Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mine is Ginger. What is your Angel's Name?

Who could resist writing a blog post today, the 29th of February. My next blog post with this date won't appear until 2016. By that time, my husband and I will have a 16-year-old son, who will insist on driving us anywhere that we couldn't possibly walk. And a 13-year-old daughter, who will be driving us..........driving us.......well, let's just say, I'm certain our prayer time will have increased ten-fold by then. Lord help us.

But let's not jump ahead too soon. Last week, I touched on two areas of my life that I had made an intentional refocus or renewal ~ my overall physical health (by attending Boot Camp) and my state of mind (becoming an Automatic Negative Thought killer). This week, I'll cover my Third Focus for 2012, which includes reconnecting with those who have held and continue to hold a special place in my heart.

Her name is Ginger. Well, her birth name, but about eight years ago, I considered Ginger nothing short of my Heavenly Angel. My husband and I were expecting our second child. Okay! I say, "we were expecting," but I'm going to pull my female card out here! I was the one that was pregnant and I was miserable! Sick when I woke up. Sick all day. Sick when I  tried to go to sleep. Sick to the point that if I did get some sleep, I could barely sit upright until about Noon or take care of our very active 2 1/2 year-old son at the time. I had no idea how I could possibly get through the next nine months, let alone the next day.

I sat nearly lifeless, in church one Sunday praying silently for God to provide some relief to my 20 weeks of morning/all day sickness; and yet, at the outcome, produce the healthy baby we dreamed of adding to our family.  I recall gazing up at my husband while still seated in the pew and whispering, "Honey, I don't know how I'm ever going to get through this." As the service concluded, I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

She wasn't more than  5'ft. tall, but at 80 years, Ms. Ginger carried a smile and pleasantness about her that filled a room. I recognized her as one of our lifelong congregation members, who always seemed to have her seat securely reserved in the back row, even if no one else was there at the time. She lived near us and I remembered hearing that her husband had passed away several months earlier. And now she was approaching me in what must have been a difficult time in her life too. 

The words Ginger spoke to me that day, I still believe were divine providence, "Jody, I was just thinking. If you ever need any help taking care of Mark, I would be happy to come over and play with him so you can get some work done and get some rest."

In an instant, God answered my prayers and lifted a burden from me through a woman who was nearly 45 years older than myself. For the next few months, Ginger and Mark became the best of playmates. She would come over as early as 7 a.m. some days and stay for as long as I needed her. As much as Ginger was helping me, little did I know until years later how much she was grieving the loss of her husband. If she was sad, she didn't show it. If she was lonely, she never let on.

On a drive together to see her own grandchildren one day, I shared with Ginger that we didn't know the sex of our second child, (we hadn't found out the first time either) nor would be finding out ahead this time until the baby was finally here. 

"If it's another boy, " I told her, "we'll name him James Price. And if it's a girl, we'll name her Jessie Lynne."

Ginger said, "Why Jessie for a girl? Why Price for a middle name for a boy?"

I explained, "Well, my grandmother's name was Jessie and my maiden name is Price."

I'll never forget Ginger's astonishment in hearing those names together again. Then she said, "My mother's name was Jessie Price!"

Just another sign we knew had been God's way of letting Ginger and I know He had brought us together to help one another at a time in our lives when we needed each other the most.

In 2003, on the 10th day of the 10th month, at exactly 10 p.m., Ms. Jessie Lynne arrived (12 days past her due date) just a few ounces shy of 10 lbs. 

About a month ago, Ms. Jessie and I called Ginger at the nursing home she now resides and took her out for a "girls day", since her now 11-year-old former playmate, Mark, had a baseball day camp to attend. Her hands and joints so riddled with arthritis she had trouble moving, we took our time at lunch and shopping. I handed her a note that Mark had written to her to explain why he couldn't be there. She read it quietly. Attempted to fold it, and asked if I could help her put it in her purse.

She looked up at me and said, "You know....if it wouldn't have been for that little Mark and being able to spend that time with him back then, I think I would have died."

With tears in my eyes, I said, "Ginger, I know had it not been for you, I might have ended up the same way."

Lesson Learned: We're never too old or too young to make a significant impact in someone's life. The time that we spend building relationships, caring for one another and being aware of one's needs, has generational significance. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.

Mine is Ginger. What is your Angel's Name?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You An Ant? Or an AIN'T?

We just passed that six-week mark when any 2012 New Year's Resolution reached its goal, got reinforced, or just plain never made it out of the starting gate. The "making" or "announcing" of a resolution certainly has never been the roadblock in the gray matter between my ears. It's the "sticktoitiveness" that wanes heavily on my psyche.

However, this year I took a new approach. Instead, I determined that the "R" word when equating it to a yearlong, best-intention, would represent a Recommitment, a Refocus, a Renewal ~ to my overall health and happiness.

First focus: Since I'm taking this resolution thing in stages, I decided to start with my Health, which was fairly easy as our church pastor leaders kicked off 2012 with a series of messages using a popular brand of margarine, but changed the word at the end to reflect "I Can't Believe I'm Not BETTER!" They partnered with the local YMCA to bring trainers in for a six-week Boot Camp! Never in my life have I desired to be "pushed" into exercising, nor being accountable for such angst at 6 a.m. But for the six weeks, everyday that my scheduled allowed, I attended each session and made muscles hurt that I didn't even know I had. I deduced this as progress! Thus, a promise I made to myself to recommit to my health being fulfilled.
Second focus: During the series of messages, our teaching pastor centered his message around the MIND (Head). And how we needed to train ourselves to be an ANT killer -- (Automatic Negative Thought) killer! So, the next morning, I concentrated on the word "ANT". I said it over and over in my mind to the point it was engrained, "ANT, ANT, ANT......." I determined the message would make for a good blog post of my own. 
As I contemplated the words, my thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from the marketing director of MetraPark, our local multi-use complex in Billings, Mont., used for entertainment, trade shows, sporting events, etc. She wanted to know if I would be interested in taking one of the Harlem Globetrotters around Billings for his media visits to promote their ambassador program prior to their upcoming visit. Certainly a Globetrotter fan and interested, my only hesitation upon learning I would need to use my own vehicle was how I would ever get a 6'7 or taller player in my car. However, my concerns were put to ease when the marketing director explained,
"Oh Jody, he's one of the smaller players. His name is Ant!" 
ANT!! I couldn't believe how my positive thinking, or ANT (Automatic Negative Thought) killer, would have come into fruition so quickly and so literally.

My day taking Ant Atkinson to his media and school visits proved to be one of the "blessed" days of my life. He explained and showed me how during his collegiate basketball career at Barton College in North Carolina he led his team to its first and only national championship appearance in the 2007 NCAA Division II basketball tournament to beat the undefeated Winona State University. 
Ant, as a hometown hero, says the win was a culmination of his years of dedication to the sport, his God-given talent and prayers from his mother, father, who is a pastor; and his aunts and uncles, whom also serve in the ministry. Recorded as perhaps the greatest comeback in all of college basketball championship history, Ant scored 10 points in the last :39 seconds of the game to win the game!
You can read about Barton's triumphant win and Ant's journey to success in The Edge of Legend and watch that incredible ending of the game (in the YouTube video) , that helped lead to the beginning to Ant's career as a star player for the Harlem Globetrotters.
My time with Ant Atkinson may have only lasted a day, but the lesson in life he shared with me will last a lifetime:
  • There's no limit to God's ability to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name.
  • There's no "I" in "TEAM"
  • You're either an ANT (Automatic Negative Thought) "killer" or you "AIN'T"!
  • And as each point in a basketball game counts, so do the number of days we're given to make great things happen!
 So, tell me! Are you an ANT? Or an AIN'T?

Stay tuned for Focus Three & Four and go make GREAT things happen!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

History, Mystery, Emotional Marketing? How do You Sell You?

Treat today, Tuesday, Feb. 14th, like any other day and I'm guessing at least one special person in your life ~ spouse, significant other, parent or child ~ will eventually remind you with a gentle push or shroud of guilt.

Assuming that you've done your due diligence of already getting to the nearest department store or online shopping cart, what exactly are we celebrating today?

The Legend of St. Valentine
Here's the history of the patron Saint Valentine, or shall we say mystery. One legend contends that St. Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he proceeded to outlaw marriage for young men. St. Valentine, realizing the injustice to the young men, defied the emperor and continued to perform marriage for young lovers in secret. Upon this discovery, Claudius put Valentine to death. 

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for helping Christians escape Roman prisons, while another tale alludes to an imprisoned Valentine actually sending the first "valentine" greeting after he fell in love with a young girl, who had visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed, "From your Valentine."

Although the truth behind the St. Valentine story appears vague at best, the legend as we've come to know, emphasizes a sympathetic, heroic and a let's just call it the "selling point", of a romantic figure that has transcended centuries.

Emotional Marketing?
So what appears to be a day of celebrating the life of priest known as St. Valentine's, has turned into the second-most popular card sending day of the year, behind Christmas day. Certainly, we can agree that Hallmark Cards has not only created one of the world's best-known slogans, but captured the persona of "When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best", for any type of occasion, Valentine's Day or not, by gosh, it better be a one of those originals from the company that was founded by Joyce (J.C.) Hall.

Born in 1891 in David City, Nebraska, Hall worked odd jobs, mostly involving sales from as early as eight years old. In 1905, Hall had his brothers invested $540 to buy picture postcards and sell to store owners and other dealers around the Norfolk area. By 1908, Hall conceived the Norfolk Post Card Company and moved the business, which he carried in no more than two shoes boxes, to Kansas City, MO. By 1913, Hall and his brothers were operating Hall's department store, selling postcards and greeting cards. He bought an engraving business and began printing his own cards and in 1928, marketed the cards under the Hallmark brand name. 

Hall retired in 1966 and spent the better part of his years up until his death in 1982 revitalizing the Kansas City downtown area. He once stated:

 "If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money,  
chances are he won’t. But if he puts service and quality first,  
the money will take care of itself. Producing a first-class product that fills a real need
is a much stronger motivation for success than getting rich."
— J.C. Hall

How are You 'Getting Rich'?
To his millions of loyal customers, Hall created a company and brand that continues to embody what we are all trying to capture today on Valentine's Day ~ someone's heart. Whether it's for a moment or a lifetime, we know that by appealing to someone's emotions, in the sense that we really show that we care, we have the ability to create a bond, a loyalty, a lasting friendship, a business relationship, that can last a lifetime.

With that strategy in mind, we have a chance, not only today, but everyday to really make a connection to individuals that will be deemed as caring, quality and the best that we have to give. 

So, I ask in the "Big Red" spirit of a Nebraska-born girl on this, Valentine's Day 2012, what are you doing to makes someone else feel special today? It's amazing to me how often the least bit of effort, can yield us an audacious reward of the heart. It's up to you! Give it your best!

With an attitude of gratitude, may your day and those around you be abundantly blessed!


Sidebar from the Hallmark Card website:
In 1951, NBC approached Hallmark about sponsoring the first original opera created especially for television, Amahl and the Night Visitors. J.C. Hall decided to sponsor the program to thank all the people who bought Hallmark cards.

JC Hall accepting Emmy AwardJ.C. Hall received the first Emmy ever given to a sponsor for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

The opera aired on Christmas Eve and moved viewers to send thousands of letters, cards, and telegrams thanking Hallmark for presenting it. This would be the first in a series of specials that would become the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

In the nearly 60 years since, Hallmark Hall of Fame productions have won 80 Emmy Awards. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has presented two Emmy Awards to Hallmark as a sponsor.
By the time the company name was officially changed from Hall Brothers to Hallmark Cards, Inc. in 1954, the tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation started by J.C. Hall was deeply ingrained.