Tag Archives: volunteering

A Month of Thanksgiving

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Everyone seems to have done the “Month of Thanksgiving” posts on Facebook/Twitter this year – you know, where every day you say one thing you’re thankful for. Well, for half of this month, I was in Peru…and the internet is shotty AT BEST there. So here is my list of 30 things I’m thankful for :)

  1.  Jesus – Without him, I would have no life.
  2. Chad – He’s the best gift God could have given me! He’s so loving, patient and kind. He’s a truly genuine person – something that’s hard to come by these days. He’s never fake, never spiteful, never arrogant. He’s humble, a great leader, and my best friend. I could go on forever!
  3. Toilets and toilet seats – I told you I’d been in Peru for half the month! I peed in a hole and toilet seats were very hard to come by. I’m telling you, it’s the little things!
  4. Family – Between me and Chad, we seriously have some of the coolest relatives EVER. Of course, I love my own mother and sister to death, but I feel the same way about Chad’s mom, sister, brother and stepdad! And of course Payton and Lilly have special places in my heart :) Not to mention our amazing aunts, uncles and grandparents!
  5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card – Not that we need a credit card, but we put our monthly gas, groceries and some other expenses on this bad boy in order to earn frequent flyer miles. We went to Vegas for free in August, and we’ve earned two more round trip flights already!
  6. The gym – It always makes you feel better, even if you didn’t feel like going!
  7. Homemade meals – I love to cook, and I really love trying out new things. I’m glad Chad is open to eating what I make! And it makes me feel really good to cook delicious, healthy meals for us :)
  8. Pictures of corgis and dachshunds – We WILL be getting these dogs when we get our first home. Mark my words!
  9. Christmas decorations and music – Christmas is my favorite time of year, and seeing all the sights, hearing all the sounds, smelling all the smells and tasting all the foods of the season makes me SO HAPPY!
  10. Laughing – Chad and I are ALWAYS laughing – and if you ask me, there isn’t enough of that in the world! We’re even able to laugh when the times are tough, which is always great.
  11. Fleece-lined tights – Seriously. These things are great! They keep me warm in winter (they wouldn’t cut it in Chicago or somewhere with a REAL winter), and allow me to wear something besides pants every.single.day.
  12. Mexican food – I really don’t think this needs an explanation.
  13. Cuddle time – There is really nothing better than curling up on the couch with your husband, in your PJs or sweatpants and fuzzy socks, and watching TV. Promise.
  14. Football – How about the Texans this year?! AWESOME. And the Longhorns did better than last year…that’s about all I can say about that. But YAY TEXANS!!!
  15. Employment – In a time where so many are jobless, I’m very thankful to have a job that allows me to use my degree, talents and passion. The paycheck is nice too :)
  16. My charity/cause-loving friends – Every time I turn around, someone is raising money for a cause that is near and dear to their heart. That is so great. THANK YOU, friends, for dedicating yourselves to such worthy causes!
  17. G-chat – Because I live in another state, G-chat enables me to talk to some of my best friends almost every day. Whether they’re in Texas, New York or somewhere in between, it enables me to stay connected to their lives, despite the distance.
  18. White sand beaches with turquoise waters – Sadly, we did not make it to the beach this year. But that does not take the beach out of my list of loves! There is nothing like sitting under an umbrella with your toes in the sand, the wind  in your hair, and the waves crashing around you.
  19. All things pumpkin and gingerbread – Are there better cold weather/holiday season flavors? I think not. My first attempt at pumpkin bread went AMAZINGLY WELL, so that is going to be a new tradition. Gingerbread lattes are like Christmas in a cup, and how could you not like that??
  20. The Walking Dead – I know, a silly thing to be thankful for. But we really do look forward to it Sunday nights! Plus, it gives us cuddle time, since it’s filled with scary and cringe-worthy moments. See #13.
  21. Elf – My sister and I watch this together EVERY YEAR. We can quote the entire thing, and sometimes do so via text. Until I got married, when I’d go home for Christmas, Kourt and I would share her room/bed (because the kids are in my old room) on Christmas Eve night. We would always watch that movie and then wake up together just like when we were little kids. TMI? Get over it – this is my blog!
  22. Coffee – It’s delicious. It’s a great way to start my day. And it’s always made and given to me by my amazing husband – BONUS!
  23. Your prayers – We’ve had so many people praying for us this year, through some really tough times. I cannot tell you how much this means to us, and how much it has lifted our spirits. There aren’t enough words to say how much we appreciate all of you and your prayers!
  24. Blake Shelton – He’s hilarious. He’s attractive. He can sing. Need I say more? The bromance between him and Adam Levine is hilarious on The Voice, and I’ve been a fan of his long before he became the megastar he is today.
  25. Our church family and friends – We’ve been so blessed to meet so many great people here in Little Rock, who have really taken us in as their own. These are some really genuine, loving people with servant’s hearts – and I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know them over the years! From inviting us over on a random Tuesday to letting us spend major holidays with you, we REALLY appreciate it!
  26. Immanuel Baptist Church – Our church is amazing. We unapologetically stand for what the Bible says and Jesus. My faith has been strengthened and I have spiritually grown so much, thanks to the teachings of Pastor Gary and the other leaders in the church.
  27. Loganberry Frozen Yogurt – It’s Chad’s favorite place, and I can always convince him that we need to go there for a guilt-free treat :)
  28. Old school Christmas movies – I love them all! Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty…you name it! And I’ve scheduled them ALL to record this year. JOY!
  29. Pastor Victor and Pastor Roger in Peru – These are two extremely hard working men, who face incredible hardships in their work every day. It was a pleasure to get to know them while on my mission trip, and I pray that God continues to use them to further His kingdom!
  30. YOU! – I have so many amazing friends, who fill my life with laughter, pride and joy every day. Thank you for always being there for me – whether I needed a sounding board, a shoulder to cry/freak out on, or a room to stay in while in town :)
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Peru – I went. I saw. I lived.

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I’m BACK! As most of you know, I spent November 7-16 in Lima, Peru, doing mission work with my church. It was a long, hard trip – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausting – but I’m so glad I went.

You always go into these trips thinking you’re going to be helping people out. And you do – but you also get a lot out of it as well. These trips always teach me perspective – you often get bogged down by your “troubles” (I say that in quotes because they’re always blown out of proportion, never as bad as they seem), but then when your eyes are opened to the world around you, you realize things aren’t so bad. In fact, you have it pretty good.

That’s definitely what I walked away from this trip with. A sense of perspective, a thankful heart, joy and some accomplishment. Yes, I was able to help out a lot of people – but they also helped me.  You really can’t put trips like these into words, but the photos speak volumes.

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Here are a few of the highlights from the trip:

1. The plane rides. You think a 6 hour, 18 minute flight sounds sucky? Not if you have your own TV screen and a choice of AWESOME movies. That really made time fly!

2. The American people. Yes, the people I went to Peru with were great! They were really funny and full of great stories – but my favorite American person was my roommate, Clara. She’s my new adopted mom!

3. The Peruvian people. These are some of the warmest, most friendly and loving people I’ve ever met. We were always greeted with love and affection, and told goodbye with lots of squeezy hugs. A SPECIAL love goes out to the translators we had every day – Jhonatan, Linda, Adrianna, Oscar and Miguel. These guys are SO SO SO fantastic, and really love Jesus. I wish I could have brought them home with me!

So what did we do every day, you ask? Each morning, we drove an hour and a half to Pachacutec, a really, REALLY poor area about an hour and a half north of Lima. We hiked sand mountains (LITERALLY) to tell people about Jesus and invite them to church. In the afternoons, we held Bible studies at the church and in church members’ homes. Then, we held healthy lifestyle and healthy parenting classes before hopping back on the bus, traveling non-paved and insanely busy streets until we arrived back at the hotel. One day, we did an evening service in the middle of the gang-infested heart of Lima – that was scary, yet awesome. I gave my testimony that night, which I’d never done before in front of a group of people. And on the Sunday we were there, we attended a Spanish church service in Pachacutec – and I was asked (told) to lead worship. You guys know I can’t sing a lick, but I got up there and did my best! Plus, these people may never see me again (until we get to heaven, when I will totally be a great singer because our faults will be erased), so it’s all good!

You’ve probably also heard that 5 our of the 8 people in my group came down with SEVERE food poisoning. It was NOT pretty. Thankfully, neither I nor my roommate were among the sick – thank you JESUS! By the last day of the trip, they’d recovered enough to go sightseeing and make the long flight home. HOORAY!

During our trip, lots of people gave their lives to Jesus. We talked with hundreds of others. We heard from a missionary about his plans for the further reach to Lima. We heard a choir of Peruvian women sing in a private girls’ German Catholic school – they sang a song written by a Frenchman, in Latin. How’s that for culture?! And we all came back a lot more thankful than we left. How appropriate for this time of year!

If You Had One Wish…

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What would it be? After 8 years of working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I can tell you all kinds of Wishes I’ve seen granted for kids of all ages. I really don’t think I would have been as smart and/or creative as half of them when I was their age! I mean really – would I have wished for a trip to Paris at age 12? To go to the Olympics? No! I would have said something like “I wish I had a pair of scissors!”

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of granting Mallory’s Wish. Mallory was born with a congenital heart disease that will require many surgeries over her lifetime. But do you think that got her down? NO! She’s the happiest, sweetest little girl.

I’ve spent weeks planning the details of Mallory’s Wish Enhancement Party, so you can imagine my excitement when the day had finally come. I wanted to do something I’d never done before (which is hard after 8 years), and I came up with a human/balloon tunnel. Several dozen balloons were donated and dozens of people formed a tunnel for Mallory and her family to walk through. As they passed, the people handed the balloons to Mallory and her family, until they got to the end of the tunnel where Mickey, Minnie and Daisy Duck were waiting with sparkly posters that read, “Mallory, you’re going to Disney World!” As Mallory rounded the corner, everyone started cheering for her and clapping, and even though she couldn’t read the signs, she totally knew what was going on :)

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Gifts were open, cookies were eaten and punch was drunk, and all had a great time. Mallory and her family are off to Disney World for a week of fun and a doctor-free life – something they haven’t known in the past 4 years. YAY!

Making Wishes Come True

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On Friday, I volunteered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-South’s “Heart Filled Wish-A-Thon.” You may remember that I started volunteering with MAW in college, when I got my first communications internship at the Central and South Texas office. As always, it was a great time with friends and visiting with the Wish Kids when not manning the phone bank.

I was really nervous about this year’s grand total. Compared to last year, the phones simply weren’t ringing. Last year, I volunteered for the same shift (4-6 p.m., which is crazy busy because we’re on two radio stations and a TV station during drive-time and prime-time TV), and I literally spent 2 straight hours on the phone with practically no breaks. This year, I only answered about 5-6 calls – it was eerily silent. So imagine my surprise when I got the grand total email today – $220,000!!! AMAZING!!! That’s $40,000 better than last year’s total!!

Apparently, we got fewer, yet bigger donations this year, whereas last year we got tons and tons of smaller donations. Hey – MAW will take your money in whatever increments you’d like to give it – it’ll spend just the same!

I wanted to give a HUGE shout-out to the people of Central Arkansas. You raised a ton more money this year than you did last year, and you’re really helping share the power of a wish!! With the average cost of a wish being $5,000, that’s a whopping 44 wishes granted from this radiothon alone!! I cannot tell you how sincerely HAPPY I am that the people of Arkansas stepped up and gave to such a wonderful cause.

MAW has a very special place in my heart, as evidenced by my 8+ years of volunteering with them. I urge you – if there is a cause that speaks to you, donate! Whether that’s time, money or materials, they’ll appreciate it!! Having worked in a few nonprofits, I can tell you that every dollar and paper clip count, so please never think that your donation is too small or inconsequential.

These wishes bring so much joy not just to the Wish Kid, but also to their entire family. Imagine every ounce of your energy, every dime of your paycheck and every inch of your brain being fully devoted to beating a life-threatening illness. That’s what these kids and their families go through every.single.day. Now can you imagine the relief when, for a short period, your worries are washed away and you can live in a state of pure joy, where hospitals, medicine and surgeries don’t exist. It does a wonder for the whole family.

A lot of people ask me – are all Wish Kids terminal? And to that I say ABSOLUTELY NOT! To be eligible for a Wish, a child must be between 2.5 and 18 years of age and have a life-threatening, degenerative or progressive disease. It does NOT have to be terminal! In fact, tons of these kids go on to live normal, healthy lives – part of which, if you ask me, comes from the hope, strength and joy derived from their one true wish. Here are some more facts about MAW and the Wish Granting process, should you be interested.

Again, thanks to everyone who gave to MAW on Friday! It means SO MUCH to me, but even more to these kids.

WHOO HOO FOR WISHES!!!

A Month of Thanksgiving: Nov 5-7

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I told you I don’t turn on the computer on weekends! So here’s what I’m thankful for, Saturday-today :)

November 5: I’m thankful for high heels. Yes, I know, that seems silly – and it is – but when you’re short and stocky, you appreciate anything that helps you look long and lean!

November 6: I’m thankful for Immanuel Baptist Church. The people of our church have welcomed us into Little Rock and their families with open arms. This is the first church home that Chad and I have shared, and I can’t tell you how much this ministry means to us. We have grown tremendously in the year we’ve been members, and look forward to serving them for a long time!

November 7: I’m thankful for the people of Lima, Peru. Last week, I submitted a scholarship application to partially fund a 9-day mission trip to Lima, Peru, and it was accepted! I’m officially registered to go on the trip in November 2012 – that gives me 12 months to come up with the rest of the money. I am thankful for the people we’ll be helping and serving while in Lima, and for what God has in store for all of us through this trip.

Our First Attempt at Childcare

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Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Someone (outside of our family) trusted me and Chad with their child. And that day was Sunday.

Chad and I were asked to substitute for our good friends Danny and Laura, as this fantastic couple had to make an unplanned trip back to Houston to visit Danny’s grandpa. (PS – If you could please pray for Danny’s grandpa, that would be awesome. It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t divulge details – but God knows what’s going on!) Even though we were (I was) terrified and had virtually no experience with children, our friends and our church needed us, so we stepped up.

We arrived at 8:30 a.m. with tons of questions. Our preschool ministry director was so sweet to answer them all (and calm our fears), and within 20 minutes we’d gotten the lesson plan, copied our craft pages and cut out 12 baby Moses-es (Mosi? LOL) – even the rookies knew you shouldn’t give a classroom full of 3-year-olds scissors. Score one for us!

Our first service of the day starts at 9 a.m. At 9 a.m., we had no children in our classroom. We thought “Perhaps God is telling us we aren’t ready?” or “Dude, God totally loves us so much that he’s letting us off the hook here!” But by 9:05, there was a line outside our classroom :)

We had 5 boys and 1 girl – and they were all adorable. It was very interesting to see their little personalities – each were unique, some were similar, some were shy and others were as sweet as pie. We played puzzles and trucks, colored, and then made our way to the carpet for Bible time. If you haven’t guessed by now, the lesson was on Baby Moses. Then, it was craft time. Check out our masterpieces, which are currently displayed proudly on our refrigerator:

After crafts, we went to the playroom and then came back for more classroom fun and snack time. DONUTS! This is the part of childcare I was familiar with – sugaring them up and then giving them back to their parents.

All in all, it was a very successful morning in Children’s Church. There were minimal tears, no blood and no one was scarred for life – not even me and Chad :)

Exhausted.

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The constant go-go-go of my life, my job and wedding planning are really starting to get to me. With just over 3 weeks until the big day, I still have huge boulders to move before I can say “I do.” Let’s just hope I live to say those magic words.

Tomorrow I will board yet another plan (that’s three trips in three weeks, in case you were counting), heading to Houston to accomplish all of the last minute wedding things that have to happen – wedding coordinator meeting, DJ meeting, booze choosing, ring pickup, drop off the cake topper and meet with the reception lady, just to name a few. Chad was supposed to come with me, but due to an unfortunate scheduling change, I’m now flying (literally) solo. I’ll come back to Little Rock on the first flight of the day on Saturday, heading directly to my house to pack up the entire apartment – we’re moving into the townhouse on 6/30. Yes – in one week.

In addition to the wedding stuff, work is OUT. OF. CONTROL. There are several HUGE things going on ALL AT ONCE and all of the information changes CONSTANTLY. Our poor 2-man internal communications team (me and Sara) is on opposite schedules (I was in SD, she was here. She’s in Minneapolis, I’m here.) and it’s just a LOT for one person to handle (but I must say, we are doing an amazing job!). We’re getting a lot of pressure on these huge projects from the C-suite, so we really can’t mess things up. Perfection is not optional.

As if that weren’t enough, for three days now I’ve had ringing in my ear that will. not. stop. Let me tell you – this is not fun.

And to top it all off, I have social/volunteer commitments aplenty. Make-A-Wish has nominated me for a leadership position, Junior League is kicking in, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas is adopting a social media policy (I’m consulting) and then I have to make time for friends and fiance.

I’m tired just typing all of that. Do you guys have any suggestions for ways to relax and rejuvinate?