Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Difference Do It Make?

Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about the amazing book I read, Same Kind of Different as Me. After I blogged about how much I loved the story, I was contacted by Thomas Nelson Publishing and they sent me a complimentary copy of the follow-up book What Difference Do It Make.

This book is the continuation of Same Kind of Different as Me and picks up where Ron and Denver left off. It also includes stories from people all over the country who were touched by the first book and what they did in their communities and for their neighbors. Both of these stories are so uplifting and really make you think about what you do for others.

Denver who is the "illiterate homeless African American" brings up so many good points. He talks about people who will not give money to the homeless because they are worried about what will come of the money. I'm not going to lie, this thought has crossed my mind as well. Anytime I have ever given money to a stranger, I often wonder where the money will be spent. Denver's response to this is "Maybe you right. The thing about it is, though, gifts is free. When you give a person a gift, you is also givin the person the freedom to do whatever they want with it. When you give a homeless man a dollar, you ain't saying, 'Here. Go buy yourself a chicken.' If you really wanted him to have some food, you'd take him in the McDonald's and buy him a Big Mac and an apple pie." He goes on to say, "I tell folks to look at what's written on all that money they be givin away: it says 'In God We Trust.' You just be the blessin. Let God worry about the rest." I LOVE this!! It REALLY changes the way that I think! I'm not in control (something I'm learning more and more every day) - God is!

Ron, the "wealthy fine-art dealer" discusses the way so many people "help" the homeless. He says, "Homeless people are used to people who 'help' with one hand and hold their noses with the other. They are used to catch-and-release friends, who feel warm and fuzzy and compassionate for a few days or weeks but then abandon their efforts when the going gets tough or when the busyness of their own lives takes over." How true is this? We "help" others when it's convenient for us and then pat ourselves on the back. We do good things for others and then make sure we tell everyone we know what good deed we did!

Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT) "Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do-blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. "

Thomas Nelson Publishing also sent me the Introduction of What Difference Do it Make? to share with you all. I hope that everyone reads both of these books because I believe they will speak to your heart!

If any of you read either of these books (which I pray that you do) please let me know what you think of them. I would LOVE to hear your opinions of them! I hope you are as touched by them as I have been!


Hello again.

If you’re reading this book, it might be because you already have read Same Kind of Different as Me, a true story about my wife, Deborah, and the man who changed our lives, Denver Moore. If you haven’t, don’t worry—we’ve included enough of the story to catch you up. (The “catch up” sections from Same Kind of Different as Me are in italics.)

Since June 2006, when Same Kind of Different as Me snuck first onto bookstore shelves, then onto the New York Times bestsellers list, Denver and I have traveled thousands of miles back and forth across America. We’ve spoken at hundreds of venues, from local book clubs filled with sweet little old ladies to the Bethesda, Maryland, symphony hall. (We were in Bethesda as guests of Doro Bush Kock and her mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, who quite possibly is Denver’s biggest fan.) Throughout that time, we have seen thousands of lives changed—homeless shelters started and millions of dollars raised for the homeless, yes, but also astonishing changes in the lives of everyday Americans that we never could’ve imagined or predicted.

That’s why we wrote this book, to tell you just a few of the stories of hope and redemption that God continues to write in the lives of so many—and in our own.

One day in the spring of 2009, as we were writing, I was in the kitchen at the Murchison estate, where Denver and I live, on a conference call with executives at Thomas Nelson, our publisher. During the call, Denver walked in.

“Hey, Denver,” I said, putting the call on speaker. “We’re talking about titles for the new book. Got any ideas?”

“Title for the new book?” he said, screwing his eyelids down into his famous hard squint. “What difference do it make?”

“What Difference Do It Make?” I said. “That’s it!”

Denver shrugged and walked off, shaking his head.

It was the perfect title. Since Same Kind came out, over and over, like the needle stuck in the groove of an old vinyl record, we’ve repeated a single message: one person can make a difference. My wife, Deborah Hall, is proof of that.

As many of you know, God took Deborah in 2001. Cancer. But if she were here today, she would tell you she was nobody special. If you had come to our house, she would have made you fresh coffee or tea and invited you to sit down at the kitchen table and tell her about yourself. And you would have felt loved. Because that was Deborah’s gift. She loved God and, because of her intimate walk with Him, loved people. Her whole life was about forgiveness and unconditional love, two qualities that most of us find difficult to master on a regular basis.

It really was that simple. Deborah’s life showed that kind of love is attainable for anyone willing to put in the time on their knees, then overcome their fear and go out and get their hands a little dirty. And I have talked to literally hundreds of people who told me that Deborah’s story inspired them to do just that. Through the difference her life made, others are now making a difference, and that’s in part what this book is about. It’s packed full with stories folks have shared with us about how Deborah’s example inspired them to do more, both in their own homes and in their communities.

A lady named Ann, for example, wrote to us from Vivian, a small Louisiana town just north of Shreveport—not too far from Red River Parish, where Denver worked the plantations. Ann wrote of how she loaned Same Kind of Different as Me to about twenty different friends. Every friend who brings it back has a very different story about how the story affected him or her.

“One person notices the friendship Denver and Ron share,” Ann wrote. “Another feels shame over the way her grandparents treated the ‘Denvers’ in their lives.”

One woman surprised Ann by telling her that the portion of the book that dealt with Deborah’s cancer battle stirred her to go and have a colonoscopy she’d been putting off!

Like Ann, we’ve been struck by the amazing variety of stories people tell us about how Debbie’s story affected them. Here we thought we were writing a book about one woman’s determination to make a difference for the homeless, and we started getting letters about marriages restored, friendships renewed, ministries begun, even babies adopted!

In Fort Worth, a high school teacher named Carin told us that, “unbelievably,” she’d been able to get the school administration to approve our book to be read by her entire mental-health class. “The students have learned how so many issues affect our mental health,” Carin wrote. “I have also used the book to help relay to them the importance of community involvement, passion, and what it means to be a servant to others.”

Shortly after Deborah died, her best friend, Mary Ellen, told me that God had whispered to her during prayer that Deborah was like the kernel of wheat Jesus refers to in the gospel of John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Mary Ellen told me she thought that maybe Deborah’s death would be like that—fruitful. I cannot even express how much I absolutely did not want to hear that at the time. But it appears that Mary Ellen was right, more right than even she knew.

She told me about the wheat kernel just a couple of days before the dedication of the Deborah L. Hall Memorial Chapel, the new worship facility built at the Union Gospel Mission in my wife’s honor and funded by donations that poured in after local folks heard Denver’s story at her memorial service. At the time, we thought the chapel, along with the new care facilities for the homeless, were the fruit God would bring from my wife’s death. I had no idea that the Union Gospel Mission was just the first fruit in what would become a cornucopia of blessing.

Take Detra, for example. Detra, who lives in Austin, Texas, wrote to tell us that after reading Deborah’s story, she decided to start carrying food and socks and blankets in her car so that she can bless the homeless. Also, her church had a picnic in an Austin park and had so much food that they began feeding hungry people who were in the park that day.

One little girl asked Detra, “When are you coming back?”

After that, the church made the picnic a monthly event where church members sit down and break bread with the homeless.

Would I take back blessings like that one and those you are about to read about in this book? If I could rewind time like a video and create a cancer story with a happy ending, would I?

I’m sorry to say there’s a big part of me that says, “Yes! I want my wife back!”

But I can tell you without reservation that Deborah would say, “No, Ron. I’ll see you soon.”

And so the story goes on—men and women all over the country inspired by the story of Denver and Deborah to make a difference in other people’s lives. Over the past three years, I thought I was making a difference too—traveling and speaking all over the country, “carrying Miss Debbie’s torch,” as Denver calls it. And I suppose I was.

But in 2009, I learned that sometimes the most difficult difference to make is the one that’s closest to home.

– Ron Hall
Dallas, Texas
July 2009

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We HEART the Olympics!

Life in the Akins house over the last week has been rather uneventful. Since we aren't spending money this month, we have watched lots of TV (mostly the Olympics) and read LOTS. (I am currently reading two different books so stay tuned because I can't wait to share them with all of you)

We have Tivo'd the Olympics both day and night and pretty much watched every event. Though I do prefer the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics bring a lot to the table too! Rob and I have become HUGE fans of snowboard cross and Seth Wescott and Lindsey Jacobellis have become household names around here! :) I could watch this event ALL day!!!

I also LOVE Apolo Anton Ohno....I don't care if he's dancing or skating! He seems to have the BEST outlook on life and he just intrigues me.

Rob had to go to Atlanta for work so I've spent the weekend watching the games and reading! (I mean I did straighten up the house, did laundry, etc) My mom, brother and cousin came up Friday afternoon and spent the night so I haven't been alone all weekend. I have enjoyed my quiet time but I'm ready for Rob to get home so that I can actually converse. The dogs listen but they don't talk back. HA!
Good Luck USA! I can't wait to see what is in store this week during the games!
Vancouver Olympic symbol courtesy of Vancouver2010.com

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bathroom Makeover-Part 1

I've been meaning to blog this for a while but am just now getting around to it. I've really been wanting to change up our front bathroom (the one that guests use) and with some awesome gift cards from Christmas I was able to do just that. I've gotten a few things done but still have quite a few things left to do.

First I needed a new shower curtain which I found at Kirklands...yes, it's monogrammed and I know you are shocked.
I then set out to find some candle sticks or something because we have lot of unused counter space. Our house was built in the 80's and some things they did are just ridiculous. A trip to Hobby Lobby and we are set. (Rob really finds it odd that there is a picture of us in the bathroom). I have bought some paper and ribbon to "dress" up the candles like I did here, but haven't gotten around to it.

Another gift card bought us some great brown towels (that will be monogrammed soon to match the curtain) and a new hand towel rack. The white towel is a Valentine's Day towel that I found at Target for $1.

So far so good. We have bought paint to change the color of the hideous cabinets from gross brown to a chocolate color. We EVENTUALLY are going to paint our kitchen cabinets and this is a practice run to see how it goes since there are LOTS fewer in the bathroom than the kitchen. Hopefully I will be back soon with Part 2 of the Bathroom Re-do! Wish us luck!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Did Sarah Palin Really Do That?

I don't care who you are or what "side" of the aisle you are for, you MUST think THIS is hilarious! It feels like a Saturday Night Live skit, but it's real life.

Did she seriously read notes written on her hand? Everytime I watch this video it just cracks me up!

*This is not a blog to open up a political debate....just simple humor! :)

Dogs Like Super Bowl Commercials Too!

Minnie really wanted the dog on the Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl. She is the only one of our dogs that ever pays attention to the TV but she's never gotten quite this excited before. I apologize for the poor video quality. I had to use my blackberry because it was the only thing close by. Ever notice you don't have a camera when you really need one?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A MUST read!

Since I've been sick over the last few days (but am now on the mend) I have had lots of time to read! I just completed Same Kind of Different as Me which is one of the best and most touching stories I've ever read!

It is the true story of a modern-day slave who becomes homeless and meets up with a wealthy art dealer's family and is the kind of story that forces you to look at yourself. I have read it in two days because I just couldn't put it down! It's a book EVERYONE should read!

Have any of you read this?

* I read online that there are negotiations to make this book into a movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. I hope this happens so that even more people will hear this story!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How I'm Spending My Week

I worked Monday and Tuesday but Tuesday afternoon I started feeling a little under the weather and by Wednesday I was sick...so after a trip to the doctor my week is consisting of

some meds...

of course some Chicken Noodle Soup

Back and forth between Propel and Diet Mt. Dew :)

And going back and forth between the bed and the sofa. (Yes people that's an Auburn snuggie and it's so cozy that I'm not even apologizing for it..HA)

I really thought I was going to make it through the entire winter season with no sickness but no such luck. Oh well I'll be on the mend soon! :)

I hope everyone is having a great week!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Because I'm a Sucker for Anything Monogrammed

You all know by now that I'm a sucker for anything monogrammed! It may be a sickness! :) I've been looking for a cute market tote for a while now but haven't been able to find one for a decent price. Well that was until I looked at Etsy....remember I LOVE Etsy! I could look at that site all day and just drool over all of the adorable things that people make. I found a girl in Prattville, Alabama and she has some adorable items, including CUTE market totes at reasonable prices! Sweet Thangs Sewing and Sew Forth really has cute stuff at really great prices AND she's a "Bama girl! If you are looking for monogrammed things (especially for small children) check out her site! She is also very easy to work with and really fast!

Here is a pic of my new market tote!

Also for the record this market tote was ordered last week (which was January) so I still haven't spent money in February! :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dave Ramsey - Oh How I Love/Hate You!

Back in the Fall, Rob and I took and completed Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at Asbury Methodist. For those of you who aren't familiar with Dave Ramsey, he is a Christian first and foremost, who is basically a financial counselor. He was a self-made millionaire in his early twenties who ended up losing everything. He created Financial Peace University to help people learn how to manage their money. When we started the classes we really weren't sure what to expect but so many people have raved about it, we thought what the heck! Wow...we had no idea what we were in for. We learned about budgets, insurance, retirement funds, etc.

But probably the most important thing that we learned was the power of giving which is Dave Ramsey's end lesson in FPU. The ultimate goal to gain financial peace is to be completely 100% debt free, so that you are able to GIVE to people less fortunate than you. If you have ever considered attending FPU, Rob and I HIGHLY recommend it!

Yes my blog title says I love/hate Dave Ramsey. Overall, I love him. However, there are moments when I can hear his voice in my head when I'm considering buying something. So in those moments I hate him. HA! Just kidding!

This brings me to my newest challenge. Rob and I are challenging each other to go the entire month of February without spending extra money. Of course our bills will get paid, we can still buy groceries, etc. However, there can be nothing extra, which includes eating out, movies, anything that is not NEEDED! This includes not doing anything special for Valentine's Day. We will have to be creative on that day since we can't spend any money. For those of you that know me well, know this month will definitely be a challenge! But I'm determined to prove to myself (and to my husband) that I can do it! So thanks Dave Ramsey!

I'll keep you all posted on my successes from the month!

Weekend In Review

This weekend was rather quiet at the Akins' household. Friday was wet and slushy outside so we curled up on the couch and watched movies. We have had so many of these cold, wet evenings lately that I'm beginning to LOVE piling up on the couch with my dogs and my snuggie! Too cozy! Saturday night we had dinner at Surin with our friends Mark and Sharry. We hadn't seen them in a while so it was nice to catch up and as usual, the food was YUMMY! Sunday afternoon my parents came up for movie and lunch. We watched It's Complicated which is such a cute movie!
After the movie we ate lunch at Carrabba's...YUMMY! We love these types of weekends with LOTS of sleeping in!!!