Sunday, January 30, 2011

Making a Difference

I don't use Twitter a lot, but I have it on my Blackberry, so occasionally, I catch up on news and information. For some time, I've had an article bookmarked on my phone that somebody shared. The article is titled "50 Ways to Make a Difference Without Spending a Penny." (Read the article here.)

Here were some of my favorites from the list:

4. Be positive today - with the depressing economy, bills falling behind - this can really be tough, but it will encourage those around you and in the process bring joy to yourself.

  • This can make such a difference! Just vowing to be in a good mood can really put you in one, and it tends to be contagious to those around you.

17. Smile at everyone you come in contact with today.

  • Some times I feel like a creeper smiling at strangers, but it's worth it when they smile back.

18. Offer to let someone ahead of you in line.

  • This is something that's so easy to do, but strangers appreciate it so much. You never know if that will make a difference in their attitude. What's another five minutes at the grocery store?

31. Visit with the elderly or someone who can no longer get out as much as they'd like.

  • Since we live in the middle of nowhere, a lot of our neighbors are older. I love talking with them and learning from them. I really want to do this more. They have so much wisdom, and they're willing to share it. This is another aspiration for 2011.

45. Say Please and Thank you - show sincere appreciation.

  • EASY!

What can you add to the list? Making a difference doesn't have to cost a ton of money. It's the simple things that make our world a better place. I know I appreciate it when people are friendly and polite, so this week, I'm going to do my best to pass it on.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Impact Communications

So far, I really haven't talked too much about my new endeavor on Blogger, but here goes. In college, I took an introductory course on layout and design. The course focused on Adobe InDesign. It was very practical, and I was able to use many of the skills I gained there in college internships. After I began teaching, I decided I was ready to tackle a new challenge: web design. Thus became my quest at self-taught Dreamweaver. Fast forward two years, and I think I'm making progress. I've started doing websites on the side for a variety of small businesses, mostly farms, but I've thrown in some others for good measures.

Here's a link to my website: Impact Communications. You'll notice the name comes from a popular Dr. Gratz saying: "Don't just make an impression. Make an impact." You can see under the Clients tab that my list is growing. I hope to continue to expand. So, selfish request for the day: if you know someone looking for a website, newsletter, or any other graphic design piece, will you send them my way? Please and thanks. Look for more updates from this part of my life in the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On a roll

This post will be short and sweet. While it's on my mind, I wanted to share a quick thought from the book our small group is reading right now. We're reading Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. It's a wonderful book that really makes you think.

The most recent chapter was about being a lukewarm Christian. Chan describes the lukewarm Christian as one who (and I paraphrase):
  • Attends church because they're expected to, not because they necessarily want to.
  • Cares more about what people think of their actions than what God thinks of their heart.
  • Calls Christians who do extreme things for Christ "radical" when in fact, God expects all of his followers to be "radical."
  • Probably drinks less and swears less than average, but otherwise they're not that much different than unbelievers.
Talk about a reality check! The chapter really got me thinking about my own relationship with Christ. I'm the first to admit that it can be classified as lukewarm at times. There's definitely room for improvement. So, to start, Greg and I are reading the bible more and saying more genuine, authentic prayers. We're focusing on what's important and what we can to serve Him. It's not nearly enough, but hopefully it'll continue to build up our faith. Being lukewarm isn't an option.

If you haven't listened to the song "The Motions," check it out today.

New Year's Goals

Yes, you really are that lucky to get two posts in the same day. I guess I just have a lot on my mind these days. I've devoting my blog today to a hodge-podge of thoughts and ideas.

New Year's Goals
My mom is in the process of moving. To bring the new followers up to speed, my parents were divorced after 24 years of marriage when I was in the first grade. (If you do the math, you'll understand that they were a bit older when they had me. My oldest sister is 13 years older than me, and there's three full siblings between the two of us. But, I digress.) After they separated, I lived with my mom, while my dad moved to North Carolina. So, late last fall, when she decided to move, it became time for me to move all of my treasures, as well. In that pile of items was 8 FFA jackets. See previous posts on "FFA nerd disorder." The one jacket I treasure the most is my chapter FFA jacket that I received when I was a freshman in high school. I won't go into the memories tied to that jacket, but I would like to talk about the wrinkled, well-loved index card I found in the pocket. It was a list of FFA goals I wrote my first year in FFA. On the list were items such as apply for a proficiency award, run for state office, receive my American Degree, etc. etc. I had to chuckle a little bit. The goals at that point on my life were focused around awards and honors. They were such a big deal to me at that time. The goals I set for myself now are of a different nature, especially since many of them now include Greg, my partner in crime and in life.

So, here are a few things we aspire to achieve in 2011.
  • Build our savings account to $xx,xxx. Between buying a house and a new vehicle in 2010, our savings has remained pretty stagnant. We want to continue to grow that number, so we can be ready for the future.
  • Give more money to the Church. The Church can do things for others that we can't do on our own, so we'd like to increase our givings in 2011.
  • Increase our personal health. Ok, this is probably more mine than Greg's. I look at a candy bar and gain three pounds, while Greg eats six and loses weight. (Maybe a bit of an exaggeration.) Nonetheless, EA Active for the Wii is my weapon of choice, and running a 5k is my end goal. In addition to physical fitness, I also want to work on emotional well-being. I want to work hard at my career, but I also want to leave school at school, so I can come home and spend time with my family and with my hobbies. I'm not going to let teaching consume my entire life in 2011.
  • Read more non-fiction books. This is definitely more mine that Greg's! I love to read. If it has words, I'll read it. From Greg's farming magazines, to textbooks, to fiction, I love it all. This year, I want to read more non-fiction so I can learn about more varied topics. I just finished Laura Bush's memoir: Spoken From the Heart, and I loved it. I learned so much and gained even more respect for a phenomenal woman.
So, the goals I have for myself at this point in my life are different than the ones I set as a teenager, but they're meaningful to me. I'll keep you posted on how they go. Writing them down is definitely the first step in reaching them.

Not Missing What Matters

In my last blog (last year, no less!), I professed my love for Matthew West's song, "My Own Little World." If you haven't checked it out yet, watch the video on YouTube. I promised that I would write again about "not missing what matters," as West sings in the hit.

So, for this new year, I've been thinking about ways to really live my life for what matters. Too often I get caught up in the petty, materialistic stuff that really doesn't matter. I don't believe that's why we're on this Earth. We are here, in my humble opinion, to serve others and to serve our God. But what does that look like?

One of my biggest struggles with transplanting to an area of the state that I'm not very familiar with, is not knowing other people in the community. In high school and college, I was so involved in the community, and I haven't really stepped out of my comfort zone to do that in Bucyrus yet. So, I've come up with some ways that I want to work this year to give back to others and really start living for the important stuff. Will you add to my list?
  • I want to create a card list. The cards can be for birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, or no reason whatsoever. I love the feeling that comes with opening a card from a friend and knowing that someone else is thinking of me, so I want to do this for others. If you want added to my list, just shoot me an email.
  • I also want to put together a Relay for Life team. Cancer has impacted all of us. This is a small way to honor my friends and family members who have battled the disease and provide resources to help find a cure.
  • I love traveling, but I've never been on a mission trip. In college, I went to Ecuador for a service project, but it wasn't tied to God. I really want to go somewhere and do good in His name. Greg and I are antsy to go to Jamaica with CSI, so hopefully this year we can make that a reality. Plus, there's a new project in Jamaica focused on developing a agricultural education center, so it's right down our alley.
  • Finally, this year I want to do small things to let others know I'm thinking about them. Whether it's baking cookies for my neighbors, serving a meal in the soup kitchen, or making more of an effort to stay in touch with my college friends, those are the things in the long run that will make a difference.
I'm a bit of a pack-rat. Around my desk, I post cards and quotations that mean something to mean. One is a Max Lucado card from my church when I was in college. I saved it for the phrase on the outside: "It's what we do for Christ in the here and now that will make a difference in the then and there." How true. The things we do now will have ever-lasting effects. So, it's time to start living for others and not missing what matters in this world.