My Take on 26 Acts of Kindness

By now, I am sure you have heard about Ann Curry’s call on Twitter for everyone to do 20 acts of kindness to honor the children who died in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14.  That call has expanded to 26 acts of kindness, one act for each person who was killed in that horrible attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It’s a good idea, and I know people who have benefited from those acts of kindness (a friend even posted on Facebook that someone at the Starbucks she frequents paid for drinks for himself and the next 26 people in line; my friend happened to be number 26.)  But I am going to admit something right now that is not likely to be nearly as popular as Ann Curry’s original statement.

I think that this whole 26 acts of kindness thing has gotten out of hand.

See?  Told you it would not be a very popular statement.

It’s not that I think being kind to others is a bad thing.  And I don’t think that it is wrong to intentionally look for ways to show kindness to strangers.  The problem I have with this 26 acts of kindness thing is the publicity it is getting.  Oh, not that the event itself is being talked about.  I think that having news anchors talk about it encourages others to at least think of what they can do to show kindness to those around them.  It’s when I see a video of a woman talking about the quilts she made and donated or a group of kids talking about the crafts they made to give away that I don’t like.  That makes it seem like it is not concern for those in need of help that motivates the kindness; rather it makes it sound like the act of kindness was done in order to “look good” in the eyes of others.

Now, I am not saying that personal publicity is the reason behind anyone’s act of kindness.  There is no way I can know what is in the hearts of those who are on the nightly news, talking about what kind act they performed that day.  But hearing them talk about it just sounds like it is more about the giver and less about the gift.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:3-4, NIV

Giving to others, showing kindness to others, should be done just because you want to help that other person.  Talking about it, at least in my opinion, takes away from the kindness.  It makes it more about YOU, and what YOU can get out of doing good.

If the news programs are going to talk about these 26 acts of kindness, I think they should talk to the ones who benefited from the kindness.  I know that is what was done here in my hometown.  We have a local toy store that offers layaway for Christmas. A “Secret Santa” came in and randomly paid off the layaway accounts of different people.  There was a woman who came in to cancel her layaway because her financial situation had changed and she was not going to be able to finish paying.  Only when the employee looked up her account, she found that her layaway had been completely paid for.  She didn’t know who had paid it, but the local media reported her surprise and happiness over the event.  That small act of kindness made her day and it made it possible for her children to enjoy opening gifts on Christmas morning.

That is where the focus should be—on the ones who benefit from the kindness.  Focusing on the ones being kind just makes us look like a selfish society.

And I don’t think that helping the needy should ever be viewed as a selfish act at all.

Introducing The Rylee Project

Early in 2005, I suffered a devastating miscarriage.  One thing that has always bothered me is the fear that no one else would remember that baby.  Life—especially pre-born life—is treated so casually in this world that some do not even consider a miscarriage to be a death. Grieving over a miscarried child seems to be frowned upon.  More than once, I was told to pull myself together and get over it.  Even well-meaning Christian friends told me to let it go.

But that pregnancy was more than a blob of cells to me.  That was a baby, MY baby.  My daughter, a precious little part of my family.  We named her Rylee Adelle.  I don’t why God chose to keep her in Heaven.  But I do know that her loss is felt every day.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her, at least one time.  I’ve moved on with my life and I have learned how to live with the void her death has left in my heart.  But get over it?  Let it go?  Those are two things I can’t do, two things I won’t do.  That would mean forgetting her.

I don’t want to forget.

For seven years, I have wanted to do something to honor my little girl.  Just what I wasn’t sure what to do.  I wanted her brief existence to count for something.  I wanted her to touch others in some way, to make a difference in the world.

After a lot of thought and prayer, I think I have finally found the perfect way to do that!

The idea started this summer, when I began writing a series of letters to my daughter.  There are things that I would have loved to tell her, things that I would have taught her that don’t seem so important to teach my sons (like how to dress modestly and how to deal with your changing friendships as you get older.)  OK, so maybe they are things the boys need to know, too.  But I wouldn’t tell my boys exactly the same things that I would have told Rylee, at least not in the same way.  I began writing these letters, and they quickly turned into something more than I really expected.  The letters I wrote to her have made their way into a book, called LETTERS TO RYLEE.  (Expected publication date is November 23, 2012.  Keep an eye out for the cover, which I will unveil soon!)

One thing kept coming to mind as I wrote those letters—friendship.  And I don’t mean just human friendships.  I kept thinking about how important a friendship with Jesus is.  I didn’t understand how important that friendship really is when I was a teen.  Looking back on some of the things I did and the choices I made, I can’t help but wonder how different my life would be if I had really developed that friendship back then, instead of waiting until my 30’s to get around to it.

That is when The Rylee Project really began to take shape in my mind.  Through The Rylee Project, I am hoping to impact the lives of young girls today in a very positive way.  I want girls, especially girls who will one day date and eventually marry (yikes!) my sons, to have the tools to really develop a close friendship with Jesus.  It’s not about a particular religion, or the “rules” and “regulations” of being a Christian.  It’s more than that.  The Rylee Project is about developing a friendship with Jesus and developing human friendships that honor Him.  It’s about focusing not on what feels good now, but on what will have the most positive impact on life in the future.

It’s kind of a big job.  In all honesty, I don’t know if I am really qualified to tackle it.  But I keep going back to a saying I’ve seen all over Facebook in recent weeks—God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.  As long as I follow His leading and keep Him in the center of what I am doing, I know this will work out.  I can’t focus on the grand dreams in my head, the things that would be amazing to see happen with The Rylee Project.  I can only focus on what God is asking me to do each day, and pray that I am a good example of the friendships He desires to see in this world.

Go ahead and take a look at the website for The Rylee Project.  The Rylee Project is also on Twitter and on Facebook (Hey, gotta go where the girls are!)  I look forward to hearing what you think about this project, especially those of you who have young girls.  Please visit and ask your daughters and their friends to visit.

And please, pray for this project.  If The Rylee Project can have a positive impact on just one young lady, than it has done all I have hoped for—honored God while honoring my Rylee Adelle.

No Shame, No Apology!

                Over the weekend, it occurred to me that some of my Facebook posts might be offensive to others.  I’ve been using my social networks to share my belief in and love of Jesus.  Not just that belief and love, but the things that I am learning about Him every day.  It’s actually kind of amazing how much more I learn of Him just by reading what others post.

                Some of my Facebook friends have expressed annoyance at all of the “religious junk” they see posted to their timelines.  There is one friend in particular who makes rude comments about my posts.  His comments, especially one yesterday that was sexually suggestive, have been enough to make me wonder if I should stop posting so much about my beliefs like that.  This voice keeps telling me that my constant worship of Christ on Facebook might be pushing people away from Him rather than drawing them toward Him.  After all, look at the things that other so-called Christians are posting lately.  It’s a confusing message, and maybe I should just step out of the conversation.

                But I refuse to listen to that voice! 

                I might be embarrassed by some of the public actions of other Christians, by the things people who claim to love Jesus say and do that do not show His love.  But I am and NOT ashamed of the life and love of Jesus!  I won’t apologize for the love I feel for Him, nor will I apologize for sharing that love.  If my “blatant evangelizing” offends you, perhaps that is because there is something in your life that needs attention.  Perhaps God is trying to reach you, and my words are pulling you closer to Him.  If that makes you uncomfortable, there isn’t much I can do about it.  One of the beautiful things about Facebook is that it is so easy to ignore someone who posts something you feel is offensive; feel free to make use of the unfriend option if you don’t want to hear about how much I love Jesus, how much Jesus loves me, or how much He loves YOU!

                Just don’t expect me to stop sharing that love.  That is just not an option.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

Romans 1:16

Choose Your Words

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who might listen.

Ephesians 4:29, NIV

I recently did something that many people do–I aired an opinion on Facebook.  At the time, I was highly frustrated about something and posted about it on my timeline.  I didn’t mention any names, just posted what I hoped was general enough to get my opinion across without coming out and condemning anyone.  My goal was to get it off my chest and maybe open up a bit of a dialog, maybe not with the one who I was most frustrated with but others who might hold the same opinion.  I honestly wasn’t trying to start an argument or anything.  I just wanted to get something off my chest.

In response to what I wrote, I received an email that said, among other things, that I had not only acted in a selfish manner by posting my opinion publicly like that but I also acted in an unBiblical manner by doing it.  I was hurt and angry by the things this email said.  In fact, angry doesn’t cut it.  The unBiblical comment made me downright furious.  How dare someone question my motives or my relationship with God like that?  I know my relationship with God isn’t perfect and it has yet to develop to what I know God wants it to be.  But I am constantly growing and changing into the person He wants.  Having someone else point out my shortcomings, especially in a way that is more hurtful than helpful, doesn’t help at all.

As the hurt began to subside, I thought about what was in the email.  How could sharing an opinion be unBiblical?  I didn’t know and didn’t believe I had done anything wrong.  Still, I was willing to admit that I might have acted in a selfish manner.  So I prayed that God would show me.  ”If what I did went against what You would want me to do, Lord, please show me.”

This morning, I read a blog post by Kathi Macias, one of my favorite authors where she was talking about what makes a book a Christian book (you can read her post here, if you are interested.)  She used Ephesians 4:29 to illustrate her point.  The verse made me think.  Though I may have a right to my own opinion on any given matter, I don’t have the right to air my opinion in a way that will tear someone else down.  And that is exactly what I did.  My focus was on getting my frustration off my chest, not on presenting my opinion in a way that could help anyone “see the error of their ways,” so to speak.  I didn’t share my thoughts in an effort to build anyone up or to provide any sort of benefit.

In that way, I did do what I was accused of.  I did act in an unBiblical manner.  For that, I am truly sorry.

I am not going to apologize for what I said that day.  The words I posted on Facebook are true.  They are what I feel, and I do not feel the need to apologize for how I feel.  But I will apologize for the way I went about it.  And I will make a promise to God right now…before I share anything potentially hurtful on Facebook–or anywhere else, for that matter–I will go to Him first.  With His help, I trust that I can choose my words correctly, and get my point across without causing any further hurt feelings.

Looking Forward

I can’t “blame” my writing career on Karen Kingsbury.  God is the one who gave me the talent I have and He is the one who put into my heart the burning desire to write books that glorify Him.   But Karen is the one who first made me think that sharing the stories God has given me could be much more than just a dream.

The number of times I was told that Christian books would never sell….  I don’t know that I can count high enough to give you a number.  But it happened often enough that I even believed it for a while.  It wasn’t until an on-line friend suggested I read something “anything, really” by Karen Kingsbury that I changed my mind.  Her books were good; her talent very real.  And she has sold more than a few books.  My goal with my writing isn’t to see title after title at the top of The New York Times Best Seller List (though I wouldn’t be totally upset to see that happen, either.)  But seeing what she has done makes me think that it is possible, with a lot of hard work, for me to actually contribute something, financially, to my family through my writing.

God may have put the desire in my heart, but Karen has set an example for me to follow.

I’ve read pretty much everyone of Karen’s books that my library carries, and I’ve even added quite a few of her titles to my personal books collection.  (My favorites?  One Tuesday Morning and Even Now.)  I follow her on both Facebook and Twitter, and find myself anxiously awaiting whatever story she comes up with next.

I was really anxious to read her Bailey Flanigan Series.  Reading through the books about the Baxter family, I got to see Bailey grow up.  I could hardly wait to see what would unfold for her as she navigated her way through her 20′s.  Over the weekend, I read the final two books in this four book series.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed.  The series did not end the way that I thought it would, and for the first time I found little “quirks” in Karen’s writing style that annoyed me.  When I reached the last page of the final book, I was actually happy to be done with it.  I honestly didn’t think I’d be interested in reading another of her books for quite a while.

And then I found this trailer.   Oh my goodness!!!!  I so cannot WAIT to read this one.  Of course, it’s about the Baxters, and I am so hooked on their lives!  Coming Home looks to be another great story.

Facebook, Family, and Epilepsy

One thing I really like about Facebook is the ability to catch up with old friends. One thing I really love about Facebook is the ability to “meet” new family members.

My mother is the youngest of six children. There is a large age difference between Mom and her oldest brother, nearly 20 years, if I am not mistaken. My uncle’s six children—my cousins—are closer to Mom in age than they are to mine. But their children are closer to my age (one, in fact, was born exactly two weeks before I was!) Still, they are scattered all over this part of the country. I am not sure that I have met even half of them face-to-face. Without Facebook, I might never have “met” all of these cousins.

But there is one who has become kind of special to me. Her name is Joy. She is the mother of one very special young man. Z has epilepsy. I can only imagine the struggles this makes raising him. I grew up with a sister who had a mild form of the disease, so I know that it can be scary. But I have no idea how to handle the disease as a parent. I admire the way she has risen to the challenge. I don’t think I have ever heard her complain about situation she is in.

Thanks to Joy, I know a little more about some of the complications young children with epilepsy face. Did you know that children with epilepsy also face increased rates of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks? I didn’t until recently. And those are just a few of the issues that come along with it. You can learn a little more about the struggles Mr. Z and other children with this disorder face by checking out this page. Reading this information might help you become a little more aware of and a little more compassionate toward epileptics everywhere.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Joy, you and Mr. Z are in my prayers daily. Love you!

Child, Conditions and Diseases, Epilepsy, Epileptic seizure, , Joy Stanton, Neurological Disorders Leave a comment

A Bit More

Yesterday, I wrote about giving up Facebook games. Today, I was asked about that decision. The specific question I would like to answer is this one: Why do you think God wanted you to give up the games?

There are a lot of reasons why I think He has asked me to give up those games. The main reason is that they have become the focus of too much of my life. Instead of writing, I play games. Instead of spending time with my husband and children, I sit in front of the computer playing games. Instead of reading my Bible, I spend time playing games. How can I call myself a writer, a mom, a wife, a follower of Christ, if the only thing I spend any time on is playing computer games that really have no bearing on the person I want to be?

Another big reason I think He is asking this of me is that I have a problem with selfishness. I want what I want and I want to do what I want to do. Who cares what is good for anyone else? Well, God cares. And I think He wants me to care, too. Giving up the games is a way of showing God that I will listen to Him, whether I want to or not. (And truth be told, I don’t really want to give up the games!) I do want to follow God. I want to live a life based on the concept of JOY—Jesus, Others, You. Christ first, family and friends second, then what I want. Playing games all day long is definitely a me thing. It doesn’t do anything beneficial to anyone else. In fact, no that I think about it, I suppose it doesn’t really do anything beneficial for me, either!

This song came to mind as I thought about these games. I am giving everything over to God—my life, my time, my talents. May He use them as He will.

Good Bye Games

Earlier this week, I posted the following as my Facebook status: Ever felt like God was leading you to do something you were not sure you could do, not even sure you were WILLING to do? Please pray that I remain open to what God wants, even if it is not what I want.

I asked others to pray for me, but I didn’t do much praying for myself. I clearly heard what God was asking me to do, and I didn’t want to do it. He was asking me to give up something I have convinced myself that I need in my life. I’ve convinced myself that this is something I cannot possibly live without. One of my cousins even responded to my status with, “He WILL equip the called!” Still, I ignored the voice in my heart.

This morning, a song came to mind as I was showering. The song was I Will Follow Christ, sung by BeBe Winans, Bob Carlisle, and Clay Crosse. Only one line kept repeating itself in my head. Over and over and over, I was singing, “As for me no matter what the sacrifice, I will follow Christ.” By the time my shower was over, I was convinced of two things—God was asking me to make a sacrifice and I could no longer ignore His voice. After all, He sacrificed His only son for me. The least I can do is give up a few modern treats for Him.

So, as of today, I am blocking all of the games on Facebook. No more farming. No more cooking. No more monsters. No more matching marble colors. I am done. With all of it. As soon as I post this blog entry, I will be blocking each of those games. I can’t say that I am in a place where I am doing so with a cheerful heart. But I am doing it with a willing heart. And I know that I will be blessed for this sacrifice.

Even if the blessing is just in more time to listen to my children fighting with each other!