Small Acts of Kindness: Litter Box Ministry



By Joanne Sher

Previously posted at FaithWriters

It felt like a completely ridiculous and uncomfortable request, but I had to make it.

Our needs at the time were wide and deep: money, day care, prayers, meals, transportation, companionship, clothing, groceries, yard work. Some we had graciously received from our church family without even a request on our part. Others had been granted after we made the need known.

Every person in our family had been blessed by the gracious and giving natures of the body of Christ. Whether it was a church member mowing our three-acre yard so my husband wouldn’t have to, a ready-cooked meal so I could stay out of the kitchen, or a toy to keep my son occupied, each member of our household had been blessed abundantly by the giving of fellow Christians.

Well, almost every member. It seemed our two “feline children” needed ministering to as well.



Twix and Squeak were already getting food and water, and even a bit of love. Their needs were a bit more sanitary in nature.

You see, for the past several months, my husband had been taking care of the cats’ “business” after they relieved themselves. Prior to this, cleaning up after the cats had always been my chore, as my husband’s sense of smell was a bit more acute than mine. This was certainly not a job he enjoyed, but he had done it, nonetheless, because of the warning in my most consulted book (besides the Bible, of course): “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.”

My second child was on the way, you see. Every pregnancy book known to man, it seemed, discouraged expectant females from contact with cat poo (I can be straightforward, can’t I?). It seems feline fecal matter can carry a disease called toxoplasmosis. This disorder, though having little effect on the mother-to-be, can be spread to the unborn child and cause serious complications, including blindness.

Well, my husband was now physically unable to take care of this, and cats will only put up with an unsanitary lavatory for so long. And, as much as I adored my kitties (and hated asking for yet another favor), I was unwilling to risk my newborn child’s eyesight.

So, I called Barb, our pastor’s wife and a dear friend, who had been coordinating our assistance (do you know what a Godsend it is to have someone coordinating your assistance?). Apparently attuned to my plans, our calico curled up on my lap, gazing up at me with that “rub me or else” look. I obliged, of course.

“Hi Barb.”

“Hi, dear! How are you doing?”

“We’re doing okay. Barb, thank you so much for all you’ve done. You don’t know how much we appreciate it.”

“I just thank the Lord that I can.”

I sighed. “I have one more thing I need help with.”

I could hear her shuffling papers. “What do you need, hon?”

“Well, I need someone to come and clean out the litter box.” I paused. “Of course, my husband can’t do it, and I’m not supposed to because I’m pregnant.”

Barb went right to work, with a smile I’m sure. Within a day or two, she had found a cat lover (had to have been!) and sister in Christ willing to come to our home and take care of Squeak and Twix’s “leavings.”

Now if that doesn’t require a selfless attitude, I don’t know what does. And she performed her litter box ministry cheerfully and without complaint for three months.

The body of Christ blessed every living being in our home during our trial, it seemed. Some prayed. Some gave us rides. Some watched our son. And some cleaned up our cats’ waste. Every one was a blessing.

Joanne_0684-smallJoanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a writer by gift. After working as a newspaper reporter, then pursuing inspirational fiction, she has settled into learning the craft of writing children’s picture books. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husband and two kids – an almost-teen daughter and an-almost driver son. In addition to writing, she is also a freelance editor and the blogger at the FaithWriters blog. Visit her at or on her Facebook page.

A Tribute to My Dad

Dad at pianoBy Jennifer Hallmark

My dad, Jesse Lee Dison, Jr. was a son of Jesse Lee Dison, Sr. and Flora M. Gautney. They lived in rural northwest Alabama. Dad was a quiet young man, well-liked by his fellow classmates and teachers. He was a good student and friendly to all.

He met Stella “Jean” Swet of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania while he was working up there one summer. They married on September 9th, 1961. My mom was the daughter of John Swet, Sr. and Lena Yonish Swet of Good Town, Pennsylvania.

My parents enjoyed the first seven years of their marriage living first in Huntsville, Alabama, then Cape Girardeau, Missouri and ending up in Sarasota, Florida.  During this time, Jennifer Leigh Dison (me) and Jesse Lee Dison, III were born.

IMG_20160514_132526380All was going well. My parents were happily married with a nice home, two kids, two cars and Dad was headed for his next big promotion as the store manager of a local Sears.

Then Dad’s toes started to get numb. I knew something was wrong, but at the age of six couldn’t comprehend much of what was happening. The doctors couldn’t pinpoint the problem. That was in May of 1969. By August 16th, he was in a wheelchair. They rented it for a week, thinking everything would be okay. But it wasn’t. He continued with doctor visits and physical therapy while he worked for Sears for three-and-a-half years in a wheelchair.

In May of 1972, Dad nearly died. The illness had affected his brain. Sears paid to fly my dad and mom to Chicago in an ambulance plane where h was under the care of the best doctors. He spent the month of May in Chicago in the hospital. They never really pinpointed his illness and couldn’t tell him whether or not he would walk again. By November of 1972, he retired from Sears on disability. He was paralyzed from the chest down.

We moved back to Greenhill, Alabama to be near family. When his condition stabilized somewhat, we bought a farm nearby and Dad lived there for the remainder of his life. He enjoyed three of his grandchildren before his passing: Mandy Hallmark and Jonathan Hallmark were born to my husband, Danny, and me. Jeffrey and Jessica Dison were born to my brother and his wife, Rita. Jessica, who was named after him, was born two months after Dad had died. Even though they didn’t take sonograms back then unless it was an emergency, he had always predicted that Rita was going to have a girl.

DSCN0033Before his illness Dad was known as a hard worker who loved his family.  But after becoming sick, he gave his life to Jesus and lived the rest of his days studying the Word of God and telling everyone he could about God and his relationship with Him.

Though unable to get out much, he wrote letters and made phone calls to people, always being the one to encourage people. Most people who saw my dad in his later years said that when they came to visit and cheer him up, they left encouraged themselves. In his last couple of years, he often spoke of heaven and was excited to go and see Jesus. He is greatly missed, especially by his family.

Although it’s almost been 25 years, I still miss him. One day, I will see him again and that gives me hope. His years after the illness were filled with small acts of kindness he gave through his letter writing and phone calls. That’s part of why I’m inspired to do what I do.

Thanks, Dad.

Fathers’ Day

This coming Sunday is Fathers’ Day, and is a time to focus on, honor, and thank our dads for what they mean to us. My dad lives about 6 miles away and I’m privileged to see him each week for dinner. Dad at Amicalola Falls 2016 Great shot

When he gets home from work, he greets my mom, our dog, and me with a hug and a kiss and asks about our respective days. He listens, then shares how his went, often including the Bible study he’s attended that morning.

I appreciate that he shares things with me. I know not everyone is that fortunate. At the end of the evening, after we’ve had dinner and have played a game or two, Dad walks me out to my car to say good-bye.  Even if it’s not dark, he still escorts me out, helps me into my car, and tells me to drive home safely.  He does it because he cares.

There are times when Dad does “behind the scenes” work, particularly when it comes to planning a trip. For example, he, my mom, and I are going up the eastern seaboard to several places including Washington D.C. New York City, Pennsylvania, Maine, Niagara Falls, and Quebec.Niagara Falls Dad’s good at planning ahead, so he’s already made a lot of the reservations as to where we’ll stay along the way. He’s good at being in charge of things and taking care  of details, and it’s nice to depend on him for that. I’m looking forward to the trip.

What does Fathers’ Day mean to you? What memories or traditions do you have for Fathers’ Day?

Small Acts of Kindness: Seven Dollars Short

shopping-879498__180By Gail Kittleson

The clerk whizzed my purchases through her checkout station. This was a store accepting only checks and cash, so I’d brought my checkbook along, and sure enough, fell seven dollars short on cash.

Then she said they no longer take checks, so I started figuring out what I needed least, but barely began when she said, “No problem. Seven dollars—I’ll take care of it.”

I stared at her , stunned.

“It’s really okay, don’t worry.”

Others waited behind me in line, so I thanked her profusely, and proceeded outdoors. Driving down the highway, I had to wonder how often she did this. Seven dollars is no drop in the bucket, especially when multiplied by more random receivers like me.

The thing is, we have plenty of money for groceries, and I didn’t look especially bag-ladyish that day . . . I simply had a need, so she met it. Pretty cool, huh?  My thoughts veered, as they often do, to Addie, the heroine of my latest World War II novel. She performed plenty of kind acts for her mother-in-law who lived just across the driveway, and for her friend Jane down the Iowa country road.

snickers-461902_960_720They did the same for her. Once, when Addie obeyed a summons to a law office in their little rural town, Jane drove her, and when Addie came out, Jane handed her a plain brown bag with a Snickers candy bar in it. With war restrictions on sugar, chocolate, and money so tight, Jane’s gift might seem small to us, but in those days, it represented sacrifice.

A thoughtful gift in the name of friendship—and Addie understood perfectly. On her journey out of a fear-based life to claiming her God-given dignity, small gifts like this meant so much. Still, she hesitated to eat the candy bar, so Jane asked her to eat it right then, saying she’d enjoy watching.

Some things, we’re simply meant to accept. I certainly didn’t feel worthy of that clerk’s seven-dollar gift. And for Addie, a Snickers bar back then probably might have equaled about that much money.

She did bite into the Snickers, and I’m pretty sure she caught the joy of giving reflected in Jane’s eyes.

That clerk and I will likely never meet again, but as she considered her day’s work, I wonder if satisfaction filled her at the remembrance of meeting a need. A random kind act—the gift that keeps on giving.

gailGail Kittleson taught college expository writing and ESL. Now she focuses on writing women’s fiction and facilitating writing workshops and women’s retreats. She and her husband enjoy family in northern Iowa, and the Arizona Ponderosa forest in winter.

White Fire Publishing released Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, in 2013, and her debut women’s historical fiction, In This Together (Wild Rose Press/Vintage Imprint) released in 2015. She also contributed to the Little Cab Press 2015 Christmas Anthology,

The first novel in her World War II series releases on June 6, 2016—D-Day, and the second is contracted with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas for release in February, 2017. You can count on Gail’s heroines to make do with what life hands them, and to overcome great odds.

Meeting new reading and writing friends is the meringue on Gail’s pie, as her heroines would say.

In-times-like-these-cover-203x300In Times Like These

Pearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war.

But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stoke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits.

Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?