Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Compassion Failure to Adoptive Parent~ Meet Jake!

If you can't feed a hundred people, 
then feed just one.  
~Mother Teresa

When the children were little, we adopted a little boy through Compassion International.  
Compassion connects you with a child and you support them through a monthly donation.  This donation pays for the child's schooling and you write letters back and forth.  
At the time of our first "adoption," I was overwhelmed with three little children 
under 4 years of age.  Compassion didn't have an automatic draft on our checking account, and even dropping a check in the mail was a huge task for me.  When the first letters came from our little boy, I couldn't find time to sit down and respond~  I just couldn't make it happen. So I contacted Compassion and asked them to find him another sponsor.

That was 15 years ago.

The past 15 years, we have worked with nonprofit organizations raising money for the needs of children, collecting shoes for the poor, serving the homeless, building water wells and traveling on short term mission trips.  
But I have been afraid to get a attached to a single child again~ until now. 

With Austin being the last child at home, I have desperately wanted to connect with a child around the world that I can invest in~ long term.  There is something precious about going the long haul, watching a child grow up, and encouraging him along the way.  
So I contacted my friends at Touch a Life.

Rachel Johnson invited me over to the office and introduced me to Joseph through his pictures and story.  She had been there when he was rescued out of slavery off Lake Volta in Ghana.  She had seen the transformation that had taken place in his life; from fear and hunger to safety and a full tummy; now he lives at the Village of Hope.

I'd like you to meet Jake...
A sweet boy full of hope and joy
This is Jake on the day of his rescue~ deep sadness in his eyes.
And here is my desk.
I'm keeping him close to my heart.
If you're overwhelmed with life, I certainly understand if adopting a child 
is too much for you~ it was too much for me at one time, too.  
Automatic draft certainly simplifies the process!
If you simply haven't taken the time to look into "adopting" a child, 
we could share our journey....and maybe a trip to Ghana to meet the newest members of our families!

Visit the Touch a Life website here and get some insight from their video below.

The Touch A Life Foundation from C1 Entertainment on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meaningful Mantras: Making Yourself Perfectly Clear

"If you don't stand for something, 
you'll fall for anything."

The Mankins are big on mantras.  
You know, little sayings that are branded so deeply into your brain throughout childhood 
that they erupt from your lips later in life~ 
at which moment, you realize you have become your mother?  

A few years ago, Mr. Wonderful and I were listening to a man named Fred Smith give little bits of wisdom from his amazing life.  Fred was a business man in Dallas that lived a life of integrity, following Christ and impacting others through mentorship.  He began by saying, 
"Hello, my name is Fred Smith, I'm 86 years old, 
and I would like to tell you a little about what God has been teaching me lately."  
We were all ears.  At 86, this man was still learning~ remarkable!  

When he got to the subject of child rearing, he said there is only one thing he wished for his children, that they would grow up and be a blessing to others because that was the only way to true fulfillment.
We decided right there, that we had found our first family mantra,  
so I had a friend paint it on our back door.
As I dropped the kids off at school, I began saying,
 "Be a Blessing to your friends and teachers today!"
That was years ago, and by now this phrase has been spoken over our 
children thousands of times.   

Noticing the needs of the people we meet along life's way, offering a word of encouragement or a helping hand must be practiced and developed.     
Painting it on the back door where we see it every day is just a reminder~ 
We can't guarantee that our kids will live a life that blesses others, 
but at least they know where we stand on the subject. 

So that our mantras "stand up", each one represents a Biblical truth.  
"Be a blessing" is simply a shorter version of the scripture in Genesis where God tells Abraham,  "I will bless you... and you will be a blessing to others."  
And reflects the heart of the second most important commandment, 
"Love your neighbor as yourself."

What message do you want your kids to remember?  
Maybe a meaningful mantra would help nail it down.

If you are interested in more of Fred's wisdom, 
a book has been written containing his thoughts, you can find it here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter Writing #2: Writing Letters as a Legacy

The word that is heard perishes,
but the letter that is written remains. 

On the heals of my post about weekly letters to my grandmother, I thought I would pass along this honoring video of  Lakshmi Pratury telling about her father's precious legacy of writing letters.  She is an incredibly successful business woman in india. Reflecting on the pace of life required to reach that success, she challenges us.  Don't sacrifice the ones you love to busyness, and make sure you value the truly important things in life.
Don't over-think what you'll write or you'll end up stifled...
Where do I begin? What do I say? What about spelling and proper punctuation?
No need to worry.  Little Elena drew pictures and used the simplest words, but left a beautiful written legacy.  During her last days on earth, she wrote and hid little love notes all over the house for her family.  I'm glad she didn't over-think it~ 
she just drew and wrote from the heart.
If you need help, there is a great list of books on letter-writing here
Sweet. Simple. Lasting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple messages that inspire from The Keep Calm Gallery

  I want to be best friends with people who think like this; 
the people at 
{purchase one and make someone very happy}
You Look Lovely

You are the cream in my coffee

It's what's inside that counts

Thanks for being you

O Happy Day

Everything is going to be okay
Words in print. 
Simple messages that inspire.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Practicing Gratitude~ Free sweet ideas for saying thank you.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  
~G.K. Chesterton

The other day I was challenged when Chuck Swindol reminded me that there is no 
power in good intentions.  When it comes to being being thankful, there are many days 
when I reflect on the kindness of others, but neglect to say thank you.   
The great news is, we have the tools to show gratitude quickly and easily, 
right at our fingertips.  
My heart skipped a beat when I got this text from a friend this week~ 
how sweet it is to be loved in this way!
Lately, when I wake up in the morning, I have been using my iphone as a tool for prayer and gratitude.  I scroll through my texts and pray over my friends, and when I feel led, I simply send a text of thanks or encouragement.  By the time I've scrolled through the list, my heart is centered and grateful, the morning fog has lifted, and I'm ready for my feet to hit the floor!  
My phone, which can so easily distract and disconnect, can also be used to help me offer prayers and thanks!

Below you will find some {free} sweet and easy tools for helping you express gratitude to the people in your life...  
Free downloadable Sweet Treat Tag from Living Locurto:
Say "thank you" in many languages with these downloadable cards by Daily Suze.
Wanna go all the way?  You could take the 365 day challenge like John Kralik:

Need to alter your perspective?
Toss your inner cynic aside 
with this three word cure:
Thanks. Gratitude. Praise. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A letter writing campaign~ weekly letter's bring news from home.

And none will hear the postman's knock, Without a quickening of the heart.  For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?~W.H. Auden

 A year ago my grandmother, Audine, moved from her hometown of Brownfield, Texas to an assisted living apartment in Flower Mound so she could be near my mother.  At 94 years of age, this move was difficult.  Feeling connected to home was going to be the toughest part, as she would no longer have a home to go back to. 
 Little did we know, she would not be forgotten.  
Meet Nora and Becky.  They were my grandmother's next door neighbors for years.  The kind of neighbors who love well.  For example... 

  • Nora often walked next door with a hot pan of something amazing "just out of the oven."  
  • Nora's husband moved my grandmother's newspaper from end of the driveway to her front porch every morning for years.  
  • When Nora's daughter, Becky, moved back to town, you could often find the two of them "sittin' a while" on my grandmother's front porch.  
When we cleaned out my grandmother's house, we gave this special pair a quilt that my great-grandmother had made~ they were pleased as punch!

When my grandmother moved in to her new apartment in Flower Mound, Becky began sending my grandmother weekly letters, always on pink paper in a pink envelope~ full of news from home.  You know, important things... the antics of their cats, the loss of their precious dog, news of Becky's piano lesson progress, trips to see grandchildren, and recently, information about the sweet ladies who bought my grandmother's house.  She painted a picture with her words of my grandmother's house being loved and cared for as the new owners entertained their Bible classes and hosted ladies luncheons.  Hearing these things delight my grandmother, and when I visit her, we sit and read them together and enjoy all the news from home!
This labor of love simply astounds me.  In the world of technology where we rush to communicate, there is nothing more beautiful than the time and thought required to write a hand-written letter.  I asked Becky what motivated her to begin this correspondence.  Her answer was simple: 

     "simply prayed about Audine... when it was time for her to leave her home and our neighborhood.  My prayer was that I could do something to help Audine feel better in her new situation.  Then the letter writing idea came to me.  I remembered how much letters meant to me when I was a young mother living in California and then North Carolina.  My mother and grandmother wrote to me, and I looked forward to their letters.  It was a connection to home!
      As for the pink letters, I got the idea when my oldest grandchild learned to read.  I thought that would be exciting for her to get and read her very own letter.  And her favorite color is pink.  When I was a the Office Supply I bought an entire ream of pink paper and 60 envelopes to match.  That is how the pink letters started out."

A prayer and pink paper~ 
Sweet, simple love from a neighbor.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Je t'aime, my friend~ Encouragement with a French Twist!

"Paris is always a good idea"~ the movie "Sabrina"

I am currently obsessed with everything French.  
Intrenched in planning a summer trip to Paris with some of my best friends from college, 
everything I see or hear with a french influence delights me and makes me smile.  
The other day, I was at Main Street Bakery in Grapevine, Texas when the owner greeted me with the most beautiful french accent~ his voice was like a romantic melody and I found myself giggling and blushing as I ordered my french pastries! 

Then, I discovered Lorina's {French} Pink Lemonade
{You MUST follow the link to their website and watch the video that pops up~  
french accents, french music, french history, french people~ pure happiness!}  

I have a friend who has been going through a difficult time. You know, one of those times in life where you can't seem to get a break, where bad news follows bad news, and you become overwhelmed with life?  I thought that Lorina's would be the perfect "pick me up" for my friend, so today I'm sharing with you just how I packaged it for her.

Buy Lorina's at Market Street Grocery {find it in the deli section} or other specialty markets.
You simply need: ribbon, a shipping tag, a pen and a corner rounder.
Round the corners of the card.
This isn't necessary, but makes the card a bit softer and more "finished."
Add a sentiment.  I put a spiritual twist on the "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" saying.  But Lorina's is perfect for "Congratulations!" or "It's a girl!" or "Celebrating your breast cancer milestone!" or "Tea time with little girls!" or "You're engaged!"
Don't miss the fact that the bottle is a gift in and of itself~ a real treasure!  After drinking the lemonade, soak off the label and use it as display, or as a water decanter at a picnic or dinner party.  You could buy a bottle candle holder at Wisteria or check out this beautiful bottle center piece at This is Glamorous.
There you have it~  a pretty pink "pick-me-up" with a French Flare~
As they say in France, "Allez maintenant bénir votre voisin!"
{Now, go and bless your neighbor!}

Monday, March 14, 2011

Clean Water Celebration~ Thanks for the $40,000, Google!

Be praised, My Lord, through Water; 
she is very useful, and humble, 
and precious, and pure.

-Francis of Assisi

A shout-out to those of you who helped rate businesses on Google hotpot.
After two weeks, over 47,000 ratings were posted on-line, 
which means Google will be writing 
Charity:Water a check for $40,000!

Two weeks ago, I posted about the Students for Clean Water Organization at the University of Texas.  They had partnered with Google hotpot in an effort to raise money to build water wells and proper sanitation at schools in third world countries.  The two week "rate for a cause" ended with a wonderful party hosted by google at Bar 96 in Austin.  I was delighted to attend with my friend Delisa Yates~  Here are a few pictures from the event!
Google brought all kinds of fun stuff to the party~
and food and drinks for a crowd!
The Google staff was delightful and thrilled with the success of the 
first-ever "rate for a cause!"
Me, Blake, Robbie Stewart, Celia (from Google offices in CA), and Delisa
UT Students for Clean Water 
Blake Mankin, President, Students for Clean Water...Yes, I am one proud mama!
Please check out the Charity:Water website and consider loving folks around the world 
by giving them precious, pure drinking water.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hard Times? Bolster the One You Love With Story and Song!

But when you get music and words together, that can be a very powerful thing.
~Bryan Ferry

You remember my friend, Cindy, who is fighting breast cancer?  Her sister, Melissa, sent this song to her as a promise to stay with her all the way.  
Makes me teary-eyed just listening to the words~ 
there is alot of power and encouragement in "we!"

And it was our friend, Jeff, that typed out the words 
to the "The Little Engine that Could" in an email for her.
What a precious way to cheer on a friend who is facing hard times.  I found this wonderful childhood video of the song that would be sweet to pass along or post on someone's Facebook wall.  If I was discouraged and felt like quitting, 
this would give me motivation to fight! 
 "I think I can, I think I can!"

Simple and Powerful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mr. Wonderful: The Pancake and Waffle Expert!

~Mitch Hedberg
Saturday morning waffles with Mr. Wonderful.
Several years ago, Mr. Wonderful and the children gave me a waffle iron for Mother's day.  It is usually ill-advised to give a kitchen appliance to a woman as a gift; most everyone knows it's a dangerous move.  But this waffle iron came with the chef attached.  Yes, Mr. Wonderful, who rarely cooks, decided to give me a waffle iron and make the waffles, too. 

Well, this delighted the children and made me one happy momma.  The tradition took off and now this routine has become a regular weekend treat.  The waffles were such a hit that the following Christmas, Mr. Wonderful asked for a "large griddle" so he could add pancakes to his breakfast repertoire.  If you've known our family for any amount of time, you know that the griddle enables Mr. Wonderful to cook waffles and pancakes for a crowd!

This weekend, all the chicks were in the nest (we have two in college, one at home), so Sunday morning, I slept in while Mr. Wonderful made waffles and fresh coffee.  This sweet, simple tradition delights the children and makes dad a real breakfast hero!
Check out Blake's "Bed Hed" ~~
preferred attire for this yummy morning routine!
Lots of butter and.... 
Real Maple Syrup!

Mr. Wonderful adds blueberries or chocolate chips to his pancakes!
Why don't you encourage the man in your life to become an expert at something in the kitchen?  Could be pancakes and waffles, could be spaghetti suppers, could be a
Saturday morning "donut date with dad" like our neighbor, 
Mr. Hohfeler,
does with his girls.
 It certainly doesn't have to be complicated~
but it does have to be done with love!