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This has been a really hard week for several of my friends. One lost a sister; another a best friend. Parents. Grandparents. Uncles. Even a spouse. Two friends were diagnosed with cancer. The grief that has flooded my social media newsfeed is a constant reminder that bad things happen to good people and my heart breaks for each and every one of them.

I also feel very helpless. How can I possibly help them in their time of need?

Yes, I can offer to make them a meal. I can pray. I can stop them in the store and ask how they are (but is this really a help or a reminder of their grief?) I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I feel paralyzed, like nothing will make a difference.

Have you ever felt like this before?

This morning as I sat in church, our pastor gave us a sermon on Doubt. Uncertainty. Not knowing what to do, or when to do it. How worrying about what others will think often times keeps you from doing the one thing you have been called to do. Talk about hitting me over the head with a message.

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I want to tell you a story, one I have struggled for months to write. It may be a long one, so if you are reading this post in the midst of your busy day, you may want to bookmark it and save for later when you have more time. It’s an important story, maybe even one of the most important RAKs I’ve been a part of thus far.

This is the story of Secret Sisters.

A year and a half ago, a dear friend of mine from high school lost her young son unexpectedly. His life ended just weeks after he blew out six candles on his birthday cake. Diane posted a plea on Facebook for prayer as Nate’s tiny body went into cardiac arrest. Her next post was to tell us he was gone.

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I sat there, staring at the screen of my phone, stunned and paralyzed by grief for my friend and her entire family. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change this situation. I couldn’t bring her boy back. Making a meal seemed pointless (I lost my appetite just reading her post, surely they wouldn’t feel like eating either.) I felt completely helpless; even kind sentiments shared on Facebook seemed trite and incomplete.

I spent the next few days crushed in spirit, consumed by an extraneous loss I couldn’t explain, a complete uncertainty of what to do next. Grief is an odd thing. It reminds me of a tidal wave, building in strength only to slam into everything in its path. Then it pulls back a bit, only to be followed by a taller, stronger wave that catapults your body over and under, slamming it this way and that, leaving your heart bruised and torn. All of which no one can see from the outside.

I struggled to understand why. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why I was feeling so much sadness when this wasn’t even my child? Why couldn’t I let go of my unexplained sorrow?

That’s when I heard the whisper on my heart. It was a single word, spoken in such a matter-of-fact way I might have easily missed it had I not been so desperate for an answer.

“Do.”

Do? Do… what? It was almost laughable, that command. I could barely lift my head above the mire and I was told to do. While I sat there that day, completely perplexed, I now imagine that God was looking down at me smiling, because he knew exactly what it meant. And He was about to show me, and others as well, the unimaginable love that could be poured out from one simple word.

The funeral home was like a mini class reunion for all the wrong reasons. My classmates and I tried our best to comfort our friends in their time of loss while joining together in shared sadness. There were hugs given, tears shed, tissues passed around. I saw my friend, Michele, and after a short conversation catching up on our families, I shared my thoughts about the message I had received.

“I feel like we need to do something. Something big. Something different. But I don’t know what,” I began.

“Me too! I was just thinking that on the way over here! We need to wrap them with love,” she responded, her eyes already twinkling with a bit of mischievousness that took me back more than twenty years to the days of our youth.

“Yes! Wrapping them with love! That’s perfect! But wait. It shouldn’t be just us. We need other people to help us.” My brain was already swirling with ideas, the locked door opened by Michele’s key of inspiration. “Let’s brainstorm some ideas and touch base in a few days. We can DO this!”

And thus, Secret Sisters was created.

The idea came together rather quickly. Michele and I wanted to wrap Diane, Kevin, and their two daughters with love and joy, along with sweet reminders of Nate who would always be with them in spirit. I thought of my wonderful college sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and the different things we would do to lift one another up in times of struggle. Michele and I decided to create a little mini-sorority of our own, a sisterhood of twelve women who would commit their love, prayers, and kindness for this family. We started a private Facebook group and each invited five ladies to share in our secret mission.

Each gal was assigned a specific month of the year with three tasks to complete in that designated time:

  • 1. Pray for the family each day.
  • 2. Do something small for the family each week. (Send a card, leave a note of inspiration, etc.)
  • 3. Do one “big” thing to make them smile. (Send a gift card for a dinner out at a restaurant, make a donation in Nate’s name, be creative!)

And that’s when the fun began. 🙂

We shared our stories and adventures in our private Facebook group, even adding photos to show what we had done. Many of our surprises were personalized for even greater meaning. This was one of the first gifts given:

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Even though we each had our assigned month, and our own unique ways of sharing love with our friends, we signed everything we did as “Secret Sisters”. This group wasn’t about us as individuals. It wasn’t about outdoing someone else. Oh no, quite the opposite. We were simply a small group of ladies (with some help from spouses and children) who joined together in a common mission of love. Diane didn’t know who we were (or even how many!), but she shared her appreciation through Facebook, letting us know our gifts had been received with wonder and joy.

We continued surprising their family for a year. Gift cards. Flowers. Movie Tickets. Notes. Together we donated $100 to the Williams Syndrome Association in memory of Nate, signed simply “Secret Sisters.” One sister even wrapped and delivered 31 gifts so they would have something to open each day of that particular month.

Surprises

As a group we laughed at almost getting caught. (When was the last time you left your house at midnight to sneak over to your friend’s house? Let me tell you, doing this in your forties is quite a bit different than when you were a teenager!) Being “ding-donged-ditched” took on a whole new meaning for the Secret Sisters.

ding-dong ditched

Each month brought new surprises to make them smile. And Diane’s responses on Facebook reminded us that this collaborative calling to “Do” was greater than we could have ever anticipated when we began.

flowers

Petunia note

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breakfast goodie

Book Donation

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Ideas

As we approached the one year anniversary of Nate’s passing, we wanted to do something even bigger. We knew it would be a challenging month; we wanted to shine the light of hope and give them something to look forward to.

So we decided to reveal our identities.

We reserved a shelter at the local park and sent them an invitation in the form of a puzzle they had to assemble together as a family. We even created a Secret Sisters email account so they could RSVP (thereby keeping our identities a secret until the actual cookout.)

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And then, when we thought our mission couldn’t get any grander, something even more miraculous happened. I told the story of Secret Sisters to a perfect stranger, a do-gooder like me who does random acts of kindness (who swore she wouldn’t tell a soul). Upon hearing the story of how our group came to be, and my stories of sweet Nate, she donated a brand new iPad Mini to be given to the Methenys at the cookout. WOW.

On the day of the cookout, those who were available gathered together, several of us meeting each other for the first time. We all remarked on how this journey had changed us personally. Each of us had our own stories, our own reflections, of how being a Secret Sister impacted our lives. With each gift shared, our sisterhood of caring grew as well. We became more than just 12 ladies on a mission. We became like sisters ourselves.

The Metheny family arrived and the rest of the day was spent with smiles, laughter and love. The potluck food we brought was delicious and the time of fellowship was priceless. And like a year before, hugs were given and tears were shed, but not a single tissue was needed. These were tears of joy.

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Which brings me the point of this post. When you feel completely paralyzed by grief to help someone else, please don’t wait for them to ask for help. They are drowning in sorrow and your kindness might be the only life preserver they get thrown. Don’t allow doubt to paralyze your good intentions.

Go.

Do.

Don’t worry about what others may think. Follow the whisper on your heart. Grab a friend or two and share the love. Trust your instincts. You never know the amazing impact your act of kindness can have on someone else’s healing journey.

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Today is one of those nasty weather days where you just want to crawl back into bed and sleep until the darkness brightens and the temperature rises. I am not a fan of cold, drizzling rain. It dampers my Pollyanna spirit! Thankfully, the rain wasn’t severe enough to spark deadly storms like the ones causing devastation in the Midwest, but it was still dreary just the same.

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After a long day at work, I was more than ready to head home and spend some time relaxing with my kiddos, but I knew I had an evening meeting to attend across town. I had plenty of work to keep me busy, and as I pulled out papers for one of my many projects, I had an urge to check Facebook.

Now I know many of you might laugh, but I take these moments seriously because more often than not when I have one of “those feelings”, I discover through the amazing venue of social media a need, a request for prayer, a timely question… and today was no exception!

My Facebook feed showed most recent posts and there, right at the top, was a request for prayer for a dear friend’s wife who was admitted to the hospital today for breathing problems.

It was in that moment that I found my rainy day joy. 🙂

I stopped what I was doing. Said a prayer for healing, then packed up my project. My work here was done – I was needed elsewhere! I quickly drove to the local Dollar Tree and purchased a smiley faced balloon (yes, just like the one in Sunday’s blog post) along with a small container and all the chocolate I could find. I was headed to the hospital to visit my friend.

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Two floors up and a few feet down the hall, I knocked on the hospital door and was welcomed by the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. Now, I haven’t seen my friend, Cristie, in quite a bit of time, but all that distance was erased the moment our eyes met. Oh the joy!!

We spent the next hour catching up, trading stories and doing a LOT of laughing. Cristie has such a genuine spirit and she is so funny, I wasn’t sure who was lifting up whom. Even as she was taking her breathing treatment, she was making jokes. “Listen to me… I sound like Darth Vader… Luke… I. Am. Your. Father.” It was hysterical!

After a few photos to document our fun, it was time to head to my meeting. As I gave Cristie a final hug goodbye, I said a silent prayer for the joy in treasured friendships. What a way to brighten BOTH our days!

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The next time you read about someone you know being in the hospital, think how wonderful it would be to carve out time in your busy day to spread a little joy with an unexpected visit. You might be surprised to find how happy it will make you, too!

Be blessed dear friends and don’t let the rain keep you from blessing others! It’s OK to get a little wet! 🙂

Today’s Random Act of Kindness is a direct response to a plea posted on Facebook:

“My dear Facebook friends, an old friend of mine has a sister that lost her whole house last night to a fire.  She has 3 young girls aged 7, 2, and 10 months.  I can store anything you can donate at my house.  Just leave it on my front porch.  Thank you so much to those of you who can contribute.”

And this, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love social media.  As soon as I saw my friend make a comment on this post, I felt that all familiar tug on my heart and knew I had to help.  No, I didn’t know the family whose house had burned down.  In fact, I didn’t even know the gal who posted the plea (but she is a friend of a friend, so she is important!)

It’s interesting how these things happen sometimes.  I’m always amazed how in the face of tragedy, God has prompted me to look through my home and out of nowhere I suddenly “discover” all these things that could help someone else.  I immediately thought of the bathroom set sitting on the top of my closet shelf:  shower curtain, shower hooks, trash can, fish decorations, a new shower sponge with two unopened bottles of bath wash.  I kept meaning to list it on Craigslist, but… well… God had other plans!  Then I opened my linen closet.  I immediately spotted the flowered twin sheets from when my daughter used to have a twin sized bed.  Oh!  Her comforter!  That could be given away, too!  With each blink of an eye it seemed my closet had become a donation warehouse of sorts.  Towels.  Washcloths.  Curtains.  I barely had all the items stuffed into a bag when it occurred to me that all those little girls would need toys.  And books.  And crayons.  Markers.  Activity books.  Coloring books.  Right now, those sweet little girls needed a distraction for the loss of all their possessions.  I found a stuffed animal for each of the children so they would have something to snuggle with when they went to sleep, wherever that may now be.  I even found a purse of my daughter’s filled with play jewelry.  (Every little girl needs play jewelry!)  With each item I gathered, I prayed for this family, that through a simple Facebook plea all their needs would be met.

I checked back on Facebook to find more details posted about needs:  Mom wore a size 3-5 pants, small tops, size 8 shoes.  Right there I got chill bumps.  I wear a size 4!  Perfect!  I went into my closet and made two outfits of sweaters and pants, then threw in another sweater and a few shirts.  (As many of you know, I keep a pretty “bare bones” closet – if I haven’t worn something in the past year, it doesn’t stay in my closet!  Unfortunately, I had already cleaned out my closet about a month before, but I was willing to part with a few favorite outfits.  :-))  I also found a long wool coat and another shorter coat for Mom.  Unfortunately, I wear a size 6 shoes, so I wasn’t able to donate any footwear.

I remembered several friends who had donated items to my 40th Birthday Project:  books and “Blessing Bags” (bags filled with essentials such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)  I gathered those items as well.  As I was laying everything on the floor to take a photo for this blog, a small oak box caught my eye.  My jewelry box.  That’s when the impact of this devastation hit me.  This mom had lost all her jewelry, too.  I literally stopped everything as my thoughts raced ahead of my actions.  No jewelry.  No family heirlooms to pass down to her daughters.  Gone.  Everything.  It was almost too much to bear, and made me think of the recent events of Hurricane Sandy and all those that had lost similar treasures.

I then did what I knew was right.  I opened up my jewelry box and pulled out three of my favorite necklaces and a matching bracelet.  Using a special gift bag my mom gave me on my 40th birthday, I placed the jewelry inside with a simple note:

As I made one final sweep of my closet and bedroom, my gaze landed on one final item.  My absolute favorite children’s book of all time:  Guess How Much I Love You.  All three of my babies were rocked to sleep as infants with me reading this book to them, snuggled safely in my arms.  Each time I see the book at a yard sale or consignment store, I buy it and then wait for an opportunity to bless someone else with the gift.  This particular version came as a gift set with the main character of the book, a sweet little bunny.  If you’ve never read this book, please do, especially if you are a parent.  The story ends with my favorite storyline:  “I love you all the way to the moon… and back.”  Without a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the book and bunny and jotted a note for this family, including my project business card so they could know that even in the midst of tragedy, they were loved.

Then I loaded everything in my car and dropped it off on the friend of a friend’s front porch.  No one was home, so I simply left all the bags by the door.

Why do I do all these things without wanting anything in return?  Because I believe showing kindness to others is the way we all should be.  I would like to think that if I were ever in a predicament such as this that others would show me kindness, too.  Until that time, I will continue to count my blessings and try not to take too many things for granted. 🙂

If you would like more information of this family’s needs, or how to donate, please send an email to celebratekindness@gmail.com or if you know me on FB send me a PM and I will get all the details to you.  Even if you only have a few items to share, a little can add up to a lot!

Be blessed!

Saw this on a friend’s Facebook status and had to share.  I hope your day is blessed!

You are a thoroughly good person.

You are honest, decent, truthful, and hardworking.

You treat other people with courtesy, respect, and warmth.

You are strong, confident, and responsible.

You are dedicated to your family, friends, and job.

You were born for a special reason, and you have a great destiny to fulfill.

Don’t ever let anyone lower your value.  YOU ARE PRICELESS!

Thanks, Jennifer Seay Reid, for today’s inspiration!  🙂


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