How to Help Those in West, TX

Devastation hit me as I found out about the explosion in West, Texas via Twitter just shortly before I was going to head to bed.  First thing this morning, I started tweeting those I follow who no doubt would be, or soon would be “in the know” about what Austinites can do to help. 

 So far today, this is what I have been able to gather from The Austinot, (@theAustinot), Way Out West Austin (@wowaustin)  and the Capital Area Food Bank (@CAFBTX):

(1) Visit a blood bank. Austin locations here:

(2) Make a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank. They are set up to send help to West.

(3) Fundraiser by Man Up Texas BBQ at la Barbecue on 4/28:
If you know of any other benefits or organization that are mobilizing to help our fellow Texans, please leave a comment below with a link or way to verify the information. I will continually update this post with any new information that I see or receive over the next couple days.

“Don’t Mess With Texas.”  We take care of our own, right?



Hugged by a Stranger

As I was entering my favorite department store the other day, I observed two gals, a store associate and a customer, hug each other fiercely as long lost friends, truly thrilled to see one another.  The scene made me smile.  The associate, seeing me, called a cheery welcome to the store.  Not resisting I replied with a chuckle, “Wow I didn’t know customers got THAT kind of welcome when visiting the store. Does everyone get a hug like that?”

The customer laughed with me and said, “Well sure!” then reached out to grab me into a big, warm hug.  

The hug was fun and spontaneous, but it was genuine.  I hugged her back like she was my long lost friend too. That hug was the bright spot to what had been a cloudy day for me.

This sweet gal was someone that I never met before, nor did I know anything about other than she appeared to be close to my age; yet I could feel her genuineness from that exchange. She blessed my heart that day by her impulsive and kindly response.  
Later this scripture came to me:
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10 NKJVI have no idea of this person was a Christ follower, but her actions were representative of what this verse tells us:
“Be kindly affectionate”  – The Apostle Paul is charging us to be friendly, tender, warm to others, whether they are fellow believers or not.  Some of you may be terrified with this thought of hugging a total stranger in order to “be kindly affectionate”, but we can certainly give a smile of appreciation and a sincere “thank you” to an employee who processed our purchase at the store, can’t we?  
 “in honor”  –  We are also to honor other people in addition to being kind.  This is by appreciating, considering and valuing them.  When at a restaurant, do you give your server the chance to shine by asking their opinion or maybe what they would suggest from the menu?  Instead of giving that minimum tip for their capable service, do you give more? Do y add “I appreciate you!” to the grocery clerk who checks out your order?
 “giving preference to one another”  – Giving preference is choosing or selecting something before yourself.  Do you choose to go out of your way to do something or say something to someone else without thinking of yourself first, such as checking on a neighbor that you haven’t seen in awhile?  Or what about sharing cold bottles of water to workers laboring outside at your house or even the house next door? 
 Be careful though, because you may not even realize who is watching .  
Your kids will see you thank the associate.  And they will also hear if you complain about how long it took for her to ring up your purchase.  They will remember if you made an effort to do something for a neighbor that took time away from what you wanted to do. 
 There is too much impoliteness and discourtesy in the world today. With the veil of anonymity that the Internet and social media can bring, it can provide a platform for people to berate, humiliate and vilify others unashamedly and with cowardice.  By exhibiting and teaching courtesy, your kids will learn that doing what Jesus asks of us is more important that having the world revolve around them.
While it may be quite awhile before I hug another stranger, I do plan to work harder at being kindly affectionate, honoring and giving preference to others.  That may be just the type of “hug” someone is waiting for.
Have you had an experience similar to mine?  Please share your story here or add a link to your blog post so we can read about it!

Teaching Your Kids to Pray

This book, “I Love You to God and Back” is a sweet and engaging journal of the author’s, as she shares stories and insights during bedtime prayers with her young daughter, Chloe. The prayers are not only a learning process for the 6 year old, but also for the author, as she also discovers revelations about God and her family. I would personally recommend reading this book as a daily inspiration, or as a busy mom, taking a couple moments for a nugget to think upon. In the back of the book is a short “Prayer Primer for Parents” that gives some steps for praying with your child, which are helpful. Overall, it is an easy to read, honest interpretation from another mom who is resolved to teach her children about God and that He is totally approachable. I recommend it!

Texting the Old Fashioned Way

We certainly live in a highly elevated techno-savvy world, don’t we?  Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, and many other websites and smart phone apps are available for all types of people who want to be included into a community of some sort.  With hectic schedules, either as a career mom or a stay at home mom, we have certainly come to rely on the speed and convenience of technology when it comes to communication with other friends, family and our spouses.  It has become easier to send an E-card for a birthday, to text a time for a lunch or play date, to use Evite for planning and sending invites for a get-together, to forward an email to remind a group of their next meeting, to share reading interests with friends on Goodreads and to shop, order and send someone a gift right from an online store.  

Because women are made for community and relationship, it is not problem for us to jump right on board this social media wagon.  I think that Facebook is fantastic for keeping up with friends and family, Twitter is a unique and effective networking and marketing tool, and texting is can be so quick and helpful (especially with your teenagers!).  I use them all and more.  However, it is crucial to always remember that these are tools, and not replacements for TRUE friendships and community.  

Just as we as women love relationship, we also want to be valued and appreciated, don’t we?  Today, I want to encourage you to take the time periodically to encourage your friends in an old-fashioned way:  with a handwritten note or greeting card.  There is such a feeling of thoughtfulness and acceptance when you receive a birthday card or some sort of “thinking of you” card via snail mail.  It is a delight to know that someone else thought enough of you to find the card, write the note, address the envelope and buy a postage stamp, just for you. “Old fashioned” can still be more special!

While today’s technology has taken over and still will be the main mode of communication, don’t forget to take time to affirm your relationships in a significant way.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  

Proverbs 25:11

Want more suggestions on how to apply this successfully through your women’s ministry or other women’s group?  Click HERE to send me an email!

Weekend Wisdom: God in the Clouds

If there is enough rain early in the year in Texas, March and April are magical months for wildflowers.  As I write this, Texas Bluebonnets are springing up everywhere through the bright green grasses along highways and in fields everywhere in our Hill Country.

Along with the wildflowers blooming this past week, there have also been many clouds hanging out in our expansive Texas skies.  Numerous clouds and massive clouds, but these are not rain-filled clouds. No, just clouds journeying across the sky:  bright, white, puffy clouds and also grey, expansive, low lying clouds.

This morning I was watching these cloudy skies while reading “The Beloved Disciple” by Beth Moore. While the entire book has been amazing, it was a passage she included from Oswald Chambers’ book, “My Utmost for His Highest” that stood out like a bright lit marquee for me today:

“In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God.  Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God.  Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith.  If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith.  ‘The clouds are the dust of His feet’ (Nahum 1:3).  They are a sign that God is there . . . Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something.  His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child — a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows . . . “

This kind of makes you look at clouds differently, doesn’t it?  Not only have there been many clouds overhead this past week, but I have experienced many cloudy skies in my own life lately as well.  Knowing that these clouds are a sign that God is there, that He is teaching me something that will bring me closer to Him, makes me look at the cloudy days differently.  I often make my life more complicated than it is meant to be, but God can make it uncomplicated if we just follow what He teaches us.  It won’t be easy at times, but when you spend time looking at the clouds, they can be most beautiful.

“For your mercy is great above the heavens, and your truth reaches to the clouds.” 

 Psalm 108:4 (NKJV)

All About Green!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I don’t believe there is any Irish predominantly in my background, but I always enjoy making at least one or two cards for this day.

This one I made for the hubs, who I feel so lucky and blessed to have in my life:

My second card is “green” — not necessarily for St. Patrick’s Day — but from an sample I saw in Cardmaker magazine, I thought it would be a good opportunity to use more scraps!
To send you off today — a little Irish blessing:
As you slide down the banister of life,
may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.
Have a great day!

Weekend Wisdom: March 10-11

What is your life story going to tell?  
Matthew West is one of my favorite Christian artists.  His song, “The Story of Your Life” is the best one to hear when  I wonder:  “Is what I’m doing worth it?  Why am I going through this struggle again?  When will I see victory?  Will anyone notice my contribution to this world?”

It is said that God will not give us more than we can handle.  While that could be true, did you know that your struggles and victories aren’t necessarily only about you?  Every crisis, every trouble, every win and every success is not only for us to learn, but also to help or teach someone else through it!  By sharing your story, you can help guide someone else through the same struggle, and you can rejoice with others who have had the same victories!  
In Matthew West’s song, he writes this:
This is the joy
and it’s the pain
and all the pages in between
your finest hour
your weakest moment
it’s where you’ve been
it’s where you are
it’s where you’re going
Everyone’s story will have joy, pain and everything in between.  Unless we are willing to share what work God has done through us to get where we are, we are losing a God-given, wonderful opportunity to help others along the way.
When I was leading the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at my church, I never told my motherhood story until the very last meeting of my third year of leadership, when I was “retiring.”  No one had asked about my story, and I didn’t share anything regarding my past, only my present.  In my heart, I knew that it would not be right to leave this wonderful group of ladies without sharing an important, although heartbreaking part of my story.  I had to type the story I wanted to recount  so I could read it, because I did not know if I could make it through without crying.  
Afterward, I received many thanks for sharing my story, but there is one comment that I will not forget.  This young mom pulled me aside immediately and told me that her story was nearly the same as mine.  She shared with me what a struggle and heartbreak it had been for her too, and because I offered to share what happened to me, she had the peace knowing that she herself had made the right decisions.
Was it a little painful for me to share my story?  You bet.  Was it worth it?  Immensely.  My story is still continuing, but I plan to use the “God-given” opportunities to share with others who may need encouragement.
Remember — you are the writer, director and producer of the story of Your Life.  Where do you want to be?  What do you want to do for others?
This is the story of your life
You decide
How the rest is gonna read
This is your chance between the lines
To define the legacy you leave
This is the story of your life
Go tell the story of your life
‘Cause it’s a story worth telling
It’s worth telling
“The Story of Your Life” – lyrics by Matthew West
Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.