The Least of These

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Graphic from Urban Ministry Center–an amazing resource for the homeless community in Charlotte 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” -Matthew 25:40

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” -1 John 3:17

Since moving nearer to the city this summer, we have had several opportunities to connect with individuals that are in need, less fortunate, and/or homeless.  Those opportunities have really stirred a desire to be more intentional in practical service to this community.  As you can see from the image above, Charlotte contains 20% of the entirety of North Carolina’s homeless population.  If you have ever strolled down Tryon, the main road through uptown Charlotte, on any given day, you can be sure to find many homeless individuals sleeping on benches and looking through garbage for remnants of food.  This is a huge and very apparent need in our city.  At our previous church, we assembled care packages for those less fortunate in downtown Charlotte and then kept some in our cars for those standing at stoplights.  Delivering these packages and getting to know the stories of the people we were privileged to interact with was an immense blessing to us;  I hope it was even more so for the recipients.

I know it is easy to drive or walk right past someone in need thinking, “well, I don’t know if they mean well or if they are dangerous”, “what if they use this money [if you give money and not goods] for something bad?”, “I have nothing to give” or even “I’ll do something next time”.  I do this more than I would like to admit.  I recently went to a seminar where the speaker shared a wonderful quote when talking about the story of the Good Samaritan, saying, “we should not approach those less fortunate with the thought of ‘if I stop what will happen to me?’ but rather ‘if I don’t stop what will happen to them?”  Such a simple but convicting thought.  Why are we so concerned with ourselves that we miss the easy chances to provide for those that have been dealt a lesser hand?  1 John 3:17 (above) smacks me right upside the head every time I read it…in the best of ways.  It awakens me to the reality that serving others, loving them well, and showing them Christ’s character is our job, our duty, and should also be our joy.  Imagine what things would look like if each of us more intentionally loved those less fortunate with the intense and genuine love of Christ through practical offerings?

Below is the list and cost of each item that went into making just 10 bags to hand out.  I started small just to give a glimpse on a manageable project for one person.  You will also see that I included laminated reference cards for the Urban Ministry Center to provide more consistent and comprehensive services for them instead of just a few items to last a few days. I would highly suggest getting together with your small group, church, friends, or family if you want to undertake a bigger movement to serve the city your in.  This is not just Charlotte, the least of these are everywhere. Let’s serve them!

**These are “winter packs”, aimed toward cold weather needs.  During warmer months you might want to include more water, body wipes, deodorant, etc.  There are so many ways to make these.  Reach out to your nearest shelters or homeless ministries to get a good idea for what the homeless community in your area might specifically need**

 

10 Bags for the Homeless and Needy

12 fruit pouches: $3.00

24 individually wrapped hand wipes: $2.28

10 protein bars: $4.30

5 pairs of gloves: $7.50

20 pairs of hand-warmers: $10.00

12 to-go kleenex packs: $4.00

17 gallon storage bags: $1.74

10 sticks Chapstick: $6.36

10 pairs socks: $8.50

24 pack bottled water: $2.43

Travel size hand lotion: $9.70

Materials for reference card: $10.49 (pack of 10 sheets–used 6)

Total costs (including leftovers to keep in the car): $70.30

Approximate cost per bag: $7.00

$7=two days of your Starbucks fix, one meal at Chipotle or at most fast food places, less than a Spotify subscription, less than Netflix….think about it.

The opportunity to intentionally love, serve, and give to someone in need: PRICELESS.

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All the supplies!

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(left) Laminated reference card so it’s weather proof and they can keep it intact; (right) everyone needs to hear this I think.

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Ready to go!–I suggest keeping these in your car and then stow away one or two with you in your bag if you are walking through the city or in another area where there might be people in need.

 

 

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Back to Basics.

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A basic phone that is.  Just before Christmas I made the decision to go back to a basic phone (LG Exalt).  I have been debating whether or not to even post about this because it was a personal and intentional decision and I frankly did not do it for anyone else or to draw attention.  After having several brief conversations with my close friends and family about this decision, I felt it would be important to share with you all why I made the switch and how it has been extremely helpful to me in so many ways to maybe inspire someone else that might be struggling.  Disclaimer: this is not a statement saying that all people should revert back to a basic phone. This has just worked for me and if it inspires you too then wonderful! 🙂 

When going to Verizon to make the switch, the Verizon employee looked at me as if I had four heads and looked at me with concern asking, “Are you sure about this?” like I was making a really detrimental decision.  It was really surprising how odd it seemed to everyone but I knew that it was the right decision for me.  A few weeks previous to making the change, my husband, a product designer, was sharing the new methods the cell phone market has used to improve basic cell phones.  He had no idea that I would actually be interested in this but I had actually been thinking of going back to a basic phone for awhile now and that conversation with him really confirmed that this would be a good move.

Admittedly, I had been depending on my iPhone way too much and was in the habit of needlessly checking it way too often…even in the car at a stoplight or…while driving.  I know, I know, that is completely idiotic and dangerous and yet I still did it on a regular basis.  That, above all else, woke me up to my need for making some separation between myself and my smart phone.  I obviously have self-control and would choose to not pick up my cell phone on my own accord when in the car but I really felt moved to make a more intentional decision by breaking with my smart phone completely.  In the past month, since transitioning to a basic phone, I have noticed these positive outcomes from the switch:

  • I actually talk to people.  For those of you that remember T9—whew.  Or even worse, if you aren’t using T9 and want an “S”, you best believe you have to hit the 7 four times.  You have to work for it.  This may sound like a negative, BUT, it has actually helped me just talk to people more, imagine that. If it is more than a short thought or question, I end up just calling the person I need to talk to and we are able to make a more personal contact.
  • My mind is quieter. I am a multi-tasker and thrive off of productivity so when I had a smart phone with access to all of the things, I used it for all of the things all of the time. Without constant access to social media and the internet, I am forced (in the best of ways) to consider how really necessary those things are that I feel are so “necessary”. If I want to know something or check something bad enough, it can wait until I get home.  Let’s get back to a world where it is okay to just not know something right away. I am now not constantly thinking what else I could be looking at or learning on my phone and my mind is so much calmer because of it.
  • I make new friends. All of you know what happens when you are stuck in line somewhere, waiting in a doctor’s office, anticipating a meal arriving at a restaurant, or really anywhere else where we have 2.5 seconds without constant mental stimulation…we get on our phones.  Before I switched to a basic phone, it would literally stir up anger in me when I realized that I was dazing out, scrolling through my phone, without actually looking around or when I would see a couple at a restaurant table not talking to one another but instead being absorbed into the world of their iPhone.  Now without my mini computer constantly within reach, I talk to other people in line, pay attention to my surroundings, notice things that I haven’t paid attention to before, etc.  I get to be more intentional with how I approach others and invest in paying attention to the people and places right in front of me, not on a tiny screen.

Struggles:

With the positives there are also small struggles.  If I need to go somewhere new, I have to go old-school and print out directions or just look it up in advance.  If I am out and wonder if a place is open or I need a phone number for a store or restaurant that is not in my contacts, I am at a loss.  Voice-texting is not a thing so that adds some difficulty.  However, if I need to text, I should be in a spot where I shouldn’t need to use voice-texting anyway (i.e. I am in a safe situation where both hands can be used and multi-tasking like that is not necessary).  I don’t have access to spotify or anything like that with it so I either use my drive to pray or listen to NPR and catch up on the news. SO, when any struggle arises, the solution is always “well, I just need to be more intentional about that…” which is the whole point.

I do have an iPad that I use for using apps etc. so I still have access but, again, I have to really think about why I am using the iPad and when and it usually stays at home.

In the coming months, I hope to find more ways to be more intentional in my use with technology and find even more positives of going back to the basics.

Spill the Beans-Coco and the Director

Welcome to the first of a series where you can follow me on a coffee tour of Charlotte and I will “spill the beans” on an inside look of each coffee shop I visit.  As a lover of good coffee, I admittedly do not frequent the corner Starbucks.  I prefer to support local coffee shops and, let’s be honest, the local spots are cozier and frankly serve a much higher quality, better-tasting cup of joe.  So this is an effort to spotlight those amazing local places that deserve the attention.  These posts are less about really deep intention and more about how to balance that intention with an occasional indulgence and time for yourself in a place that you love.  BUT, I see it as a way to also be intentional in supporting local shops in your hometown, wherever that may be.  In my travels I plan to have special editions where I can review coffee shops in other cities I visit so stay tuned for that in the future!

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my new favorite quote “A yawn is a silent scream for coffee”

Location:

Coco and the Director, 100 W. Trade St. Charlotte, NC 28202–technically in Fourth Ward but right at the main intersection of Charlotte at Trade and Tryon, located in the Marriott City Center.

There is an outdoor entrance right off the street or you can cut through the swanky hotel lobby if you are interested in taking a peek. Strolling through the lobby made me want to take a staycation here even though we are literally a mile away.  Since it’s so close, I walked here; yet another reason I love living near the city!

On the Menu:

I sipped on a Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Latte ($4.50)–Not too sweet so it was easy to sip and I don’t like super sweet drinks anyway.  Next time I would ask for “extra hot” as it was already just warm when it was served.

Other Options: Brewed Coffee $2 (12 oz.) or $3 (16 oz.), Cold-Brew, Pour Over, Aeropress, all the classic espresso drinks and a wide variety of tea.

Fun Extras:

  • Gourmet Sandwich of the Day and other small bites, beer, juice, etc. in a small refrigerated area.
  • Great decor but not overdone–I felt like Joanna Gaines could be there decorator. So much yes.
  • Local goods for sale that would make really cute gifts if you want something unique to Charlotte–really witty and unique greeting cards too!
  • A large home-theater-size screen above the main seating area where you can sit and watch in the stadium-seating and from the balcony area.  They were showing “Fixer Upper” when I was there so I think that’s a good sign.  They do throwback movie nights throughout the year too with free popcorn. So fun!
  • Chalkboard wall where you can collaborate with coworkers, get out some creativity, or leave fun notes for other visitors.
  • Outlets with built-in USB charging every few feet throughout the shop making it easy to work wherever you need for as long as you need.
  • Wine ‘N Color Wednesday–$5 glasses of wine and 1/2 off pastries, get a free week of coffee if your colored creation wins! Definitely doing this.
  • Other fun events with live music etc. throughout the year too

Vibe:

“Rustic vintage meets city sleek”-there was a really good mix of uptown bankers, runners stopping in on their jog through the city, college students studying, and those just hunkering down with a good book on a gloomy Tuesday. I was afraid I would feel out of place with it being Uptown and possibly a lot of “suits” surrounding me but that was not true at all, which was a great surprise.

Pros:

  • SO many seating options; stadium seating for cozy lounging, long tables for co-working space, little cafe tables for a coffee date, quick meeting, or reading the morning paper.
  • Relatively quiet; usually I have to put in headphones to focus but, even with a good amount of people, the noise was just a low hum due to the size of the space and distance between seating areas.  I was here from 2pm-4pm and even with the afternoon rush, it still felt pretty chill.
  • Good music mix; not too loud but a good mix of relaxed acoustic tunes and more popular hits–think Coldplay, Mumford, and all that jazz. Not actually jazz though…you know what I mean.
  • Central location; if you are within walking distance it is super easy to find and get to.  Good for those visiting Charlotte and staying in Uptown who want to visit a great local spot without driving out of the city.
  • Great customer service; baristas were very patient and considerate and were able to answer questions I had about the menu.
  • Great hours; 6am-10pm so caters to early risers and night owls.

Cons:

  • Cost; Because I am frugal, I would probably not get a latte but every so often and would stick with the cheaper brewed coffee.  It is definitely not the most expensive latte I have seen but not the cheapest either.  Even for the brewed coffee, I know other local spots that run a better deal.
  • If you are not in walking distance, it might present an issue with having to find parking.  So I would recommend this place for if you are looking for a nice stroll…even for someone living here, driving through Uptown makes me want to lash out at others…I wouldn’t want that for you friends.
  • If you are looking for a secluded, brick and mortar stop, this is not it.  With it’s central location and being in a bigger hotel, you are right in the middle of the city which to some may feel too chaotic and in the middle of it all. But again, it’s still pretty laid back inside so it’s an awesome contrast.
  • This is a minor con but they only serve coffee in to-go cups.  I feel weirdly amazing when I get to enjoy a latte in an actual mug, foam art and all.  Please tell me I am not alone in this.

This was my first visit to this awesome spot and I can already tell it will be a favorite go-to in the future!  Hope you get to pop in to Coco and the Director to check it out for yourself and, if you need a buddy to go with, you know where to find me 🙂

 

 

Say What You Think

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

 

When I was younger, we would always give my mom a hard time about making friends everywhere she went.  She would infamously strike up a conversation with any checkout person, grocery-bagger, or store attendant who would listen and we would roll our eyes and move on.  However, as I have gotten older, I have noticed something; when my mom engaged with these individuals, their mood visibly brightens and you can see that it is meaningful to them, even if just sharing a few words.  My husband is also an amazing example of someone who has the miraculous ability to engage with anyone he meets, making them feel loved and highly valued. I got a good one y’all.

It is so easy to go about our busy days and zoom through the checkout line while scrolling through our to-do lists in our heads or *gasp* on our phones while someone serves us by ringing up our many “needed” items at Target (raise your hand if you can relate) without us ever thinking to ask them about their day or what is going on in their life.  Now, for those of you that are reading this thinking “you want me to get in a deep conversation with everyone I come in contact with?? *cue cold sweats and rapid breathing*”, calm down.  This is just an encouragement to be more intentional in our interactions with others that we do not know to be less “me-centered” in our daily lives.

Admittedly, the apple does not fall far from the tree and I have always found it a bit easier to engage in conversations with complete strangers. Thanks Mom.  It also helps that I am an extrovert and am used to asking others questions about their lives as a counselor.  Still, it is a struggle if I am just not in the mood to talk or the other person is being rude or seems like talking is the last thing in the world they would like to do.  For all of us, extroverts and introverts alike, when it’s easy or not, here a few simple tips in how to be more intentional when interacting with strangers–

  1. Say What You Think: A few years ago, I told a girl at the checkout counter that she had really beautiful eyes.  I felt so awkward saying this but I just felt the urge to compliment her and felt like she needed to hear it.  I really truly feel like God can move in us in these moments to help brighten someone’s day in really practical ways. When I said it, she actually teared up and said she had a really crappy day so far and that really made her afternoon. I was blown away.  How in the world could a little comment/compliment make such a difference? Now, anytime I think something like “I love her hair, that’s such a great outfit, they have a nice smile, they were so helpful and kind/had such good customer service, etc.”, I SAY IT. Honestly, it has never gone poorly in my experience.  The other person is always positively affected and it is just the best.
  2. Bag the Groceries: If there is no one there to bag groceries, or even if there is, lend a hand.  At Trader Joe’s there is rarely a person actually manning the bagging area so I will chat and bag at the same time.  It never fails, the checkout person is always taken aback and thanks me for helping saying, “that never happens”.  It feels good to know that I was able to help them in a practical way and show them kindness. **this is a great option for those of you that might not be comfortable getting into an actual conversation just yet.**
  3. Ask them…: It’s normal for all of us to say the obligatory “hey, how are you?” when coming across another person but do you ever think to actually ask more?  I will always say “So, how is your day?/How much longer do you have on your shift?/Has it been busy/stressful today/Have any plans for the weekend?”.  Asking these separate questions instead of just “how are you?” signals to the other person that you are actually making an effort to really understand how they are doing and being intentional in asking.
  4. Call them by name: Yep, just what it says…This is something my husband always does and I don’t remember to do enough and it always makes an impression.  When we leave he will always say to the waiter, checkout person, etc. “Thanks so much {name here}, we appreciate it” or “Have a good night, {name here}”. So simple but so intentional. I work part-time in retail and have worked in many retail positions in the past.  Anytime someone refers to me by name, which is very rare, it makes me feel seen in such a small but significant way.

We have no idea what others are going through and you may run into people who will not engage back when trying these simple tips above but it never hurts to try.  You could be the one person in someone’s day that really truly cares and brings a smile to their face.  Just think, if more of us did this on a regular basis, how much more kindness could we spread to those that need it?

Do you have ways that you are already intentional with others? Please share in the comments below!

Year of 30

I turned 30 back in December. Yep. The Big 3-0. I know many people have a difficult time with turning 30 but I thankfully did not experience that at all.  I have felt encouraged and excited about what lies ahead of me and the many lessons I can learn from years passed.  As a nod to this milestone birthday, this is my “Year of 30”; 30 intentions for my 30th year.  If you read the introduction to this blog here, you will know that being intentional is something I am endeavoring to do more of and is my reason for starting this blog in the first place.  So here goes:

  1. Learn one song on the guitar
  2. Become more proficient in sewing
  3. Do one adrenaline-rush activity/an activity way out of my comfort zone
  4. Travel more–out of the country at least once
  5. Take more actual pictures (i.e. not with my phone)
  6. Learn more German-started this for a trip last year and would love to continue
  7. Develop a more consistently healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image
  8. Narrow down niche for counseling practice and gain professional development in those areas
  9. Build genuine friendships with those outside my regular group of friends
  10. Help others and those less fortunate in practical ways
  11. Read Bible more intentionally through deeper study
  12. Host a fancy dinner party…maybe more than one!
  13. Organize my home and life in effective and practical ways–and help others do the same!
  14. Write down and compile favorite go-to recipes
  15. Journal to record major life events so I can reflect down the road
  16. Read one book per month
  17. Make more intentional and humane choices with clothing and other purchases
  18. Only keep items that are absolutely necessary or hold a great deal of meaning
  19. Start the process of looking for land to build our Shipping Container Home
  20. Learn more–watch documentaries, read articles, research questions instead of just “googling”, etc.
  21. Bake something wonderful and technical (a la Great British Baking Show) at least a few times throughout the year
  22. Watch less TV/Netflix
  23. Continue to use technology in a productive and healthy way
  24. Stop saying “I’m Sorry” for no reason
  25. Develop a better system for meal-planning and cooking–and become a better cook in general!
  26. Consistently abide by a budget
  27. Practice more yoga for mindfulness and rest
  28. Discover new places in Charlotte
  29. Be more “in the moment” and don’t overly plan everything
  30. Stop comparing my list with others–what I feel like I “should be” doing, cooking, reading, excelling in, studying, etc.

There are many more small goals I would like to focus on but this is the most comprehensive list I could develop. I encourage you to develop a list of intentions for the new year if you haven’t already.  It helps to give some focus and, you guessed it, intention for your year.  Let’s grow together!

 

What’s in a Name?

Well, hello there.  Welcome to Joyful Intentions, a place to learn together what it means to  intentionally approach life and to do so in a joyful way, even when life may not always be so joyful.

First, let me explain a little more about the reason behind the name for this blog.

Definition of joyful

  1. :  experiencing, causing, or showing joy

Definition of intention

  1. :  a determination to act in a certain way

I am a professional counselor and, in my work with my clients, I assist them in finding intentional ways to discover and maintain joy and peace in their families, relationships, workplaces, and in their personal lives.  As I continued to work on helping my clients with being more intentional, I realized I was failing to live this out in my personal life; I was not at all practicing what I preached.  So here we are. In my upcoming second post, “Year of 30”, you will see how I hope to practice living more intentionally in my 30th year.

I believe that to be intentional is to make a conscious choice each day to find joy, not mere happiness, in the everyday things.  It means acting in a way that brings joy to others, helps you experience joy, and causes a chain reaction of intention throughout every area of your life.

By starting this blog, it is never my hope to give the impression that I have life figured out, do things in the best way, have the best goals, cook the best meals, or do anything extraordinary.  I want this to be a place of encouragement, honesty, reflection, and fun as we explore how to be intentional in our relationships, in our faith, in our workplaces, and wherever else life takes us.

 

I look forward to finding new ways to have joyful intentions together!

You will also see that I offer Wedding Direction and Organizing services; two other ways that I love to help bring joy to others! Head on over to the links to find out more information if you or someone you know is interested.