Friday, February 28, 2014

Bless Your Heart

February is a short but love-filled month. It’s a month when we think of others for various reasons, be it the Random Acts of Kindness week or Valentine’s Day. It also needs to be a month that we think about our own hearts. As the proverb goes, “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Selfish, you might say, but important and not just in a spiritual way. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities according to the American Heart Association.

Million Hearts® is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. If you’re not sure of the state of your heart, there are some ways to find out. Million Hearts® has a Heart Attack Risk Calculator, A My Life Check and Heart 360 which helps you track and manage your heart health.

OK, I have recently gained some weight and when I did a couple of these heart tests, I found out that it’s a major risk factor for heart attacks. I also have cholesterol that is 203 and anything over 200 is not good.  

On the good side, I do exercise at least 150 minutes a week. But the reason I’ve gained the weight is another factor against me. I’m not eating enough vegetables and fruits, at least 5 a day is what they recommend. I’ve never smoked or had high blood pressure, so I’m good there.

I found an article that tells the history of the symbolic meanings for the heart, from the Egyptians who portrayed the heart with a dung beetle, to Aristotle who said it was the seat of reason, to the pagan tribes of Europe who associated it with courage.

The heart is an organ we now know distributes blood throughout the body, taking away waste and bringing oxygen. Is that what love does? Take away the bad and replace it with good? Maybe our hearts are linked to love in more ways than we know. Spend some time on the health of your heart for everything you do flows from it. If it's sick, you can't help yourself or others very well. God bless your heart.

Friday, February 21, 2014


OK, out there, who’s heard about Thon? You may be thinking of a well known telethon or marathon but this is a special kind of thon—a danceathon that started 41 years ago.
Penn State's THON is the longest dance marathon in the country lasting 46 hours and engaging more than 15,000 students each year.

It starts tonight at 6 p.m. and will go until 4 p.m. on Sunday. After 46 hours of staying on their feet, the students get a taste of the daily hardships that children fighting pediatric cancer endure.

Other students and families come support the dancers throughout the weekend. Attendees always look forward to "The Final 4 Hours," which includes Family Hour, when every family battling pediatric cancer is recognized and families give speeches about their battles with cancer

To date, THON has raised more than $101 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund providing money to offset the cost of treatment that insurance does not cover as well as other expenses of families who have a child with pediatric cancer. It also funds pediatric cancer research and supports the medical team at Hershey Children’s Hospital at Penn State.

THON’s website points out that childhood cancers are the number one disease killer of children in the U.S.- more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined.

The Four Diamonds Fund was established by Charles and Irma Millard after the death of their son, Christopher, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11. Four Diamonds is named after a story that Chris wrote shortly before he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 14.

In Chris’ story, a knight must find the Four Diamonds of Courage, Wisdom, Honesty and Strength in order to be released from captivity by an evil sorceress. The Four Diamonds are symbolic of the traits Chris believed were necessary to overcome cancer.

Having had my own Christopher with cancer, this story touched me and I’ve wanted to write about Thon for a couple of years now.

While we didn’t go to Pennsylvania for treatment, I do wish that one day I could attend THON as an encourager to some of the dancers.

But there are other opportunities to support THON throughout the year. On three special weekends, students travel through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New York, and West Virginia to collect spare change for THON.

There are also picnics and a Harvest Day for families of kids with pediatric cancer. Organizations can also adopt a Four Diamonds family to visit and support throughout the year.

The THON 5k is the largest in central Pennsylvania with more than 6,000 runners each year.

So, the next time someone mentions some type of –thon to you, just think of those dancers on the floor for almost two days dancing without sleep to help children with pediatric cancer. God Bless THON and God Bless you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

God Your Heart

Today is Valentine’s Day. Yesterday I had to stop at the store and I saw a guy coming out as I went in with a big box of chocolates under his arm. Then I saw another perusing the red nighties and flowers looking for something his loved one might like. Big pink and red hearts are everywhere and usually filled with chocolate. That’s my kind of heart.

Well, not really. My blog and website are called Helping Hearts. If you look under the title on my website, there’s a passage from the bible. Proverb 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

It’s packed in a wisdom-giving part of the bible just before admonitions to

Keep your mouth free of perversity;  
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;

    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

That’s some good advice, but it was led by the charge to guard your heart and was emphasized with the moniker “Above all else.” I like to think of it as “Godding your heart.” 

You see God loved us before we knew Him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 1 John 4:7

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Boy that guy John sure knew about love, didn’t he? Love puts others first and yourself second. It’s something God believes in.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-8

That’s what helping others is about, an overflow of the heart. This is random acts of kindness week and I was reading about some acts of kindness earlier in the week. One simple one touched me and I cried a little. It doesn’t take too much to get me to cry.

It wasn’t grand or expensive. It was about a little girl who gave to someone who didn’t have anything. She was selling chocolate bars and approached someone who said they didn’t have the dollar to spend on it, but she thanked her anyway for asking. Before she knew it, she had a candy bar in her hand from the little girl. It didn’t take a thought or a prayer or anything. It was a natural overflow of her heart.

So, God your heart today and share some love with not just your friends, family, and loved ones, but with someone who may not have anything, even a dollar for a candy bar.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Overwhelmed No Longer

Photo courtesy of
Okay, I’m overwhelmed. My new Christian novel Behind the Stage is coming out in two weeks. I’m getting my website ready, researching credit card machines you can use on your smartphone, setting up book signings and all this is on top of what I am usually doing (work, school, Relay for Life steering committee and, oh yeah, taking care of my family). 

Not only that, but next Friday is the celebration of several great events, not just Valentine’s Day. It’s National Donor Day, V-Day, and International Book Giving Day. It’s also part of Random Acts of Kindness week and February 15 is National Make a Blanket Day.

Whew! Now I’ve got that all said, I can’t write about all of those things in one week, so a few will have to wait until later. 

It’s funny. I’ve had this feeling of being overwhelmed many times and also the feeling of having no control over things. But once I’ve decided that I can’t do it all, I can focus on what I can do. Then the feeling of having some modicum of control comes back. 

I know that I can’t make anyone else do a thing, but I can decide what I am going to do with the 24 hours I get each day and whatever other resources I have. It’s all about priorities, what’s important to me. 

I’m sorry I didn’t have this blog done last night so it was posted early today. That’s what I normally do on Thursday night. And, believe it or not, I could have taken time to do it last night, but I didn’t. Why? Because I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed to take time to be with my family. I also needed to just sit and not obsess over what I had to do next. 

But now I need to decide what I can do with my time today. I have lots to do for Relay for Life. It’s actually national Wear Red Day today so I can wear red and remind people about National Heart month. I also can plan what I’ll be writing about for the next few weeks so I’m not as stressed when Thursday night rolls around.

As for all those wonderful days being celebrated next Friday, I am already an organ donor and there’s not enough time for me to organize a dance for V-day. 

However, I can do something for International Book Giving Day. I’ve been giving my books to libraries at churches ever since I’ve had it available, and today the local library where I lived for almost 12 years asked me to donate some to them. I can do that. 

Today, I’m taking control of what I can do instead of feeling bogged down in all that I want or feel I need to do. That’s really all I can do. Here’s hoping you’re not feeling overwhelmed this week and you really enjoy the upcoming Valentine’s Day (as well as all those other celebrations). God Bless!