* Update: This post was originally written in 2013. Since then, the Tyners have welcomed sweet Dax, another little boy who also has Cystinosis. He and his brother are true super heroes!
I’m really excited to introduce you all to a sweet friend of mine, Christi Tyner. Christi is a beautiful mama and has a heart for God that inspires me daily. We met in college through mutual friends. Over the years I’ve been inspired by the kind of mama she is (after she dealt with years of painful infertility). A few weeks ago, as I was thinking about the upcoming holidays, I decided to reach out to Christi personally to help me put together an advent calendar she’d created for her two kids, Charleigh and Braden, for Brady. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was an incredible idea that many of you might be interested in as well. So, without further a due… meet Christi!
I’m a former computer scientist turned stay-at-home, sewing crafting machine. I like to say I work at “Jesus & Co. Ministries” because, after all, he’s the boss right?! My husband is a national account manager for GE and while not so “crafty” is somehow on board with the craziness that is ME :)
My miracle baby Charleigh is 4 and my sweet gift Braden is 2. After years of infertility and miscarriages we joyfully welcomed our sweet baby girl. And after one more angel baby we were blessed to have a beautiful healthy baby boy. Just when we breathed a sigh of relief, we were handed another growing opportunity after finding that our son has a rare genetic terminal illness. To the outside world he is a perfectly healthy intelligent child. But daily, we fight the fear of his body internally harming itself. We are so blessed to have newly developed medications to improve his prognosis and quality of life. And as of now, he is extremely healthy and beyond happy. He is my source of pure daily joy. I mention this to encourage you. If you ever need a charity to contribute to, please consider the Cystinosis Research Foundation. This disorder is so rare that there is no government nor pharmaceutical companies funding research. It is ALL fundraised by Cystinosis families. Despite the threat of fear, we choose joy. We choose action. We choose to live and give and make a difference!
When Charleigh was 2 and really starting to understand all the Christmas hype…the Santa story, presents galore and all the magic, I struggled to make sure she knew the TRUE meaning of Christmas. That little baby whose birth we are celebrating. But, honestly, Santa is really hard to compete with. So while we read the Christmas story out of the bible and informed her that St. Nicholas was a man who loved God himself and blessed others because of it, it still seemed all she could think about was presents and candy, stockings and trees. I learned a long time ago that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. So I searched desperately for ways to SHOW her the meaning, that love that ‘Ol St. Nick showed. I landed on a few advent calendar ideas…most had to do with counting-down-to-Santa or eating-too-much-candy. But luckily, I stumbled upon (probably on one of my Pinterest binges) and immediately stole an idea. Random Acts of Kindness! We decided to count down our days by thinking of others. It was AMAZING. Amazing what a 2 year old can understand. Amazing what a 2 year old can learn. Amazing what a 2 year old can grow into her heart. And mostly amazing that after we finished our last act she started coming up with more! Now that she is 4 it is a weekly occurrence that the phrase “that would be an act of kindness” is used in our home. It isn’t limited to Christmas time. When we are in the fanciest most awe inspiring store (aka: Target) I find her fighting the urge to say “I want”, “can I have”, and she now says “wouldn’t so&so love this?” or “that reminds me of my friend”. Inspired by this, I have since implemented the “shopping rule”, we are only allowed to think of others while cruising the aisles.
So, at first it was overwhelming to me that I needed to think of 25 kind things to do…turns out i’m not any more naturally kind than my toddler :) Some staple ideas are taking hot cocoa to the Salvation Army bell ringers, bringing treats to the animal shelter, baking something for the local fireman, and leaving a prize for the mailman. But I chose to fill in the rest with small things she could do all by herself. Taping quarters to the candy machines outside of a store and hiding dollars in the toy department at dollar tree were beyond exciting for her. And last year we added things like “clean your room for mommy” and “read a book to your brother”. The acts don’t have to be earth shattering, just simple ways for her heart to be conditioned to think of others in this naturally selfish world.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me over the years “I want to do this but my child is too young”. And, there is some truth to that, they may not “get” it quite yet but Honey, if you are anything like me, you could use some Acts of Kindness to soften your own hard heart! Use the baby as an excuse and DO IT! It will baffle you how young they catch on. And modeling behaviors is the best way to teach :) even a one year kid can sneak into grandma’s house and leave flowers.
I’d say my favorite memory from this activity through the years would be the times Charleigh has reminded me of my own “lack of kindness”. It kind of makes you proud when they can pick out a kindness opportunity without your leading. Even when it begins with…”mom, you should give that bag boy a tip, it’d be an act of kindness!” Train up a child in the way they should go and they will totally call you out in public!
I have to tell you, after Christi sent me her initial details she wrote me and said… “Maybe our story will be a blessing to one of your readers. That is why I am willing to put Bray’s story out there. Everything in me just wants to pretend it isn’t there and let the world look at him with unsuspecting eyes… just a normal kid. But how tha heck is God gonna get the glory in that?”
I keep repeating that thought in my head and what it means. God is working such an incredible story through all of us – through our struggles. And most certainly through Christi’s family. After reading what Christi sent over to be included in her post, and feeling God put Braden and other children with Cystinosis on my heart, I decided that together, we could ALL do something incredible this holiday season. Not only can we spread love with these Random Acts of Kindness but we can help in an even bigger way by supporting the Cystinosis Research Foundation. Like Christi mentioned, the foundation is solely supported by the families of children who are affected.
But today, we can change that. For your $20 gift, we will send you a PDF printable of Random Acts of Kindness cards (including 21 RAK ideas and 4 blank RAK cards for you to complete, print, cut and placed in your own envelopes or paper bags (cards are 5 x 3.5) and 25 “You’ve been RAK’d” cards to be given or included with your random act of kindness (to encourage people to spread the love).
I’d love to ask you, if your heart feels moved, to share this post and the opportunity to give to the Cystinosis Research Foundation. Thank you SO very much!
And thank you Christi, for your incredible example of God’s love and dedication to what matters most. So inspired by you sweet friend.