Sitting in my kitchen this morning thinking of you guys and having just made my coffee, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of a gift that you’ve already received. One that it greater than any gift you will receive this Christmas, better than any you’ll give.
…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christa the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Those of you who’ve followed me for a long time know that the last few Christmas’ have been pretty rough around my house. But no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how painful, my Gift is always there waiting for me. He will never leave me or forsake me. No Apple product, or clothes, or even a brand new Ferrari can ever come close to that.
I’m not saying I would turn them down! I’m just saying that they will fade in time, but God’s love for us never will.
Sooooooo, I’ve had a family emergency. My step-daughter Chelsea was life-flighted to Vanderbilt Friday morning due to a ruptured aneurism. It has been a crazy few days, and one where my head just isn’t….well….you understand. I will not be writing this week for the blog. However, in incredible CLoBlog Tribe fashion, some of the phenomenal readers have asked if they can guest post for me in my absence.
Therefore, I have asked the brilliant Amy Lorton to help me out with the process this week. She will working with Tribe members to make this happen for you. If I miss a day of getting up one of their great posts, it’s only because I was preoccupied, or I just was too tired to make it happen. Please hang in there with me.
I thank you guys for your love and support. You have made this an incredible community!!! If you would like to know what’s going on with Chel, please feel free to go to my Facebook and follow there.
On a plane ride home from Savannah, I watched the movie Act of Valor. I can tell you that I never thought I would be shedding tears over an action flick. But I did–a lot. If you haven’t see it, please consider doing so.
Every single day, warriors are putting their lives on the line so I can sit in my office and type this out. Sleeping in hotel beds a third of the year is a lot better than sleeping in a dessert or a jungle somewhere. Eating a home cooked meal is considerably better than a lot of the meals our protectors eat.
I am so proud of the people who make sure I am able to go about my day with the feeble worries that I have, as opposed to having serious concerns like being blown up or something.
To the men and women who serve to protect me every day, to say thank you doesn’t even cover it! You are my heroes!!! If it brings you any comfort, please know that you are appreciated immensely, and you have my prayers. I am only speaking for me because I know there are a few people who will read this today, and they will want you to know their thoughts.
I returned late yesterday from my vacation and I am back in the office today. Once again, I’m sorry I didn’t have posts throughout last week, but I’m going to work to remedy that today. Thank you to EVERYONE who continued to comment while I was out. You are greatly appreciated!!!
I’m gonna change things up a bit today. Here is a guest post by Matt Chambers. Matt is father to 6 (including 1 with special needs), director of SafeWorld, advocate, speaker, writer, leader, learner. You can follow him on Twitter or contact him directly email@example.com. He writes daily at http://ethoshift.com.
The first time I set foot in the remote government hospital in Central Uganda, I remember thinking it looked like the set from a horror film.
Dried brown stains streaked everywhere.
Insects scurrying around.
Everything was old and rusted…beds…chairs…equipment.
The hospital was built in the 1960s, and almost nothing had been replaced or updated since then.
Each ward was filled to overflowing, and many patients had to lay on the concrete floor simply because there weren’t enough beds. In other words, if you get a bed when you check in, you’re one of the “lucky ones”.
Only one (very tired) nurse oversaw forty women in the maternity ward, plus their new babies. She told me more than half of them were suffering from post-delivery infections and there wasn’t enough medication to treat them.
When I asked where all the physicians were, the hospital staff would chuckle and say, “They’re not here.”
(In Uganda, there’s only 1 physician for every 27,000 people, compared to 1 for every 380 people in the United States.)
Shortly after, I discovered this was the closest hospital to the people we work with in Bulyaake Parish…but to get there, they had to walk between seven and ten miles.
That means, they’d have to walk all day, to reach a hospital that didn’t have any doctors, and they probably wouldn’t even have the necessary medication or treatment options for their illness.
Heaven forbid they were in labor.
Something had to change.
So, we got work designing a clinic that could start simple, but be as expandable as we wanted…and was within a one-mile walk from everyone in our Parish.
Here’s what we came up with:
When we showed these plans to the amazing people in Bulyaake, they were so excited, and immediately donated the land for us to build on!
We got together with our Ugandan staff on the ground, and figured out how to build phase 1 for a mere $30,000.
There are 10,000 people that currently live in the eight villages that make up Bulyaake Parish, and this will change everything for them. Now they’ll have qualified medical help any time day or night…we won’t run out of vital medications…and if they’re too sick to come to the clinic, one of our staff will travel to them.
It’s not a flawless plan…it’s not utopia…but that’s not what they need. All they need (and want), is what you and I need: a place to go when they need help.
So why am I telling you this?
Because I need your help.
Our goal is to complete construction on this project by the end of summer 2012.
I’ve spent the last four years building relationship with the people of Bulyaake Parish. At first I looked at them as a project, but now they’re my friends…and this is far more than just another campaign to me. This is a story…this is an adventure, and at the end, we’ll have accomplished something that’s never been done in this area before.
I’m so grateful to Chris for allowing me to share this story with you on his blog today.
If you’d like to help with the project, simply click the image below.
If you have questions, please contact me directly, I’d love to interact with you!
I so had to share this! Lizzie was voted The Ugliest Woman on Youtube. This video is her response to that. I know my readers will be proud of Lizzie. I don’t know if she’ll ever see this, but in the comments, let her know how proud of her you are.
Question: How proud of Lizzie are you for taking the stand that she has?
If you’re anything like me, time management can be an issue. When you leave work, your brain doesn’t stop focusing on that day’s tasks. Throughout your evening, little things pop up in your brain saying, Hey … don’t forget you have to work on me tomorrow. I’m not going away, so there’s no point in acting like I don’t exist.
Inevitably, I send myself email reminders of the things I need to do the next day throughout the night. C’mon, don’t act like you don’t do the same thing. I know that when your spouse gets up and goes into the other room, you quickly pull out your phone and email yourself. You’re hoping they don’t come back in and say, “Are you with me or your work?!”
So how do you avoid such time management silliness? Here are five simple things you can do to free up your mind when you leave work:
Block it off – Set aside at least the last 15 minutes of your workday, so that you can focus on “wrapping up” your day. This can be very difficult for some people because there is still time left to do other things. However, if you use this time wisely, you will discover that it will create at least an hour of more productivity the next workday.
Send it out – Go through your emails and answer anything that hasn’t been answered yet. You saw them come in, so you know what needs to be done with them. Answer them quickly, so you’ve done your part to get those topics moving.
Write it down – The to-do list is one of the best time management tools there is. Studies show it can actually create up to two hours of productivity in your day. Why? Because without it, you are bouncing from task to task as you remember them. While the day is still fresh on your mind, do a quick brain dump of all the things you need to do tomorrow and then prioritize them. When you hit the door, start with the top of the list.
Clean it up – In How To Declutter Your Mind, I discuss how your mind is organized the same way your desk is. Yep, I just heard the audible OHHH from a lot of you. If your desk is a mess, even if you know where everything is, your subconscious keeps telling you that you have to do something with all of that stuff. Take a couple of minutes each day to clean it up! Read the post, trust me.
A little time management will change your day. If you will spend at least 15 minutes doing each of these, not only will your next workday be considerably more productive, but your night will be, too. Your silly subconscious won’t be talking to you all evening about work, so you can focus on what matters most…like your family.
Letting go of “things” is always tricky. Letting go of your first love can be painful. Letting go of your first car can be either sad or exciting. Letting go of a childhood toy is sometimes difficult. As a kid, I have no clue why, I loved blue bears. Yep, bears that were blue. And for some strange reason, I still have like three in a box somewhere. OK, maybe they’re in plain sight in my closet.
As humans, sometimes we become so attached to something that letting go is not an option. When I was younger, my main goal was to make it to the Winter Olympics and I was training to do just that. It was the biggest dream that I had: race in the Olympics and win a medal. Unfortunately, the step before the Olympic Team was the USSA Team(United States Skiing Association).
Unfortunately, at the time, the USSA Team cost a lot of money, and amateurs were not yet allowed to have sponsors. You had to pay your own way. And back then, not a lot of people in Lake Tahoe had a ton of money to spend. But a couple of families did, and those kids made the team. And one of them went on to the Olympics.
I remember watching that year and being so destroyed from not being able to be there. And watching skiers that I knew I could beat be there because they had the money that I didn’t.
I stopped skiing all together. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. For the next decade, yes I said DECADE, I couldn’t watch the Winter Olympics. Every time they rolled around, I conveniently found something else to do. The pain was just too much to handle.
Then one day, out of nowhere, our youth group at church decided to go on a ski trip. I was one of the leaders, so naturally I had to go. We went to a ski hill in Indiana. Now, I was still new to the South, but I was pretty sure there weren’t any ski hills in Indiana. I was wrong. We headed to Paoli Peaks, which has a vertical drop equal to my driveway, and happens to be in the middle of what seemed like hayfields.
But hey, there we were. For the first time in a decade, I was skiing. Well, I would stand at the top of the hill and my ski tips were already at the bottom, sooooo. Somewhere in that day of teaching Tennessee kids how to ski, I remembered something … skiing. I really missed skiing! In fact, I wanted to be crashing gates right then!
What happened? Why did it take me so long to get back on the slopes …. or… plains as it were? The truth? I allowed the pain of the past to keep me from enjoying my future.
I believe it was the next year that I was back on the slopes. Not only was I skiing, but I picked a place that had racing available, where you compared your times to Olympic skiers. Bronze, silver, and gold were given out for great runs. They handed out platinum if you were close to the Olympic skier’s time that was set at the beginning of the year.
Within four runs, I had a gold. Later that afternoon, I had the platinum. I was on cloud nine!!! It felt like I was a kid all over again. Why did I allow that stupid pain to keep me from experiencing this awesome excitement? What a dork I was!!
From that moment on, I’ve tried to find the things that are holding me back and incinerate them when possible. With some, I’ve done really well. Others? Ugh!!! Not so much. But I can honestly tell you that when I have succeeded at letting go, my life is considerably better for it.
Question: How has letting go, or not letting go, affected your life?
OK, I have a burger confession. I am positively, absolutely a lover of all things burger. And the other night, I was in the mood for a good one. I had been to Burger Up a few times in the past and knew that I liked their food. (I lost a bet to Aaron West and had to buy him a burger. I still think he’s had to buy me more burgers from losing bets, though. I’m just saying!)
The place was packed with a line out the door. So instead of waiting, I headed straight to the bar and sat there. Now, it’s a funky kind of atmosphere—the kind where you can either get great servers or weird you-should-be-glad-I’m-serving-you servers. Hopefully, you know what I mean.
It turned out that my server, Troy, was a really nice guy with enough cool ink on his arms to rewrite War and Peace. He jumped right in, gave me a menu and started taking care of me. When the food came out, it consisted of this gorgeous burger with white Cheddar cheese, Benton’s bacon, and Jack Daniel’s maple ketchup. Sitting next to it in a silver cup was an order of truffle fries, with what I believe was Parmesan cheese. AHHHH!!!! Loved it!
Normally, I’m not a big fan of ketchup. In fact, I’m not an admirer of tomatoes that aren’t vine ripened. But this ketchup was rockin’ my world that night. So much so, I asked my waiter, who was elbow deep in the sink washing glasses, if I could have some extra to see if it would go well with the fries. Now here’s where my night just got better.
Without skipping a beat, he said, “SHOOT yeah!” with a look that said, Dude, is that all you want? Ask me for something difficult already! He quickly dried off his hands, went straight to the kitchen and reappeared quickly with a stainless steel ramekin of the red liquid fantasticness. C’mon!!! I can barely get the folks at the other burger joints to look at me when I’m ordering! It’s a thing … I like to be looked at.
This kind of customer service makes me want to come back time and time again. It wasn’t just him taking care of me. It was him making me feel like my request was the smallest task he had accomplished that day. And we all know how badly some servers make us feel for requesting just about anything. He made me feel like he had been waiting all day to take care of ME.
That’s how you do customer service. Do you think he got a bigger than normal tip? SHOOT yeah, as well as a repeat customer in me. I will bypass my normal burger joint, which costs me less money, to go to Burger Up and receive better customer service.
As a leader, you have to ask yourself the question: Is my team treating customers like this? If not, why? Not only did HE get more money in his pocket for doing so, but the restaurant profited, too—not because of the great food but because of the awesome service.
Question: How does this kind of customer service effect your decision to patronize a business?
Here is a guest post from one of my top commenters, Jane. You can check out her blog at www.GinasMom.com. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.
Through the Eyes of a Newly Minted American
In only the way kids can, my girls will not let me forget they have been Americans longer than me. Without fail, any mention of nationalities, travel, etc. brings the aforementioned response. “Even though mommy is older than us, we have been Americans for a looooong time, longer than her!”
This past summer, they had several occasions to bring it up, since I celebrated my first anniversary as an American citizen. I grew up inKenya and came here about 15 years ago in pursuit of higher education.
As we celebrated this milestone, I couldn’t help but take stock of what I have learned and how it has helped me to succeed. I would love to share my observations with you.
Americans, including me now, are nothing like what I’d envisioned when I was a little girl running barefoot to school. One year, an American youth group, including a group of basketball players, came to my school on a mission trip. I recall the shock when one guy stood up. He wasn’t standing on a stool but was actually that tall. In awe, I thought, They are so strong, so handsome and so cocky. Through the years, I’ve come to define this as “self-confidence.” It’s critical to being able to succeed in any endeavor. I’m guilty of it, and I love it.
Depending on their origin, most newly minted Americans are pros at bargaining. Back in Kenya, bargaining or haggling is an essential skill passed on to children through observation and hours of practice at the local markets. I love to haggle, asking things like, “Is that the final price?” It’s a skill all Americans should re-learn and practice a lot.
The freedom of choice available to everyone still astounds me. We have real options. If A doesn’t work, move to B. If B doesn’t work, move to C. You get the idea. I’m not sure how real this is to everybody else, but it’s a reality worth looking into. There is a reason that it’s called “the land of freedom and opportunity.”
Experience is Key, But Include Your Reference Points
In any new situation, experience is a great asset. But I’ve learned to also define the parameters of that experience, especially while making comparisons. Based on the feedback I have received, I now understand the puzzled, and sometimes shocked, looks I get in reaction to the following statements.
I had a very small wedding back in Kenya—about 700 to 800 people. Most of my husband’s family could not travel from England.
All my lower elementary classes were rather small—35 to 40 kids each.
My 30-minute walk to school was very short. Many kids had to walk an hour each way.
Finally, as a newly minted citizen, one of my most prized possessions is my blue American passport. It allows me to travel with ease, and it gives me the chance to enrich my kids’ lives. They can experience how the rest of the world lives. They’ll learn we do have options here, but there are other options out there, too. There are other ways of doing business or being successful in life.
I love my new country, and I love the opportunities it affords me. But I’m glad to have experienced life in a different environment. It gives me more reference points and makes me appreciate what I have so much more.
Question: How does this change your perspective of our lives as Americans?
The Christmas Gift is a repost of Away In A Manger that I wrote last year. I hope you like it.
I love Christmas. Love it!! It truly is my favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the fellowship, the food, the running around the mall at the last-minute trying to find something since I waited too stinkin’ long! You know.
And like many people, the day after Thanksgiving is when the Christmas music playlist on my iTunes is fired up. Yep, from that point on, it’s on like Donkey Kong! No really, I play Donkey Kong the whole time, too.
In the playlist are all the favorites: Mariah, Nat King Cole, and the incredibly outrageous Straight No Chaser. It is music that makes me happy. But there’s one song that has always caught my attention subconsciously. (Can that even happen?) It’s the song “Away in a Manger.” More specifically, the line: “The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes …”
I guess it hits me funny because … why wouldn’t He cry? He was a baby. I mean, was Jesus a cryless baby? Was there something about His Deity that He kinda just lay there with a smile on His face the whole time? I just don’t think so.
A couple of weeks ago, my favorite orator on the planet, Stan Mitchell, did our devotional here at the office. He talked about how God robed Himself in flesh so that, as the writer of Hebrews wrote, He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. Now, I don’t have enough characters to explain all of that in this one post. But let me say that I believe, as Stan does, that it was so He could experience life as we do.
So that He could “mediate” between us and Himself on the throne. He humbled Himself, He gave up the right of His Deity, and became a baby. One that wasn’t able to take care of Himself. One that messed on Himself. One that needed to be fed, and burped, and held, and sang to, and taught.
One that would experience ALL … ALL that we experience so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. And He became sin and stretched out His arms on a cross, and took from me the only thing I have ever deserved—crucifixion. When He took from me the only thing I ever deserved, He gave me the only thing I could never earn—life.
Life everlasting! Life, that if I admit that I’m a sinner, believe that He died for my sins, and call on Him to be my Savior, would eventually … eventually be a life in Heaven without the screw-ups. Life without the pain. Life full of Love! So as I listen to this song, I can’t help but think that the writer might have been thinking something I don’t understand.
When I see the depictions of Christ on the cross with the crown of thorns and He has a pitiful look on His face with a couple of streams of blood, I think the painter must not understand that my God took a beating so bad that His own mother wouldn’t recognize Him. All because He loves me so much that He would remove Himself from His throne to say to me, “I got this, love of Mine!”
I’m sitting here trying to figure out if I can write anything that is even close to worthy of my beloved mother-in-law Nanny (Dorothy Wood.) How can my limited writing ability explain to those who didn’t know her how she was the godliest woman I’ve ever known? I’m not sure I can, so I’ll give you some highlights that might help.
The only thing little about Nanny was her physical size. Other than that, she was larger than life! Her heart was bigger than she was. With that heart, Nanny loved the Lord, her family and everyone to whom she came in contact. I’ve always known she was incredible. But over the past few days, with the outpouring of love from friends and acquaintances, it was unmistakable how much she touched innumerable lives.
It almost seems oxymoronic that the heart that she used to touch so many people is the same one that caused her so much trouble. Yes, I do believe as the Bible points out, the heart is both physical and spiritual. And Nanny’s spiritual heart was as strong as an ox!
From the moment I met her, I knew she was different. She had a way about her that made you feel … like she was home. You know, the place you feel comfortable. The spot you want to go to get away from the world. Being with Nanny was like sitting in your comfy clothes with a cup of hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace. Being in her presence just felt … like homemade chicken-noodle soup – good!
You could be in the worse mood ever and one look at her smile would change your whole day. Her laugh made you giggle inside. It was full of joy! Her eyes were ALWAYS shining. Well, I think they were. When she smiled, they disappeared. Her hugs were fantastic. Although, when she put her arms around your waist, she had a slap that landed on that soft part of your lower back that could bring you to your knees! Ow. Ow. OW! OK Nanny, thank you!
But the greatest thing about Nanny is what you see when you look at her grandchildren. There is no doubt she left large portions of herself in each and every one of them. Cortney has her love for people. Chad has her adventurous side. Chelsea has her love for teaching children. Crysta has her sense of style. (Nanny always looked good!) Caila has her determination. Chase has her ability to tell it like it is. :-)
To hear some of that impact she had on so many, I thought you might want to listen to what the grandchildren said about her at the funeral. If you would like to listen, be prepared to laugh and cry. It was beyond amazing. Nanny’s Funeral – The Grandchildren
It’s funny how a blog post just doesn’t seem to do the job of “summing” up Nanny Girl. (That’s what I liked to call her.) I would say that you just had to know her. But from the responses I heard over the past few days, apparently knowing of her was enough. If there’s one thing I know for certain, my life is forever changed by Dorothy Ann Russell Wood!
Thank you Nanny Girl! We miss you!!! Put in a good word for us up there.
I just wanted to take a second and say thank you to all of you for the encouraging words and comments over the past couple of days. Losing Nanny wasn’t easy, but it helped to see all of the incredible comments on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I would come home at night and since all of those point to my email inbox, it would be full of notifications that when clicked on revealed, in a non sappy way, love.
Each comment was like a much needed hug. It put a smile on my face during a time that was hard to smile. So thank you for your support, not only in my work, but in my personal life as well. You guys are outrageous!
I may be away from posting for a few days. My mother-in-law went on to eternity with our Lord. Visitation is today and the funeral will be tomorrow. Please keep the family in your prayers. Thank you for being the most amazing blog followers out there!
It’s Thanksgiving and while I’m glad your reading this, what’s wrong with you? Go be with your family! Wait, you might as well finish this since you started it.
I have to say that the greatest thing I am thankful for is my salvation. Without it, nothing really matters. Knowing that I have eternal life with a Father who loves me more than I can even imagine, is a pretty amazing thing.
I can go on for days telling you about all of the things I’m thankful for, but one that you can relate to is…you. Yep. I’m thankful for you, my readers and commenters. If you know anything about me, I love teaching, educating, and all around helping people to be better. And while I never thought I would be a blogger, your responses have made this a highlight in my life.
Being able to dispense what I feel God has taught me, and then watch the INCREDIBLE comments from you folks, has been a real blessing to me. And I do have to say that I have the best commenters anywhere!! You guys don’t just leave a few words or a sentence, you leave paragraphs. Paragraphs of information that’s better than what I wrote!
The great thing about that is you pass on your wisdom to those reading the posts after you. I love it. So to my faithful followers, those who check me out from time to time, and those who just discovered me, let me say thanks. You’ve blessed me by letting me be a blessing.
Here is a guest post by Louise Thaxton. Louise is one of the top commenters on ChrisLoCurto.com. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.
This Friday, 11-11-11, is Veterans Day. It’s also called “Remembrance Day” or “Armistice Day.” It is the federal holiday where we honor our military veterans and is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
World War I was brutal. One of the human angels who walked among the fallen, bruised and broken soldiers was Eleanor Roosevelt. She flew on an un-insulated military aircraft before there was such a thing as “first class.” She flew through combat airspace to Guam, the Philippines and other islands. It was NOT to vacation but to work for the American Red Cross to serve the American troops. She walked hundreds of miles in hospital halls, worked in emergency rooms and sat down and ate with the troops. She saw the wounds of war. And she wanted to REMEMBER. She began to carry a prayer that would stay with her for the rest of her life:
Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask and to answer, “Am I worth dying for?”
As we go about our daily activities on this day of remembrance, may we remember that we ARE a nation at war. May we remember that today there are men and women of the United States military who are fighting somewhere on foreign soil for our freedom. May we remember that freedom is never free. May we remember to ask ourselves the question as Eleanor Roosevelt did … “Am I worth dying for?”
My question to you today is this……will you REMEMBER this Friday?