Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Birthday Project - 40 Random Acts of Kindness

What began as somewhat of a challenge, turned into one of the most amazing projects I've ever undertaken. And, I was blessed beyond words.

After reading about my friend Amber's Birthday Project, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. Amber spent her 31st birthday doing 31 random acts of kindness (RAOKs) for people. I loved that idea! However, I knew there would be no way that I could do 40 random acts of kindness on my 40th birthday last month (1/21). But, I was willing to still do the 40 RAOKs - I just needed to spread them out over several days.

And so I began my own Birthday Project - on January 10. And, I just completed it yesterday! Friends, it was amazing! There's something to be said about finding healing when you spend time focused on others. The 22 days that I spent doing RAOKs were some of the happiest days of my grief journey, to date. And, I don't think that was "by chance". Now, don't get me wrong. Going through the process of grieving is VERY important, and I'm not trying to cover it up or take my mind off of it by doing for others. Simply put, I was just so filled with joy in doing for others that the darkest emotions of grief were unable to get through on those days. It was truly amazing!

And so, without further's my list:

1.     I sent flowers to a new She Speaks friend for her 32nd birthday. She lives in Nashville and is a single lady, and I knew she wouldn’t have a boyfriend or hubby bringing her flowers on her special day. As a widow, I know how lonely that can feel at times, so I chose to bless her in that way.
2.     I put a box of M&Ms along with a thank you note in our mailbox one morning to surprise our mail carrier!
3.       Gave a $25 Walmart gift card to a complete stranger while in Walmart shopping one day. I think I scared her at first – she thought it was too good to be true.
4.       I gave a $10 Walmart gift card to a lady working the window at one of our local McDonald’s after I paid for iced tea. I’ll never forget that grin on her face. Priceless!
5.       Sent flowers to a new friend of mine – also a widow – that lives in Arizona “just because”.
6.       Drove to another town 2 hours away to meet with another grieving woman affected by suicide in the loss of her brother right before Christmas.
7.       Put $1.00 bills with notes inside seven random books at a local used bookstore.
8.       Surprised a co-worker by completing one of her job responsibilities for her one morning.
9.       Delivered a book full of inspirational stories to help a co-worker during some difficult days.
10.   Surprised another co-worker with her favorite snack – peach rings – and left them on her desk chair one day!
11.   Gave a $10 Walmart gift card to another McDonald’s worker in a different part of town this time. Her whole demeanor changed upon receiving it. I loved watching that transformation!
12.   Gave $5 giftcards for a local cafĂ© to the grumpiest Pharmacy Technician at my local drugstore. The “grumpy” seemed to roll right off of her after receiving that small surprise.
13.   Gave a final $10 Walmart gift card to a third McDonald’s employee while at the drive-thru window.
14.   Folded my daughter’s laundry for her. (She’s been doing her laundry since the summer of 2010, so this was a HUGE deal for her to find I had already done it for her.)
15.   Took flowers to a neighbor and left them on their front porch with a note that simply said “to brighten your day”.
16.   Delivered a baby gift to the hospital where I was born (20 minutes away from where I currently live) the night before my birthday. It was a non-gender specific gift, so the hospital staff was asked to give it to a baby born on my birthday along with a note that I had written explaining I had been born in that very hospital 40 years ago.
17.   Left a silk flower on each of my female co-workers’ desks with a note saying, “You are special!”
18.   Left a generous tip (almost the cost of the bill) after eating at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I decided to do this ahead of time – regardless of the level of service.
19.   Left quarters in the candy/toy vending machines at a local mall for children to discover later.
20.   Sent a “thinking about you card” to a grieving widow I’ve never met.
21.   Sent a card to a woman that’s been visiting our church who has experienced severe loss in her life over the last two years.
22.   Sent an Edible Arrangements display to the ladies at in the office at one of my favorite ministries.
23.   Sent a note of encouragement to a woman going through breast cancer treatment.
24.   Prayed for each person I saw on the road, as I traveled to work one morning (i.e. people waiting on the city bus, walking, homeless).
25.   Created 2 treasure boxes and delivered them to a playground to be discovered by playing children. Each contained large plastic gold coins and a real $1.00 bill along with a note from me.
26.   Made up two activity bags (1 for a boy and 1 for a girl) to bless a couple of sick children in the pediatric until of our local hospital. Dropped them off and instructed the nursing staff to give them to two children they felt could benefit most from them.
27.   Taped a $1 bill with a note on a drink vending machine saying, “Enjoy a drink on me and keep the change!”
28.   While checking out at our local Walgreen’s, I found myself behind a little girl buying a stuffed Valentine bear for her grandmother. She was $0.12 short, so I gave her the $0.12. Easy but so fun to do – especially when she grinned!
29.   Paid for breakfast for the car behind me at Chick-fil-A one morning.
30.   Gave away a prize on my blog for someone that participated in my Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) Birthday Project. The prize consisted of a Daily Prayer Organizer, 2 journals (one to keep, one to give away), a box of notecards, and 2 $5 Starbucks gift cards (one to keep, one to give away).
31.   Secretively paid for a haircut for a single mom and her son.
32.   Helped another co-worker on a different day with her job responsibilities to lighten her load.
33.   Donated makeup to a local women’s shelter.
34.   Donated money to the Ronald McDonald House.
35.   Sent money to a missionary.
36.   Sent a book and note of encouragement to a woman grieving the recent loss of her brother.
37.   Pushed grocery carts from the parking lot into my local grocery store before I started my shopping one night.
38.   Bought lunch for a friend.
39.   Took doughnuts to my local bank to say “thank you” for what you do.
40.   Wrote a note to one of my doctors thanking him for his excellent service and taking time to always make me feel as if I’m his only patient for the day. Also shared that I pray for him and his staff routinely.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Hole

It was just a small hole. About the size of the eye of a needle, perhaps smaller. And yet…when I laid my eyes upon it for the first time…I cried, well sobbed actually. I was simply going about the busy-ness of my day, doing my “normal” things, which typically includes making my bed. It was then, I saw it. The miniature hole in my sheets, and the tears began to flow.

No. Holes in sheets don’t normally make me cry. They’re just sheets. Sheets wear out over time. But, these aren’t just any sheets. These are the sheets that I slept under with my husband on his last night on this earth. While I have other sheets, they are the ones that I find I keep washing and remaking my bed with, because they are so near and dear to me. I even accidentally got bleach on the pillowcases, but I didn’t care. I continued putting them on my bed, and I still sleep in them every single night.

I tried to sleep in other sheets for awhile, but I went right back to these, and it’s been that way ever since. But, then I saw the hole. While it’s very small now, it will grow. It’s a sign of the wear and tear taking its toll on these sheets. Eventually, I’ll have to throw them away. How long do I left with my sheets? Who knows? And…that’s not really the point anyway. For me, it’s just another piece of my life with Chris drifting away (or as I really feel, if truth be told – being “stolen” from me – but, that’s another blog post).

I know it’s just a hole in my sheets, but today I’m very sad about it. A bit on the distraught side actually. You may be thinking, “all because of a silly little HOLE??” Yes – all because of a silly stinkin’ hole! I guess I’m just trying to hang onto the last bits and pieces of him that I have left.

And so…today…I shed many tears over a miniscule hole. And the grief continues…

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big 4-0!

I’ve always said that it’s hard to surprise me. I guess it’s that little investigative personality quirk of mine. I’m always trying to figure everything out. That’s generally not a good thing, unless I’m working on a brain teaser or something else that requires problem-solving techniques. Then, I’m your girl.

However, I have to admit – I’ve been surprised A LOT in the last week. Wonderful surprises, thankfully!

We just finished up “birthday weekend in our house”. I turned the big 4-0 last Saturday, and my daughter turned 15 on Monday (two days ago). I had mixed feelings about leaving my thirties and entering this new decade of numbers.

On the one hand, my thirties were filled with tragedy, ending with the worst one to date with my husband’s death last May. So, for my forties represent an opportunity for renewed hope and prayerfully God-given restoration. But, the forties represent aging…dreams unfulfilled…and for me, as recently as last week, a temporary decline in health. Then again – with each day I live – I’m one day closer to Heaven! I long to be Home but not one day earlier than God calls me.

But, there was another part of turning 40 that simply…well…bothered me. I met my husband when he was 42, so I wasn’t around to help him celebrate his 40th birthday. But, I’ve heard stories of that day several times. In short, he was living in Florida – had just moved there actually. He really didn’t know anyone that well yet, and he was alone. He treated himself to dinner at the local Outback, and he and the wait staff celebrated his birthday. He laughed it off a lot, but I also remember him saying over and over that my 40th birthday would not be lonely like that – he would make sure of it.

So, you can imagine when my brain actually had a moment to wrap my mind around the fact that my husband left me in this world before my 40th birthday – I was actually very hurt (and if I’m being honest, a little angry at first too). I couldn’t believe he would do to me the very thing that he vowed to not let happen…spend my 40th birthday alone. But, I know that I know that I know…he wasn’t in his right mind on May 3-4, 2011. He never would have intentionally done that.

Well, I definitely wasn’t alone. Not even close. The celebrations actually began last Thursday (the 19th) when my co-workers surprised me with an “Over the Hill” party full of gag gifts, food, fun, and love! I laughed….a lot…that morning!

My oldest friend (not in age), Kandi, came up Friday night to help me celebrate on Saturday. Little did I know what she had up her sleeve. She told me she “had something planned that she wanted to do”, but I never dreamed it would include all of this…

1) Breakfast at Cracker Barrel with Kandi
2) Pampering with a manicure and pedicure with Kandi, Rebecca, and Carol
3) Dinner at Travinia with Kandi, Rebecca, and Carol
4) A return home to a HOUSE FULL of my closest friends that had gathered for my SURPRISE 40th birthday party! And…a surprise it was indeed! One of Chris’ sisters even came down from Virginia to join in the surprise!
5) Two dozen pink roses (I LOVE flowers and the color pink), a beautiful cake (I LOVE cake too), colorful balloons, and yummy food also showed up at the party!

In addition to that, I received many cards in the mail, well wishes on Facebook and…another surprise…

My blog was HIJACKED! Yes indeed! It was “taken over” by a sweet friend that’s actually working on my new website, and she secretly coordinated putting up some precious messages, videos, and birthday greetings from some amazing ladies – as far away as Colorado!

And…just when you think…this girl has been blessed ENOUGH…God gave me another one!

Little did I realize but a sweet new friend in the state of Washington (that I’ve never met in person) contacted the Carolina Panthers (my FAVORITE football team) to let them know about the recent tragedy that touched our lives last year with Chris’ death. You know what they did? They sent a package of goodies along with a sweet letter (see below), and it happened to arrive on my birthday! Angie (my Washington friend) hadn’t even planned on that…but God did! I was stunned!

So, I think I’m finally beginning to break through the cloud of sweet shock that settled in over me this weekend. I’m so thankful for the way God chose to love on me for this first birthday without Chris! I feel VERY loved right now!

And...just to report...Anna’s birthday was a blast too! It was just the two of us, but we celebrated big time! Chinese takeout, game night, and movie night - all Anna's requests!

P.S. I'll post about my Birthday Project (40 Random Acts of Kindness in a day or two). So, stay tuned...

Monday, January 23, 2012

To Anna

I remember holding you in my arms that very first time thinking, "Is she really mine?" I was scared - that God would entrust something so fragile and so beautiful to us to care for. And yet...I was so very, very THANKFUL!

Secretly, I had wanted my first baby to be a little girl. That had been my dream for years, so when the sonographer announced at our ultrasound that you were, indeed, a GIRL - I couldn't believe it. I think I had prepared myself for a boy...just in case...that when the news came that we should focus on buying pink...I was shocked. Happily shocked! :-) Thankfully, on January 23, 1997 at 5:39 pm - the news the sonographer had given us a few months prior was validated - here was my baby girl, my beautiful baby girl!

And beautiful baby girl has developed into a beautiful young lady.

Anna, your beauty is not just external sweetheart, but your internal beauty is what makes this mother's heart sing. You are uniquely compassionate for those less fortunate...whether it be the kid being bullied or the malnourished child in Africa or perhaps the elderly woman in the grocery store that can hardly push her shopping cart, your compassion is so real. You love people. You want to serve people. And that makes me smile!

But, you also love God - unashamedly! I love your bold faith - so much bolder than my own at your age. You are not ashamed of the Gospel, and you are certainly not ashamed to admit you're a Jesus girl! I love that about you sweetheart! Your desire to want others to have what you have (or Who you have) is so beautiful. You go to great lengths, no matter that cost, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people that you "do life" with so that they can see the Savior in you and want Him too! That is so uniquely rare in a young lady of 15. At your age, it's more common to be obsessed with the latest fashions/labels, your external appearance, the cute boys around you, what life can give you. But you, my dear, are thankfully different. Those things, while nice at times, aren't the things that impress you. And that also makes me smile!

You've endured much heartache in your brief 15 years, but my sweet are rising above it all! You are a living example of Romans 8:28, and I can't wait to see how God will continue to use your obedient heart in the days, months, and years to come.

So, today, on your 15th birthday...I wanted to publicly say how proud I am of you, Anna! I love you beyond words, and I am so very thankful that God hand-picked you to be my daughter!

Happy Birthday 'Sweet-Sweet'!!!! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Birthday Week and Giveaway Winner!

What a week! An unforgettable week at that!

As I noted in my Birthday Project Giveaway post earlier, this week represented the last few days of my thirties, as my 40th birthday was yesterday. thirties went out with a bang.

I spent most of the week in a lot of pain and finally ended up in the ER on Friday. The last few hours of my thirties were spent learning that I appeared to have nothing too serious (praise the Lord!) but nothing could concretely be diagnosed (ugh!). And so...the medical "drama" is not quite over (or so it seems). Enough of that, however...

The Birthday Project has been a BLAST! However, with my medical setback...I haven't quite finished. I started 10 days before my birthday, so I'm allowing myself the rest of this week to finish, if needed. I'll be sure to post about all of the RAOKs (Random Acts of Kindness) I was able to perform. It truly was something I will never forget, and I pray that it becomes a routine practice of mine - showing RAOKs to people - and not just something to do for special occasions!

I'll post more about the birthday festivities tomorrow. But, let's just say...I was blessed beyond measure. This being my first birthday without Chris could have been a VERY difficult day emotionally, but my friends made sure I was well taken care of, and I honestly felt deeply loved! to announce the winner of the grand prize from the Birthday Project Giveaway:

Sheila - Timestamp: January 18 - 9:11 pm

Congratulations Sheila! Be sure to email me or Facebook message me your mailing address so that I can get your prize sent off to you right away!

Thank you for all of the wonderful birthday wishes friends. You are precious to me!

By the way, if you haven't had a chance to check out the "Hijacked" post from my birthday...please do! What a shock but what a precious gift!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hijacked! Happy Birthday Leah!

Hey everyone ... Lisa Boyd here. I've hijacked Leah's blog today to wish her a happy birthday and share some messages from her She Speaks sisters. Be sure to leave a comment today and share your special birthday message with Leah!
Hey Leah!

I had hoped to have your new blog ready before today so I could leave these messages there, but the timing just didn't work out. I gathered messages - some video - some text - some graphics - from your Table #73 sisters :) We all wish that we lived right next door so we could bombard you with hugs, presents, food, balloons, and of course, presents! But we have to settle for hijacking your blog.

I hope and pray you have a wonderful day, full of love, friends and family. I'm so thankful that I've gotten to know you online. You are one strong lady who loves Jesus! Thank you for the wonderful example you set for me and for others. Praying that Jesus continues to hold you tight in His arms and that He loves on you even more this next year! ~ Lisa Boyd
Happy Birthday Leah!!! Sending you BIG BIG HUGS on this very special day! I hope your heart is blessed and you receive love over flowing! I am so thankful for your friendship. You have richly blessed me directly and indirectly more than you know. I love you dearly!! And remember...we have a Papa's and Beer dinner on hold that will need filling SOON!!!  TOOT TOOT....that's my birthday horn. ;-) ~ Angie
Happy birthday, Leah! I'm so glad God brought you in to my life this summer. I have enjoyed getting to know you and your beautiful heart. Praying blessings upon you this next year. May 40 bring more true friends, fun adventures, and God-sized "coincidences" your way. Love you, friend! ~ Leigh

And ... one more message from family :)
Happy Birthday Leah....there are no words to describe all that you are to me. We have been through so much together over these past 20+ years. No matter how chaotic things may have gotten in either of our thing has always been a constant...YOU!! I appreciate you so much and I pray that God will bless you beyond belief as you begin this new decade (lol) in your life. Thank you for the inspiration that you are to me and so many....always are truly are the SISTER...I never had.... Love you always, Kandi

Happy Birthday Leah!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Birthday Project and a GIVEAWAY!

It's here! Birthday week in our house, that is. One week from today (1/23) my daughter turns 15. Yikes. And even more yikes...I turn the big 4-0 on Saturday (1/21). Honestly, I still feel 25 sometimes, so this just doesn't seem possible. However, I'm holding out with great hope that my 40s and beyond will be the best years of my life.

For the past two years, I've had such joy in doing a birthday blog giveaway. I'm doing that again this year...but with a twist.

My sweet friend, Amber, had her birthday earlier this month and spent the better part of a day doing a random act of kindness (RAOK) for each year of her life. You can read about it by clicking here. I thought it was such a wonderful idea, and I knew I had to steal it! I find so much pleasure in doing for others (especially those RAOKs) that I decided I would do 40 random acts of kindness for my 40th birthday. However, I don't have the energy that Amber does to do it all in one day, so I've spread mine out over the 10-11 days leading up to my birthday. I'm in the middle of this birthday project and will report on it Sunday  - the day after my birthday, so you can see how everything turned out. But, let's just say I'm having a blast so far! My daughter has even joined in on the madness and is doing 15 RAOKs for her 15th birthday. I loved watching her in action at our local Walmart over the weekend. It did this mama's heart good! :-)

Anyway, back to the giveaway....

Here's how it will work. First off, it begins tonight (sorry this post is getting up a little late) and will run through midnight on Saturday (the 21st). I'll announce the winner on Sunday evening (the 22nd). How can you enter you might be wondering?

1) Perform a random act of kindness for somebody this week and then come back here and leave a comment saying what you did. If you want to do 2, 3, 30, can come back here and leave that many comments. Essentially...for each unique random act of kindness you do...come back here and leave a comment. Each comment gets you an entry (don't bundle all of your RAOKs into one comment, because that will only get you one entry). See what I mean? Now - as for the word "unique". Let's say that you buy 10 plants and plan to give them to 10 different people...that only counts as one comment entry. But, if you buy 10 plants & give them to 10 people and then carry groceries out for someone at the store, and giveaway 5 Starbucks cards - that would be considered 3 different entries (because that's 3 unique types of RAOKs). I hope this makes sense.

2) The other way to enter is to post about this giveaway on Twitter and/or Facebook and provide the link back to this blog post. THEN...come back here and comment and tell me you've done. The comment is what Random Integer will pick up when selecting the winner.

So, you can get your first entries in immediately by spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook and then come back after you complete your RAOKs. They don't have to be big and elaborate friends...just bless somebody...randomly...when they're not especting it. Can you imagine all the smiles this week?

So, what will you win? I've got a picture of it below, but will win:

1) A Daily Prayer Organizer - what better random (or intentional) act of kindness can you do for somebody than pray for them. This is a WONDERFUL organizer new on the market. I have one and LOVE it!

2) Two journals - one to keep and one for you to give away (another RAOK)

3) Two $5.00 Starbucks giftcards - one to keep and one for you to give away (and yet another RAOK)

4) Lastly, a box of blank notecards. Leaving a kind note for someone is another powerful way to express love and you can even do it randomly!

I'm praying for a great turnout with this giveaway, because I truly want to see all of us catch the "RAOK fever". If you've never had much experience before with offering random acts of me, you will be so blessed!

Now...on your mark...get set...go bless somebody!!!

Don't forget to come back and here and tell me about it and get entered to win! :-)