as they grew older their thankful leaves would say things like family, friends, a home, and good food to eat.  The year they each turned 16, my boys were thankful for their cars.

It was a fun tradition we all looked forward to every November, but it was also an opportunity to pause and think about our lives and the things and people in it for whom we were thankful.

I’ve always thought it was cool that we have a national holiday in our country that is simply about families coming together to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  And we have a woman named Sarah Hale to thank for it.

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Mrs. Hale was from New Hampshire and was an author, poet and editor of a womens’ magazine.  She lived from 1788 to 1879 and is also famous for writing the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

In 1846, Mrs. Hale began an effort to get Thanksgiving turned into a national holiday.  She wrote letters to five different presidents…Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln…until finally, her letter to President Lincoln convinced him to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863.

Before Thanksgiving became a holiday, our only national holidays were Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day.  President Lincoln saw the new holiday as an opportunity to unify our nation after the devastation of the Civil War and he proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November to be our American Thanksgiving Day and a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

A few weeks back, I wrote about the “Fill the Pantry” food drive being run by the folks at Trinity United Methodist Church.  I’m thankful that I live in a community of caring people who try to ensure that everyone has food to eat.  I wanted to do my part, so yesterday I took a box of food to a food pantry near my house.

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When I pulled up, I saw people coming out with carts full of food…and pizzas!  One guy holding a pizza in his hand, held the door for me.  Apparently, our local Pizza Hut donates cooked pizzas to the food pantry every week.  I also found out that our Panera restaurant donates bread to the food pantry twice a week and Target donates a lot of canned goods on a regular basis.  Who knew these big companies were flying under the radar and doing this good work for the folks in our community!

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So, once again, I encourage you to give what you can.  The food pantries get a lot of canned vegetables donated and they are especially in need of protein foods such as peanut butter, canned meats, beef stew, tuna, and bottles of fruit juices such as grape, apple and cranberry.  They can also use necessary items such as toilet paper and diapers.  As we count our own blessings this week, is there a way we can find the time to bless others?

2014 has been a very special and eventful year in the life of my own family with two weddings, a new business, a book being published, a new grand-niece, and an upcoming college graduation, and I am so very thankful for all of it.  To my family, friends and neighbors in this community, around the country, and on the internet, I wish you a fun, relaxing and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”~Psalm 95:2

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Author’s note:  Again, here is the list of local food pantries where you can donate in our North Texas area.  Feel free to call them as most will accept donations anytime:

Antioch Arms Community Outreach (Antioch Christian Fellowship) 2020 Post Oak Road, Corinth, Texas  76210

940-498-3325

Hours:  Fourth Saturday of the month 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

 

 Asbury Relief (Asbury United Methodist Church) 117 Hercules Lane, Denton, Texas  76207

940-387-6487

Hours:  Monday 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

 

 Bread of Life Ministry (Open Range Cowboy Church of North Texas) 7290 Hawkeye Road, Krum, Texas  76249

940-482-6722

Hours:  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:30 a.m.  – 2:30 p.m. or by appointment

 

Denton Food Center  109 W Sycamore, Denton, Texas  76202

940-382-0807

Hours:  Monday – Friday 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

 

First Refuge (First Baptist of Denton) 1701 Broadway Street, Denton, Texas  76201

940-484-4384

Hours:  Monday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Wednesday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Thursday 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

 

 Lake Cities Community Food Center (Lake Cities United Methodist Church) 300 East Hundley, Lake Dallas, Texas 75065

940-321-6100

Hours:  Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

 

Living Water (Lifegate Church) 3350 Deerwood Pkwy, Denton, Texas  76208

940-382-8500

Hours:  Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

Myrtle Lee Lynch Food Pantry (First Baptist Church Argyle) 414 N. Hwy 377, Argyle, Texas  76226

940-464-7224

Hours:  Monday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

 Salvation Army Denton Corps 1508 E. McKinney Denton, Texas  76202

940-566-3800

Hours:  Wednesday and Friday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

 

Singing Oaks Church of Christ Benevolence Ministry 101 Cardinal, Denton, Texas  76209

940-387-4355

Hours:  Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

 

Vision Ministries (Denton Bible Church) 626 Wainwright Street, Denton, Texas  76201

940-387-8230

Hours:  Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Thursday 12:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m

 

 

 

Is Kindness Important?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Maya Angelou

When I was a girl, I had two grandmothers, a city grandmother who lived in town and a country grandmother who lived on a farm.  My city grandmother was vivacious and talked and laughed a lot.  My country grandmother was quiet and always spoke softly and when she laughed, she chuckled.

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My two grandmothers were as different as night and day except in one way.  They both made me feel so special when I was with them.  I lost my city grandmother when I was 11, but I got to keep my country grandmother in my life until I was 41.  When I think of them both even now, I first think of their kindness and how it made me feel.

This world is such a busy place with constant communication all around us and we encounter many people in the course of our days…in person, on the phone, in social and professional networks on the computer…  We sometimes hurry through our days so focused on what we have to do, that we ignore how we treat the people with whom we come into contact.

We are all busy and we all have our own difficulties and stresses.  But each day is a new beginning for us and we have the choice to interact with others from a position of anger and indifference or with kindness and compassion.

Does anyone remember the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”  My mother used to say that to me when I was young and my mouth got ugly.  For those of you who didn’t grow up hearing this, it means that people will respond better when you are sweet and kind to them.

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When my own children were small and felt slighted by people who were unkind, I used to tell them, you never know what has happened in another person’s life that day before they got to you.  Perhaps they had a fight with their mom or their best friend.  Perhaps someone they love has died.  Maybe they flunked a test.  Give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them with kindness.

Approaching people with an attitude of kindness is a choice.  Being kind means being warm-hearted and caring as well as considerate and compassionate in our interactions with others.  There is the potential for kindness in every moment with another person.  There is also the potential for unpleasantness…but who wants or needs that?

This week is the third annual World Kindness Week, and World Kindness Day is tomorrow, November 13, 2014.  The World Kindness Movement is an organization with no religious or political affiliation whose chief objective is to foster goodwill among the broad community – local, national and international – through kindness and in so doing, create greater understanding and co-operation between all people and all nations throughout the world.

Currently, there are 20 kindness organizations across the globe which makes up the World Kindness Movement Coalition.  They include representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Romania, Scotland, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine and the USA…with pending applications from organizations in Kenya, Spain, Argentina, Uganda, Liberia and South Africa.

Some years ago, you may remember the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement where people were encouraged to perform random and unexpected acts of kindness for other people.  I even did some of those random acts of kindness at the time and I bet you did too.

I’m a big believer in kindness toward others but I’m a bit troubled that people think we need kindness movements to remind us to be kind to others.  Shouldn’t kindness toward one another be a part of who we are as intelligent and caring human beings?  Isn’t our common humanity the thread which binds us to others?

Shouldn’t we learn kindness from our parents and from our teachers at school and at church?  Shouldn’t we understand the value of kindness by knowing how it feels when someone is unkind to us?  Do we need an organization or a designated day to tell us what we each truly know in our hearts and souls to be important?

 “No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” –Amelia Earhart


 I agree with Ms. Earhart…kindness begets kindness.  Like tossing stones in a pool, acts of kindness will have a ripple effect and spread.  Who has been kind to you in your life?  Do you remember how it made you feel and what happened afterward?
Since I’ve been thinking about kindness this week, I went to my “panel of experts” (my children and a couple of dear friends) and asked them:
Is kindness important and if so, why?

 

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Of the ten people I asked, only one said no.  She’s that person who needs some extra kindness today.  Here’s what they said:

“I think kindness is so important.  I always think of the quote, ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’  You never know what someone is going through, whether big or small and how much they may just need a sliver of kindness from a fellow human being.  I think kindness is just a trait that is so underrated.”

“Yes, kindness is necessary for working and communicating with everyone.  No one responds well to a jerk.”

“Yes, being kind is Godlike and is important.  It’s like grace and what has been extended to us.”

“Building relationships and making a positive impact on other people, no matter how big or small, is one of the greatest ways to make life meaningful.  Kindness is one of the first and most important steps of doing either of those.”

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“Kindness is very important.  When you’re kind to others it makes them happy.  If everyone in the world was kind to each other, we would have more happiness and peace in the world.”

“Kindness is unrealistic.”

“I think of the kindness Christ showed to so many…he was showing us how to affect others for good.  An act of kindness is remembered and the influence can be like a ripple in a pond.”

“Yes, kindness is important.  If people aren’t kind to me, I don’t even listen to them.  I just ignore them.  If someone is trying to give me constructive criticism but doesn’t do it nicely, I just chalk it up to them being a jerk and don’t listen to it.  I think people are more receptive to kind people.”

 “Yes, kindness is important!  It’s important because being kind to someone whether a stranger or friend shows them that they matter in this world.  Short and simple.  It’s all about dignity and worth of a person in my book.”

“I believe kindness is important because you never know when you will have an opportunity to make someone’s day better, and even possibly change their life.  One simple act of kindness, even a smile and a hello, could be what helps someone remember that life is good.  It could reassure them that they are important to someone, even if it is someone they don’t know.  An act of kindness could be a symbol of caring to someone who believes that no one cares about them.”

And finally, (I know this post is long) I think one kind word has the power to turn around 100 unkind words and to affect and change any situation for the better.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the importance of kindness?

“A soft answer turneth away wrath:  but greivous words stir up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1

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Veterans Day 2014

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Thank you to all the brave men and women who are serving now, and who have served in our United States Armed Forces during times of war and of peace!

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

~Elmer Davis, director of the United States Office of War Information during World War II.

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Neighbor~1. One who lives or is situated near another.  2. A fellow human being. ~Webster’s New World Dictionary

Those of us who grew up with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, or who watched it with our children, know that Fred Rogers used the term “neighbor” interchangeably when referring to his actual neighbors as well as his friends.  And, many of them were one and the same.

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Digital media? Creativity? Early Childhood education? Mr. Rogers was an early champion for trends that are hot in education today.

“Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” began in Pittsburgh in 1967 and was picked up by PBS and broadcast nationally beginning in 1968.  If you check your local listings, you will find that it is still on TV now in 2014, 11 years after the death of Fred Rogers from stomach cancer.

I believe the reason for the longevity of this program is that it resonates with people because so many of us strive to be good neighbors and friends.

I’ve had bad or unfriendly neighbors during my adult life and I know good neighbors make living in a place a lot more pleasant and fun.  I once lived in a neighborhood where no one “neighbored.”  There was no interaction, no waves across the driveways, and certainly no one borrowing an egg or a cup of sugar.  There was no sense of friendship or community because there was no contact between the neighbors.

I moved from Illinois to Texas almost five years ago.  Fortunately for me, I bought a house that was surrounded by great neighbors.  The first week I was here, all the neighbors in my cul-de-sac came over and introduced themselves and welcomed me.  They also laughed when the movers unloaded my snow shovels.

Since then, they have consistently been neighborly and supportive and have become my friends.  When I married, my husband said they were now his neighbors-in-law.  Good neighbors are priceless.

Last weekend, we went to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit my husband’s family.  We stayed with his sister, who has a home in Hillcrest, a beautiful and historic neighborhood dating back to the late 1800’s.

For the past 11 years, the Hillcrest area has played host to a “spontaneous neighborhood event” which has occurred each year at 2:00 p.m. on the Sunday after Halloween.

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Every year, the neighbors come together on the corner of Hill Road and Midland Street for the “Pumpkin Roll” to raise money for the Camp Aldersgate Foundation.  Camp Aldersgate is a local camp whose mission statement says they create life-changing camping experiences for adults and children with special needs, enabling them to expand their worlds and express their unique voices.

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We were fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Pumpkin Roll this year.  For $5.00 a roll, you could send a pumpkin down the very steep hill on Midland Street.  There were big pumpkins, little pumpkins, white pumpkins, green pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns leftover from Halloween, and at least one or two gourds.  The goal was to raise money and see whose pumpkin (or other organic orb) could roll the farthest without exploding or crashing into something or someone.

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The event lasted more than an hour and people held their pumpkins and waited patiently in the very long line for their turn.  There was much cheering and laughter as pumpkin after pumpkin went sailing down the hill.  At the end, neighbors helped clean up the pumpkin massacre and prizes were given out for the top three adult and child pumpkin rolls. But what struck me as I stood watching, was the great sense of community and friendship in the neighborhood as they all came together for fun and charity.

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Finally, I will leave you with my very favorite quote from Mr. Rogers, the champion of neighboring and friendship:

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

What kind of “neighbor” will you be today?  What will you leave of yourself for others?

 

*Author’s Note:  In doing research for this post, I happened on a website with a very intriguing concept…www.artofneighboring.com  Check it out.  Started by 21 churches in Denver in 2010, The Art of Neighboring website says their movement continues to grow in other cities around the country: 

“Our hope is that the people who are a part of this movement will move from strangers to acquaintances, then from acquaintances to relationships with the people who live closest to them.”