7 ways to make a difference in November

It’s hard to believe that it’s already November! So what are some ways to make a difference this month in the lives of others? Here are seven suggestions:

Combine chocolate with cheer. When our church announced it was looking for volunteers to serve in the hot chocolate ministry last year, our family immediately volunteered. What is a hot chocolate ministry? It’s a stand where we handed out free hot chocolate (with a spoonful of mini-marshmallows) to those who attended our town’s annual outdoor Christmas event that happens each year on the day after Thanksgiving. What a fun way to spread Christmas cheer!

hot chocolate

Remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Engage Magazine offers a way to write to persecuted Christians in North Korea to encourage them.  According to the website, in this unique ministry, letters will be delivered one of two ways: “hand-delivered to several Christians who have escaped North Korea” or “with broadcasters in South Korea who will periodically read letters, or passages of letters, to Christians across the 38th parallel.” All of the details can be found at Engage Magazine’s website.

Also included are tips on things to say to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also the super-easy form on which to write your letter and submit online.

 

1 Thessalonians 5 11

Make a terminally ill boy’s wish come true. Little Jacob Thompson is battling cancer and will be celebrating Christmas early this year. His one request? To receive as many Christmas cards as possible. He especially loves homemade cards. Have your kids decorate homemade cards and include a little tidbit about Christmas, their home state (Jacob lives in Maine), and a thoughtful Bible verse or prayer for he and his family. The full details, including Jacob’s address, can be found here.

christmas card

Ring the bell. It’s that time of year again…time when the Salvation Army bell ringers will be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and collecting funds to help poor families during the holiday season. Why not partner with your spouse, child, or a friend and volunteer your time as a bell ringer this year? Check out the details at the Salvation Army website.

Share with those who have no one. Sometimes while we are enjoying our Thanksgiving dinners, we forget something very important…the fact that many people don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Is there a widow in your church that will spend her first year alone? An elderly couple with no family nearby? A neighbor who lives alone? Why not make a difference in their lives and invite them to your home to share in your family’s festivities.

dinner

Learn CPR/First Aid. As part of my daughters’ curriculum for homeschool, they recently joined me to take a CPR and First Aid class. It was my fourth time taking CPR and First Aid, but things have changed a bit, even since the last time I took it. What better way to make a difference than to have the knowledge to have a role in possibly saving someone’s life? For more details on how to find a CPR/First Aid course near you, check out The American Heart Association’s website.

Share the love of reading with others. Our family recently boxed up several Christian adult fiction books in excellent condition that we no longer needed or read. I called a local assisted living center and asked if they would be interested in some books for their residents. They were ecstatic! Remember to always call first before making any donations.

books

Speaking of books, for more ideas of year-round difference makers, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

What are some ways you and your family are planning to make a difference in the month of November?

 

 

 

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how to make your plans succeed

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Four things were on the immediate agenda:

It was November and my youngest daughter and I planned to enter a power-walk/run relay to raise money for the local homeless shelter.

In the weeks before Christmas, our family planned to donate time standing outside Walmart ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

In December, I planned on taking a swimming lessons class with my brother to finally learn how to do the freestyle stroke we never learned in the olden days of youth swimming lessons.

After the first of the year, our family planned to go on a quick family vacation, which included a fair amount of hiking and other active activities.

And now on to reality…

The lovely picture my husband recently received from his employer to commemorate his years of service reads: “You can make plans, but the Lord determines your steps ~ Proverbs 16:9.”

I was about to find out just how true that was.

During the week of November 25, I noticed some slight pain in my left ankle, but figured it would pass. I proceeded with my regular exercise program, which included some kickboxing, kettlebells (with squats), and some time on the exercise bike. Did I mention I love fitness?

On the morning of November 27, I was in for a surprise when I woke up and couldn’t walk. My ankle was swollen, disfigured, and painful.

After some time in Urgent Care, I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

Fast forward to a diagnosis of “acute anterior ankle impingement,” a couple weeks on crutches, and many many hours of ongoing physical therapy. I wasn’t able to stand on my foot for more than a few minutes at a time and was given an unstylish boot to wear.

So much for plans – my plans. The power-walk/run relay, the donation of time standing and ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, and the family vacation would have to wait. (I was still able to somewhat take swimming lessons and that’s a quite humorous story I’ll share in another blog post).

014While my ankle still isn’t fully healed, I continue to make progress under the care of my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist. I still limp and have some pain, but the crutches have been relegated to the furthermost corner of the closet and the unstylish boot is on its way there as well.

I look back to November and December and really wished I’d been able to do those things I’d planned. Was I disappointed? Yes, very much so.

But through it all, I learned something really important – something I knew, but couldn’t really digest until now. You see, I can make all the plans I want, but it’s the Lord who truly determines my steps (never more true than when you only have one good foot. 🙂

I learned to surrender everything to the Lord, not just the big things, but the day-to-day, minute-by-minute things, even things I planned to do for His kingdom.

So…how do you make your plans succeed? Give those plans to the Lord. Surrender the big plans, the small plans, and all the plans in between. He knows how it all turns out and Jeremiah 29:11 assures us ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We are told in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Untitled

So I commit my plans to the Lord because more than anything, I want my plans to align with His plans.

Have you ever had to surrender something particularly difficult to the Lord?

Movie Review Monday – Silver Bells

Penny Zeller, Christian AuthorThis week’s Movie Monday family movie suggestion is Silver Bells

IMG (22)Bruce Dalton works for a local TV station as the sports anchor. With an inflated ego and impatience to match, Bruce expects everyone everywhere he goes to recognize him and the nightly tagline he uses after reporting the latest sports news.

Bruce is a man with a family – a wife, a daughter in law school, and a son named Jason who has lately been distancing himself from his father. Bruce’s selfishness is portrayed in many ways, from “fighting” for a parking spot at the local Kmart to putting his job above the needs of his family.

So what happens when Bruce takes his self-centered attitude too far? What happens when, in his anger and lack of self-control, a ref is injured at his son’s basketball game?

Will Bruce’s punishment finally show him what’s really important in life?

Silver Bells is a great movie on so many levels. When Bruce has to commit to community service as part of his punishment for injuring the ref, viewers get a glimpse inside the Salvation Army and how hard the bell ringers and other volunteers work to serve the less fortunate. Discussion questions abound, including:

  • The importance of family and their needs and why that should come first, after our relationship with the Lord. Bruce is not a Christian, but his son shows an interest in Jesus and church. Bruce wants nothing to do with either.
  • The importance of carrying out God’s command to serve others and care for the less fortunate. Bruce has no desire to ring the bell for the Salvation Army and finds himself in a bind many times regarding his attitude.
  • The importance of listening to wisdom, rather than focusing on ourselves. Major Lowell, the Salvation Army leader and pastor is a Godly man with much foresight. Will Bruce bother to listen to his gentle answers to the problems Bruce is facing in his personal life?
  • The importance of not sinning in our anger and keeping keeping our self-control in check.

Silver Bells has ingredients of a great movie. It has drama, humor, a wonderful plot, and a touching ending. Expect to laugh throughout the 88 minute movie, shake your head at Bruce’s shenanigans, and rejoice in the hope and redemption offered.

Bruce Boxleitner plays Bruce Dalton and gives a commanding performance as a versatile actor who can effectively play either the “good guy” or the “bad guy.”

I highly recommend this movie for all ages. A Christmas classic for years to come, this movie has quickly become one of our family favorites.

I am passionate about finding movies suitable for families. For a complete listing of family movie suggestions and an archive of past reviews from a Christian worldview for Movie Monday, please go to my Mom-Approved Movies Page.

For an archived list of movie reviews, go to my newly created Archived Movie Reviews page. This page will be updated regularly to show all movies included in Movie Review Monday.

10 easy steps to organize your home

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

We recently remodeled the playroom and that meant going through everything that had accumulated in that little room.  As such, we found it necessary to do a major declutter. Today I hope to inspire you with some suggestions we found helpful in the remodel project and ten easy ways to help you organize, whether it be one room or your entire home.

1.         Get into the right frame of mind.  You must be in the correct frame of mind to organize.  Plan a day (or days!) to do it, then stick to it.

2.         Take small steps.  If you can’t get it all done in one or two days, that’s fine.  Set up another day to continue the task.  Tackle a certain area or room at a time.  Set realistic goals because if your goal is too big,  you will be overwhelmed and procrastinate.

1209088_deposit_trash3.         Set goals.  One of our main goals when “decluttering” the basement several years ago was to fill our garbage can full before “trash day.”  We easily reached this goal, and filled the neighbor’s garbage can full too.  (With her permission of course!) It also helps to write your goals down so that you can cross off each accomplishment.

4.         Spring clean, even if it’s not spring.  Take down each object from your shelves and cabinets and dust them.  This way, you will see everything you have.  As you are dusting each item, notice which items are not sentimental to you in anyway.  Also notice which items you do not have a personal attachment to or of which you have more than one.  These are potential “get rid of” items.  Check for old outdated items, such as, food, shampoos, lotions, and perfumes that also need to be tossed.

1225260_cardboard_box5.         Divide into piles.  Make four piles.  One pile will be for the items you are using now.  The second pile will be for items that that you will be storing in storage bins.  The third pile is for donation items to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, and the fourth pile is items that are someone else’s that you have been storing and need to return. A good rule of thumb – if you have to think about whether or not you’ll ever use it, you should seriously consider getting rid of it.

6.         Help someone else. Besides donations to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, we also found a great organization in our town while remodeling the playroom that was looking for items for their garage sale. We loaded up quality items that we no longer needed and donated them. For an inspirational article on helping others with items you no longer need, see my post How to instill compassion and servanthood in your children.

7.         Take drastic action. For our playroom remodel project, we carried everything (and I mean everything!) from the playroom to the living room. It stayed there while we painted, redid moldings, and installed a new desk and cabinet. My rule of thumb was this…nothing was to be taken back into the playroom once the paint was dry unless it had “passed inspection.” The last thing we needed was to have everything returned without having gone through it.

1336514_a_cd_player8        Turn on the tunes.  It always helps to have a little outside noise to take your mind off of “decluttering.“  Put in your favorite CDs in the CD player and open your windows for a fresh breeze. For us, some Newsboys, Kutless, and Third Day were just the ticket!

9.         Enlist assistance.  When we decided to clean out our basement, I enlisted my husband’s help.  He was more than willing to assist me because 80% of the “stuff” was his and he didn’t want me to be the one to decide whether or not we should keep it.  My sister was also an unbiased  help because she is not sentimental like I am, so she was able to help me get rid of things that I no longer need or want (I sometimes need help knowing what I do and don’t want!)

10.         Congratulate yourself! After you have successfully organized and “decluttered”  your home, congratulate yourself and treat yourself to something special, preferably nothing of the cluttering sort!

What ideas do you find helpful when tackling a declutter project?

*Portions of this article first appeared in my article for Home and Family Magazine