Can a simple “thank you” possibly be enough?

A kind and compassionate friend of mine began a wonderful ministry a couple years ago entitled Project 15. Borne out of the desire to thank veterans and other military personnel when she ran into them at various places with the thought, “If only I had a thank you note to give them” running through her head, she came up with a plan. The concept is perfectly simple: business card-sized thank you notes that offer a heartfelt note of appreciation to anyone related to our troops. Anyone wanting to be involved can easily carry the cards in a wallet or purse. When out around town, if the carrier comes across a car with a veteran’s license plate or the like–or even better, if encountering an active duty soldier in uniform, a pre-made genuine thank you is ready to be delivered.

It seems too easy, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, these men and women have sacrificed much for our country. How could a small card possibly be enough? That was my thought at first, even though I instantly loved the idea. I’ve often seen men or women in uniform when out with the kids and have encouraged them to shake hands with them. The cards are just a great way to convey a powerful thanks.

When Megin (Project 15’s founder) spoke in church one morning, she changed my mind about the card being “a small thing.” She relayed stories about veterans being truly touched by the gesture, and one particular story about a man who had served in Vietnam and confessed that the card had been the first thanks he had ever received. I was at once convinced that thank yous don’t have to be grandiose to be genuine. I took a pack of cards and anxiously awaited my first opportunity to give one out.

That first chance came when I parked behind a Jeep at Plato’s Closet. I was so excited! Knowing I would probably not ever see the reaction of the receiver, I was still so happy to be sharing a card. Hopefully the driver took it well. Actually, I rather like the anonymous nature of the card left for the person to discover later.

I’ve given several cards out since picking up my packet from Megin, but never in person. That is, until today. I have to share a blessing from today. It is always so wonderful on my end to slip a card into a window when I see a car with a veteran license plate, but until today, the knowledge of placing the card was the only reward (which, frankly, is enough. What a rush!) Anyway, when I pulled into the parking lot of a local business this afternoon where I often go, I saw a plate and placed a card on the driver’s side door. The owner saw me do it, and I knew he had gone out after I walked by to check it out. I was a bit unsure as to what, if any, his reaction would be. Would he advise me not to leave cards on his customers’ cars? Little did I know until leaving that it was *his* car. He was noticeably moved when thanking ME for the card and actually teared up. Imagine! A man whose dad had been in Hiroshima two weeks after the bomb, uncles who were in D-Day and Korea, brothers who had had military careers, and a career himself, was thanking me. It didn’t feel like a simple card could possibly be enough thanks, but he said the little things mean more than the big things. What a blessing to both of us.

To Megin and Project 15, I must share a big thank you for this ministry…for a tangible way to say thank you to those who have served and sacrificed.

If you are interested in requesting cards to keep with you to share, please email Project 15 at project15@live.com or look them up on Facebook. It doesn’t take any extra time and it could profoundly affect someone who deserves our gratitude.

Happy Epiphany? Merry 12th Day of Christmas? Whatever you call it, let’s have cake!

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a cake full of inedible plastic and metal trinkets!”

Our family has been focusing on starting new traditions (as well as continuing the old) during this Christmas season, and today was no exception. I saw a post about an Epiphany Cake on someone’s Facebook news feed late last week combined with a link to a recipe from The Pioneer Woman (my hero!), and I just had to check it out. After laughing my way through her blog post about it, I immediately decided that this was something that we needed to institute into our list of traditions. While growing up, I knew about Epiphany (my Mom always called it Little Christmas), but I knew nothing about celebrations that surrounded it. If you’re into history, and want to learn more about the explanation of this holiday, click here to become enlightened.

In terms of the cake, basically there is a list of trinkets that are baked right into the batter. Each trinket holds a significance and supposed blessing to the fortunate cake-eater who happens to dig into that particular piece of yummy sweetness. While I learned from The Pioneer Woman that a strictly traditional Epiphany cake only has one trinket, a BEAN, we opted for the less traditional, more trinket-laden version. Here’s a brief breakdown of the list of trinkets and significance of each:

Dime – Wealth
Ring – Church’s blessings
Thimble – Increased industry
Button – Increased spiritual knowledge
Baby – Will know Jesus more
Shoe – Will walk in the ways of the Lord

We also added two of our own:

Cross–Strengthened prayer life

Jewel–Increased discernment and clarity

While preparing the cake today, instead of simply mixing the trinkets into the batter, I poured it into the pan and then placed each of the nine pieces in a grid, hoping that everyone would get one. After it went into the oven, it was anyone’s guess as to where they would end up and who ran the risk of biting into any of them!

Here’s the cake before Todd cut it up:

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And we were off! Everyone had their own method for searching, from tiny nibbles to this little redhead’s plan:

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Destroy the cake!! She just couldn’t wait to find it!

Hannah found the thimble in her piece, which signified increased industry. And maybe she’ll take up sewing. Hard to imagine this hard worker working even harder, but a blessing upon her nonetheless!

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Patrick tried to pull the wool over our eyes, and discretely hid his find until he had but one bite left, lamenting that his piece had nothing. I almost believed him until his smile give him away. He found the button! We look forward to his increased spiritual knowledge.

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I found the jewel, which signifies increased discernment and clarity. What a timely trinket for this year which will hold many decisions and possible new directions. (It’s the one I was hoping for!)

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Todd found the piece of fruit (a watermelon) in his sweet dessert. He was *just* talking about being a leader of our home while we ate dinner earlier, and his trinket indicated that he will reap the fruit of Christian living. Yay!

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Brendan was the first to announce his find, which was the ring. Despite being a bit anxious about swallowing something that he couldn’t see, he didn’t have to worry at all. He found it with no trouble. We look forward to the blessings that will come his way!

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Andrew found the cross in his cake. As you can see from his picture, he really enjoyed his dessert and the icing that went with it. An addition of ours, I was happy to see him find this trinket. Andrew is always ready to pray for people and situations, and I look forward to that growing even stronger in his life.

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Ben found the baby (as the Pioneer Woman called, “a direct hit”)! It’s my prayer that this blessing of becoming closer to Jesus this year will become a reality.

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Chloe finally stumbled upon her trinket, and it could not have been more fitting for her: the shoe!! (actually, it was a flip flop, truth be told, but it was the perfect find in any case) It will be a blessing to all of us to see her walk in the ways of the Lord in the coming year.

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In case you were keeping score, the one trinket no one found in their cake…? The dime. Of course, the prosperity trinket. Bummer. It was the ninth trinket in a family of eight. Patrick did rifle through that last piece until he confirmed that it was in fact in the cake, but it remains to be seen whether that means he found it. We hope so! In any case, we all had fun eating our cake and discovering our treasures. No matter the find, we pray that God will bless our entire family greatly throughout all twelve months of 2013.

Thus ends the Twelfth Day of Christmas for our family. We will hold its happy memories in our hearts for many years to come!

How’s *this* for a loaded question: Do you love your life?

iBloom

As is customary on January 1–no matter the year–it’s a good time to look at things and take stock of the good, the bad, and even the ugly. (Don’t we all have a little ugly in our lives?) While the days clicked down on 2012 throttling headlong into 2013, I couldn’t help but assess and re-assess. If I’m being honest, I can’t remember what my resolutions or goals were for the beginning of the previous year, but I could probably guess most of them: have a consistent quiet time, lose weight, be kinder to my kids, save more money, get more done every day. I can rattle those off just about any day of the week–it’s not necessary to have a milestone date to call them to mind.

Without becoming a Debbie Downer and focusing on how many of the usual suspects got left by the wayside (for whatever reason, whether because of laziness or actual valid reasons), I’m choosing to start afresh today and change my focus from just willy-nilly ideas to a more directed course. I share for two reasons: 1) accountability is a major driving force. I have another blog post waiting in the wings about the power of telling someone else your plans. 2) perhaps you, too, want to join in my journey.

It’s been more than a year since I met the dynamic woman who is Kelly Gore. She came to my Bradley class with her husband during a downturn in enrollment. In fact, because I only had two couples signed up for the May 2011 class, I seriously considered calling it off. I am so incredibly thankful that I did not, for the two couples who comprised the class are some of the best people I have met. One is my chiropractor, who helped me through the saga otherwise known as a herniated disc, and the other is Kelly, a person with an infectious joy and obvious inspiration. Throughout the class, of course, I had the chance to get to know her. It was my chance, in some regards, to share my knowledge with her. After the class, however, was when she began to share with me and intrigue me. As the president of a Christian life coaching company, her goal is to empower women to a life they can pursue with passion. As I read her posts and perused the website, it became clear that Kelly was the perfect person to take on this role and it was no wonder her company was doing so well. It’s obvious that she enjoys her life, her career, and everything that comes along with it. That kind of joy can be inspiring to anyone. I was definitely affected by it!

All this cheerleading for Kelly brings me to the direction I’m going to take this coming year. I’ve been selected as an ambassador for Kelly’s company iBloom (click here to see what iBloom is all about), which simply means I help to promote the products and services they offer. My first job is to read and review the book iChoose 2 Love My Life, a one-year journey toward living a life you love, written by Kelly and the entire iBloom team. Broken into 52 chapters intended to be read each week, the topics range from choosing to live intentionally, to sleep (that one caught my eye instantly!), and to encourage. There are chapters that cover finances, personality (and strengths and weaknesses), and getting your home in order. Although each chapter is short on pages, it’s big on content. From the first chapter that I read yesterday, you will be asked tough questions about yourself and your current situation, all with an encouraging backdrop of positive momentum. Change can sometimes be difficult, but in doing hard things, you can be better in the end–and oftentimes throughout the process.

I have high hopes that 2013 will be a year of change in the right direction, thanks in part to iBloom’s book. I can say that I love my life, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to lose any part of it, but there are certainly aspects of it that do not run like a well-oiled machine. Or really, any kind of machine. There are definitely areas that weigh me down and slow me down, and if I could just find the tools to change them to be more efficient, I believe life could be even more enjoyable for everyone in my sphere of influence. With 52 aspects to look at and potentially change, say only ten receive the improvement they deserve? That would manifest a major difference in not only my everyday life but my overall attitude.

Perhaps you too are looking for a way to embrace a few positive changes or enhancements in your life. I highly recommend looking into getting your own copy of iChoose 2 Love My Life. Easily ordered from the iBloom website or Amazon, you too could be on a journey to truly loving the life God created you to live.

Happy New Year!

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