Are you here for a time such as this?

Queen Esther in the Kings Court defending her people

Queen Esther in the Kings Court defending her people

There is a famous story about an orphaned girl who through devastating life circumstances overcame insurmountable odds. Because of her innate beauty, she was chosen over every other girl in the kingdom to be queen. Within the royal court, greed and corruption caused the king to be deceived into issuing an edict that would soon eliminate an entire race – the queen’s race. Not understanding why she was in this predicament, her surrogate father sent her these encouraging words, “Maybe you have come to this royal position for such a time as this.”

In risking her own life, she seized an opportunity to have the king’s ear. Upon enlightenment, he immediately issued countermeasures that would not only save an entire race, but also eliminate the kingdom’s source of corruption. The good guys won that day.

This is my synopsis of the biblical story about Esther, who became queen of Persia. And like her, many of us have overcome insurmountable odds to be where we are today. We have each faced challenges and found ourselves burdened with how to carry on as we seek to do what’s best not only for ourselves and family, but also our church, community, and the world in which we live.

Maybe you, like Esther, are unsure of why you are in the position you are today. However, it is possible that if you look around, there’s someone close by who might be able to benefit from what you’ve learned. More and more of the good guys out there need help in just getting through one more day. Maybe you are just that person who can help and are here for such a time as this.

We are the good guys. And one day, whether near or far, we too hope to be able to leave our mark on the world, making it a different place, a better place, for generations to come.

Helping others find significance,

Jennie

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:5-8

What’s your RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) story?

Giving - Random Acts of KindnessWebsite resources, touching blog posts, relevant business articles, breaking news and friendly hellos are just a few things I commonly find through my twitter feed. It’s such a treasure and you just never know what’s going to turn up next! Last week, for instance, I was touched deeply by a post on Robyn Bomar’s blog. The post was done in 2010, but through a random tweet I stumbled upon last week, I was led to this great reminder of how important it is to think of others first, and to make time for RAOK’s.

RAOK refers to Random Acts of Kindness. This seems to be a ‘fad’ that comes and goes, and now I fear with Oprah off the ‘free’ airways, there’s no one in mainstream media to keep RAOKs an active mindset within the general population. I know I certainly need reminders of such things. It’s just so easy to get sucked into our own lives, it’s almost surprising sometimes to look up and see someone else there.

In sharing my twitter find on Facebook, I received a response from Greg, a single father who shared the details of an RAOK mission he facilitated with his 11-year-old son. This is such an awesome example of how we as parents can instill the proper values into our children that I asked for his permission to share. Here’s his message:

Just the other day we did a random act of kindness by placing envelopes on random car windshields with this printed on them Hunter got so excited he put all his money in also:

I have placed some money in this envelope to find its way to someone in need. If you are that person please use it.

If you are blessed already please pass it on so that this seed might find the one in true need. It is meant to be a blessing either way.

A seed twice sown is twice blessed and so on.

If you pass it on and feel led to do so, sow your seed along with it too.

The economy is bad, and you never know who is in need; some lose their jobs etc. I started this to free the flow of money in my life also.

MAY GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO GETS THIS.

This is just a random act of kindness. What we make happen for others, GOD will make happen for us.

The post I mentioned earlier was about a girl whose birthday wish was to do an RAOK for every year she had been alive. Her chronicle of those events are creative, touching, many of them free, most well received, and most of all – from the heart.

The influence that Greg has on his son, and the time they spent together for these RAOK’s has created a lasting mark on not only his son, but anyone who received one of those envelopes on their car. So it got me thinking, what am I going to do this year to show kindness to others?

As Robyn posted, you don’t need money to return someone’s shopping cart for them, or help them carry their groceries. That’s just being thoughtful. What are some other RAOKs we can do for others that won’t break the bank?

I’ll make it a point to remind myself to do RAOK’s on a regular basis, and I’ll be sure to send out twitter, blog and Facebook reminders, so you can be reminded too. I’m no Oprah, nor do I have her following. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Finding significance,
Jennie

Have you heard of the GirlEffect?

We know the importance of a smile and how a word of encouragement can change the course of someone’s day. How much more important then is the gift of hope, something that can actually change the courses of someone’s life?

There is a young, uneducated, teenaged girl who is facing marriage in a third-world country, because in her culture, they lack the information to know there is a better way to survive. In Nicaragua, 45% of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16% of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60% versus 10%; in Senegal, 41% versus 6%.1

The cause and effect of survival techniques like this are sobering:

  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.2
  • A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.3

Even more sobering, here in the United States, where we do have the resources available to educate our children, our rates are twice as high for teenage pregnancy as in England and Wales or Canada, and eight times as high as in the Netherlands or Japan.

Where have we gone wrong, as a culture, as a nation, as a family? I believe it is because we have put a higher value on our household, than our home. We chat online, and forget about the communication that needs to take place with our children. We need to invest our time back into our families, especially our girls.

Whether here at home, or abroad, the GirlEffect is giving new hope to a generation of girls. They are learning that they can make a difference and change the course of not only their lives, but also their family’s lives. Why be selective of girls? Statistics show that when women and girls earn income in a third-world country, they reinvest 90% of it back into their families, as compared to only 30% to 40% for a man. Targeting our help and hope to these girls simply multiplies our efforts.4

Take some time today to learn more about this incredible movement that is changing the world. This week, there are people all over the world raising awareness about the simple things we can do to keep this momentum going. Please visit Tara Mohr’s website to learn more about GirlEffect, or click here to read more stories of hope. If you are touched, and want to participate in this campaign, I encourage you to use your voice as well by joining in here.

Why am I joining the GirlEffect team? Because I was that girl. To escape an intolerable home, I found protection elsewhere, and became pregnant at 17. I am thankful though, that I did receive a high school education, although college was out of the question. Now, at age 41, I feel I am still trying to overcome the lack of higher-education that I’ve been craving for over two decades. Our girls need help, protection, education, and hope. We can be that light for them. Won’t you join me?

Finding significance,

Jennie


1(International Center for Research on Women, Too Young to Wed: Education & Action Toward Ending Child Marriage, http://www.icrw.org/docs/2006_cmtoolkit/cm_all.pdf [2007].)


2(United Nations Children’s Fund, Equality, Development and Peace, http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/pub_equality_en.pdf [New York: UNICEF, 2000], 19.)


3(International Center for Research on Women, Development Initiative on Supporting Healthy Adolescents[2005], analysis of quantitative baseline survey data collected in select sites in the states of
Bihar and Jharkhand, India [survey conducted in 2004].)


4(Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

Do you know Dovie Pilney?

On a very regular ordinary day, I stopped by Tom Thumb on my way home from work. It is football season (Go Cowboys!), and we make nachos for every game (Go Carb Intercept!). However, we were out of refried beans. As I head down the appropriate food isle, I see this important ingredient for nacho bliss just on the other side of a woman and her cart, both of which are blocking the isle. I quietly wait.

 “He doesn’t like spicy. Eeh? What is this?” A lady, who looks like she could have walked right off the old frontier, straightens up, looks at me, and catches me off guard by making eye contact. I wasn’t ready for eye contact. In her world, that evidently meant I was ready for a conversation.

All I wanted was my beans.

I now have an anxiety ridden hum echoing in my ears. Interaction… oh no! I like to be Ms. Invisible. Pop in, pop out, be nice to the cashier, and then back in my car, my safety zone, then home. But not this time. Now, a stranger is talking to me about her husband who doesn’t like spicy salsa. I was also informed that the rib eye steaks she purchased a week ago weren’t that good. I mumble something politely about our George Foreman Grill. It’s hard to cook a bad steak on that.

She finally moves, I nod a goodbye and continue walking down the isle. But there she is, in front of me again. How did she do that?

“Did you know this young thing is an author?” I look to her right as a college-aged girl and her cart squeeze by. She was smart – she didn’t make eye contact and moved on down the isle and out of sight, evidently not the young thing the older lady was referring to. Now it was just the two of us again. I’m confused, and fail at another escape attempt.

“I got a book signing coming up!”

“Oh, you’re the author – well congratulations!” Relieved I wasn’t hearing things or going crazy, I began to admire this older lady’s spunk. I can respect a woman who stays young by having a mindset to do so.  

Dovie Pilney - Charlie the Cocky Rooster

“Yep, my third book. Charlie, the Cocky Rooster. It’s a kids’ book, full of adventure and I wrote it all about the place where I grew up. Barnes and Noble in Southlake, October 15th at noon is the place.”

“Well, thank you. Thank you so much for telling me! I wrote that down, right here on my shopping list. Nice talking to you.”  I again attempt to leave the scene.

From behind me, I hear, “A-hem, you’ll want to write this down too. D-o-v-i-e. D- did you get that? o-v-i-e. P-i-l-n-e-y. You can find me all over the internet thing.”

I chuckle, show her I now have her name written down, promise to look her up, say goodbye and thank you for the fourth time. I walk away, successfully this time, smiling at this very odd encounter.

When I got home, I told Tom, my husband, about her, and while doing so, entered her name into the search bar on that internet thing. Yep, she’s all over it! An hour later, I come up for air – what a story!

The town she grew up in was a company town, literally called ‘Strugglesville.’ But because of the great depression, the company and town shut down. Everyone had to leave, and they even removed the sign. Children who were born there had to get their birth certificates changed to reflect the nearest ‘surviving’ town, which was Cromwell, Oklahoma. She’s the fourth of six children in her family.

What most impressed me, was that Mrs. Pilney took her first college course in her late 70’s – a creative writing course, which helped pave the way for her first book, which she didn’t write until she was in her 80’s!

Charlie, the Cocky Rooster - by Dovie PilneySo then, I began to read excerpts of her book, Charlie, the Cocky Rooster, and it’s not your ordinary “No, David!” children’s book (although our 2-year-old LOVES that one!). Charlie is a book for ages 4 to 8, and Amazon.com’s editorial review of her first book begins with this, “Charlie’s job on the farm was to wake everyone up early to do their chores. Every morning bright and early he would jump on his favorite post and crow his little heart out. Wesley, his boss, never liked him and wanted to sleep late, and when Charlie crowed he’d throw his boots and even his clock to knock him off his favorite post. Charlie decided to leave because of his boss’s abuse. He wanted to see if he could find a family who would appreciate him. Henryetta, the hen, comes with him and that’s when the adventure begins.”

I’ll be getting these books and making them a permanent part of our library!

I don’t know Dovie Pilney, but during our brief encounter, she inspired me and gave me hope. I took my first creative writing class from Stanford, just this year (my early 40s), and really thought I was behind the ball. Dovie, in those awkward moments in front of the refried beans, helped me to understand that age is only a barrier, if we allow it to be. The important thing is now – what are you doing now, to work toward the dreams and passions that have been locked away your heart?

It’s never too late. It’s time to dust off those dreams. 

Thank you, Dovie – you have made a significant mark on my life.

I’m much obliged!

Jennie –

a Writer, going after her Dreams

The Coffee Shop – A First Date Story

The Coffee Shop - A First Date StoryThe loud melodic whirr of an industrial-sized coffee grinder provided background as I chatted with a coworker in line. While waiting for my Skinny Raspberry Latte, he approached, extended his hand, lowered his head with a business-like nod and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Tom.”

Nestled in the corner of the church’s bookstore, this Café was my refuge; my chosen place for the rare event of a first date. With coffee in hand, I headed over to ‘my table,’ a little corner booth by the window.

He worked at the church as well, although I had no recollection of seeing him around. Suspecting as much, when he sent the email to ask me out, he included a headshot and references of some mutual friends.

I agreed to this date mainly to appease my mother who believed I had antennae on my head only visible to men that flashed, “Go Away!” However, I had no intention of a relationship going further than coffee, so I commanded my daughter to call me promptly at 7:00pm to feign some dilemma that would enable my escape.

Although I was prepared for her call, something strange started happening. He was funny. He made me laugh and I began to feel more at ease. My phone rang right on time, and I…surprising even me, let it go to voicemail.

By 8:30pm, I started to feel a bit loopy. Hypoglycemia is not very forgiving, and he immediately picked up on my queues.

“Why don’t you let me take you to dinner?” My apprehensive look gave him cause for more rational prodding. “You can drive your own car. There’s a Fuddruckers across the street. Let’s just go, have a meal, and we can finish our conversation there.”

I agreed to those terms.

As we entered the restaurant, I paused at the posted salad menu. “I hear they have pretty good hamburgers here,” he said while pointing to the menu I really wanted to look at instead. I smiled, picked my burger, and this time, allowed him to pay.

I also allowed him to pick the table, but I forgot to get my drink, so I headed back to the soda bar. As I returned, he got up and went to the empty chair across the table. “I guess he didn’t like where he was sitting,” I assumed. So I sat down in the chair he just vacated.

I looked up at him still standing on the other side of the table; now I’m confused. He’s laughing. “I’m guessing you’ve never had someone pull your chair out for you?”

Red heat quickly flushed through my face. “Um…no.”  I got up, changed chairs and allowed him to finish his chivalrous act.

He sat back down in his original chair and had such a captivating grin, “Well, you might want to get used to that.”

***

Tom chuckles fondly as he finishes reading, “That’s the way I remember it too, my love.”

With thankful hearts, we whisper, “Happy Anniversary.”

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