Finding Hope and Joy

When was the last time you wanted to jump up and down because you were so incredibly happy?  Children naturally show their enthusiasm.  As adults our enthusiasm wanes, stressors weigh us down, criticisms cripple us, and life can be hard.

Lately I’ve been pretty bogged down.  A good friend was diagnosed with cancer. My daughter has a friend whose mom died of cancer. Friends are struggling financially. And the list goes on. Not much jumping up and down for joy around here.  Can you relate?

Be encouraged. I have an idea for us to consider.  Joy is found in serving others.

Here’s my story.  About two weeks ago an opportunity came up to help plan a birthday party for Hattie, a little girl who is battling cancer. She just turned four and her family wanted to have a birthday celebration for their friends and family.

Spreading Sunshine, a non-profit organization that mobilizes volunteers to support families facing childhood illness or disability, decided to throw the party for this family. With a teeny, tiny budget, lots of ideas and very little time to pull this off, the planning began in earnest.

Hattie loves Disney characters, so we decided to make it character party.  Someone had a bright idea to have volunteers dress in costume and welcome the guests.  Surely people would be excited to do that. We asked people to help. CRICKETS.  We tried to find costumes. MORE CRICKETS.

We reached out on Facebook.  Now I know for some of you Facebook may be a dirty word right now.  I’ve been pretty busy so I’ve merely glanced at the controversies filling my Facebook timeline. Thankfully Facebook can also be used for good.

My friends shared the need and people started coming out of the woodwork to volunteer. All to show love to a stranger they have never met. I’m jumping up and down!!  JUMPING UP AND DOWN!!!

Yes, right now it’s a mess out there in social media world.

As for me, I choose to focus on kindness.  I choose to build others up rather than tear them down.  I choose to celebrate. I choose to look for what unifies rather than what divides.I choose to be thankful.  I choose to forgive. I choose to see the beauty of community when we come together to serve and love others.

I choose HOPE.

In one week this birthday party will a distant memory.  But, I hope it is also a DEFINING MOMENT.  I hope Hattie’s family is strengthened for the many months left in treatment.  I hope they are moved by the kindness of strangers. I hope they enjoy time with their family and friends. I hope they have a blast at the party.

I hope everyone who helps throw the party is blessed with oodles of JOY.  I hope the person who donates money knows the difference their dollars will make.  I hope the volunteers  enjoy giving hugs and helping kids have fun.

I hope we all look back and smile with tears in our eyes as we remember Hattie’s party.

Want to you join the party?  You can DONATE to help cover the cost of the party.  You can VOLUNTEER.

I encourage you find something that makes you jump up and down with joy!  Share your experiences finding HOPE and JOY.

hattie-family

You can keep up with Hattie’s story by joining her Facebook group, HOPE for HATTIE (what a perfect name for a group!).

 

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Celebrate Your Differences!!

Today my second daughter will move out of our home and into her new home at college. There’s a myriad of thoughts crashing around in my brain and emotions flooding my heart. Then, I see the picture on the left in my Facebook memories and have to quickly snap the picture on the right. My heart needed a little humor!!

You can see from these pictures taken move out morning just how very different my two daughters are from one another.  I mean seriously–as different as night and day. My oldest daughter Hannah made lists for days, packed, organized and had everything ready to go.  My youngest daughter Clara, well, she’s flying by the seat of her pants.

I love both of my girls.  I’m PROUD of them.  I want both of my girls to embrace who they are and celebrate their differences.  Sometimes they drive each other crazy.  Sometimes misunderstandings abound.

My desire is for them to strive to understand one another, work past their differences and appreciate one another for who they are.  These days I want that to be true among my Facebook friends too.  (but that’s another conversation entirely).

As my daughter leaves home today, here’s some random advice for her.  This advice can be true for any of us at any stage of life.

  1. Be yourself. There’s only one YOU on this planet.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made and created in the image of God.
  2. Be brave. You will be faced with many new situations that may cause you to be fearful, but be strong and courageous.
  3. Be involved. But, don’t stretch yourself too thin.
  4. Be kind. Kindness counts and you will never, ever regret showing kindness and compassion to someone.
  5. Be the best version of yourself. You’re going to meet so many amazing people and it may be tempting to compare yourself to them. DON’T!! Celebrate who they are and celebrate who you are.
  6. Be wise.  For crying out loud.  Make wise choices.
  7. Be willing to admit when you are wrong. And I say again, be willing to admit when you are wrong.
  8. Be an excellent student.  You are in college to learn and to get an education. That is your job, your first priority!!
  9. Be a good friend. Friendships are worth more than gold!!
  10. Be careful and cautious and aware of your surroundings.
  11. Be still and know that He is God.  It’s easy to go, go, go. Take time to pray and read God’s word.
  12. Be neat. At least in the common areas of your apartment.  Clean up what you mess up and leave things cleaner than you found them. Use that lovely laundry hamper and walk in closet.
  13. Be calm. When you feel overwhelmed and stressed.  Take a deep breath.
  14. Be a volunteer.  Find a place to serve others.
  15. Be free. I know you are so excited about being on your own. You’ve been ready for this since you were seven years old.  Remember with freedom comes responsibility.
  16. Be responsible. If you say you are going to do something, do it.  Make sure people can count on you.
  17. Be amazing because you are amazing!!
  18. It’s time to get packed and moved out!!

clara college pic

 

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A Life Well Lived

me and kelly

My friend Kelly lived 50 years.  Today I will join with her friends and family to say goodbye, to celebrate her life and mourn because she no longer walks this earth.  I’ll miss  her enthusiasm, her creativity, her million dollar smile, her genuine love for all people, and her fierce love for her family and friends. She had a deep and abiding love for the Lord.  She had a passion for life which was contagious.

I remember the day she told me she had cancer. The day is etched in my memory.

I was volunteering at a retreat for the ministry, Spreading Sunshine, at a beautiful home in Arkansas.  Very early on a Saturday morning, while it was still dark I called Kelly.  As we talked, I sat on the porch overlooking a creek.  Kelly and I talked while the sun was rising. She shared her diagnosis story with me.  She also shared plans for her treatment. In the midst of this conversation she shared what God had been doing in her life. She was upbeat and positive. I remember laughing and crying.  She expressed her concern for others, especially her husband Kevin and their three daughters.

At the time I had no idea it would be the last significant conversation we would have.  I’m truly thankful for that conversation.  For the rest of my life I’ll remember that conversation and how Kelly let her light shine, even in a very dark moment.

Only God knows how many days I have left on this earth.  My desire is to live each day to the fullest, to be who God made me to be and do what God has called me to do.

Speaking of living life to the fullest….I’m celebrating my upcoming 50th birthday all year long and am planning volunteer projects to do with friends each month to raise awareness for families facing childhood illness and to honor my friends who lived brief but beautiful lives.

You may be reading this and wondering where this idea came from.

  • My friend Virginia did several acts of kindness leading up to her 50th birthday and I really just want to be like Virginia when I grow up.
  • There’s an incredible organization in Memphis called Volunteer Odyssey whose mission is to connect volunteers with their ideal volunteer experience and to tell their stories.  Around the holidays  Volunteer Odyssey encouraged people to pledge time to volunteer sometime during the year and I agreed to volunteer for my birthday.

That’s how this idea was born.

Birthday Project #1  – Served dinner with a team of Spreading Sunshine volunteers to families at LeBonheur.  If you live in Memphis and are looking for an incredible way to volunteer with a few of your friends or family, comment and I’ll get the details to you. 

Birthday Project #2 – I plan to put together thank you sunshine baskets for the nurses stations at LeBonheur to show them how much their work matters. My friend Kelly was a nurse and I want to honor her with this project. She would have loved the idea and would been cheering me on in this project.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my heart and life with you.  Today is a Gift. Today is going to be a difficult day for myself as well as the many people who loved Kelly. Prayers would be appreciated.

isaiah61

 

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Simple Acts of Kindness

Last week while serving dinner with a team of volunteers for Spreading Sunshine at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, I met a young mom whose face is etched in my memory.   I don’t know her name.  I don’t know her child’s name.  I don’t know what was wrong with her child.  I don’t know where she was from.

I do know she was VERY happy to have Moe’s Southwest Grill for dinner.  I do know she had a weary look on her face.  We had a brief conversation while she was getting her food.  She was so appreciative for the meal.  She shared how much she enjoys Moe’s food but didn’t know there was one in Memphis.  She shared that she’s from out of town and has been at the hospital for three months with her child. THREE MONTHS!!  As she came to the end of the line she again said how thankful she was for the meal.

I was UNDONE!

It’s likely I’ll never see this woman again. In that brief encounter she taught me an important lesson — simple acts of kindness touch people’s lives. She was one of several families we served dinner to that night and each one has their story.

Birthday Project #1 was definitely a memory maker.  It was so much fun to celebrate by giving back with a group of friends!!

  • Thank you LeBonheur and Timorie for allowing us to serve.
  • Thank you Moe’s Southwest Grill for the amazing food
  • Thank you to several donors who covered the cost of the meal.  Spreading Sunshine received $345 in donations for the meal and the bill was $350.
  • THANK YOU to Suzanne, Leigh and Holly for donated drinks, desserts and paper products
  • THANK YOU to Abigail, Kellee and Tony; and also, Kathy, Treyve and McKenzie from Bolton Links of Luv for serving dinner and showing such love, kindness and compassion to families

In a couple of days I’ll be sharing about Birthday Project #2.

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Celebrate by Giving Back

In eleven months I’ll turn 50 years old…50 YEARS OLD.  It’s surreal.

Getting older is indeed a beautiful thing and with each passing year my gratitude and appreciation for life grows.  With each passing year things that would have bothered me in younger years simply melt away because of perspective.  With each passing year I value people much more than accomplishments or possessions.  While getting old brings beauty, it also brings sorrow as the harsh realities of life sometimes kick you in the teeth.

In recent years I have seen friends, many younger than me, pass away or suffer from serious illness.  I’m aware of the impact not just on the person who is sick, but on the entire family.  These friends who have walked this path touch my soul deep in the core of my being, changing me and shaping me into the person I am today.  One of the most important lessons I have learned from my friends is “Today is a GIFT”.

Normally I don’t go around talking about my birthday — especially eleven months in advance.  This year it’s different. I’m turning 50!!!!!  This year I want to celebrate all year long and invite my friends to join me. Each month on my birthday DAY, the 15th, I’ll roll out a new project to celebrate my birthday.  These projects are to honor my friends who have lost their battle with disease by giving back to Spreading Sunshine, a charity planting HOPE one box at a time to families facing dark or difficult days through childhood illness or disability.

I’m over the top excited about the project for June!!!!!!  Not too long ago I had the opportunity to talk with the Volunteer Manager at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital to find out some of their biggest needs.  She shared how helpful it is to have someone serve dinner for a floor at the hospital.  In the next few weeks I’m planning to serve dinner at LeBonheur as a volunteer of Spreading Sunshine.

Want to help?

You can help cover the cost of the food.  Dinner will be catered and is estimated to cost between $300-$350.  Make a tax deductible donation to Spreading Sunshine to help defray the cost. Make sure to note in the message the donation is to serve dinner at LeBonheur.

You can donate items.  I’ll need plates, utensils, cups, drinks, napkins etc.

You can come along with me and serve dinner.

Comment or email me at smithdiane1111@gmail.com to see how you can help.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will enjoy celebrating the GIFT of TODAY with your family and friends!!  It’s a great day to spread a little kindness and hope.

hope

 

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Birthday Celebration

Today is May 15, 2016 — the day of my 49th birthday. To celebrate my birthday I’m launching a special birthday project to support Spreading Sunshine, a non-profit organization giving rays of hope to families who have a child with a serious illness or disability…one box at a time. Over 2,000 families have been touched by the kindness of Spreading Sunshine volunteers over the course of the past two years.  It’s really an inspirational story of how a movement starts when  one person takes action.

So, what’s the Birthday Project and how can you help? Great question and I’m glad you asked!  Here are 3 simple ways you can help me celebrate (Pick one or do all three)

  1. Make a donation to Spreading Sunshine.  Rather than take me out for coffee or lunch or buy me a gift, give a gift to Spreading Sunshine.  You can either donate online or send a check to Spreading Sunshine, PO Box 906 Ripley, MS 38663.  If you want give the money to me, I’ll collect during the month of May and donate the gifts to Spreading Sunshine.  For every donation made — I will send a birthday card to a child in the Spreading Sunshine community. 
  2. Join my Spreading Sunshine Birthday Project. For the next twelve months as I move rapidly toward my 50th birthday, I will work to enlist at least Fifty Friends who would be willing to use their birthday as platform to raise awareness for Spreading Sunshine and to help the families of the Spreading Sunshine Community.  For every person who joins the Birthday project I will send a small sunshine box to a parent (If a male joins, I’ll send to a dad. If a female joins, I’ll send to a mom)
  3. Follow Spreading Sunshine on Facebook to learn more about the sweet little boy who sparked a movement, his family and the multitude of people now involved with Spreading Sunshine.

Today is a Gift and I encourage you to enjoy your life and look for ways to show kindness and compassion to others!  Thanks for reading and for helping me celebrate my #MidLifeKindess 

Speaking of today — Today I will be an emotional mess as I watch my daughter, Clara, honored at church with all of the other graduating seniors, I will attend her Baccalaureate Service and enjoy the senior recognition dinner thanks to the student ministry at our church.  

Spread Hope (1)

 

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I almost went home with a stranger…

Yesterday I waited in the car while my husband and boys were in Subway picking up some sandwiches.  Normally, I check FB, twitter or Instagram while waiting, but the battery had died in my phone.  Since I was looking up rather than looking at my phone, I noticed an older gentleman walking to his car with his hands full of drinks of sandwiches. He looked like he could use a little help. My brain said, “Get out of this car and help him.”  After debating for a millisecond, I jumped out of the car and offered to help.

While I was holding his car door for him, his phone started ringing.  He told me it was probably his wife trying to get in touch with him to find out when he was bringing her food home.  He didn’t answer the phone, but instead got settled into his car and we exchanged a few pleasantries.

By this point I wanted to jump in the car and go home with him to meet his wife. I wanted to hear their story and ask them a bazillion questions.  Instead I told him to have a great day, he thanked me for my help and our brief encounter was over.

Our little exchange only lasted a few minutes, but I’m still thinking about it today.  I wonder what my Subway friend and his wife are doing.  I wonder if he told her about the crazy lady who kept talking to him in the Subway parking lot.

At the time I thought I was helping him, but the truth is he helped me.  He helped me to see how important it is to open my eyes and pay attention to people around me.  It’s so easy to get caught up in my own world, the busyness of my day and my own pursuits.  Yesterday my day was made brighter because I connected with a stranger.

I am thankful the battery died in my phone!!

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests,  but also to the interests of others? Philippians 2:4

who needs your help today?

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