Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Focus. — On One.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One.


Tonight, we will distribute these 250 presents.

They are all lined up.

Organized by number.

Wrapped. Bagged. Tissue papered.

With brightly colored bows and ribbons.

Sitting pretty.


I’m overwhelmed by this image and the need it represents.

I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who made this happen and the joyful giving of a community.

I’m overwhelmed by the hours of shopping, wrapping, organizing and honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of presents and the process we will use to give these out tonight.

So, I’m trying to focus.

Focus on one.

Focus on one present at a time.

Focus on one smile. One excited giggle. One “Thank you.”

Because out of so many,

that one present,

in the red bag, with the cheerful snowman in his crooked black top hat and green scarf,

is for one child.

One child who might not be surrounded by the comforts of … a lot.

One child who might not know safety and security, not to mention, stockings full of stuff.

One child who might squeal with delight upon opening it up.

One child who might still believe in the magic of Christmas.

So I’m going to try to focus on each one. 


Thanks to so many, Christmas might be just a little better for



Collect. — Calling All Signature ‘TagLines’

Last year,  I decided to change my personal signature line.  You know what I’m talking about. The way we sign our letters, notes, emails. I have been a closet collector of others’ ‘tag lines’ over the past year or so.

“Peace and Cheers”
“Love and Light”

I adopted the phrase, “Enjoy the Day” and tried to make it mine. Take care and Enjoy the day. Thanks and Enjoy the day. The idea was to bring focus to really enjoying each and every day. There’s nothing wrong wth that. Let’s really be intentional about finding times in our days to enjoy. Have fun with. Notice. Pay attention.

But then I discovered that it wasn’t enough.

In my professional life, I am constantly talking to folks about actively engaging students in their learning. Whoever does the most work, learns the most. Students have to be actively engaged in their own learning in order to get the most out of it. I swear I say that every day.

And I decided that was what I want to do each day. I don’t want to just enjoy the day. I want to engage it. I want to engage with it. I want to get dirty and make a mess with it. I want to mess up and make it right. I want to pay attention, but actively give attention to it. I want to be an active participant with each day. I want to notice it, but also make a note of it.

I’m here to do the work. I want to learn the most. So for the past year,  I have been using the line:

Engage the Day.

But again…it is time for a change. 

With a new year comes a new tagline. A new focus. A few new goals.

My experiences recently trying to help organize The Giving Tree Food Pantry Angel Tree have taught me some very important lessons.

Lessons about faith.

Lessons about hope.

Lessons about believing.

Lessons about doubt.

Lessons about needs and wants.

Lessons about enough.

Lessons about action.

Lessons about being still.

Lessons about what is important.

Lessons about what is not.

So, I’m playing around with finding a new personal signature line for 2014:

Faith. Hope. Fishes and Loaves.

What do you think?

I know. I know. They are not verbs. But they might as well be.

I figure it might raise a few eyebrows, maybe a few questions. Either way, should be a fun conversation starter of sorts.

So. Now I’m coming out of the collecting closet and I want to know…

What is your signature tag line and why did you choose that? What does it mean to you? What’s the story behind it?

Send me a message or leave a comment and I’ll put together a post, tagging you of course, to share and inspire others!

Happy Taglining!

Faith. Hope. Fishes and Loaves.




Believe. — It will be enough.

Here’s how I remember this story from Sunday School many years ago.  I can’t guarantee its correctness.

But I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so here is the MommyVerbs version, complete with some pop culture references and my recent lesson learned. 


Jesus headed out into the woods to be by himself for a little while.

I mean, come on. He deserves a little down time. Right? Here he is,  doing the work of being Jesus and that can’t be easy. So he’s definitely earned some quiet. Just saying.

But he can’t catch a break. Because everybody followed him. They just can’t help themselves. They want and need to be with him. Even if they can’t be close. Even just around him.

And I don’t think Jesus really minded. He seemed to get it, you know.

But the disciples around Jesus started  flipping out because the crowd seemed to be getting hungry and it was getting late.

In their defense,  there were more than 5,000 people hanging around that were starting to get grumblies in their tummies.

And we all know that hungry people can quickly turn into cranky people.

And a cranky crowd could turn bad … in a heartbeat.

So, the disciples started telling people to leave, to head out…move along. Nothing to see here.

And of course, Jesus said, (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Hold on now. If they are hungry. Let’s feed them.”

I love that.

Jesus does logic well, right?

There’s a need. Meet the need. Done.

So, Jesus basically says, “Go. Do that.” Feed them.

But it seems hard. Feed them? But there are so many of them!

So the disciples start with the whining…but we don’t have eeeeeeeeEEEEEENNnnnnnoooooouuuGGGGGGHHHHHH!”

(Imagine a three year old who is really, really good at being three, who has mastered the fine art of whining.)

And they started to worry. And fret. And look to each other for the “what to dos”. 

I think Jesus had to have sighed here. Like a tired parent after bedtime sighs.

(I like to think that Jesus, who was the epitome of patient with all things … us, …still sighed.)

And he must have looked at them and said, “Well, what do you have?” (See, this is a total Parenting with Love and Logic move here.)

The whining continued, “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish. It won’t be enough.”

So Jesus does what he does.

A miracle. And he tells them to bring what they have. He blesses it. He breaks it and starts passing it around to people.

And here’s where I am going to seem a little bit irreverent. Trust me, I’m not.

But this makes me think of the cake scene in the movie, Office Space.

Poor Milton. He just wants a piece of cake. And he passes it like he’s told, the whole time, worried that he won’t get a piece. That there won’t be enough.

And there’s not. There’s not enough and he doesn’t get any cake. 

But this is not what happens in this story.

Because in this story, I imagine this little boy in the very back of the crowd. He’s hungry. He can’t see what is happening. But he is hearing the rumors that there is food coming his way. And he hears all of the doubters saying things like, “Will there be enough? Will the food run out before it gets to everyone?  What if someone takes more than they need?”

But he waits. He sits. He is still.

And he believes.

Because he has no other choice,but to believe.

Because to doubt and to worry, won’t make it come true.

And he’s hungry. And everyone around him is hungry. So, food must be coming. It just must be.

Soon, it does and he is eating until he is full.

There are even leftovers.

This is what this Giving Tree Angel Tree experience has been for me.

Being worried. Choosing to believe. Waiting. Being still.

And then watching it be …. enough.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Choose to believe. Be Still.

Believe it will be…enough.

The Giving Tree Angel Tree


Need. — Who Am I To Decide?

At this time of year, we are often compelled to give.

Give to others.

Others in need.

We give canned goods for the local food pantry.

We buy presents for children on Angel trees.

We tip better and make lists of gifts to buy for others.

We put together baskets of holiday meals for local families.

I have participated in these collections, in these canned food drives, in these angel trees, in these many acts of gift giving.

And every now and then, I have discovered that someone, some family, some child seems to be found on more than one list for giving.

I discover that they are receiving a basket of food from the school and a bag of gifts from the local church.

They are getting to go to the community center party and getting new clothes and shoes from the local Rotary club.

And I’m a little ashamed to think that I have probably thought  at some point or another, and maybe I’ve even said things out loud like, “See, that is what really bothers me … when people take advantage.”

But here’s the thing I have learned recently.

Who am I to judge?

Who am I to decide?

Who am I to have anything at all to say about who is really in need and who is only kind of in need?

Statistics show that the majority of us are really only six months away from poverty at any given moment …  if a tragic, devastating event were to occur in our lives. (Many of these start with the letter ‘D’.)

Death. Divorce. Disease. Deployment. Destruction. Disaster. Debt. Deceit.

We are all just a few bad choices or one act of very bad luck away from being …there.

And if we ever find ourselves…there…in need. In need of help. In need of the local food pantry. In need of help at Christmas.

If we ever find that we have to show up and get in line and look at others and ask for help. If we ever find that we have to put ourselves and our families on any and every list for help that is available. Then…

We wouldn’t want others judging us; deciding if we are really in need or only kind of in need?

Would we?


Because if we are … there; if we’ve made the decision to ask, to seek out help … then we are indeed in need.

Need is relative. And it is also personal.

So when people seek out help for their needs, it is not up to me whether or not to provide help. It is not up to me to judge whether the need is really needed.

It is up to me to give with a joyful heart.

And do what I can to meet needs and fill wants.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

P.S. I continue to be overwhelmed by the amount of generosity of people everywhere. We are still collecting donations for the families of the local food pantry to provide a present for each child and grandchild. If you would like to help, we are getting closer to meeting needs and filling wants…only need about $1100 more dollars to make it happen. If you are able to help, you can make a donation online:

The Giving Tree Angel Tree


Present. — Needs and Wants and Fishes and Loaves.

The Giving Tree Angel Tree

This morning, I asked the girl child what presents she wanted from Santa.

She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, “You know. I don’t really need anything.”

Heart. Warmed.

Tears. Brimming.

Blessings … being counted.

This time of year I do a lot of thinking about wants and needs and giving.

There are many things we want to do. There are even more things we need to do.

And the line between can sometimes become blurry when we think about this season of giving.

From giving thanks to giving gifts; there are lots of needs and lots of wants.

Last year, I wrote about a leap of faith that I became involved with at our little church, called our Giving Tree Angel Tree. To this day, I am still overwhelmed and amazed by the power of saying YES. How so many said YES:  I will help. I will give. I will meet a need and fill a want.

Whenever people come into this little church that I have talked about before…this little church in this little town doing big things, they always remark that the building is so much bigger than they thought it was; so much bigger than it appears on the outside.

Well, just like the building, this church is doing bigger things than most people realize. Bigger things that might seem…impossible even.

Bigger things that make me a little nervous sometimes. Bigger things that challenge me. Bigger things that push my faith.

Bigger things that make me walk around mumbling my new mantra….”Fishes and loaves. Fishes and loaves.”

I’ll be honest. Sometimes the mission of helping others, of meeting needs and filling wants seems so huge to me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that need help. Sometimes I feel like we can’t take on more, even though the phones are still ringing with requests for help. Sometimes I worry that we won’t be able to make a gift appear for every child.

‘Fishes and Loaves. Fishes and Loaves.”

This is what this little church in this little town doing big things…does. It meets needs. It fills wants. It does bigger things.

So during this season of giving, this is the challenge that we all need to try to accomplish. We, as we are able,  have to try to meet needs and fill wants.

So again, this year, I said, “Yes.”

There are angels on a tree.  Angels of families that come to the local Food Pantry on Friday nights.

If you are willing and able to help others this season, then I challenge you to…

Take action. Help others.

Do bigger things in giving this year.

If you would like to help our Angel Tree efforts, here is an online link for donations:

100% of donations will go toward Angel Tree gifts.  I will do the shopping for you … for them.

As of right now, there are still 49 kiddos on the tree.

Which makes me walk around,  mumbling and praying and believing…

“Fishes and loaves. Fishes and loaves.”


Deliver. — Put the Giving Back in the Thanks.

Tonight during a meeting, I watched as my friend took a phone call and jotted down some directions.

I leaned over, took a look and recognized some of the street names, so I whispered, “I’ll help.”

At the end of the meeting, we loaded a box into the back of my car.

A box containing all of the trimmings of a Thanksgiving Day dinner.

A turkey. A bag of potatoes. Cans of corn and green beans. Rolls. Stuffing.

A Thanksgiving Day dinner complete with a pumpkin pie.

I got in my car, turned the heat on to high, turned on the light and checked the address and directions one more time.

As I drove, many thoughts raced through my mind. Thinking about the meeting tonight. Thoughts about the great birthday weekend I had. Recalling the wonderful family dinner I enjoyed this evening.

Then the typical think about what-I-did-today list. Then I started counting off the what-I-have-to-do-when-I-get-home list. Followed soon after by the what-I-need-to-do-tomorrow list.

Suddenly, I realized I had been driving longer than I thought I would be. Did I miss it?

Nope. Here it is. A right here. A left here. I had no idea this neighborhood even existed in my little town. I have lived here forever, how do I not know this street was here? One more right. First house on the right. There.

The porch light was on. As I pulled into the driveway, a young man came out to greet me.

“Hi. Are you Mr. R? Good evening. I have a Thanksgiving dinner for you.”

“Yes. Thank you so much.”

I opened the hatch on the trunk and lifted the box out to hand to him. Even though I was talking to a grown man with a family ,the Momma in me couldn’t resist to remind him to put the turkey in the freezer. 

I’m sure he was thinking, “Well, Duh!” But he was kind and polite enough not to say that out loud.

Instead he simply said again, “Thank you so much.”

“Absolutely. You are very welcome. Have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family.”

And that was it.

Five minutes of driving. Thirty seconds of small talk. One box full of a Thanksgiving dinner. Delivered.

And as I got back into my car and backed slowly and carefully out of their driveway, I realized I was crying.

Crying for all that I have. Crying for all they must not have. Crying for all of the people that came together to make this dinner happen. Crying for all of those who won’t have someone show up at 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday to deliver a box of dinner.  Crying for the neighbors who may have just as much need, who just didn’t know or weren’t connected or referred or who didn’t sign up.

There is so much need.

For help. For giving.

This Thanksgiving, This Christmas. This season.

This year. Next year.

Every. Single. Day. 

Let’s all teach our children to be thankful and to be giving. 

Let’s all remember that a few minutes of giving here can mean a world of thankfulness there.

Let’s all really focus on putting the Giving back into the Thanks.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Every. Single. Day.


Serve. — To the Little Kid in Every Soldier.

4 Feb 76

En Route–USS Jesse L. Brown 

Rota, Spain

Hi Mother,

I finally received some mail. It had been over a month since the last letter I got.

We are in the Med. now. It’s been pretty rough out the past couple of days. I haven’t felt too much like writing letters. It’s calm out today. So thought I’d get some writing done.

There’s not much going on here, only getting ready for coming home.  Only got three weeks left now. The big thing I’ve been doing is starting to walk the floor at night waiting for the telegram from home saying Jan has had the baby and is all right. I’m sure glad you will be down and I hope Dad comes, too.

How’s work? Sounds like you like it pretty good. I’m glad you like it there. I think I could like that area, too. Kinda nice.

We’re thinking about moving there after I get out. The only thing I would need is a good job. I guess we’ll settle where ever the jobs are the best.

Well. Guess I’ll close. I’ll write later.

Take care.



P.S. You don’t need to get me anything for my birthday. I’ve got all I need, you and Dad and my little family. 

This is a letter that my Dad wrote to his Momma in 1976. He was overseas, in the Navy, waiting for word that his new son had arrived.

I think it is such a simple and sweet letter. There is an innocence to this letter…an innocence that must be a true part of every soldier, of every veteran. It sounds just like the voice of a  little boy. A little boy in a grown up body. Far, far, far away from home. A little worried. A little homesick. A little nostalgic.

A little boy who writes to his Momma to tell her that he’s coming home. That he’s looking forward to the ‘what’s next’ of his life.

A ‘what’s next’ that maybe wasn’t so guaranteed just a few years before.

In 1968, my Dad headed down to the little small town post office. He opened up the small, square metal door and looked inside.

There. It. Was.

An envelope. An envelope that looked official.  An envelope with the seal of the President of the United States of America on it. An envelope that could have sealed his fate in a much different way.

My Dad didn’t take it out of the mailbox. As a matter of fact, he never touched it.

But he did leave the post office and drove straight to the U.S. Navy recruiter and enlisted.

He enlisted to serve. To serve his country. 

Serve. Even as a little boy in a grown up body, who will always miss his Momma. No matter what.

Today’s Action Challenge has two parts: 1.Thank someone who has served their country. Don’t wait until the next Veteran’s Day. Just randomly walk up to them and say, “Thank you.” Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for going so far away from home, from everything familiar, from everything known. To head into a place that can be scary and uncertain and maybe dangerous. Just thank you for doing all of that. Say ‘Thank you”…

And then. 2. Go out and serve in your own way. Help others. Do what you know; do what you can. You don’t have to put on a uniform. Just take your gifts and your talents and go…serve others.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Dad letter


Help. — Invent Your Own Helping Verb Job.

Everywhere I look, I see them.

Verbs. Action words.

Eight years ago, when I was busy nesting and being all creative and artsy, (read before I had any kiddos!) designing a theme for my daughter’s nursery, I had no idea that I was beginning a theme that would define my purpose.

Verbs. Action words.

I decorated her room with canvas kites, painted by me, in different colors, each with a different verb. (See, before I had kids!)

Learn. Sing. Dance. Play. Read. Believe. Imagine. Dream.

Action words. Wishes for her. Challenges for her life.

Since her room is now all pink and full of horses and … other stuff… These now decorate the rest of my house. Play hangs above the toy box in the living room. Read holds the books in place on the bookshelves. Dream lives above my desk where I say I do my work. Sing and Dance hang out with my record collection.

Sometimes I don’t see these words. These literal calls to action. Sometimes they are just a part of the background.

Other times, they are screaming directions at me, telling me, reminding me what I should be doing.

When I forget.

And they remind me of all of my little mantras that I like to toss around casually and often:

“Eat well. Play more. Choose happy.” Or,

“Whoever does the most work, learns the most.” As an educator, I try to apply that concept daily, helping everyone actively engage in the work of learning. More of them, less of me. Or,

“A little less conversation, a little more action.” Ok, I stole this one from Elvis obviously and then turned it into my own:

“Either do it, or stop talking about it.”

I recently read the book by Bob Goff, Love Does.  I even wrote about it here.  I’ve been trying to use this phrase around my house when my kiddos ask me things like, “Why do I have to pick up these toys or carry these dishes to the sink?” Instead of saying the good ol’ standard of “Because I said so”, I’ve been trying to replace it with “Because that is what love does. Love picks up the toys and helps a Momma out!”

And since I like to play it fast and loose with punctuation and words,  I changed the verbs and turned it into all of the actions that Love looks like, sounds like, feels like, moves like.  What love actually does. Love reaches. Love helps. Love lifts. Love carries. Love holds. Love shows. Love goes on and on.

But we need to remember, that “Does” is really its own verb. It is one of those cool little helping verbs. Helping us do the work of (fill in the blank with your favorite verb.)

Family does. Church does. School does. Community does. Work does. Mission does.

Momma does. Felix does. X does. Y does.

Last night, I watched a bunch of people show up on a Friday night, after a long week full of verbs. They showed up at the local food pantry to help others. Others who are in need. I showed up, too, and tried to do my little part of helping. But I also did some watching and observing; some soaking up of all of the action around me. And I watched Y.

The girl-child so desperately wanted to help that she invented her own job. She went behind a table and helped. Helped people reach things they couldn’t reach. Helped people know just how many veggies and fruits they could take. Helped people know what was available. And when her little brother wanted in on the action, she did her best to help show him the way, too.

Grocery bags were filled by many hands who acted, who listened to the call, who purchased cans and boxes, who stacked and sorted and counted, who organized and ‘spread-sheeted’ and color-coded, who greeted and welcomed and shared with some folks who needed a little help.

While Mr. Sauter, my 11th grade English teacher would tell me that sentence is grammatically incorrect due to the overabundance of commas, I can only see the overabundance of action words.

Action. Verbs. Helping verbs.

Go. Do that. Go. Love. Go. Help. Just Go Do.

Take your talents. Your gifts. Your tools. And act.
What do you love to do? Do it. Invent a new helping verb job.
Help others as you can. Show up. Be kind. Help someone.
Do something.
With love. With intention.
Make it happen.
Go. Do what love does.
Be awesome and Act like a helping verb.
Let’s all, Go. Do that. More often.
helping verb
Today’s Action Challenge: List 40. Yes, 40 ways that you can help others. You can do it. No help is too small. From a phone call, to an errand. From a hug, to a note. From a gift, to a smile. How can you help someone else?
How do you show that you are desperate to help?
Are you willing to invent your own job to be able to help others?
Let’s all, Go. Do that.

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