20 Acts of Kindness for Fall {& a Giveaway!}

August 19, 2018

Fall is a perfect time of year for kindness! 


With kids back in school and the change of seasons upon us, it's the perfect time to incorporate some acts of kindness into your fall schedule!

Click the link to receive our list of ideas for acts of kindness that kids and parents can do--simply download and save or print off and hang on your fridge as a reminder!

Don't forget to follow along with us on Instagram and Facebook as we share resources, inspiration, and encouragement for your own adventures in kindness!

We'd love to see what you're doing, so be sure to tag us with your kind acts and use the hashtags #kindnesscounts and #kindnessmatters


And don't miss our giveaway this week! Click the image to enter over on Instagram! 
(Giveaway ends on Wednesday August 22nd!)





When Parenting is Holy Work

August 18, 2018




God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

“Mom, can you make a window for me?”

The little voice was calling me from across the living room. Sighing, I turned from my laptop in the kitchen and looked over at my 5-year-old, standing expectantly by a large cardboard box, a pair of scissors in hand and hope writ large across her upturned face.
“Just a minute, Noelle,” I sighed, trying not to let my irritation over the interruption show. Tim and I were about to leave town for several days, and my to-do list of loose strings felt more like a rat’s nest of tangled threads, weighing me down. Our trip was two short days away and I already felt panicked over not finishing everything in time.

I returned to my correspondence, until a small voice piped up again: “Can you do it now, Mom?”

Frustrated, I turned to admonish her for lacking patience but, at just that moment, felt a small whisper inside:

What if this is your most holy work today?

The question made me pause. My to-do list felt endless, my house needed cleaning, laundry and dishes needed washing. I had editing and writing to do, and the organizations I work with needed tasks finished before I left town. All of those things felt important, necessary. I have people counting on me, I warred inwardly, silently.

But the quiet voice urged again: What if this is your most holy work today?

I have to admit that I pray for wisdom often as a mother because I know that, in my own power, I’m not cut out for it. I can be selfish; I’m not always brave. Sometimes I feel inadequate and unskilled, my degrees and life experience rendered meaningless.

Friends, I’m not enough.

But I believe—in a way I never used to—that motherhood is a calling. And that maybe, when God talks about being poor in spirit, this feeling of vulnerability—that in my own power, I am unequal to the calling I have received—is what he means and is the catalyst required for me to see how much I need him. Often, the mark of a true calling is the recognition that, in our own power, we are unequal to the task and could never accomplish it on our own.

For a long time, I hesitated to say that motherhood is a calling. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe it was important but because I know many women who may not have children, either by choice or by circumstance, and so giving motherhood that kind of privileging felt unkind. But I have come to believe what Holley Gerth says, that all women are mothers because all women bring life to the world in some way. Motherhood looks different to different people. With that said, I recognize my other callings, too. I’m called to be a writer. I'm called to be sensitive to those around me, overly empathetic in a way that can be challenging. I’m called to live generously. I’m called to volunteer with organizations that help others. And, I’m called to be a mom.

Refocusing on my daughter, I cross over to her. We talk about optimum window placement for her toy dog's “house,” adding one on each side and removing the top flaps. And as I sit beside her on the carpet, I resolve: Yes, this is my most holy work today. And I'm going to approach it that way.

Ponder: List one or more of your callings. Do you feel like God has equipped you to fulfill those callings? In what ways do you need to lean on him in order to fulfill them?

Pray: Read 1 Samuel 3. Though God may not speak aloud to us, he does communicate to us through his Word. Today, pray for the wisdom and discernment to listen to God and the truths he is revealing to you.

Act: Consider the callings you have received. Are there areas in your life in which you need to reprioritize in order to fulfill them? Today, prayerfully consider if you need to reconfigure your schedule, finances, or priorities.





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Why I Continue to Invite: Loving the Imperfect Welcome {Guest Post and Giveaway!}

April 25, 2018


We've had the honor of knowing Sue Moore Donaldson for a few years now and love the simple way she offers encouragement and easy ways to show God's love through hospitality and mentoring! Sue is nothing if not honest and real about how she chooses to share the love and hospitality of God (however imperfectly) with others. We know you're going to love her and her wisdom as much as we do. (We're also giving away a copy of her book Hospitality 101: Lessons From the Ultimate Host A 12-Week Bible Study! See details at the end of this post!)

Because God welcomed me perfectly, shouldn’t I welcome others perfectly?

That doesn't happen. Ever.

I've learned to love the imperfect welcome. With me, it's the only kind, yet God kindly uses imperfect offerings--culinary fails, awkward conversations, and a house with mice and no walls. In spite of my messy self, God does sweet wonders for those extra people at my table. So I keep inviting, anyway. Cooking and hosting, imperfectly--and I love it.

The Bully in the Mirror

April 15, 2018


"Be nice to my friend; I love her."

My text message zinged off in response to my sweet friend's texted lament one early morning.

She was frustrated; berating herself for grieving the loss of a pregnancy, determined that she should be "over it," and wanting desperately to feel only happiness for those pregnant around her instead of this mixed up mess of simultaneous grief and joy.

She is a woman filled to the tippy-top with mercy and grace for those around her, and yet, on this hard morning, the voices in her head were being undeniably cruel.

And my gentle response was to push back on her inner bully, reminding her that life almost always is a kaleidoscope of grief, joy, fear, courage, and everything in between, and that there is no shame in quietly mourning while also outwardly celebrating.

She is not alone in allowing her inner voice to speak with viciousness. I'm guilty. My best girlfriends are guilty. Every woman I've ever met, if we've had a chance to sit and quietly share our life's story, has confessed her inner bully.

Why?

10 Books that Teach Kids Kindness

April 10, 2018


"Did you know that everybody has a bucket, Mom?"

The question came out of nowhere. Still rubbing the sleep and early-morning confusion from my eyes, I huddled back into the warmth of my comforter and turned toward the daughter who had just climbed into bed with me. Looking intently at me--her adult teeth still a little too big for her, the sprinkle of freckles across her nose inviting a smooch, her hair in a wild bedhead tangle--she tried again.

"Everybody has a bucket, and you're either a filler or a dipper."

Ah, now it was starting to make sense. She was talking about Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids (Bucketfilling Books) by Carol McCloud. In it, the author describes how everyone has an invisible bucket, and that we have the choice to fill other people's through being kind and loving or to "dip" into them by being unkind.

The concept is easy for kids to grasp, and it's been a topic of conversation here since that morning that my daughter asked me if I'd read it. After school that day, she asked if I had remembered to be a filler that day and couldn't wait to tell me what she, in turn, had done. "Did you fill a bucket today? I did! I smiled at everyone, and I hugged Jaicie."

I'm a huge book nerd, and my children have started to become that way too. A few months ago, I joined an online community called The Intentional Book Club, and it's been a catalyst for me to go through the hundreds of books we have around our home and analyze whether they're in our home for a reason or simply taking up space. Because kindness is something we want to emphasize, I've been reading through books we owned or borrowed from the library to see if they are worthy of a spot on the bookshelf. With that in mind, I thought I'd share 10 of the books that teach kindness that are kid-approved and mom-approved by our family, in the hope that they might help your family, as well.

Why I Don't Tell My Kids to Be Nice

April 5, 2018


Crunch crunch, smack. Like nails on a chalkboard, I could hear the open-mouthed chewing of one of my children from across the room.

Chew with your mouth closed, please, I admonished her. As the evening wore on, other mannerisms arose: Please. Thank you. Excuse me. May I? I’m sorry. But the one admonishment that never crossed my lips? Be nice to your sister.

It’s not because I have exceptionally well-behaved children. They are just as likely to tattle because one sister threw a book at the other as they are to be amicably playing Polly Pockets together.

It’s also not because I don’t care about manners—a quick scan of social media is enough of a testimony to how we could all use a little more civility.

But the truth is, I don’t want an outwardly careful response to mask an inwardly careless heart.

Ignoring My Mom's Advice {Podcast and Giveaway!}

March 26, 2018



"Can I hug you?" She asked excitedly as she practically vibrated with happiness.

I eyed-balled the New York City native warily, considering, once again, how wrong I was in my perception of New Yorkers before giving her a hug. I'd helped her out, but my small kindness didn't warrant hugging a complete stranger, even by Minnesota Nice standards. And she was just the tip of the ice berg when it came to New Yorkers and unexpected kindness.  

Our family trip to New York City was filled with misadventures of over-the-top kindness in ways that made me laugh even as I began to rethink all the stereotypes of New Yorkers I've clung to over the years. 

But it wasn't until I was rather sadly descending the steps to St. Paul's Cathedral, having discovered it's massive wooden doors locked up tight, that I discovered that ignoring my mom's usually sound advice was one of the best decisions I made on that trip, opening us up to the kindest of all the kind acts we encountered in the Big Apple.  

When Anger Overwhelms Us

March 20, 2018


We had a conversation several weeks ago with one of our kids who is struggling with anger, specifically towards God. It’s understandable, since three of our five kids are adopted from foster care, and came to us with lives they’ve lived without us, unknown and unshared. We know this on one level, and yet as parents it can be so easy to forget.

The anger came out as a comment during a recent discussion. It was spoken offhand, as though daring to share it aloud meant fully committing to this truth, looking for a bad reaction from us. Instead my husband and I sat with the statement, unwilling to scold or judge. After a few moments I whispered, I can understand why you’d feel this way.

Anger can be a natural reaction to things that happen to us or to the people we love. When hard questions about life and why things have to happen the way they do go unanswered, often anger is there running right alongside the longing for why couldn’t things have been different. All too often, no one dares to ask that question aloud, but it whispers to us in the hollow of night, with no response back. It’s heartbreaking to not have answers for our kids. Especially answers that could soothe their heartache.

We’ve realized, as we see it play out before us, that anger is also a way to hide or to not feel the emotions that are buried deep below the surface. Anger is a way to ignore the pain and hurt. And I understand this, too. I—like my children, like all of us—am adverse to feeling pain and conjuring up old hurts I’d rather not remember. I'd much prefer to forget. And yet, left alone and unchecked, anger can destroy us from the inside out. A cancer to our hearts, minds, and very souls, left to fester it will eat away at our joy, our peace, our very lives. Anger, when allowed to grow, can easily turn to hate—hate of self, of others, and of God.

What My Sugar Addiction Taught Me

February 26, 2018

I thought I was doing the 40-day sugar fast for health reasons. After all the holiday cookies I had eaten, resetting my body by avoiding sugar sounded like a good idea.

It was the morning that I found myself crying in my bathroom, searching out “Bible verses when you feel like a bad mom” on my phone, that I realized what I had actually gotten myself into. Because it wasn’t about the fact that one of my children had a raging tantrum not two minutes before she needed to get out to the bus stop. Nor was it about my less-than-patient response, or the mom guilt that immediately ensued. No, what struck me was how in the aftermath, while grabbing something else from the pantry, I caught a glimpse of marshmallows in my peripheral vision. And a voice inside whispered, “You’d feel better if you ate those.”

Here’s the thing. I like a good s’more, but I don’t sneak marshmallows. Ever. So where was this impulse coming from?

We all Need Grown-Up Girlfriends

February 12, 2018

I have been blessed with a core group of friends since my early 20s. Brought to me through the love and prayers of my sister Katrina, I’ve known the richness of women who’ve walked with me these past several years.

So imagine my surprise when, last fall, Jasmine joined a competition dance team—something she is passionate about—and I found new friends. Good friends. They didn't replace my old friends; I have room in my life and heart for both. Friends I didn’t even know that I was missing until I met them. 

They are friends who don’t care that you aren’t perfect. Who step in to help you with your daughter's hair because they’re so much better at it than you are, anyway. Who make all the hotel arrangements, and bring the drinks, and tell you not to worry when you forget something because they’ve got your back. Women who offer to sew things for you (because your sewing skills are seriously inept), who text you recipes and tips for cooking.

Women who let you be you. Imperfectly you. 

This is a gift. 

Women who laugh with you. Who listen to hard stories. Who welcome your family and distant family members and don’t ask too many questions. Who hold your daughter's tender secrets.

And can I tell you something?

The Intentional Kindness Community {An Online Network of Support}

January 26, 2018


Friends, we are SO excited to introduce something new today: The Intentional Kindness Community! 
This no-strings-attached Facebook group has been on our heart for a while, and we can't wait to share it with you. Our goal is to inspire generous, purposeful living through everyday acts of kindness--and we want YOU to be there! 

Together, we hope to learn, grow, and connect through conversation prompts, occasional live videos, challenges, links to articles and inspiring acts of kindness, and more. Our goal is to make this community a safe place for YOU to ask and answer questions, share resources you come across or ideas you’ve had that have been successful, and encourage and support others in our mutual quest to live a full, abundant life of intentional kindness and generosity. 

Click the group link to join us!




10 Ways to Be Kind to Your Neighbor

January 8, 2018

It’s the time of year that people make resolutions–things they hope to achieve in the coming year. I don’t like the word “resolutions” because I can never seem to keep them, but I do like the word “goals.”

One of my goals for 2018 is to live a life of kindness and generosity and teach my children to do the same. With that in mind, we've come up with a list of 10 Ways to Be Kind to Your Neighbor as a starting point to kick off the new year.

If you’d like to print it instead, here’s a handy link to a PDF file, courtesy of our amazing publisher Tyndale House.

25 Days of Kindness Complete!

January 5, 2018

Another year of Advent Acts of Kindness is complete! Below is a list of all the kind acts we did this past month!

Day 1: A small gift to celebrate a friend pursuing God-sized dreams. Let us be women who cheerlead and encourage one another, who celebrate, who whisper “do it” when she wonders whether she can. 

Day 2: This week we gave away our dining room table to a young single mom who was moving into a new home with her two littles. 

While we were cleaning the table to get it ready, Kyle decided we should also recover the seats. As we worked to do so, one of our kids asked why we would take the time to recover the seats if we were just giving it away. Kyle responded, “we wantto give away things in the best condition we can. We want to give people our best.” It’s a good reminder as we start this Advent season, let’s give people our best.

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