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Archive for March, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my five favorite national or international missions or charity groups. I promised to follow up with local charities, but life happened…

However, I remembered this week, so here, in somewhat alphabetical order, are my #FiveForFriday favorite local missions or charities in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area. I’ve linked each one to their website so you can learn more.

Bridgehaven

Any charity or missions organizations I support with resources of any kind would have to pass the pro-life test – a deal breaker issue for me. Bridgehaven (formerly known as Aid to Women) was one of the first pro-life ministries I supported when we moved to Cedar Rapids. I knew many of the directors and volunteers – women (and men) who spend hours of personal time so young women are offered an opportunity to give life to their babies. The ministry has grown exponentially in the last few years, but as always, they offer free pregnancy testing and now, confirmation ultrasounds even for women who have taken a home pregnancy test. Bridgehaven has services that support young families, not just single women, including classes on life skills, family, relationships and spirituality…even post-abortion recovery and support.

They always have volunteer opportunities available, from cashiering at their second-hand shop (Treasures Quality Resale Shoppe) to client advocates and children’s ministry.

His Hands Free Clinic

Cedar Rapids is blessed to have many sources of free medical care but my favorite is His Hands Free Clinic. Started in 1992 (by my general practitioner Dr. James Bell), this particular clinic seeks “to honor God by helping the uninsured and underinsured in our community.” Check out their website to read their Statement of Faith. Volunteer opportunities include areas for medical professionals such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses. They offer dental services so dentists, dental hygienists and assistants are needed as well. If you have no medical background, but still desire to help, His Hands uses volunteers as administrative assistants and prayer support.

House of Hope

Encourage. Equip. Empower. The mantra of House of Hope is near and dear to my heart. A number of years ago, when House of Hope was first getting started, I was privileged to serve on the board of directors. The founder was a close friend whose vision for a home for women who struggled with life issues quickly caught on with many people in the community. Though those first years were very lean (financially), we saw miracle after miracle as the House on 2nd Ave SE was transformed into a home. Now House of Hope offers life-changing and affirming classes, retreats, professional counseling, and even guest stays in their beautiful Victorian home. As always, volunteers are needed and appreciated in several areas including house management, hospitality and class facilitators.

Wind and Fire Ministries

Another ministry very close to my heart, Wind and Fire (or WFM) was birthed in the hearts of Ric and Christy Lumbard (who just happen to be the parents of my beautiful daughter-in-law) and is located on the WFM Missions Base on County Home Road in Robins, Iowa. WFM operates under three mandates: night and day prayer and worship; equipping forerunners and a place of refuge and restoration. WFM is also a leader in human trafficking restoration internationally. You can experience and participate in powerful prayer and worship at the main Saturday evening event called Encountering God Services (EGS).

Local church

Lastly, but probably most importantly, I love and support my local church. I won’t tell you about mine (though it is fantastic)…but urge you to volunteer your time and financial resources first in the church that feeds you God’s Word.

We should ALL volunteer outside of our regular work. Volunteering can give you confidence and help you learn new skills. If you struggle with self-esteem, volunteering for an organization makes you part of a larger community and helps you meet new people (all kinds of new people).

And of course, volunteering at an organization that supports the convictions of your heart will help you make a difference…which is what all of us want, right?

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Pride.

It’s a nasty thing. Pride keeps me from trying new things, meeting new people, and praying fresh prayers. I don’t want to look foolish or feel uncomfortable. I want people to think highly of me or more accurately, not find fault with me. So I try to be perfect. And fail miserably.

Within the last few years I’ve come to accept my shortcomings a little more. I know now that I’m missing out on fun adventures and amazing friendships. I’ve attempted to live a little bigger and give silliness a try once in a while. As I’ve grown older (and grayer), I’ve tried to see the world through new eyes. Instead of wasting time criticizing others’ looks and behavior, while trying to appear “exactly right,” I’m letting go of pride and embracing who God made me to be. Sometimes silly. Sometimes adventurous. Always less than perfect.

Kris_Morgan_dancing

I still fail. Often.

I still struggle with pride every. single. day.

But I will not give up. Life is too short to give in to an issue that has no place in my life. Or yours. Let go of pride and pick up your dancing shoes.

“Pride leads to destruction.
    A proud attitude brings ruin.” Proverbs 16:18 (ICB)

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Every day we wake up to choices. Get out of bed or stay in? Bath or shower? Coffee or tea or water or…? Read my Bible or watch TV? Workout or sleep longer? Go to work or call in sick? 

Each choice brings a set of consequences, some immediate and some we won’t feel for a long time. Some consequences are the result of years of choices, made well or made poorly. For instance, the dark chocolate M&Ms I’m currently munching on give me short term happiness, but long term weight gain issues. Obviously I’m choosing instant gratification over long term consequences. 

View from a Cedar Rapids skywalk


Despite the rainy, gray spring day in Iowa, I chose to take a long walk today. I knew I may be uncomfortable in the short term, but glad for my choice later in the day when my Fitbit celebrates 10,000 steps. 

Tonight our children’s midweek church program ends until September. Though each adult helper I’ve talked to seems glad for the break in activities, I know each made the choice to serve in this area because of the long term consequences in the lives of these precious children. They know their choice to help in music or crafts or youth may not reap rewards today, but each child encouraged or fed or loved on will benefit for years to come. 

How are you doing on your choices today? Settling for the short term, or banking rewards for the future gain? 

Choose well. 

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” Psalm 119:30

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Do you have a household task that you are grateful for?

Those are the words on today’s 30-days of gratitude chart. I have a very easy answer.

No.

I hate to clean.

I’ve listened to my friends talk about the stress relief of cleaning their homes top to bottom, the relaxation they receive from dusting knick knacks, vacuuming miles of carpet, scrubbing toilets, or taking a toothbrush to their shower grout. Not me.

The only stress relief I receive from cleaning is when I don’t have to do it. Which never happens so yes…I have a lot of anxiety…mostly about household tasks.

I grew up with a mother who wasn’t too concerned about keeping an immaculate house. If she told us to clean the house, we asked, “who’s coming over?” because that was really the only timCleaning_and_Babies_poeme we worried about it. Now don’t get me wrong – we didn’t live in a hovel.  The house wasn’t an episode from Hoarders (until recently, and that’s a whole other blog). My mom’s mantra was “you’ll always have a house to clean, so spend time with your kids while you have them.” Great philosophy.  I guess I inherited that gene.
I still adhere to the philosophy I bought into when I had young children: “If you want to see my house, call ahead. If you want to see me, come on over.”

I clean as much as necessary. I vacuum, dust, sweep and mop floors, scrub the tub and toilet, and occasionally, declutter my closets. But I don’t enjoy it. Ever.

If I had one household task that I had to say I was grateful for – it would be washing dishes…by hand. We’ve never had an automatic dishwasher so I’ve washed a lot of plates and glasses in the last 30 years. I started using this time to think about stuff. Nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes to get the creative juices flowing. (insert laughter). But truthfully, since no one wanted to do the dishes, I was never bothered with “Mom, can I…? or “Mom, would you…? Made for a perfect quiet time.

I came to appreciate the blessing of running water when Cedar Rapids flooded in 2008, therefore I don’t complain that I HAVE to wash dishes. I GET to wash dishes. I have clean water to drink, wash dishes, make tea, boil potatoes, whatever. So I guess I am grateful for the household task of washing dishes…though it is near the bottom of my list of things I’d like to be doing on a sunny afternoon.

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My 30-Day Gratitude chart has some very interesting topics on which to focus. Today says “What hour of the day are you grateful for?” This seems like a silly question to me, as I’m grateful for every hour of the day. Aren’t you? Why would I not be grateful for another hour to live, to breathe, to love, to eat, to sleep…whatever? Maybe they mean – “what hour of the day are you MOST grateful for?”

Easy – lunch hour.

And not just because it’s another opportunity to stuff my face.

Monday through Friday I work in an office where I sit for the majority of my 8 hour day. But on my lunch hour – almost every day – I walk. If it’s warm, I walk. If it’s cold, I walk. Even if it’s rainy, I walk. As you can tell, I’m somewhat obsessed with walking.

TrailWalking does many things for me, physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. One website says a daily walk of 20-25 minutes could add 7 years to your life. Sounds great to me. The author, Dr. Mercola, claims a two-mile walk a day can cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Other benefits include improved sleep, joint health, and circulation.

I love my lunch hour walk because it clears my head. I usually pop in my ear buds, turn on a walking playlist of music, and sing along as I walk through the neighborhood. Yes, I’ve received looks from other pedestrians, but I’m not concerned. I don’t sing THAT loud. By the time I’ve completed a 2 to 2.5 mile circuit around downtown, I feel refreshed and mentally ready to tackle the afternoon.

Even if the weather is cloudy, or chilly, or gloomy, I can walk because Cedar Rapids has a great skywalk system. If I start at our public library and walk to the end, including all the little side trips, I’ve gotten over two miles of walking…and stayed warm and dry. There are several restaurants along the route so if I feel inclined, I can stop for pizza, or a burger, or soup and salad. I can enter and exit the skywalk at over a dozen different locations, so I can do a little inside and little outside walking, depending on the weather and my mood.

Sometimes I leave my music in the office and pray as I walk. Sometimes I just think about the tasks I have left on my to-do list or what I’m going to blog about. My lunch hour walk is a sacred time for me, when I quiet my spirit and worship through music or prayer; when I give my body a good workout; or when I just think. I don’t believe it’s an accident that God promises to walk in close fellowship with us through life. He wants to accompany me as I journey along each day…not run from task to duty to job…but walk, conversing together as I put one foot in front of the other.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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Always re-thinking how I wield my influence.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

Double-EdgedSword

We all have it. Some more than others but, unless you live alone in a cave without any human interaction, you have influence with someone. How you use it can define your legacy.

First, a few questions…

  • Do you show kindness to the harried grocery clerk?
  • Do you drive as though you own the road?
  • Do you discipline your children with respect or anger?
  • Do you roll your eyes when asked the same question multiple times?
  • Do you belittle someone and say “I’m just joking?”
  • Do you give a little extra tip to the hard-working restaurant worker?
  • Have you ever paid for a stranger’s meal or coffee?

The influence you wield can encourage, exhort and enlighten. It can empower others to action…brighten the lives of the less-fortunate…embolden the spirits of the downtrodden. Your influence – my influence – is a powerful weapon for good, but unfortunately, it can also be…

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I’ve loved my teachers since I started kindergarten way back in the olden days. I can remember each one very vividly, which should scare some of us. Teachers are such a huge influence in the lives of our kids – mostly for good, occasionally one or two not so good. For the most part I have great memories of good teachers who loved their students and were dedicated to their calling of training up the next leaders of our society.

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First day of school, some unknown year, standing in the middle of the road

 

In first grade, my original teacher broke her leg right before the school year began so we had Mrs. Highland as our substitute teacher for over half the year. I loved Mrs. Highland. And she obviously loved her students. Because I started my “school life” with her, she became the next most important female in my life (after my mom). I’m so grateful I had that positive reinforcement in my young life. Because I could read before I got to first grade and often finished assignments before others, Mrs. Highland asked if I would like to help some of the other students occasionally. I guess I did okay, because she told my mom that “Kris should become a teacher.” I was six – not really thinking about my life’s calling at that time in my life. I think back then I wanted to grow up to be a waitress.

But Mrs. Highland was attuned to her students so well that she saw talents and giftings in her little group of six-year-olds…way before others were even looking. She encouraged us to try harder and go beyond our assignment. When we were concentrating on learning 2 + 2, she was seeing future city leaders and attorneys. While we sounded out our Dick and Jane Readers, she was envisioning teachers and doctors and priests. She gave us resources that pushed our little six-year-old minds to dream big, to see ourselves for the valuable human beings we were…even in first grade.

 

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The youngest class picture I could locate. I’m top row, second from the right.

My home town is a small village in northern Illinois with a small school of kindergarten through high school encompassed in one building. As first graders, we often saw and interacted with high school students so we had opportunity to dream about being like the “big kids.” Mrs. Highland already saw us as “big kids” and beyond.

 

I missed Mrs. Highland for many years after I left first grade, though I was able to see her often. She was always the kindest and most encouraging woman, even when I finally reached “big kid” status. And I’ll never forget her “prophecy” over me – I didn’t become an officially trained and certified school teacher, but I’ve been teaching my whole life…tutoring other students in high school and college, home schooling my own two children, teaching women’s classes and now privately tutoring elementary, high school and adult students.

Mrs. Highland saw something in me when I was six years old. She looked for the gifts each of her students possessed, even if those talents weren’t finely tuned or sophisticated. I want to be able to do that with my kids…all of them. Each student I tutor becomes one of my kids. Each one is special and unique in their own gifts and talents. Some are naturally outgoing and loaded with personality. Others are quieter, shy in the presence of me as a stranger. But I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Highland, and how much she encouraged me to reach farther, that nothing is impossible, no matter how old you are.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Mrs. Highland.

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