Monday, December 31, 2012

All We Need is: LOVE

The Beatles had it right. 

For the past several months, I've been in my own struggle. Yes, this gratitude warrior struggled with discouragement and falling into the cynic mindset. Those closest to me could feel it and could see it. I knew it was there and was frustrated that I would allow it to stay for so long. I've engrained an attitude of gratitude into my life, my words, my thoughts, my being. Lately, though, I've struggled with that, also. 

Feelings of abandonment have never been far from my mind. I feel privileged to be loved enough to have been adopted and, yet, at the same time there are natural feelings of abandonment. The fear of it can easily take over my thoughts and in my younger days it did just that. It has affected almost every relationship I've been in, as well as friendships. 
I've enlarged my ability to feel the fear and press on. As I've matured, I've grown to a place where I can feel those feelings and yet remember they are not true.  However, it is still a constant struggle and during times when I don't feel loved, it's an even bigger challenge. 

So, during this two month struggle, I kept coming to the same conclusion. It wasn't new to the world or to me, but it was an aha! moment. It explained my struggle. It explained the struggles that caused my struggle.

Every issue, Every issue stems from someone not feeling loved, not feeling accepted, not feeling like enough. 

I'm not a counselor or an expert by any means, but I have lived enough life and made enough mistakes on my own to see the common thread. 

We can say we love someone everyday, but saying it is not enough. We must be intentional about it. We have to be intentional every day, with every word, with every action. 

I have people close to me that I've watched for many years struggle with loving themselves. I've listened to their words, carefully, and learned that they also have never been completely loved, unconditionally loved, or experienced love in it's truest form. 

I've watched people I know (including myself) go through one divorce or more. I've spent time with people who are struggling to create loving environments as a now blended family. I know how difficult it is to teach children the true meaning of love when you haven't experienced it or you doubt it's power. 

I've listened as people have confessed that their marriage/relationship is not what they want it to be and that the distance is too much for it to "work" anymore or that the stresses of daily life is just too much and they cannot find time to connect with their spouse or significant other. 

I say what the Beatles have been saying all along. I've been saying it to my husband for months as I've been trying to explain why my love was rejected by someone close to me. I just could not explain it and rather than find a gratitude or lesson within the situation, I just grew angry and frustrated. 

So, as 2012 was about to exit and I was still contemplating being a cynic or buying into the "love" thing, my friend Deb sent me a Facebook message. 

So I have this crazy idea. I'm sure it's been done before, but who cares? I'd like to create a private group for wives called 40 days of love. Starting on the first or maybe the second given the short notice, we aim to do something every day for a minimum of 40 days to show our hubbies we love them. What do you think?

You may not believe in God Winks (my friend SQuire Rushnell does), but I sure as heck do! I've experienced them pretty much all my life. So, Deb's crazy idea really was a divine validation of what I've been saying for 2 months (and had been ignoring). 

Now you and I both know that this idea isn't off the wall. It's been done many times. There are tons of articles out there and books like The Love Dare that challenge us to stretch beyond our comforts and love no matter what has happened.  

But what a better way to incorporate 40 Days of Thankfulness, my birthday Random Acts of Kindness and On the Wings of Gratitude into the threads of our own personal relationships that are right in front of us? 

You may be thinking: "Some days it's going to be hard to come up with loving things to say or do about/for my ___________ (insert your loved one here)." 

And you're right! But we are called to LOVE! 

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

We are not instructed to love when it's convenient for us. We are not instructed to love when others love us first. We are not instructed to stop loving if we are wronged. We are not instructed to love only when others meet our unrealistic expectations.

We are called to LOVE. If we can give more of it, we will receive more of it. You can choose anger, cynicism, bitterness, and defeat, or you can choose to start your 2013 off right and join our 40 Days of Love Challenge. 

Beginning January 6, 2013, the 40 Days of Love event will launch. We are asking you to join us. We are asking you to love. Love those mothers and fathers in your life who've hurt you, love those husbands and wives who you once couldn't live without, love those children who are your life no matter what they do, love those friends who are in your life for a reason. 

Once a day we will challenge you to do something for that person. We will ask you to share your ideas with others on Facebook or twitter. We will ask you to post pictures on Instagram of your love challenge or your loved one. 

What do I need to do? Join the FB event, share/invite others, choose the person you are going to LOVE during this challenge and wait for the challenges to come in each day! We will remind you, don't worry! :) 
Does it have to be a husband or a wife? NO! It doesn't matter who you are LOVING in the 40 Days as long as you are doing something IN LOVE for them. 
Can you choose to keep it a secret? Sure, but you don't have to! Totally up to you! 
Can you choose to do your own 40 day challenges? Sure! We will just post as guidance for those that are less creative (like us) :) 
Is this just for women?  NO! We NEED the men of our lives to join in the most! You are husbands, sons, are SO important! 

By February 14th, we should all have more love in our lives and THAT will be cause to celebrate a day of love (and not that corporate holiday that just sucks money from our lives) .

#40DaysofLove (hashtag aka "keyword" to use on FB, Twitter, and Instagram) 

Wishing all of you a new year full of love, gratitude, blessings, and joy! 

Still your gratitude warrior,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Less You, More God

Today I’m sounding off. I’ve been pretty silent in the last week. Life has been busy. December is always busy. Birthday parties to plan and throw, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, gifts to give teachers, class parties to attend, work luncheons to contribute to and then there’s sleeping and eating, too. :) 

For me, December 14 has always been a special day. 12 years ago on that day I was sitting in the hospital during one of the biggest ice storms in the area. I spent most of my day gazing at my very first, sweet baby girl after several long hours of pain and finding out exactly what I was made of (strength). 

This year was a big year for her: middle school, school dances, a friend who’s a boy (*wink*), and her biggest sleepover in a while. It was big enough for me to take the day off from work, so I could prep the house, run to the store, and get things all set up for 6 tweens to take over. 

Mid-day, I happened to turn on the news and saw the reports out of Connecticut. At that moment I made a very set decision. I turned off the television and continued on about my day. 

“I can’t.” I said to myself. 

I could not spend the day listening to the reports,  details, and repetitive way reporters described it all. I had to be in the moment and present for my girl and her friends who would come through the door giggling and asking me to do their hair for the dance that night. “I couldn’t” because seeing those sweet precious faces only brought back my own memories of losing the special 6 year old boy in my life.

After the whirlwind of the tween party, we re-centered ourselves to go take our yearly family photos. I did not turn on the radio stations nor did I turn on the television. I stayed in the moment while we laughed and enjoyed our time together. I stayed in the moment as we had lunch together and as we all snuggled up for a nap which we all so desperately needed. 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. He love endures forever.” ~Psalm 136: 1-26

The next day we were up early to go see Santa and have another meal together. I was present and grateful and full of thanks for each moment I’d been allowed to experience. I ran down the sidewalk with the kids, took them to the shops they pulled me into, and remembered that each moment, whether it’s what I expect or want is a gift. 

“Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life - and place it as an offering.” ~Romans 12:1-2

Sunday afternoon, when I finally had some time to sit I decided to scroll through Facebook and Twitter. 


People all over were voicing their opinions, their political stances, their fear, their doubt, their questions, reposting pictures, poems and articles. 

Maybe it’s just because I know tragedy. Maybe it’s because I saw my parents go through the painful process of losing their own child. Maybe it’s because of my own experience that I was so angry at how everyone the last week seemed to make the tragedy about them.

Everywhere I looked someone was talking about it, discussing it, debating it, or detailing the events. I guess that is human nature.  I guess it helps them cope. 

But ... I just ..... couldn’t. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve prayed for those families, that situation, and every single person affected by the event. I, purposefully, read the names of each sweet child & educator and prayed, specifically, for their families by name. 

 “Pray without ceasing.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:17

But I refuse to buy into everything the media throws out at me. I refuse to keep the television/radio on. I refuse to discuss it with my 7 year old just because everyone else might be and am thankful that her school didn’t decide to have discussion about it on Monday. If she asks, I always answer honestly with the least amount of details given. If she doesn’t, then who am I to take away her innocence and sense of security away? There’s enough of that going on in this world. 

I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to debate politics and gun control. I refuse to dwell on tragedy, or obsess over every article or story out there. I refuse to allow myself to be on “auto pilot”  and not take control of what I see or hear. Just because it is on or in front of me doesn’t mean my ears or eyes need to see it. 

“Be very careful, then how you live...” ~Ephesians 5:15

I’m not afraid to send my kids to school each day. I know down to my core that every single person caring for them would do everything humanly possible to keep them safe. I know that there is a hedge of protection around each of them and that no matter what happens, my God is in control, not me. 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

I, personally, know about living in fear. I, personally, know about questioning and doubting. I, also, personally know that it gets us nowhere

“I have told you these things so that in my you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

If we want the world to be a better place, it’s up to US to make it that sort of place. You job is to bless: 

Love more, hate less. 
Encourage more, criticize less. 
Give more, take less.
Do more, watch less. 
Pray more, complain less. 
Less YOU. More GOD. 

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” ~ 1 Peter 3:8


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Gift of Giving. The Birthday Present to Myself.

Most people that I talk to about getting a year older form that wretched look on their face and tell me something like, "I'm not celebrating this year." Or they go into detail about how old they are and how this birthday is "not that exciting."

Well, you know me. In typical Tisha fashion, I decided to change the way I see birthdays so that I am not fifty years old one day focusing on the fact that I'm not twenty-something. 

Here I am. Today, I turned 36. Instead of focusing on my age or how my body doesn't work like it did at 16, I decided to focus on something different. For years, birthdays were all about me and what I wanted for that day. Birthdays were about gifts for me and expectations about what others would do for me. 

But today I decided to change all of that and to change my way of thinking about birthdays. In my previous post, I challenged my friends, co-workers, and family to join me in doing one big or small Random Act of Kindness on this day, December 5, in my honor. I asked that at least 36 people do one act today and did they ever follow through! :) 

First, I'll share with you all of the RAK's I did throughout the entire day and then I'll share their photos with you. (this post will be picture heavy to say the least, so be warned.)
December 4
6:00 PM: Free pizza for my birthday from my favorite pizza joint. Prompted me to pay it forward early.
7:00 PM: Purchase 3 $5 gift cards from target. 
7:05 PM: Wait for unsuspecting person to walk through the door. There he IS! :) 
December 5
7:00 AM: Breakfast with my favorite 2 year old and 12 year old :) No one was behind me or even close, so I couldn't pay for a meal. Yet.
7:30 AM: 7-11 to get lotto tickets, money, a water, a couple of slices of tape AND to surprise the worker with a Target gift card. He was in shock that I was offering this. Can you tell? 
8:00 AM: Stopped at Dollar Store for tape, sharpie, and notepad. Handed a lotto card to the cashier. Look at that SMILE! 
8:05 AM: Had to pick up a package from the Post Office. Before I left, I handed her some cookies and thanked her for her service and hard work! More smiles! 
8:10 AM: Taped 2 lotto tickets and a note to our local gas station's gas pumps. FUN! Wish I could've captured their reactions! 
8:15 AM: Held the door open for a student just leaving her car. It was her birthday, too! I shared my birthday idea with her. 
10:00 AM: Taped change and a note to 2 different vending machines. Drink was on ME! 
11:30 AM: Girl who shares my bday brought a cupcake to me. I paid it forward to the office aides in the front. 
1:00 PM: Needed a quick lunch. Stopped at Sonic. As I ordered, an elderly man drove up right across from me and so I requested his order be added to mine. 
1:07 PM: Car hop brought my food, so I surprised him with a lotto ticket! 
2:00 PM - 6:00 PM: I was sent random texts, tweets, videos, and photos of what YOU ALL did to contribute to this day! 
7:00 PM: Dollar Tree run for wrapping paper. I taped a note and $2 to two separate places in the toy section! 
7:30 PM: Back at Target for the last gift card giveaway. This last RAK was the BEST reaction so I blew it up! Look at her face!!!!! :) :) :) 

My friends did many various things, also, throughout the day. 
Robyn in NY: Helped some tourists get around the subway. 
Jaime in GA: Paid for the meal behind her at Chick Fil A
Corbi donated money for Christmas to children in need.
Lib: Picked up and cared for a stray dog 
Adam: Took resources to a teacher in need.
Becca: Bought a candy bar and left it for a teacher with a "happy day" note.
Danielle: In honor of your special day, and birthday request, I left money with the tollbooth worker at my exit and asked that he use it for people who didn't have toll money. Hope your day was wonderful!! Happy 36th! :)
Kasie:Check your email, Tisha. My random act of kindness for you today was to spend 36$ on random classrooms in your honor. Because of your birthday request, students in Arizona will have the books they need and students in Ohio will have pencils and a pencil sharpener.
Happy 36th! 
Cher: So, this totally awesome lady that I met when I was pg with Kate, Tisha Poncio, had a birthday today and decided that in honor of her birthday she wanted to challenge all of her friends to do a Random Act of Kindness today. How brilliant is that? :) Great idea, Tisha! I hope my RAK made a family smile today!!
Tasha: I am filling out Christmas cards to be sent randomly to Wounded Warriors, and deployed soldiers. Christmas goodies to follow.....
MelissaI bought someone coffee behind me in the drive thru yesterday. 
Rebecca: She offered a free fitness class tonight to anyone that showed up! 
Maria: Brought coffee to a coworker today. :). Happy birthday!
Stephanie: Bought coffee via Facebook for a friend!
Jennifer: Bought a poinsettia for her co-worker. 
Jennifer's Co-Worker: Left money at the coke machine for a random person
Leanna: Made cookies for the fire department and other treats for a neighbor
Naomi: Paid for a car wash for the car behind her
Martha: Found my money for a diet coke and passed on a chocolate bar to another lucky stranger
Tiffany: She had her students volunteer time AND she sent her aunt's money with a sweet note of love
Rebecca: Donated $36 to feed hungry families 
Anonymous Friend: She went all out and got her kids involved. She wanted to stay unnamed, but she did the following: 
Bought 6 drinks at Sonic & gave to the construction guys, Sonic gift card 8 - $5 each (1 carwash attendee, 2 - post office workers, 1 to UPS driver at gas station, Last 4 -(had to get my girls involved) we went secretly to the parking lots at grocery store, middle school, veterinarian, and dollar store
"It's been a long time since I have done this with my girls - it felt AWESOME - thanks for the INSPIRATION - Happy Happy Birthday! Lots of good karma sent out in your name today."

I'm not sure why I never thought to do this before. Giving to others made my birthday more special, more full, more exciting, and more inspiring than any other birthday I've ever had. 

Birthdays shouldn't be about US. Birthdays should be about remembering what our purpose is, what we are bringing to others, what we are giving to those around us, and how taking the "ME" out of the day can really change a birthday's perspective. Taking the ME out of everything will allow us to change the world around us!

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone that participated in my birthday celebration (#RAK, #RandomActsofKindness, #tishasbirthdaycelebration). You guys are the real rock stars! Without you, I wouldn't have been able to multiply so many acts of giving and paying it forward! :)

I'm pretty certain we met our goal of 36 Random Acts today. What do you think? :) 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Birthday of Hope!

One of our favorite traditions during the month of Decrmber is "Random Acts of Kindness."
There are a bazillion versions and ideas out there. I love teaching my kids how kindness can change a person's demeanor in a split second even if that person doesn't seem to "deserve" it. 

We've done various things each year: pay for the person behind us in the grocery store, pick up newspapers in front of the school, hold the door open for an extra 5 minutes, surprise someone with their favorite drink during the work day, bake cookies and share them for no reason.........

We ran across this one on Pinterest. It's a little more involved, but a great read: 

Last year for my birthday, I asked many of you to give in the name of adoption. 
I was amazed at your generosity! Instead of taking time to fill up my Facebook wall with alerts (which I do love), you decided to GIVE! For a month, I received postcards or emails from the organizations to which you donated. It was AWESOME! 

This year I'm asking you to GIVE again. However, this year I'd like you go GIVE the gift HOPE in whatever form that may take. $20 to a single-working mom, paying something forward, donating toys or clothes, putting up lights for someone who can't, holding the door open longer than normal or just taking time to call someone you haven't called lately to remind them of your love. 

Your GIVING isn't measured by the AMOUNT you give, but by the love and hope behind your GIFT. 

There are people we pass daily who have lost hope. There are those who feel like their world has lost hope and as a result they have lost hope in their future. There are those that feel unloved, lost or unimportant. 

Yesterday in church, I sat behind a family visiting for the first time, I'm sure. I immediately began praying for them and for God to work around them and in them. I could feel their walls up and their skepticism from my seat or as we greeted one another. I caught glimpses of them exchanging glances when different topics were brought up in the message "The Sound of Hope." 

I continued to pray and by the end of the service when time for the invitation, 3 of the 5 of them went up after praying a prayer of salvation. THAT was HOPE for me! I watched God work a situation that seemed impossible at the beginning into a message of hope for me and for THEM. 

Nothing is impossible! If you have the means to inspire people and give them hope, why are you not? You don't have to rich, you don't have to be in the limelight, you don't have to do anything extravagant. Hope can take a simple act and turn it into a different life. 

Wednesday is my birthday. I'll be 36. I'm asking for 36 of you to agree to take time to give hope to someone on this day. I'm asking that instead of texts, tweets, or FB messages of birthday wishes, that you'll instead share with me your gift of hope! Share with me how the person on the other end responded and how giving hope made your day better or inspired YOU! 

So, please don't say Happy Birthday. :) #HOPE