"This room will be jumping in an hour." ~Dean Kappas, Night to Shine volunteer
Friday, February 8, 2019 was Night to Shine. It's the second time our church hosted the prom. Clearly, it's not our last. Our pastor said in a newspaper interview, "It's the most encouraging ministry we do all year. I think the helpers get more out of it than the guests." He explained, "'Night to Shine' is a celebration for people with special needs ages 14 and older that is held simultaneously at churches all over the world. This event is in its fifth year."
This year 655 churches in 20 countries hosted Night to Shine with 200,000 volunteers for about 100,000 guests. Tim Tebow started this ministry in 2015. Then 44 churches and 15,000 volunteers hosted 7,000 guests. That's impressive growth.
Our church welcomed about 80 guests for an evening of pampering and a limo ride to the red carpet before dinner and dancing. About half attended last year. Guests get paired with a volunteer "buddy" for the evening's events. A few buddies requested to be matched with who they had last year. As guests began arriving, I witnessed one of those re-matches, and it was quite a reunion. The two gals were so excited to see each other again. It's actually hard to know who was more excited. They carried on like a couple of lifelong friends who hadn't seen each other for a long time. I smiled and felt their contagious joy! And word is they want to reunite at Night to Shine 2020.
Night to Shine impacts everyone involved - Guests, Caregivers, and Volunteers. After the 2016 prom, Tim Tebow received a letter from a mom whose daughter attended Night to Shine. She said her heart's desire is that her girl won't be forgotten. She wrote, "At Night to Shine, God whispered to me, 'I will never ever forget her. She is famous to me like an A-lister walking the red carpet...She is precious and she is mine.' How extravagant is the love of God for us."
And there you have it...just a few of the multitudes of blessings from Night to Shine proms.
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~Richard Bach
What is a writer? Writers write! There - that's simple enough! So, I have been a writer for as long as I can recall. It's something I've always enjoyed, but for a long time I would have never thought to identify myself as a "writer." That word was reserved for the famous writers, the authors.
Somewhere along the way at one of the first children's writers' conferences I attended, a presenter encouraged us to say, "I am a writer." I could say it to myself, but couldn't say it to other people outside that venue. I did write it on a piece of paper and propped it up on my writing table. First step in my process.
I wrote. I studied about writing. I read. I wrote. I took writing classes. I wrote. I studied the markets. I read. I joined critique groups. I wrote. I submitted manuscripts. I wrote. I accumulated rejections. I got discouraged. I wrote. I read. I got excited. I wrote...and the process continues like a never ending cycle.
In June, 2017, I started submitting children's devotional pieces to Keys for Kids. I set a goal to submit one each month. Early in January, 2018, they requested revisions on two. I was thrilled! A couple weeks later another email came saying they wanted to accept and purchase another devotional I'd submitted. I will admit I was so excited that my eyes leaked! Now, in my mind, I could say out loud, "I am a writer." Published and paid! That first acceptance appeared in August, 2018, a little more than a year after I submitted it. What a thrill to see my work in print...published!
Today on Keys for Kids (www.keysforkids.org) you can read and/or listen to my devotional piece "Questions, Questions, Questions." I hope you enjoy it. So far, seven have been accepted. This is the third to appear in print and on their website. And I have more ideas for future pieces.
"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one." ~Brad Paisley
Approaching the end of 2018, I was amused the other day reading about yet another day to commemorate. Friday, December 28, 2018 was "Good Riddance Day." I don't really recollect hearing of that one before, but according to what I read on www.shred-it.com, it was the 12th Annual Good Riddance Day. The purpose is to help folks destroy "any unpleasant, embarrassing, and downright unwanted memories from the past year." In Times Square in NYC, Shred-It provided a large shredder where people wrote down what they wanted to forget about or get rid of, and it was shredded and permanently destroyed. People not in NYC could submit via Twitter and Instagram, and these would be shredded for them. Interesting concept.
Actually, the whole idea has roots in Latin American tradition. On New Year's Eve, revelers put artifacts and bad memories into dolls that are set on fire in the streets. It's called "Burning the Muneco." Many burning dolls created hazards on the streets and in the air from all the smoke and fire. For environmental and health concerns, the practice is now discouraged or prohibited.
I think New Year's Resolutions help people bid good-bye and look forward to improvements in the year ahead. Written or mental, the bottom line is hope for the future. Of course, none of us really has any insight to what the future will actually hold. We can make our plans, but there are many things we just don't know or have any control. But we always have hope! And we can do our best with what comes our way.
So as midnight approaches, and we leave 2018 behind, my hope for you is a happy and healthy 2019!
"Black Friday is not another bad hair day in Wall Street. It's the term used by American retailers to describe the day after the Thanksgiving Holiday, seen as the semi-official start of Christmas shopping season." ~Evan Davis, English economist and journalist
Early last December I shared some personal thoughts about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (12/4/17 - Post-Thanksgiving Ponderings) You may remember I do not do Black Friday! But I have become increasingly conscious of all the terms that seem to have grown around the Christmas shopping season.
Yesterday I noticed many emails announcing "Green Monday" deals from several retailers. Green Monday? What's that? So I did a search. In 2007, eBay coined it. I never noticed it before. It's described as the best sales day in December, usually the second Monday of December.
So I made a list of all the hype terms I knew, or recently discovered:
Black Friday - which seems to start on Thanksgiving Day for some retailers
Black Friday weekend
Black Friday week
Small Business Saturday (I do patronize small businesses)
Cyber Monday week
Black Friday extended
Cyber Monday extended
Super Saturday/Panic Saturday - the Saturday before Christmas
I even discovered "Buy Nothing Day," organized in 1992 as an international day of protest against consumerism. It happens after the United States' Thanksgiving, sometime between Black Friday and the last Saturday in November. Something I never heard about. Go figure!
We are just two weeks away from Christmas Day. May your days be merry and bright, and may your focus be on the reason for the season.
"Don't just declutter, de-own." ~ Joshua Becker
A couple weeks ago I ran into two friends at my 6th grade granddaughter's school for "Lunch with a Loved One." (They were there for her grandson/his nephew, also in 6th grade.) This is not the first time we've met at these semi-annual school events.
As we chatted, I asked about his daughter who is a recent college graduate and first year teacher. He reported she's teaching second grade and working to build her curriculum resources. "I might have a few things I'd be glad to send her way," I offered. I'd given much away when I retired, but a few things remained for whatever reason.
At home I headed to the little alcove in my office where many books and other "stuff" are shelved. I knew where the "good stuff" was that would be helpful, but one thing led to another. Paper boxes make great storage containers, can be easily shoved aside, and still look relatively neat behind closed doors. And easily forgotten. As I started going through boxes and binders, I thought more than once, "Why do I still have this?" My guess is "out of sight, out of mind." So, I designated a box for Bethany, a box for recycling, and a trash basket. Bethany's box is pretty heavy now, and I've started going through books to add to her classroom library. But the recycle box overflows with outdated workshop/seminar materials.
I'd initially hoped to have the whole process completed in a few days. But I went into purge mode of everything in that alcove. So I'm still working at it. I am getting closer. Cold, rainy or snowy days help this decluttering/de-owning process! I'm staying focused on all the available space in my future.
"Everyone was laughing and having a great time." ~a Night to Shine volunteer
Back in February I wrote about our church's first Night to Shine Prom. (Night to Shine - 2/12/18) The first Night to Shine's prom was in 2015, and it's one part of the Tim Tebow Foundation. That first year there were 44 churches in 26 states and 3 countries participating, with 15,000 volunteers coming together to honor 7,000 guests. In 2018, there were 537 churches in 49 states and 16 countries, with 175,000 volunteers honoring 90,000 guests, centered on God's love. For 2019, the Night to Shine website shows there are currently 600 Host churches...and counting!
Our church is gearing up for its second prom on February 8, 2019. The first volunteer meeting was in September. But folks were already putting things in motion before that. It takes much planning and organizing to make this happen, and a lot of behind the scenes work. This Saturday (11/3/18) we're having our main fundraiser - a Spaghetti Dinner, silent auction, as well as a dessert live auction - to raise money to bless our guests at Night to Shine, 2019.
People have already called the church saying they want to come again. That speaks volumes of how memorable the prom was to them. But that was evident by all the smiles and laughter flooding the entire facility on Prom Night, 2018.
We're volunteering again. If you're interested in being a part of this awesome event, check out the Night to Shine website (www.timtebowfoundation.org/ministries/night-to-shine). You will find prom locations near you, as well as other details. It's a fabulous night for guests and volunteers. And I'm confident you won't regret it. And you won't forget it!
"Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable." ~Diane Ackerman, American poet
Several years ago, while sick and down for the count I got hooked on The History Channel, when I could stay awake. One program that particularly interested me was about the 1900 Hurricane in Galveston, Texas. Currently I'm reading Al Roker's The Storm of the Century, about that event. Weather and meteorology fascinate me.
Today, I'd venture to say many of us turn to The Weather Channel for the latest updates when severe and catastrophic weather approaches us locally, regionally, or nationally. As Florence neared the Carolinas, a family friend in Wilmington remarked, "Jim Cantore is here so that's not good!" As Hurricane Michael neared the Florida panhandle just the other day, our nephew in Tallahassee reported, "Jim Cantore arrived." It seems wherever Jim shows up we can expect the worst conditions close by.
After Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle, I thought about how different these two 2018 hurricanes were with wind, water, etc. Clearly, both were devastating, which can also be said for Maria, Harvey, Sandy, Katrina, and Andrew - to name just a few.
Historically, Hurricanes seem to fall in various groups. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is based on wind velocity, which designates hurricanes from Category 1 - Category 5. Meteorologists also consider the low barometric pressure, rainfall, and storm surge. Other factors are the number of fatalities, and total cost of damage.
When Florence hit south of Wilmington Beach as a Category 1, it seemed the rain would not let up. An observer with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) near Elizabethtown, NC reported 35.93" of rain. Floods and storm surge inundated vast areas along the coast and inland. When Michael arrived as a Category 4, the 155-mph wind was the major force of nature that devastated, especially Mexico Beach. I heard on TWC that within an hour or so the sun was shining there, as Michael tracked up into Georgia and beyond.
No two hurricanes are alike, but they all definitely cause chaos where they strike.
"A little sister time is good for the soul." ~ Unknown
Before Dad and Mom passed away, our family would get together for their birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers' Days and Fathers' Days, as well as Christmases. We continue the Christmas Day gatherings with our growing and expanding family, but the other events ceased once Dad and Mom were gone.
Last year, my youngest sister was diagnosed with lymphoma. Needless to say it was a trying time for her with tests, treatments, and days of feeling lousy. As her birthday approached, I felt convicted that we should do something special. As the oldest, I contacted my younger sister to find out if she was available that day. Yes! And so it began.
Clearly we're not getting any younger. All our children are grown. It seemed like a good time to start a new tradition. We decided we'd meet for lunch at least for our birthdays, and occasionally in between, for sister time, now dubbed "Sisters Lunch."
For the first gathering last November we planned to meet at a fine dining restaurant. But due to a storm the night before, its power was out. So we came up with Plan B.
In April, we planned another Sisters Lunch. It was no ones's birthday. They chose April 17, 2018, Income Tax Day. We decided to meet at that same fine dining restaurant. Closed, again. New flooring was being installed that day. Seriously? We came up with Plan B.
In June for my birthday, they decided, "let's try it again!" This time, we called ahead. Third time was a charm. It was a lovely summer day, and an enjoyable time dining on the patio. Our journey to finally get there has generated some laughs.
Tomorrow we're planning another Sisters Lunch for my younger sister's birthday.
I'm looking forward to it, and I do believe it is good for the soul. I can't help thinking Mom and Dad are smiling down on us.
"Thus, this memorial is for those who have died, and for us to remember them."
~Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Wall
Recently (8/16/18 - 8/19/18), The Wall That Heals made its way to Warren, Ohio, near where we live. It is the 375' replica of The Wall in Washington, DC. On Friday we spent much of the morning there. Feelings of solemness and reverence were evident as folks visited and paid respects.
As we looked at the Hometown Heroes, we found ourselves very conscious of ages - most only 18 - 21. My husband recognized names of some of his high school classmates' brothers. Then we slowly strolled by the 140 panels bearing 58,318 names. I looked for the name of one guy from my high school class. I never spotted his name. Later in the Mobile Education Center, I found his name and location on the wall in the alphabetical directory. He was a Marine Corporal. Later when I saw his name on Panel 31W, I choked up. I knew him. We'd graduated only 2 years and 8 months before he died. He lived 21 years, 7 months, and 3 days.
Many thoughts ran through my mind. With my heart touched so much with the one person I knew casually from long ago, I imagined the emotions that parents, spouses, sweethearts, family, friends, and veterans feel when they find the names of loved ones or buddies. I also found myself thinking back to that period of time when this young Marine died. Although I have no idea what I was doing on that particular day, I know I was living safely in the United States. Quite a contrast to what was happening on the other side of the globe so far away.
If The Wall That Heals comes to a community near you, go. On the website (www.VVMF.org) you can find the schedule for The Wall That Heals, along with a wealth of information. And commit to let Veterans and Active Service members know you appreciate their service to defend the freedoms we have in the USA. The Wall and The Wall That Heals help us remember that freedom isn't free, and that many have served and given their lives for the rest of us.
"Make time to celebrate your achievements no matter how big or small." ~Unknown
This special edition post is to celebrate two events I want to share with you.
~Today only at www.keysforkids.org you can read and listen to "Hurting Hearts," a devotional story I wrote. On their Home Page, click "Keys for Kids Daily Devotional." Or you can click right here. (Please note: This will always take you to the Daily Devotional, but today is the only day you can read this story there.) If you look around, you'll find Keys for Kids is also available by mail, email, and app. There are many offerings for kids and parents. "Hurting Hearts" is the first of five devotional pieces Keys for Kids has accepted from me, so far, for publication. Some others are in the editorial process right now. I'll give you a heads up when more are scheduled.
~Today is also my One Year Blogiversary! (Throw confetti.) This is post #26. When I started the website and blog last year, my goal was to write a post every other week. Half of 52 = 26. Sometimes it didn't happen every other week, and sometimes more than every other week. I have learned a lot, thanks to Megan and time. I'm still learning. This year I've written about what I've observed around me, and shared thoughts. I've tried to keep it light, fun, and relatively concise. Sometimes the process was smooth, and sometimes there were glitches. In the year ahead, I'm excited for how things will unfold. So, stay turned.
P.S. Cardinal Update: The babies grew fast. Two fledged on Friday (8/17/18). I named them Lou (St. Louis Cardinals) and Ari (Arizona Cardinals). One egg never hatched, so I named it RIP.