Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 20: Let someone go before you in line.

Sams Club in Puerto Rico is not an easy feat. The parking lots are always crazy. The store is always full of people.

The lines are LONG..
No matter what time you go.
I dread the waiting in line.
I despise it.
The kids equally despise it.

Today, I had a cart full. I had already made several other stops before this one. My feet hurt. I was ready to home. By the time I made it to the checkout lane, I was grumpy and done.

Ian was the only one with me. He was begging to bust into the cookies sitting in the cart. I caved. He smiled. Which made the woman in front of me smile. It was a cool little chain reaction. It helped elevate the aching back, and throbbing feet.

I looked behind me to a man standing with just 3 things in his cart.

I looked back at my cart. I looked at the lady in front of me grabbing her receipt and I turned to the man behind me and said he could go ahead of me. He quickly moved around my cart without cracking a smile, a nod, a whisper of gratitude. He paid for his items and away he went.

Ian looked up at me and whispered- "He didn't even say thank you!"

After I checked out and we had loaded our groceries into the car. I explained that some people just didn't think like we did. They are so wrapped up in "To Do" lists or to busy going through the motions of life to notice the kindness around them.

Ian sat quietly next to me for a moment and than says-

"So he doesn't know how to find THANKS in GIVING, does he mom?"

I just laughed and asked him to hand me a cookie. :)

Day 19: Help to the needy.

DAY 19: Help to the needy.

As we were driving home from the $60+ grocery store trip, we saw a station wagon parked next to a dumpster with a wife and three kids sitting inside. The husband rummaging through the trash looking for cans and various other things with a stick.

As we drove past, I asked the kids if they saw what I saw? They said yes.
I asked them if we had EVER had to dig through a dumpster to find food or a source of money? They said no.

I asked Shane to open my wallet to see how much cash I had left. It was a little over 10 dollars. I pulled over and told the boys I was going to drive back and give whatever money I had left to the family.

Ian emptied out his pocket full of change. Shane grabbed all the change out of the ash tray.

I caught him just as he was getting back in the car.

My eyes watered as I gave what I had to him. I muttered "May God Bless You!"

As I walked back to the car, I prayed he wouldn't spend it on booze. That he would use it to provide for his family. That our simple act would allow him to feel HOPE and know that God was looking down upon his family.

I got back in the car to the boys smiling, asking what he had said. What I had said. I smiled as I wiped the tears away and just simply prayed again out loud-

"Thank you Lord for always providing just enough for our family, may we never take your provisions for granted! May we continue to find THANKS in GIVING what you have allowed us to have." 

I didn't grab a picture. It didn't feel apporpriate.

HUMBLING Experience..

Day 18: Give a stranger a ride.

Day 18: Give a stranger a ride.

Living on a tropical island= Being blessed with amazing weather. (most of the time)

Usually it is always sunny. And you can almost always tell when a monsoon monster is about to attack. The boys and I were out and about running errands and swung by the exchange for some last minute items before heading home.

When we entered the exchange it was bright sunny skies.

Hot! Muggy!

When we left the exchange the sky had turned dark gray. And we just made it into the car as the heavens opened up for a downpour.

As we exited the gates from the Exchange and made our way home, we noticed a man walking with a newspaper over his head and a couple bags of groceries. My first initial thought was- "Sucks for him, my babies are in the car and I promised my husband I wouldn't pick up any more random people!"

But then Ian spoke up, he must have noticed him too.

"Mom, I know that guy! He lives on base"

BINGO! A loop hole in not disrespecting my husbands wishes! 

I put the car in reverse and rolled down my window just enough to yell out- "Need a ride?" He hesitated for a moment and then smiled as he motioned towards the car, already a bit drenched.

He said he had just moved here a couple months ago and was the OS for something or another. (I really should pay more attention to other job titles besides my husbands.) He said he hadn't thought to bring an umbrella with him. I suggested it be an every day accessory, especially if he planned on continuing to walk to and from work.

The boys asked him a million different questions on our short ride home and as we dropped him off at his front door he was extremely grateful for the ride and went on his way.

When we left the Exchange I was exhausted from all the running around we had done that day. I was a bit grumpy and short with the kids. I had a goal- make it home and take a nap with Jeremiah. But after picking up that man (which he told me his name and I forgot) my heart was full of contentment. My boys were smiling. As I looked through the rear view mirror at my boys sitting in the back seat, there was a sense of peace. I could see their little minds spinning with thoughts. Hopefully, those thoughts were finding THANKS in GIVING.. I know mine were.. :)

Day 17: Treat to the Gate Guards.

Day 17: Treat to the Gate Guards. 

They stand guard 24/7 to protect us. To make us feel secure coming and leaving our home.
We are thankful for them.

They sit in that tiny little shack with no A/C fully clothed with bullet proof vests to boot. With a heavily powered pistol at their side. Many days with the intense Puerto Rico heat beaming down on them.

Yes, it is their job. They knew what they were signing up for when they agreed to take this job, but I wonder, how many people THANK them when coming in and out of the gate? I know how many people give them attitude because of expired tags, un-valid insurance, taking to long with another person holding up the line preventing them getting home quicker. I've been guilty of it myself.

(Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread for some of our favorite guards!)

I can tell you this.. I sleep better knowing that they are there. I leave things I shouldn't in my car from time to time because I feel secure. What makes me feel secure to let my children ride around at dusk, or go to a movie past dark- Knowing that we live on a base where the security officers take their job seriously. They patrol the neighborhoods while we sleep. They remind my kids to wear a helmet when they forget. They care about us and our safety. Which makes it VERY easy to find THANKS in GIVING.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 16: Life Savers to the Life Guards

Day 16: Life Savers to the Life Guards

Sometimes ordinary people do extraordinary things- Like Save Lives!  Luckily for us, we have never had a moment that needed the services of a Life Guard. But as a mom to almost 5 kids, its impossible to have eyes on all my chitlins at the same time. I take comfort in knowing there are paid life guards when we head to the pool- Just in case!

Yesterday, the older boys went swimming while I stayed home to rest. No issues arose that needed the life guard on duty to administer services.  But that got me thinking. How many times I wonder do they get a THANK YOU?!

How many times have I thanked them. Yes, it is their paid job to guard the pool. But seriously, I have seen a LOT of mom's and kids get down right nasty with the life guards because of a whistle being blown for safety precautions. I have seen a lot of parents get irate with life guards for their kids wrong doings.

So this act was simple. But I think equally important.

Everyone likes to hear that they are appreciated. That what they do matters.  I told the boys that I hope they remembered this act when they were old enough to hold a job. Maybe one day they would become life guards? And they would have to deal with grumpy people throughout their work day. I asked them if they'd like kids to do the same to them some day. They all agreed they would.

The inside of our card said-
"Thank You for always being ready to SAVE a LIFE! You truly are LIFE SAVERS! "

Finding THANKS in GIVING for this act was really a no brainer. :)

Day 15: Spreading the Word.

Day 15: Spreading the Word.

Because I like to keep it real.  This Finding THANKS in GIVING act started off UGLY! There was NO joy in preparing for this act. There was lots of complaining. And Frustration. Even a couple of time outs. I even started lecturing them at one point.

Evidence that Satan is real and doesn't want us encouraging others with the word??? BINGO!

Thankfully, I felt the ever so slight punch from the Holy Spirit.
So, I retreated to my room. And prayed.

I was turning this act into a task. Forcing the kids to take part.. How were they learning ANYTHING in that? My heart wasn't in the right place and neither was theirs.

When I could feel my blood pressure return to a normal rate, I headed downstairs and went straight to the stereo and put on a mixed Christian CD. I asked the boys to come into the living room where I asked for their forgiveness for how I was acting before my timeout. I explained that I wanted them to do this for the right reasons, because they wanted to. Not because I was shoving it down their throats.

With that, I began writing out bible verses and sayings in Spanish on 3x5 cards, in hopes they would be interested in what I was doing. The boys continued doing their own thing.

A couple songs into the CD- the boys started to sing along with Casting Crowns-

And then, Caleb asks how he could help, followed by Shane and Ian. I suggested they brighten up the notes  I had been writing with doodles to make whoever received the message smile.

We wrote and colored FIFTY 3x5 cards.. 

Translation from top to bottom: 

"Smile, Jesus loves you!" 
Numbers 6: 24-26

"Believe, He loves You!
John 3:16

"You are a child of God" 
Proverbs 8:17

Then, we were off to the local mall to SPREAD THE WORD! :) 

So thankful that the frustration was replaced with joy. The complaining replaced with eagerness to spread the word. The unwillingness replaced with willingness. They had a blast. I had a blast watching them run from car to car. When they all hopped back in the car, we sat and watched as several different people found our note. Only one out of the five we watched threw it on the ground and drove away. The rest smiled..

Shane insisted on hopping back out of the car to go pick up the one thrown so he could put it on another car that didn't have one. I was actually surprised at how into it they all got. We prayed for the people that would be getting our notes. We wondered what kind of day they were having. If they would hold on to it as a reminder or simply throw it on the ground.

 As we drove out of the parking structure, the boys actually asked when we could do it again. HA!

They were PUMPED and filled with JOY! 

After the PAINFUL beginning to this act we ended up finding THANKS in GIVING!!!

Day 14: Help a Homeless Person.

Day 14: Help a Homeless Person.

Today, D took all of the boys to get much needed hair cuts. Leaving me in an amazing, much needed quiet house. On his way there, I called him and asked him not to cut Miah's hair without me being there. Silly, but it was going to be his first professional haircut. That's a moment I didn't want to miss. :)

After the haircuts, D decided to stop by Walgreens to get the kids a treat. Before they went in they noticed a homeless man scrunched in a corner near the trash cans. D walked over and asked him if he spoke english and the man answered brokenly that his name was Julio and he was a recovering addict that missed his treatment for the day at the clinic across the street.

D offered to buy him some food.

D told each of the boys to grab a small basket and scan the isles on their own for healthy snacks and treats for Julio. D was curious to see what they would pick.

Trail Mix, Tuna Packs, Gatorade, Beef Jerky and Peanut Butter Crackers.
Shane's basket had a pack of Oreos.. (because he wanted to include me)

When they came out of the store, Julio was being run off by the Security Guards. They ran to him with the bags of goodies and he was on his way to who knows where. D wasn't able to snap a picture.

I have a feeling the boys will remember this Finding THANKS in GIVING act regardless of missing pictures. Because the conversation that proceeded after they got back in the car was deep.. And thoughtful.

They speculated on how Julio had ended up homeless.
Where his parents were.
If he knew who Jesus was.
If he would always be homeless.
Why he didn't try to get a job.

They wanted to know his story. They prayed for his safety and that he would enjoy the treats.

I hope my boys wonder about Julio often. I hope they think about everything Julio doesn't have every time they open their mouth to complain about something they do have. Same goes for D and I. I hope these moments turn into lasting memories that change our way of thinking.

Years from now, when they see another homeless person, I hope they flash back to this moment and GIVE without judging that persons circumstances or prior poor choices. I hope they see beyond the dirty rags and smell, and see a soul that some how got lost along the way. That the person on the receiving end of what ever my children are willing to give, will FEEL Jesus through their actions.

That is my hope.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 13: Serving Me.

Day 13: Serving Me.

This act was not one of the 30 things we wrote down at the beginning of the month. It wasn't part of the plan. But because my uterus was still angry with me for over doing it all last week, I wasn't able to stand more than 5 to 10 minutes today without my feet swelling and mild contractions starting to flare.

So today, I was bummed. I thought we would break our streak in the 30 day tradition because of my inability to do anything other than lay in bed. Dale had duty, so he couldn't do the original Finding THANKS in GIVING act with the boys.

I was frustrated.

My personality and being still don't really jive. It's a bit ironic that I want to get -BE STILL- tattooed on my forearm to remind me of all the scriptures that tell me to do exactly that. Guess the Lord is just giving me practice in this area.. ;)

Two things the Lord brought to my attention today- Something I have always struggled with:

-And letting others serve me.
The Lord allowed both of those things to happen today even though it wasn't part of MY plan.

Every time I got up today, one of my boys would holler at me to GET BACK IN BED! They all took turns carrying for Jeremiah. Changing his diapers, feeding him. Playing with him. Caleb laid him down for a nap so that I could stay in bed..

Unexpectedly, A very kind neighbor was gracious enough to bring over dinner. Caleb heated it up and brought me some on a tray.

Shane read Jeremiah books and took him on a walk. He did the dishes, changed poopie diapers and he never complained once. He also knew his mama has a weak spot for Oreos. When he came to check on me after dinner he had a stack of them in his hand.

Ian, the one I am constantly on for doing his daily chores came walking into the my room with a Norwex cloth ready to clean all the mirrors. Without asking. He cleaned up smashed grapes that Jeremiah had left on the landing of the stairs. He came in almost every 30 mins. to make sure I was drinking my Gatorade and refilled my glass when he saw that it was getting low.

They were finding THANKS in GIVING.. And I was their humbled recipient.
Without being told, they were serving ME.

I even had entertainment from a very funny, almost 2 year old. He would put the trash can on his head and spin around and around. Or he would come up to the side of the bed with the can still on his head and growl like a scary beast. I would pretend to be scared and he would let out the biggest belly laugh.

They were being the hands and feet of Jesus to ME!! 

Day 12: Dessert to Ready Crew

Day 12: Dessert to Ready Crew

Today is Veterans Day. Last week,  I totally over did it and woke up with contractions this morning. Which meant bed rest for me until my uterus is done being angry.  Daddy and the boys were on their own for this Finding THANKS in GIVING act.

My husband has an awesome job.
He is my very own Veteran.
He was lucky enough to have today off.

But given his line of work, there is always a ready crew (even on Holidays), in case the SAR (search and rescue) alarm sounds.  Any military wife, I am sure has longed to have what is called a duty night. I have a fantasy of what a duty night consists of. I picture having a night of surfing the web, watching cable and taking a shower without any interruptions. In reality, for my husband and his co-workers, duty comes every 4 days in a segment of 24 hours straight that they have to spend on base. Usually it consists of maintenance, routine flights and SAR.

The boys know what duty entails. And as we enjoyed having Daddy home on this holiday, we reminded them that there was a crew standing ready at the hanger.

This meant:
No BBQin' for the ready crew.
No enjoying the day off in celebration of their service to our country.
No one really paying any attention to them standing ready... Just in case.

I asked them if they wanted to make the duty crew a treat and go serve it to them to show their appreciation for their service to us and others. They all agreed they would.

Because I was on bed rest, and Dale was doing other things the boys made brownies all by them selves. Without fighting, or complaining. They were excited to bring a treat to the guys at the hanger. Or maybe they were just excited I wasn't in the kitchen micro managing their every move.. In any case, I could hear the giggles and laughter coming from the kitchen and it was a wonderful sound to hear.

Did they even realize they were serving? Did they understand that they were finding THANKS in GIVING just by doing this simple act? By the look on my boys faces, I'd say they enjoy serving others. How cool is that!!!

The guys said it was one of the best Veteran's Day they had ever had.
Who doesn't love hot brownies and root beer floats?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 11: Purchase Groceries for a Vet.

Day 11: Purchase groceries for a Veteran. 

Today, we went to the commissary. We needed a few things but our main goal was to scan the isles in search for a retired veteran. Not that other service members wouldn't suffice but usually retiree's are on a very limited budget, more so than enlisted.

We spotted an older gentleman sitting on a bench with a basket full of groceries down at his feet and a few scattered next to him . His wife wandering the isles looking for other things to add to the already loaded down cart.

I approached the wife first to ask if either of them were prior service. She nodded with a smile. I guess I  should have asked "Halba Ingles?" first because that was the extent of our conversation. :)

So I went back to Dale and asked him how we should proceed.
*Blank Stares*

So, we shot up a quick prayer, walked over to the man and I said "Halba Ingles?" which he replied in an accented "Yes."

I asked if he was a Veteran and he explained that he had just retired four years ago.

Yay- victory numero uno..
Yes, I took Spanish in High School.
Yes, I am still speaking with a VERY primary vocabulary..

I explained that my husband and I were trying to teach our boys to give back and that we would like to purchase his groceries to show our appreciation. It was a way for our family to honor him for his time and sacrifice to our country. He shook our hand, His eyes watered up and with all the boys surrounded, he told a bit of his story.

He was retired from the United States Army.
He served one tour in Iraq, and was thankful he came home in one piece.
He had joined young to provide for his family.
He is a native Puerto Rican.
He was grateful for the 26 years of serving.
He was thankful to God for all that he had.
His name was Carlos.

His wife came back and he explained in Spanish that we were thanking him for his service. And with that, they both smiled, he again thanked us, got up from the bench and they started to walk away.

Some how I think us paying for his groceries to show our appreciation got lost in translation. So Dale explained once again what we wanted to do. Carlo's eyes watered. My eyes watered. His wife shook her head in disbelief and whispered "no, no, no!"

We insisted. They finally agreed.

God Bless Carlos.. 
God Bless ALL the Veterans.

Day 10: Beach Clean Up

Day 10: Beach Clean Up

Today, I headed to San Juan with a group of girlfriends to participate in the Diva Run taking place on Sunday.  Leaving Dale and the boys to do the Finding THANKS in Giving act of the day.

The beaches are BEAUTIFUL here.  And there are plenty to choose from, which is one of many silver linings of living on a tropical island. What saddens me, is that every time we go I wished I had brought a garbage bag with me due to the crazy amount of trash either washed up or left behind from other people enjoying one of many God's amazing creations. :)

Dale and the boys picked the beach right across the street from our house to go pick trash up at.

They had a couple of neighborhood kids join in the fun.

I am so proud of all of them. Being eager to serve, knowing that they would not receive a thing in return. It seems that the worlds mentality these days is "Well if I didn't do it, why should I do anything to fix it?" "What's in it for me?" Sad. Very very sad way of thinking.

I hope these moments stick with them. I hope, as they grow into fine young men they reflect upon these Finding THANKS in GIVING acts and it inspires them to continue to build upon the Servants Heart that we are trying to instill in them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 9: Donate to Food Bank.

Day 9: Donate to the Food Bank.

All throughout the week we have been gathering things to put in a box for the food bank. And today as I bought a few more canned goods to go in the box I was disappointed with myself.

Why is it that the majority of us only donate once or twice a year, usually being back to back months?

How sad to be a family in need of food ALL YEAR ROUND, knowing that you wont get nearly the box of treats that come when Thanksgiving time rolls around and people like ME have some how given ourselves a pat on the back for thinking of the needy near the holidays.

I explained to the boys as we packed up the box that all of these items were luxuries to the families that would be receiving them. Who would have thought SPAM and 10 pounds of plain old white rice would be considered a luxury?

I explained to the boys that the kids receiving this box probably have never had a root beer float or homemade cinnamon rolls. That got the boys thinking and popping off questions.

How about smoothies or milk shakes? Nope!
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oreos in the middle? Nope!
Dinner at Benihana’s? Nope!

Wouldn’t it be an eye opener from this day forward- each and every time you took a bite of food you considered how blessed you were to have that particular item on your fork or spoon?

You didn’t have to dig through a trashcan to find it.
You had a stove, microwave, etc. to cook it on.
You most likely could get up from your seat to get seconds if you wanted too.
And given the culture these days, you’d most likely have some type of dessert to finish off a very satisfying meal.

Makes my heart hurt. It also makes me feel shame for all the PETTY things my family complains about.

It’s time to find a soup kitchen and sign my family up to go serve a Hot Meal to the needy families we just put a box together for. I want my boys to SEE and FEEL what I am trying to convey to them. I need to SEE and FEEL what I am trying to teach them.

Here’s to hoping that I can make it a priority to set aside a specific amount of money to use every time I go grocery shopping so that our family can start donating more than just around the holidays.

Day 8: Buy a stranger lunch.

Day 8: Buy lunch for someone else.

Today, I had an OB appointment on the other side of our tropical island. It’s a crazy, makes me want to take a valium and a shot of something strong two hour drive. 

Yesterday, I took our SUV to Pep Boys to get our brakes done in lue of our trip. Brakes are not an option here and ours were starting to feel questionable.

Random tid bit of information? Not really.

15 minutes into our drive to my doctors appointment, we rear end a brand new 2012 Toyota Prius.. Dale went to apply the BRAND NEW brakes and they weren’t there. I watched his foot and the brake pedal go all the way to the floor. And then, I covered my eyes and braced for impact. Luckily, what little brakes we did have, slowed us down enough to make the impact more of a gentle tap.

If the adrenaline wasn’t running so high while swapping info with the sweet (praise God she was bilingual) young woman we hit, I may have thought to buy her lunch as our Finding THANKS in GIVING act.  We didn’t.

After continuing on to my doctors appointment safely, confirming Cayte was truly a SHE and not a HE- We went to lunch. Dale and I had the boys scan the restaurant for a good Finding THANKS in GIVING candidate. 

We ended up buying lunch for a young couple out with their brand new baby.

They looked like any new parent should. Sleep deprived. Staring blankly across the booth at each other. We asked the waiter to add a dessert, and keep our identity under cover. It was so hard not to stare over there to watch their reaction. We managed though, thanks to Jeremiah distracting us with whacks to the face with the free balloon sword the hostess gave him when we first arrived. 

We did glance up to see the couple smiling as they left.  Which made all of us smile. We prayed for our food and for them as well.

The waiter came over with a note of thanks written on a napkin they had left at their table. 

He explained that the new dad drilled him for information. Who was it? Was it a she, a he? The restaurant? The waiter responded with- “forgetaboutit!”

After the morning we had, we needed that little pick me up as much as those new parents. J  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 7: Free Gas to a stranger.

Day 7: Free gas to a stranger. 

This Finding THANKS in GIVING act was exciting for the boys. Okay, not gonna lie- It was equally fun for me too.. Pretty cut and dry. Make a sign, leave money with the gas attendant and pray that the person pulling up to that particular pump would be blessed by our act of kindness. 

I had budgeted for $20 dollars to give. When I sat down with the boys this morning to talk about our daily act and make the sign they surprised me. They all decided to offer up $5 of their own allowance to put towards the free gas sum. No hesitation, no complaining, they genuinely wanted to give.. From the heart..  So proud of them!

We arrived at the gas station and not a customer was in sight, so we picked pump #5 (because 5 is Daddy's favorite number, and we some how wanted to include him)

I hopped out, placed the note on the pump handle and waddled over to explain our plan to the gas attendant. He looked baffled, confused, and even a bit suspicious but agreed to help carry out our plan.

I hopped back in the car and asked the boys to pray for the person that would be receiving this blessing. They went above and beyond what I expected them to say. Shane prayed that the person would feel blessed and really need this pick me up. Ian prayed that the gas attendant would be honest and not take the money for himself (Ha!) , and Caleb gave thanks that we had the money to bless someone else with.  

My heart was so full driving away from the gas station. We didn't stick around to see who pulled up to pump #5, but I knew, no matter who received it, my boys grasped the concept of Finding THANKS in GIVING.. 

Day 6: Thank the MailMan.

Day 6: Thank You Note and Treat to the Mailman.

Bills and junk mail are not all that fun to get in the mail. Birthday Cards, Special Treats and notes from friends and family make even the grumpiest of people smile.

Am I right?

I know many are quick to get annoyed and complain when the mail doesn’t’ show up when it’s expected too, myself included. But what about all the days that it does show up, regardless of the weather or what that postal worker is facing in his or her personal life. 

How many times have you thanked your mail person? 
Today, we did.

We did it-MacGyver style with a huge Thank You card and 2 nutella filled Krispy Kreme donuts..

He delivered our mail earlier than usual and we were not done making his card. By the time we finished, dressed and hopped in the car to go find him it turned into a game of “Where’s Waldo?” He was ninja fast today and had already made it off base to the local houses around our area. We went up and down streets trying to spot his truck. 15 minutes into looking for him, with still no mail truck in sight, I asked the boys to pray that we would be able to find him. As soon as we came out of the sub-division, Caleb spotted his truck parked at the mini mart right outside the back gate of base. PERFECT!

We rolled up quick style. I had the boys hop out, set the card on the seat along with the donuts, I took a quick picture and we were gone before he came out to catch us in the act. 

The boys asked to park out of sight so we could watch him react to our Finding THANKS in GIVING act of the day.. 

(click the picture to make it bigger)

We all agreed that how things went down played out way better than our original plan of just handing him the card and plate of donuts at our door.