Making a Difference to Just One

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A while back a friend talked to me about her desire to make a difference in the lives of others by getting her “story” out there. That story consists of almost being murdered by her ex-husband. No one–as in not one–not even the doctors, expected her to survive. But survive she did! She’s truly a miracle. In fact she didn’t only survive, she’s by far one of the most positive, smiling, happy, and grateful people I know. Those who know her are blessed indeed.

During this talk we had, she was somewhat discouraged. She wanted to help so many and felt like she was reaching no one. Writing a book was at the top of her list, but anyone who is an author knows writing a book and getting it out there takes a long time. Because of her generous heart and caring spirit, she wanted to help people now. What she didn’t realize, and what I pointed out to her, is that she was helping people–every single day, and that each one she touches, is so important. She’s a first responder victim’s advocate, offering on-the-scene support to victims of crime. She’s won awards for all that she’s accomplished and does because of what she’s been through, using her experience for good. She speaks to groups of people, letting them know that nothing is too big to be overcome. She motivates, inspires, and brings joy.

Every. Single. Day.

Each of us that had a role in the prosecution of her case has been forever touched by her.

Fast forward nine months:

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I got a message from her the other day that said “Oh my God, you’re Alexandra Benn!” She proceeded to tell me that her therapist lent her two books, one of which was my book that I wrote under a pseudonym, Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing from Trauma and Finding Joy in Every MomentShe went on to tell me what a difference the book has made in her life and that she didn’t know it was me until she saw my picture on the back. I’d even seen a photo she posted on social media of her chair at the pool with a bottle of water and a copy of the book.

Imagine my joy. I was moved to tears. The advice I’d given her months before came back full circle. And her voicing the difference my book made to her, made a difference to me.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July. This particular July, however, I’ve been preoccupied with life–vacation to Minnesota visiting family, chaos relating to my husband’s job, and surgery last week on my heart. Progress on my Camp NaNo project just wasn’t happening. But knowing my words made such an impact on this woman, one person, was all it took to get me back to it with gusto. Will I make my Camp NaNo goal? I don’t know. But I do know that knowing my words make a difference, that they bring me such joy to write–well, my friends, that’s all that matters. That I made a difference to one. Because that one is a woman who is beyond amazing.

And now I’m back off to Camp to keep on keepin’ on, despite reaching my goal or not. Whatever I write is that much more that I didn’t have at the end of June.

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.
-Mother Teresa

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
-Mother Teresa

Honoring All Who Served

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Thank you to those who have given some and to those who have given all. To those who have served and to those who are. And to the families behind those who serve.

Because of you, we have our freedom and blessings far beyond anything we’d have without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

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The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude. -Jeff Miller

Women’s History Month

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Oh boy! I almost missed Women’s History Month. But it’s not too late. Technically, it doesn’t end until midnight tonight, March 31st.

There are so many women who have made enormous steps forward in making women matter in society. That being said, each of us matters.

Every. Single. One.

But there are women I’d like to mention who have blazed trails in my life. There are by far too many to name so here are a few that made a difference to me:

Mary, Mother of Jesus – The perfect woman to have as a role model. Obedient, hard working, brave, and endured the most horrendous heartbreak with such grace and dignity.

Jane Austen – A literary genius. She has six major novels – Pride and Prejudice; Sense and Sensibility; Persuasion; Mansfield Park; Northanger Abbey, and Emma, are classics. Female writers weren’t encouraged during the time Jane Austen wrote. Her dedication helped pave the way for future women writers. With Jane Austen listed as one of the women who made a difference to me, it’s not wonder that the movie The Jane Austen Book Club is one of my very favorites.

Malala Yousafzai – Malala battled for girls’ rights after the Taliban attempted to assassinate her for trying to get education for herself and other girls. She was just 15 years old at the time. She’s published a books, among them, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and continues to advocate for equal rights. I don’t know about you, but at 15 years of age, I was still too worried about me to stand up for anything or anyone! What an impressive young lady!

Mother Teresa – She was an Albanian nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and dying. She personally cared for thousands of sick and dying people in Calcutta and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979. Mother Teresa was all about love and being the hands and feet of Jesus on earth.

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Kathryn Stockett – An American novelist who’s journey continues to give me hope in my own writing. Her debut novel, The Help, was rejected by 60 literary agents before one finally accepted! It’s a phenomenal book and I would highly recommend it. Her tenacity is beyond admirable.

Barbara Bush – Wife of George H.W. Bush and First Lady from 1989 to 1993. She involved herself with literacy issues and worked with several different literacy organizations. After researching about the factors that contributed to illiteracy, she believed homelessness may have been connected and she strove to combat both. I always admired her for the roles she played as advocate, mother, and wife.

My Mother, Bev Cielinski – This photo I took one evening, unbeknownst to her, as I walked past her bedroom door, says it all. She raised me with the values of faith and family, and taught me the value of hard, honest work. She taught me that when life was too hard to stand, to fall on my knees.

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Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. Unknown

Welcoming 2019 with Words

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In 2015 I joined the My One Word movement. This movement is an opportunity to choose one word that best determines how you would like your life to grow in the coming year. It’s much more realistic to focus on one word for the year than set New Year’s resolutions, only to break them by the end of week two. I admit I still set goals, but those goals circle around my one word. I write out bible verses that address the chosen word(s), and read them frequently.

In the past I’ve chose the words Grace, Love, Listen, Risk, Silence, and Kindness. Being the rebel that I am, this is the second year I’ve chosen two words because I couldn’t decide between them and both are equally important to me and areas in which I desire to grow. Those two words?

  • Mindful.
  • Enough.

Mindful–Being mindful of each moment, each breath, my thoughts, words, and actions. Being mindful of the relationships I choose to nurture and grow, ending those that are toxic. Being mindful of how I spend my time so it’s not frittered away. Being mindful of making each moment count. Being mindful of what I eat, why I eat, when I eat. Being mindful of the words that come out of my mouth, that they may only build others up. And being mindful to love others rather than judge.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

Enough–In November and December I participated in an online bible study with Proverbs 31 on the book Breathe by Pricilla Shirer. It taught me about the importance of Sabbath, how busyness can hold us hostage if we’re not careful and that it’s critical to take time to cease from all activities, to take time to simply stop and breathe. When we’re rushing through the day to cross off our to-do lists and rushing to the next thing, and the next and the next, we’re missing out on enjoying the life we’ve been given. Peace, tranquility, and serenity cannot be found when we’re in a flurry of constant activity. We have to know when enough is enough. It’s important for me to remember that as I am, I am enough, that there is no need to compare myself to others or allow others’ successes to make me feel less than. What I have, I have enough. I have all I need. More only clutters my life so that I don’t see all that I already have. What I do, I do enough, so long as all that I do is done in love. I can say ‘no’ without eloquent explanations and let that be enough. There is no need to continually continue for the sake of staying busy.

God can give you all you need. He will give you more than enough. You will have everything you need for yourselves. And you will have enough left over to give when there is a need.     2 Corinthians 9:8

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.          Proverbs 30:8-9

                 Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.                       – Mother Teresa

Whether you make resolutions, set goals, or participate in the My One Word movement, I wish you great success. Happy 2019!

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Christmas Truths

Christmas Wisdom

I’ve found two short quotes that speak volumes about the Christmas season. Thought I would share.

How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!
― Benjamin Franklin

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

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Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa