Kindness Week

You know how you meet people every once in a blue moon that you know God connected you with to be the encouragement you need?  About a month ago, I had that experience, and have been amazed by the words that this new friend shares, but not just with me.  You should get in on this.

This week she is INSPIRING! us to be part of Kindness Week.

Her family {some clearly cool fabulous people} has been thinking up projects to do all week to just plain share kindness with people around them.  They’ve put a lot of prayer, thought, time, and even $ into this.  I’m already excited for the people they meet who get to be the receivers, but even more so to hear how this impacts her {already super cool} family.

I’m doing some brainstorming on my own of what Kindness Week looks like in our home, but it started yesterday with our family helping to serve a lunch to some VIP’s in our life.

Check out her words, and let us both know if you plan to join us, and what Kindness looks like in your home!

 

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Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

I had the chance to share this very important post on another site today (though it was written weeks ago)- it’s one I feel so strongly about, and hope that you’ll read and share.  It’s originally posted on Time’s Up Blog and I invite you to visit there to read more.  Though more than a month has past since this tragedy, we can’t forget.

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Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

 

by Anita Davis Sullivan

Saturday, June 22nd, I think you could hear our corner of Florida wail. It wasn’t the first time that something tragic has happened, but it was fresh and raw. Many of awoke that Saturday morning to reports of the abduction of 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle the previous night. Shortly after, we learned that Donald Smith, the prime suspect, had been arrested during a traffic stop, with no sign of Cherish. And a very short time later, we learned that the body of 8 year old Cherish had been found, near the Walmart she was abducted from.

Within moments, there were questions. Why had the mother allowed the child to go with a man they had known for just a few hours? Why had the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office not alerted the public sooner that there was a child abduction? Why did the FDLE not notify the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which would have prompted the phone alerts for the Amber Alert?  Why had Donald Smith seemingly fallen through the cracks and not been treated as a Sexually Violent Predator as recommended by the Department of Children and Families 11 years ago?

I don’t know. No one has the answers yet.

And though I pray they come, and that other children may be saved by what our community learns through this tragic event, my focus quickly turned to how we can help those here now. I heard from parents who sat and talked with their children about ‘Stranger Danger’ or watched them ever closer this weekend. I heard from one mother who had the heartbreaking job of telling her 8 year old daughter that her good friend Cherish was forever gone.

And though we must teach our children, I fear that we teach them the wrong things too often. The real danger is not in strangers- even Cherish was taken and killed by someone who gained her mother’s trust, albeit in a few short hours. But it’s estimated that less than 5% of attacks on children are by a stranger.

We must focus on teaching our children what is appropriate behavior, and how to trust their instincts.

June 26, 2013 marked the six year anniversary of the day that my brother, Michael “Austin” Davis went missing from Jacksonville, Florida. He was an adult, and most likely wasn’t abducted. But from this experience sometimes comes a need to protect my children even more. To make sure that our family doesn’t lose another. So I do teach them, not to be afraid, but to:

  • Know what kind of touching is appropriate and inappropriate, and that it’s okay to say “No!” and get away from anything that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Know who we consider safe grownups are. These are the people in our circle that they should be able to trust. But always reminding them, that it’s okay to say “No!” to even these people if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Know that they never have to protect us. If someone threatens us if they don’t do what the person says, they don’t have to do it.
  • Get permission to go anywhere, and stay in groups.
  • Never help an adult without our permission. It can be a trick.

In six years of missing my brother, we’ve also had to deal with the question of how much to tell our oldest, who celebrated his 4th birthday just two days before his Uncle Austin went missing. No matter if it’s a lost family member or a lost friend, children grieve and need help doing so.

Here are my tips on helping your child through a time of loss:

  • Let them see your emotions.
  • It’s okay for them to know you’re sad, as it let’s them know it’s okay for them to be sad too.
  • Encourage them to share memories of their loved one.
  • Create a scrapbook or box of memories that they can look through and remember their loved one. Allow them to participate in adding to it. For example, my son has a great memory of my brother taking him fishing. I’d forgotten about it, but he hasn’t.
  • Communicate with caregivers.
  • Let teachers or caregivers know that your child may experience out of the norm behaviors as they cope with this. Let your child know they can talk to these adults in their lives about what they’re feeling.
  • Share stories with your kids.
  • Tell stories about the lost loved one as your kids grow, reminding them how much the person loved them, or would have loved seeing them grow. Keep them alive in the heart of the family, giving your kids a feeling of roots and love. My sons have limited family in their lives, but I always want them to know the love of family.
  • Be honest on a level they can understand.
  • When my brother was first missing, we didn’t know what to tell our son. We didn’t want to lie, but we don’t really know the truth. We don’t know where he is. We’ve come to realize that it’s okay to say “we don’t know but we won’t give up until we do” and keep the brutal details from him (like that we believe he killed himself). As he’s gotten older, we’ve added more details but always the truth as he could understand and cope with it.

There are no simple answers on how to keep your kids safe, or how to help them through a loss like this. Just as there are no easy answers on why this tragedy happened.

But on this anniversary of my brother’s disappearance, I do know that I can help educate parents, who truly just want to keep their kids safe.

Rest in peace Cherish. You will not be forgotten.

Brave Women

I want to whine today.  My back hurts, my foot hurts, I’m tired, I have too much to do and too little time.  My son is in the Bahamas, with a tropical storm expected before he leaves.  I’m traveling all next week for work, when I’d really like a vacation.  (and yes, that was all kind of whiny)

But, you know what?

My friend was diagnosed with Lymphoma yesterday, and talks with an Oncologist for the first time today.  She is younger than me.  She has young kids.  She has a husband, and a job, and a life, and plans for next week and next month and next year.  But she’s taking a detour.  Today, she’s learning what the plan is, and for the next several months it will be about the fight.  She’s only had about 12 hours to process it.  And she’s cried.  But she’s strong and she knows she’ll beat it.  And have no question- I also believe she’ll kick it’s ass.  But today?  Today sucks.  Big time.

And then there is this.

The three young women who were held captive for years in Ohio, and were just freed two months ago (read my original post about it here) have released the video statement below.  They are showing us that you can walk through hell and not just make it out alive, but do it “with a smile on my face.”  Take 2 minutes and watch.  They are the face of hope.

So today, I will whine {less} and hopefully we can be inspired together by these brave women. 

All four of them, including my friend.

 

 

Searching for the Lost

search truckToday, in many different places, a search is being organized.

Searchers are packing their things and their dogs and their tools.

Search leaders are scouting where the teams will search just past daybreak tomorrow.

Why today?  Well, because it’s Friday and these are volunteers, most who also work full time jobs and care for families.  So today they prepare, and tomorrow they search.

Because on the weekends, they become heroes, searching for the Lost.

Today, they are bringing HOPE to a family.

Today, that family prepares their heart for the weekend of not taking a breath while they wait.  Wait for what they fear.  Wait for what they long for.

Today, we pray for both.  For searchers heading out, and for families getting ready.

Today, that family isn’t ours.  But it will be again one day, hopefully soon.  And though this is repeating itself all over the country today, today my heart is with one specific family, and one specific group of searchers.

Today, pray for them with me.

For a look at what a family goes through during a search, read this post. 

 

When the path becomes difficult, that’s no reason to give up. In fact, it means you’re making real progress. The mountain becomes more rugged and steep the closer you get to the summit. Keep going, keep climbing, keep making the effort, and soon you’ll find yourself reaching the top.

 The challenges you encounter are unquestionable proof that you’re making a positive difference. Make use of those challenges, not as an excuse to stop, but rather as a platform from which to push forward.

 For the greatest achievements come in response to the greatest challenges. When the going gets rough, you are most certainly in the presence of profound opportunity.

 When there is much that must be done, there is enormous value waiting to be created. Step boldly forward and claim that value.

 Whatever may come, whatever may seem to block your path, choose to keep moving. There are truly magnificent rewards just on the other side of your persistent efforts.

— Ralph Marston

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is an art, a long-standing practice that originated with someone very wise I’m sure. The ability to center one’s self, to breathe deeply and live fully in the moment is a skill that takes practice. I have visions of mastering this art, and being able to simply be still. Not just my body, but also my mind. To pray fully focused on my intent, to write fully focused on what I’m trying to convey, or to even play with my boys without wondering how quickly I can jump to the next thing.

If you arrived here hoping to find an expert, you’re so out of luck. I was tortured this morning with about 20 minutes of time in a dark room, in a fairly comfortable position, with therapy treatments happening on my back. 20 minutes with no phone, no books, no voices, no distractions. Just me and God time. Or it could have been me and me time. But instead it was me and God time for about 30 seconds at a time, broken up by moments of lost train of thoughts, knees begging to be cracked, a phone buzzing to be checked, before I’d come back to my prayer. I should be enjoying these moments of quiet, with nothing to do but heal and be still.

Instead, I’m searching for a book that must exist, Meditation for Beginners (or Dummies).

In the meantime, here are some things I’m trying, to help me find if there’s a hope for me in this mess of a mind.

– Accepting that for 20 minutes, three times a week, my only activity is being still.
– Putting the phone down more. I won’t likely ever be the person that forgets where their phone is for a day. It’s too much a part of my job and my goals with writing. But I can give my kids my full attention for more than 30 seconds at a time and just be there. (I wish this one wasn’t so hard)
– Just write. Many times I have too many thoughts and ideas flying around and can’t seem to get organized and settled enough to share them. I’m pushing myself to just start writing, and worry about editing later. It’s okay if it’s a mess.

 meditation

The biggest challenge of being still is the thoughts that come that you’d rather not face. Just a week or so away from the 6th anniversary of the last day we saw Austin, thoughts of him come often. Which lead to thoughts of our search and the lack of progress, which lead to thoughts of hopelessness. I wish that thoughts of Austin could ever just be the good memories, but I’m not sure that’s possible. So I don’t welcome the good memories as much either, because they turn into painful ones.

Thankfully, the painful thoughts usually turn to thoughts of hope and images of what the day will look like when we finally know. I still believe that it will be another painful time, one of grieving or more questions, because no matter the result there will be that. But I know who will be standing by our side, who will help shine Hope into the darkness, and know that God will use people like us to keep shining it for others.

But my best chance of shining that light is if I can be present and put all my energy into one thing for those moments I have. So, if you know of a book like Meditation for Beginners, or Meditation for Dummies, let me know!

Defining Beauty

While traveling today I read an article in the U.S. Airways Magazine by Brion O’Connor about a topic I barely remember.  It included the story of an artist, Fritz Drury, who studies and understands beauty better than most.  He spent some time with the author’s brother, and they were discussing what makes something beautiful, which is a concept very hard to define. 

They came to agree upon the one theme for defining beauty:  contrast. 

 

From mountains to oceans, to paintings to performing art, contrast is what awes us and creates the feeling of beauty in so many cases.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the contrast from our daily view, something so different than what we’ve grown accustomed to, that we can’t help but see it as beautiful.  But we might not have seen it’s beauty otherwise. 

Contrast is where we find beauty in life too, where God shows us His wonders. 

Watching an adult walk down the street is no miracle and is hard to see beauty in when you see thousands of the same every day.  But learn that the young man walking down the street in front of you is recovering from a stroke that partially paralyzed him, and that loved ones feared he may never walk again, and you see beauty in those steps. 

 

Hearing a story on the news of a person found deceased is sad and far from beautiful, when you know that someone has lost their loved one.  But learn that the family has been searching for 11 years and celebrates the selfless volunteers who gave their time and talent, and never gave up, and you see beauty in the pain. 

Reading a message from a woman who is getting ready for work seems mundane and ordinary.  But learn that she had been out of work for over a year and desperate, and you see beauty in that every day task.

 

Seeing a mom watch her son play at the park, just like a thousand other moms is forgotten in an instant.  But learn that she has tears in her eyes because her son is playing with other kids, and feels typical for a few minutes despite his disability, and you’ll see beauty. 

 

God’s work is best displayed in the contrasts.

 

Every few months I get upgraded to first class on a flight.  I try to hide my excitement and act like I have that special treatment all the time.  I look around at people who really do fly first class regularly, and realize that they aren’t enjoying it nearly as much as me.  They’re used to it.  It’s only so cool when you’re used to the back of the plane begging for water. 

 

Despite that, I still want first class all the time.  Despite the beauty of the contrast from struggles to overcoming, I still want no struggles.  But God’s work is best seen in the contrasts, I remind myself time and time again. 

 

Our two big valleys for God to use are Michael’s health and everything that comes with that (financial challenges, emotional challenges, logistical challenges), and our ongoing search for Austin. 

 

Right now, the only real contrasts in our life is the difficulty of circumstances vs. the attitude to persevere and find Hope no matter what.   But I keep believing that one day, the contrast God shows in our life will be that much greater and show His work that much more. 

 

I will keep believing.   

 

  

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

In the Storm

We’re in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except that in this very minute, it’s calm and there is no rain.  But when I look at the sky, I know it’s just a momentary lapse, and the worst of the storm is yet to come. Okay, truth is that I can’t see that from the sky.  But the Weather Channel, along with my local news give us the warnings to heed- there may be flooding, tornadoes, downed limbs and power outages.  Thankfully they stand in the gap to share how to stay safe instead of us relying on our own instincts which so often fail.

See?  We're under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

See? We’re under that black mark in the middle of the image- completely covered.

It’s really not a big deal though.  I’ve sat through more Hurricanes and Tropical Storms than I can recall, from before I can recall.  I’ve lived in Florida all of my life but two years, and those two years were on the coast of Mississippi where we rode out a few as well.  It’s just part of life.  And in the summer when we have a break from the storms?  Wildfires my friends, wildfires.  So many that your nostrils burn from the smoke, your eyes water just by opening a window, and you pray that a Tropical Storm will come along to drench us again.

No matter where you live, there are natural forces to be reckoned with though.  I can’t imagine being startled by the shrill of a unexpected tornado siren in the Midwest.  Or being woken by a violent shaking that rattles the walls and leaves you hoping that the earth doesn’t open up and swallow you on the West Coast.

I like the storms I’m used to.  I know where to turn for information, how to prepare, and how to keep my family safe.

In life I feel the same.  I like the trouble I know and fear the unknown.  But the really cool thing is that we also have a guide, someone who stands in the gap and helps us and comforts us.

No matter what type of storm we face, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or instincts.  In fact, when we do is when we get into the real danger.  It’s such a comfort to know that God is more reliable and knowledgeable than the Weather Channel, and more prepared to deal with disaster than the Red Cross.

In Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, or the storms of life, He is our help.

There’s no need to have all the answers, just to know where to get them.

~  Anita ~

 

Memorial Day Rememberances

Ten years… Ten years since I sat at the memorial of a young man lost from my husband’s battalion.  Ten years since I was pregnant with our first and vowed to have him remember that young man.  I didn’t know that we’d face so much loss in the next ten years that it would become even more poignant.  I didn’t know that between years Nine and Ten, a friend would lose her children’s dad to PTSD and I’d count one more among those we remember.

Memorial Day.  We remember.

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The Case of the Missing Rooster

I’m a funny gal.  Don’t believe me, just ask me. I like to laugh.  I don’t think I take things too seriously when they’re meant to be funny.

However…

Photo Credit: Eden Kendall

This week, in “fun” there is a search on for a missing Rooster.  I was listening to one of the 10 radio stations I flip between (I like virtually all types of music) and heard a DJ lamenting the loss of her rooster.  She asked all the “what if” questions of what she could have done differently to have not had him leave.  She mentioned possible sightings of him hitchhiking.  She discussed him like he was part of her family.  And yet, this wasn’t even a pet she had lost and was really looking for help to find.  It was a stupid attempt at humor.  And of course a radio promotion used to promote the station and give away some free stuff.

I was bothered by it, and as much as I wanted to laugh it off,  I just couldn’t.  I didn’t even really want to write about it, knowing people will read and think, “it’s just a joke, lighten up.”  But if you know me, you know I laugh easily and am not easily offended.  This was just different.

Missing someone you love isn’t funny.

It isn’t a joke.  And it’s not okay by me that more people shared the photo of the missing Rooster than shared the photo or news story of Rosemary Day, a young woman missing from our area for two years yesterday.  Two years of her family searching, missing, loving, longing.  Two years of wondering if they’ll ever see her face again.

Have fun.  Laugh.  Enjoy life.  But remember those who can’t.

News Coverage on Rosemary Day

 

You have a baby… In a Hearing

Sweet Home Alabama had one of the best lines ever-

“You have a baby… In a bar.”

I laugh at the line for a number of reasons, but including that I spent some of my early months at a beach bar that was a family business for my parents best friends. I turned out mostly okay.

Yesterday, a congressman from North Carolina, Rep. Mel Watt, made big news for bringing his grandson to a congressional hearing, and leading questioning with the baby on his lap. To give the kid credit, he was quiet for most of it, and was simply adorable for all of it. The child’s mother and grandmother were apparently having lunch with the First Lady, and Granddad pulled baby duty.

Media outlets have responded a lot differently- with headlines like “baby lightens mood” to “cranky baby testifies.”  Some people think that it was a distraction tactic, some think it shows that he has no respect for the process and his job.

I’m just annoyed that real news is overtaken by this story.  The only thing getting more news is Jodi Arias’ interview where she stated that she wants the ultimate freedom of death.  Running a close third may be the story of the #fitchthehomeless campain, or maybe it’s OJ Simpson requesting a new trial. So to sum up, this week we’re focusing on a baby on a lap, a murderess who is getting the spotlight she so wants, a man responding poorly to a real story of a despicable CEO, and a criminal seeking a new trial.  If you haven’t caught all these news stories, kudos.  As for me, I’m in a hotel alone this week, with more news access than normal since no one is clamoring to watch Disney Junior.  Disney Junior was probably a better choice for me though.

Instead of watching more Mickey, I decided to dig deeper and find some real news, some stories worth reading or watching.

– Did you know that this week a 4 year old girl died after being raped?  There are no words.  But there should be outrage.  In a recent report, the Asian Center for Human Rights cited statistics that it said showed 48,338 child rape cases were reported in India between 2001 and 2011. The report said the number of cases rose from 2,113 in 2001 to 7,112 in 2011.  As humans, we should be asking what we can do.  We should not be keeping our eyes closed.

– An Austrian woman held captive for over 8 years speaks, and writes, about how she’s been able to bury the hate and find a way to see positives in her life.  Brave.  Strong.

– Have you heard about the teens in Charlotte who have founded a non-profit to free slaves– and are really doing it?  These kids are doing amazing things.  This is news.  This is inspiring.

Those are just a few of the stories worth our attention this week.  I’m challenging myself, and you, to look for the real news.  Look for the real heroes and the real opportunities to make a difference.