"As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart" ~Proverbs 27:19

Serve, Give Back, Pay it Forward, or Whatever You May Call it.

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 
~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

I know I've talked about it a few other times on Chara, but have you ever thought about how much of your life you've wasted sitting in front of a television or computer screen? I wonder how different our world would be if we would put down our laptops, tablets and smartphones and truly immerse ourselves into the world around us.

Not only could our relationships improve, but our health and well being too. What if we all decided to invest just a little of the time we usually spend on the couch into our families, friends and communities? How would our lives and communities change if we donated just one Saturday a month, or one evening a month to serve others?

Finding a place to serve can be daunting. Finding a cause can be a bit overwhelming too.

Do something you enjoy. Do something you are good at. Do something you are passionate about. Be creative. Volunteering can be fun, and it can also be so rewarding. You end up realizing the blessings you receive through the people you are serving.

I'm not saying to volunteer to make yourself feel better. That's not the right motive behind serving others. Do it because you can. Because you are blessed and you want to bless others. Because you want to spread joy. Because you have a talent or gift that can positively help others.

Stop making excuses.

You do have the time, and if you don't it's time to evaluate your priorities.

Know that you matter and that you can make a difference--even in the life of one person. And I promise you that if you decide to give your time, your heart, and your talents to those who are in need you will find it a rewarding experience.

Here are a few ideas from some caring people in my life:

My mom loves kids. She could rock a baby all day long. She volunteers one evening a week at a local Children's Hospital. I know she brings joy to the families she comes into contact with each visit, but the joy they bring her is abundant as well.

I have a dear friend that loves people and animals, so she and her beautiful Golden Retriever visit Hospice patients. I can only imagine the faces of the patients as my friend and her companion stroll in through the doors. But you know what? I'm positive that her life has been forever changed by the souls she's come to love.

One of my friends realized the impact he could have in a young boy's life by becoming a Big Brother. I know that his Little Brother's life was positively changed because of the care and compassion of my friend. And although my friend thought he was passing along valuable lessons to his Little Brother, he ended up learning just as much!

Are you a person who'd rather be behind the scenes? There are numerous "jobs" that non profits have just for you. Organizing Inventory, Accounting, Record keeping, Event Planning, Cleaning, and Serving on Committees are just a few of the vital roles charities need filled.

Service can be something for all ages! Take your kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews. Create memories together. Show them the importance of giving, loving and being a blessing to others.

Serving others does not have to be a grand gesture. It could be buying a lunch for a homeless man on the street, knitting blankets for a pet shelter, data entry for a local non profit, or an encouraging comment to a struggling young mother at the grocery store. The possibilities are endless if you just look around!

Imagine the impact we could have on this world if we all just gave a little bit of our time to love others!

For ideas where to serve in your community please visit VolunteerMatch or Meet Up.

Go be a blessing to someone today!

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart
and a free mind.” ~ Pearl S. Buck

Revive Hope: A Childhood Changed

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A few weeks ago I wrote this blog for My Angel Foundation's, Revive Hope.  It contains a letter written by the grown daughter of a heart recipient, of 19+ years, to the family who chose to donate their son's heart.

I promise you, it's worth the few minutes to visit the site. You will not be disappointed.

Blessings and Peace,

Revive Hope: Organ & Tissue Donation

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Life lives, life dies. Life laughs, life cries. Life gives up and life tries. But life looks different through everyone's eyes.  ~Groucho Marx

As many of you know, I'm an advocate for Organ Donation. April is Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Month. It seems fitting that I return to my roots of Des Moines, Iowa & My Angel Foundation.

I will be blogging on My Angel Foundation's blog, Revive Hope, and would love for you to come visit me and the other bloggers there.

Check out today's video post, Life & Death. Here's just a snip-it of what you'll read....

Music is a second language to me. It speaks to my soul. It whispers the grandest stories. It makes me want to dance and moves me to tears. It is my love language. Without music, I would be lost. 

The song below is arranged by a man named Paul Cardall. You may recognize the song from the the TV series Lost. Paul arraigned this piece after receiving a life saving heart transplant...

Love to you all.


What Perfect Moments Have We Missed?

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"This moment contains all moments."  ~C.S. Lewis

According to the 2011 American Time Use Study by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans (15 and older) spend an average of 2.8 hours per day watching television.

Let's break that down a bit. We, as Americans, watch TV:
  • 19.6 hours per week
  • 1,019.2 hours per year
This is the equivalent of 42 days per year friends! And what's most disturbing of all, is that this does not consider the time we waste playing video games, on our smart phones, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, mindless internet browsing, etc.

Let me admit, I'm just as guilty as the next person out there. I wonder how many hours, or days I've wasted soaking up pure nonsense. How many moments have I missed? How many conversations have passed me by? How many memories have failed to be made?

I'm currently walking through a workbook by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt tells a story, both in his book and on his blog, of CEO Eugene O'Kelly.

O'Kelly was a typical CEO. He worked many hours, was driven, goal oriented and it sounded like he struggled finding a work-life balance. At the age of 53, O'Kelly was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He chose to make his relationships a top priority in the final months of his life. He wanted peace and closure. He wanted "perfect moments."

"According to O’Kelly, a perfect moment is an experience with others when time stands still. It is a time full of the present, when the past is left behind and the future is set aside. It is a special time of focused attention and heightened awareness. Interruptions and distractions are consciously excluded. Cell phones are off. Hearts are wide open. All that matters is this moment—the people I am with and the conversation we are having now." {link to full article below}

What are the "perfect moments" we've missed in our lives because we are too busy or distracted?

Even so, we've all had "perfect moments." We just might have to work harder to recall them, or to even realize them as "perfect moments." Maybe it's a wedding, a birth of a child, a game winning goal, or a recollection of a simple Sunday afternoon at home.

What are some "perfect moments" you've witnessed in your life? (I'd love to hear from you below!)
My Perfect Moment(s)
#1. I am beyond blessed to say that I am still best friends with my childhood best friend. Granted our definition of "best" has changed throughout the years. We don't talk every day, or every week. But when we do find a moment amidst the craziness, we pick up exactly where we left off. There's a confident sense of peace now. Knowing that we'll be there for each other, no matter what. There is no fear of being "replaced" and that even though we are 900 miles apart we are only a plane ride away.

As I was visiting her this past Fall we were having a "girls night in" after a busy day of shopping. We were curled up on each end of her couch, cozy under our blankets. I'm not sure what we were talking about over our glasses of wine. It doesn't matter actually. I'll admit I was startled a bit when she draped her legs atop of mine—it's something I don't do as an adult...just drape my legs over a friend. But after a moment, I smiled, realizing the beauty and the richness of the moment. 

I was taken back to our childhood, and reminded of the depth and breadth of our relationship. The memories of late night conversations. The sleepovers. The movie nights. The special moments only childhood playmates share. And I realized, although we are in our 30's now, deep down we are still those 7-year-old girls giggling in our sleeping bags so many years ago.

#2. A few weeks ago after an afternoon of sledding, I had to coax our 6-year-old nephew off of the hill. It was time to go ice skating. As we were trudging up the hill, dragging his sled behind him he breathlessly said, "Aunt Jenn, I'm so exhausted I just can't go ice skating today." I looked down and responded with agreement. 

He asked if I would carry his sled. Who could say "no" to those sweet brown eyes looking up at me? Moments passed in silence as we made our trek back up the hill. Then with excitement in his voice he said, "I have the perfect idea of what we could do instead!"

"What?" I replied.

"Let's go to Hawaii and go to a day spa for a massage." 

"That's perfect! When is our flight?"

He responded, "Whenever we want...I have my own private jet!"

We both giggled as we approached the top of the hill, knowing how silly our little dream was and that we had a plane to catch.


You see, these "perfect moments" are not grand. They are moments when time stands still. Where nothing else matters. Just that moment.

They are moments that we will miss if we are behind computer screens, iPhones, iPads, or zoned out in front of Television sets. So let's break free of technology. Let's not wait until the end of our lives to realize what we've missed. Let's make more "perfect moments" today!

Much love dear ones,

Source of inspiration for this post was an article written by Michael Hyatt, a New York Times best selling author, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and an expert on leadership, publishing, productivity and social media. 

Finding Contentment: Just be...

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"Every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back."  ~Maya Angelou

As I sit here reflecting on my over indulgences of the Christmas weekend; the great memories made, the yummy food, the laughs, the beautiful sites of San Antonio and the anticipation of celebrating this great holiday again with our other family—I see how blessed we are!

At the same time I wonder how many others spend the Holidays alone. Or even if they have their small immediate family, they are still so far from their own parents and siblings.

Without a house, or apartment, stuffed to the brim with family. Without smiling faces across the table. Without a kitchen filled with too many territorial women. Without laughter. Or the small bickering. Without friendly competition over Dominoes or Settlers of Catan. Without couches draped with men "watching" football–or napping. Without little cousins thundering through the house tracking mud and giggles as they pass through each room. Without the Christmas carols. Or candlelit songs. Without someone to "just be" with.

How many of us take all of this for granted? 

How many of us see the loneliness around us?

Who have you reached out to this Holiday Season?

Who have you invited into your home?

It is so easy to get distracted by our to-do lists. Our own families. Our own plans. To ignore the loneliness and misery around us. To focus on our own little worlds. 

Please take a moment over the next few days to observe those whom you come in contact with. A coworker. A friend. An acquaintance. Maybe you'll be at an airport, or the grocery store, or the mall, or maybe walking a busy street, or sitting at a street light. And you'll notice someone without that sparkle in their eye. Maybe all you'll need to do is smile and wave. Say "Merry Christmas" or give them a hug.

Making a difference in someones life does not take grandiose gestures. It is truly the small things. It's the conversation over a cup of coffee. A dinner invitation. A night of fun over board games. Laughter over funny stories shared over cocktails. A hug. It's a smile.

Family is not a definition formed by blood. It is what we choose to make it. 

Choose to spread the JOY dear friends!

Much love and blessings to you and yours,

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."   Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

Finding Contentment: If Only I...

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“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”  ~Plato

I’ve just started a great adventure into my fourth decade of life. I’m in a season of transition. I’m waiting, patiently—or trying to. Waiting to see what’s around the corner. Waiting, with much anticipation. 

I’ve always struggled with “the greener grass syndrome,” where the next thing always looks better, bigger or brighter. I couldn’t wait to grow up. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. I couldn’t wait for Christmas or Summer break. I couldn’t wait for my first, second, or third job. Always looking at what was ahead.

How many days did I miss because I was too distracted thinking about tomorrow?

How often have we thought:

“If only I lose 5 more pounds”
“If only I could afford those Manolo Blahnik’s or Coach purse”
“If only I could buy an extravagant house or car”
“If only I could travel more”
“If only I had a thriving career or a higher paid job”
“If only I were prettier”
“If only I were smarter”
“If only I had more friends”
“If only I were in a relationship”
“If only I had children”

"...I would be happier."

Truth is—we are never happier. Our “if only” statements change. We find something “better” to crave.

As we approach the holiday season, a time where we we tend to focus on material wishes and desires. I urge you to take a walk with me this season. To BE content. 

I know it will be a daily challenge, and I don’t know about you, but I just can’t waste any more todays looking forward to, or worrying about, tomorrow.

Blessings and love my dear ones!

Old Fashion Letter Writing

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"No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other 
person feel important."  ~Mary Kay Ash

I came across this video on CBS Morning News a few months ago. 

After viewing the clip and reading Matthew Specktor's article, I thought about the last time I'd taken a moment to write a friend a handwritten letter. It was probably years ago, if I don't include my pathetic excuse at writing Christmas cards.

How great is it to run out to the mailbox and find, in the midst of all the junk mail, an envelope with your name handwritten in the recipient field? I will admit, most of the time I don't even make it back into the house before I tear open the envelope to see what it contains. The anticipation of what's inside almost kills me.

Since then I've sent a couple notes. Granted they were "thank-you" cards, but that's a start, right?


I turned 30 this summer. I know I am blessed beyond measure that I've been here 30 years, but still that number was not the easiest to deal with. However something happened that made my transition into the next decade a little easier. 30 days before my birthday I received a little note in the mail. It wasn't a flashy card or on beautiful stationary, yet the words on it soaked into my soul. The words were just this, 

"Dear Jennifer,
As you prepare to enter in to a new decade of life- I want to share 30 reasons I love you in the next 30 days..."

Each day I'd hurry home from work to find a letter or two from my dear friend. Some made me giggle, remembering our silliness. Some made me cry, yearning to be with a dear friend so far away. Yet, each day my mailbox brought me a sense of excitement, joy, encouragement and love. 

My friend did something so simple, in the sense how our culture views gifts today. But to me, it is one of the best gifts I ever received. I will forever cherish those 30 letters, handwritten with love, tears and prayers. 

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."  ~Mahatma Gandhi

Why don't we take the time to write anymore--even an email? Sometimes the extent of our relationships are the facades we see on Facebook. My life's great. My kid's awesome. I have the BEST marriage. Look at my great vacation pictures. 

Is this truly how we are intended to have relationships?

Why are we satisfied with surface level relationships? 

So with a little inspiration from Matthew Specktor and my kindred spirit Katie, I plan to write 3 letters this coming week. I'm not sure to who or what I will write about, but it's time I take a moment to focus on someone else and to send them some encouragement the old fashion way....snail mail!

Who can you encourage this week?

Blessings dear friends,