Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2nd Annual Birthday Project

It's funny, I always say that God has my life laid out in themes. He knows that I connect with them and that I am a better student if I am taught with themes. Now, God being God, I often don't have the privilege of knowing the theme until after I have been taught the lesson. It is sort of a fun little game we play. I realize what the theme was, often a verse, and I can look back and see every piece of the lesson that was a part of that. My Birthday Project this year was no exception. In fact, it was just 5 minutes ago that I was able to figure out what my theme was. So like God.

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:5-6

Last year's Birthday Project was incredible and taught me a lot. (If you haven't read the blog post please click on the link in the previous sentence. It also helps explain my heart in sharing this experience.) I had so many friends and family members who helped me pull off an awesome day of kindness. It took lots of planning and I admit that organizing the whole thing was a little stressful for me (yet so completely worth it.) My attempt to orchestrate a similar plan this year was thwarted by busy schedules. The weekend just wasn't going to work out like I wanted it to so I told myself that this didn't have to be an every year thing and decided I would forego my Birthday Project this year. I'm not proud of it, but I decided that I couldn't pull it off and gave up before I even asked God if He would like to give it a shot. Thankfully, He has no problem letting me know when I am in the wrong. Sunday night around 8 o' clock I started feeling like I should go ahead with my Birthday Project. It was overwhelming, so I prayed. I felt at ease and knew that the project was a go and that this year it would not involve a team of people or even very much planning. It would be me and my sweet 5 year old boy praying our way through our city and loving on the people God put in front of us.

We started out later than I would have liked and with only a hand full of ideas for our random acts of kindness. I also did not take many pictures during the day because it was just Jace and I. I wanted to focus on being in the moment more than preserving the moment in a picture for a change. I decided to start at home, on Facebook:

#1.Prayed for my Facebook friends (disregard the #18. I briefly had a plan of action that was completely abandoned before it was even started. lol!)
The response honestly shocked me. Almost instantly my inbox and message thread filled with the prayer requests of my friends. Things I had no idea they needed prayer for. I spent a good portion of my morning sitting and praying for others. It was so special to me. God really opened my eyes to the power of the words "How can I pray for you?"

#2 Got my FB friends involved! and  #3 Posted something positive on FB
I asked my FB friends to go out and be the good where they were. My RAOK buddy Chrissy from Let Me See You Sparkle jumped right in and bought coffee for someone. I had other friends comment and message me that they would also be doing their own random acts of kindness.

#4 Took treats to kiddos
When I decided not to do my project this year I accepted a friend's invitation to take Jace to play with her kids. She helped me with last year's project so when I told her I had decided to do it last minute she offered to help me with any prep while the kids played. We showed up to play/prep and brought along chocolate yummies for the kids. 

#5 Left a treat for the Postman

Our Postman is the nicest guy. He talks to my dogs when he brings our mail to the door and is always cheerful. He also comes pretty late in the day and I often wonder if he is at the end of a full day of work. I imagine he is usually ready for a little pick me up by the time he hits our place. So yesterday he got one. =)

#6 Left some Joy @ Kuppa Joy
Kuppa Joy is my new favorite meeting spot/coffee stop. The environment is amazing, the coffee is amazing, the employees are amazing. I just love it there. So I knew I wanted to do something special (and grab a coffee) there. I saw a jar of their signature cookies and chocolates on the counter and decided I would just buy the whole darn thing. I left it by the register and the barista added a note so customers could take one for free. She told me that she would make sure everyone got one of my RAOK cards with their treat. Here is the card I use:

#7 Taped a dollar to a toy at the Dollar Store

#8 Bought 10 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to put a smile on a Girl Scout's face

#9 Had those 10 boxes sent to soldiers oversees

#10 Took coloring books and crayons to the Labor & Delivery waiting room @ the hospital

#11 Left water and snacks in the waiting room

This was the first really interactive moment with a recipient. There was a woman in the waiting room on the phone with what sounded like her insurance company. She was clearly upset and arguing with the person on the other end. I walked over and set a bottle of water and granola bar next to her. To my surprise she demanded that the person she was arguing with please hold, put her phone down and thanked me. She said she was tired, hungry, and upset and my treat was perfectly timed. (thanks God!!)

#12 Took a pretty bag of goodies to the nurses station.

#13 Gave a water and granola bar to a worker changing a light bulb in the parking lot.

#14  Smiled at strangers and let them walk in front of our car whenever we had the chance.

#15 Paid for the car behind us at McDonalds
This is a funny one because I DO NOT eat McDonalds. I just do not like it at all. We were so busy doing our RAOK that we didn't think to stop until after the lunch rush. This meant most drive thrus were empty and we wouldn't have the chance to pay for the person behind us. Most drive thrus, but NOT McDonalds. It was packed so I took one for the team and we went there. This was one of those lesson moments for me. As I pulled up to pay a BRAND NEW Mercedes pulled up behind me. My heart sank. Clearly this person did not need me to buy them a cheeseburger. As I looked in my rear view to see the cashier hand her my RAOK card I saw her face get very sour. She seemed almost annoyed by the act. As I drove out her face had changed and she smiled and waved to me. God reminded me that just because she may not have needed the money, she may have needed the kindness.

#16 Dropped off cookies to the staff at our church's offices.

#17 Took 4 bags of our previously loved items to Neighborhood Thrift

#18 Gave water and snacks to the guys working in the warehouse.

#19 Gave a homeless man some goodies
THIS is where I realized that God was truly keeping me on track. Jace and I spent a lot of time in between acts praying that God would guide us. That he would put people in our path that needed His love and that he would lead us to where we needed to be. He did just that, in the form of a wrong turn. I've lived in Fresno my entire life. I know my way around. So when I took a wrong turn it didn't take long for me to realize that I was probably on my way to an unplanned act of kindness. Then God gave me a sign. An actual cardboard sign that read: "PLEASE Do Random Acts Of Kindness!!! God wants you to share His love with the world." The clean cut, nice looking man holding it was 2 feet away from the corner where I was stopped at the longest red light in town. I rolled down my window and told him that I had something for him. I gave him one of my cards that was attached to some goodies. He read the card and about fell over. I told him I was out doing random acts of kindness and felt like God had purposefully put him in my path. He then told me that he is homeless and that he had lost his tent that morning. He explained that he does well with what he has so he isn't out asking for money. He simply has all day to share God's love so that is what he does. At that point the light turned green and I thanked him for talking to me and drove away. God immediately told me to go buy that man a tent.

#20 Bought a man a home
I went up the street to Big 5 and bought a tent for my new RAOK Buddy. It wasn't anything too fancy. It was basic and was on sale so it was honestly the only one I could even afford. I drove back and as he saw me turn the corner he waved. When he saw me turn into the parking lot by him he looked confused. We got out and brought his tent over to him. I said, "I know it isn't much, but I hope that this helps." He fought back tears and then just let them fall. He began sobbing and told me that it may not be much to me, but to him it was a home. I had just bought him a home. I started to cry too. If God hadn't led me right to him AND given me THAT sign I would have passed him by thinking he was just an average pedestrian. He didn't fit the mold of what I knew a homeless person to look like at all. My eyes were opened by that. We stood and talked for a while and as I watched him walk away I saw him shaking his head in disbelief and looking up to the sky. I'm pretty sure we were thanking God simultaneously at that moment.

#21 Fed a traveler
While leaving Big 5 I saw a man at the exit of the parking lot. He was holding a sign that said "Traveling. Any thing would help." I offered him some water and granola bars (yes, I was super stocked up on these! lol!) He looked me in the eye (which in my experience is sadly pretty rare) and said "Sweetie, thank you so much." There was something about him that struck me. His face was so kind and so warm.  I must have just sat there for a whole minute staring at his face mesmerized by it's kindness. He just smiled.

#22 Left coins on toy machines

#23 Taped hot chocolate and popcorn to a Redbox machine. 

#24 Gave hot chocolate to prostitutes
As I drove up to the 7-11 where I taped the goodies to the Redbox machine I saw a woman approach a man and watched him flip out on her. She walked away and resumed her stance against the wall beside the machine. I told her hi as I went about my business. She asked me what I was doing and I told her about the Birthday Project. She asked if I was there with a church or something. I said no, I was just wanting to spread God's love. By that time a friend of hers had joined us and offered up the info that they were actually prostitutes looking for work. Jace and I got them some hot cocoa and talked to them for a few minutes about God. It wasn't incredibly deep. I didn't lead them through the sinners prayer or get them off the streets, but for 5 minutes they were people who mattered. They heard the most important truth that afternoon, that God loves them.

#25 Snuck cookies into the teachers lounge at Jace's school.

#26 Secretly stashed a thank you note into the cab of an open fire truck. 

#27 Taped money to a vending machine

#28 Left a note of encouragement on a table in the mall food court.

#29 Gave flowers to a stranger
Jace and I prayed that God would lead us to someone who needed cheering up so we could give them flowers. At first I thought I would leave them on a doorstep, but then felt like the mall was actually where I should go. We walked in and it was a ghost town. We didn't even see anybody working! Until we passed the Brow Shapes salon. I saw a woman who looked like she was positively miserable sitting there with no customers in sight. She just looked so forlorn I knew she needed a pick me up. We walked in and she stuttered over the words "Do you need your brows done?" This was hysterical because I clearly have no real eyebrows. Mine are tatooed on. lol! I said no and Jace said "These are for you." Her whole demeanor changed. Her face lit up and she kept asking if we were sure we had the right person. We smiled, said we were positive, and wished her a good night.

#30 Cancelled my birthday dinner
I was REALLY REALLY REALLY looking forward to my birthday dinner. I mean a lot! Hubs was taking me to my favorite restaurant and I had been thinking about it all week. We had a sitter lined up for Jace and I was literally dreaming of this dinner non stop. Until Jace heard the plan. He started crying and said he couldn't believe that he wasn't invited to my birthday. Worst.Mom.Ever. I tried to explain that it wasn't a party, but he wasn't having it. He said that he really wanted to throw me a pizza party and that he would call his Nonna and invite her too because "she is your mother after all." So, I did what any mom would do. Cancelled the sitter, put on my sweats, and ordered my own birthday pizza. He was so happy and proud of himself that I didn't even think once about the amazing creme brulee I could have been indulging in. =)

#31 Gave a BIG tip to the pizza delivery driver.

#32 Sent a card to a random stranger
This is where God handed me my theme. This is not, however, where I realized it. lol! I prayed, opened the phone book and pointed to a name. I then opened my bible and pointed to a verse (not the best method MOST of the time, but I was tired and it was really meant to be.) I wrote the verse in the card and addressed the envelope then prayed for the recipient. I didn't think twice about it other than being happy it was one of those feel good encouraging verses. That is, until I opened my Facebook this morning and the first thing I saw was a verse. I thought "WHOA! That verse totally summed up my Birthday Project!! I should use it!" and then it hit me, I already had! It was on it's way to the random couple from the phone book! 

I had my theme! I was able to trust God, after his gentle nudging, to help me carry out this project that I KNEW I could not handle alone. I didn't have a notepad with all 32 acts pre-planned like I would have preferred. God instead gave us the opportunity to pray and listen for His voice in everything we did and everywhere we went. He kept us on track and made his presence known and for that I am truly blessed.

 For the second year, God has used these acts of kindness (which from the outside may look like me blessing others) to bless me beyond my wildest dreams. Can I urge you to
 "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." 
While you are listening for God's voice you may just hear a way that you can share His love with someone who needs it and receive the blessing that comes to you when you do kind things for others.