Living (and giving) with a grateful (and gracious) heart

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Are you raising your children to do good?

Guitar lessons.

Play practice.

Homework.

Playdates.

As a mom I know and can remember firsthand the schedules that we well meaning moms can find ourselves in. It's inherent. It's instinctive. It's (what we think anyway) is initiative.  We want the best for our kids. We try to pour anything we think is good into our kids. While all that can actually be very beneficial to our children we should stop and ask ourselves if we are taking the time to show our children to be gracious to (and grateful for) the world and the people around us.

Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

On July 4, 2012, I tragically lost my 10 year old son, Noah along with his good friend, Nate Lynam, in a lake accident. My world was torn apart as well and it shook our community to its very core. "How could a 10 year old life come to such a tragic end?" "How could God let this happen?" "What can I do to help?" These are just a few of the many questions that were asked by so many during this time.

The story of Noah's death made national headlines and touched people across the country. I was on staff at a large church and still living in the same town I grew up in so we were blessed with an endless amount of love and support. People from all over wanted to reach out to us in a variety of ways. From cooking meals, monetary donations, transporting us various places, notes, texts of encouragement and, most importantly, prayers were just a few of the ways people expressed their sympathy for us.

I was so grateful for all these but at the same time overwhelmed with the grief of my daughter and me I felt it nearly impossible to try and give back what so many people had so abundantly given but I wanted to do something. Needed to do something.

As I slowly picked myself up and tried to start a "new normal", I realized these people didn't expect anything back from me. The best way I could show my thankfulness was to take that gratitude and pass it on and, in the process, show my daughter  the art of  compassion.

We observed more. We listened more. We opened up our hearts more and felt for the needs around us. The compassion that grew in us helped us to heal and showed others a strength in ourselves we didn't even know we had till we reached down, in the midst of our grief, and sought comfort from The Great Healer.

So, yes, there is an endless to do list.  There are places to be and errands to run. But don't let us get so caught up in the busyness of life that we neglect the needs of others around us. Stop and pass on the many blessings that you and your family receive. It may not be in the same form you have been the beneficiary of but we all have something to give back to the world and teach to our children.

I learned way too early that life is but a moment.

We may look back and wonder where the time went but hopefully we will look back and say we did live and give with a gracious heart.

Psalm 39:4-5, "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.

IMG_3581Jessica Mills Winstead

After losing her 10 year old son, Noah Dean, last July 4, Jessica Mills Winstead turned to blogging as one of the ways to work through her grief and allow it to become part of the healing process. Jessica and her family were overwhelmed with the support she received the weeks and months following her tragic loss. Feeling so blessed, Jessica wanted to reach out to all the people who prayed and served her in her darkest hour and now has found a ministry in encouraging and supporting others. She is a recent graduate with an ED.S. in Education from ETSU and is in full time ministry at First Baptist Church Morristown where she has served the past 13 years. In addition to carrying on her son’s memory and being an advocate to raise awareness for Electric Shock Drowning which is what claimed Noah’s life, Jessica is mom to 12 year old Haleigh Raye who gives her reason to live every day and make the most of each day until the three of them are reunited and together again for eternity.