One Wonderful Kindness

Jesus calls us to be light. Not to be liked.

The two words may sound the same, and I’ve done my fair share of confusing the two as I seek to be liked light in my community, but they are different. This side of Glory, they are so very different.

Those of us who long to be more like Jesus and less like us, are also called to a higher standard of caring for one another. Both the other that we know, identify with, and like, as well as the other that we don’t.

I come a little late to this discussion, but I’ve been giving The Pool Party incident a lot of thought. As I’ve wrestled with strong feelings about both sides of the story as it was initially presented in the media, I realized what it comes down to, for me. This is a story about the depth of our willingness to forgive each other and then pursue reconciliation.

And smack-dab In the middle of this whole news story, I find myself faced with the opportunity to, as a fellow writer I deeply admire recently wrote, “stay at the table”. As I read this article by Deidre, over at the Washington Post, I was reminded that we are invited to spread the Good News that Jesus came to restore.

By living that way.

By speaking that way.

And every single time we choose to love, by not engaging in an argument over who is on the right side of fence, and why, Love wins. Each time we lock eyes with the human on the other side of the table and stay in it, determined to find where our humanity intersects with theirs, Love wins.

Call me an optimist, but, I want Love to win.

Ultimately, of course, it does.

But, I’d like to see it win a few times here on this side of Glory, too.

On this side of the fence.

So, with each new conversation about who was where they shouldn’t have been, and when, or who should teach respect and who should learn it, I choose Love.

I choose to remember how many times I made choices that were so very wrong. Yet someone, somewhere, showed me kindness anyway. I choose to recall the times I should have been in control, but wasn’t, and was given grace.

And still are.

I choose to remember that it doesn’t have to be a “they’re wrong” or “we’re right” kind of discussion. It could be, it should be a discussion about how we can love one another better. It can be another golden opportunity to show wonderful kindness, much like we have been shown.

Not a dismissal of sin.

Not an ignorance of peril.

Not a diss of this or that or them.

But Love. And grace.

Like we first understood it, the first time grace was poured out over us and our own mess.

I might not understand the daily perils of being part of this group or that organization, but I surely do know that God’s grace is one wonderful kindness. I’ve experienced it a time or a thousand.

Have you?

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Oh God…let me pass on your wonderful kindness to another.

Help us all to pass it on, one to another.

Yes indeedy.

Why Are You Looking for Crickets?

Maybe, because you’re hearing them around here, lately?

‘Tis true.

But, for good reason.  (More on that on Wednesday!)

For now, if you’ve been missing me (and really, I’d expect nothing less. JUST KIDDING!), you can find me over at Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies  as part of the Teaching Team for 2015. As we work our way through a study of Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman, you’ll find me over there. A lot. Click here to hop over and check it out.

In the meantime, I wanted to share something amazing that’s happened since my reading of this book.

But, you’ll have to come on back here, on Wednesday, to read about it.

So, see you soon?

I really hope so!

Yes indeedy!

Let’s Learn to Zip It, Shall We?

My mouth gets me into trouble. Anyone else?

A lot. Tell me I’m not alone, here!

Really, though, it’s a head problem. Can I get an amen?

And, if I’m being completely honest, it’s a heart problem. Oh, yes indeedy.

I’ve always longed to be one of those wise women who say very little. You know the ones… they don’t often speak their mind, but when they do, WHOA NELLY, it’s important! Alas, God apparently thought better of that idea. In fact, I often wonder why He allows me to speak at all!

But, He does. In His completely unfathomable infinite wisdom, He gives me the freedom to speak the words in my head.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true: if I don’t check those words against His Word, what tumbles from my mouth can be a) too much, b) too loud, c) too soon, or d) all of the above.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out that the next book that Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Studies is going to work through has to do with exactly this issue!

Hallay-glorious-lou-ya!

And, sweet Moses, do I ever need it!

On January 26th, over here, we will begin a study of Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman. The author provides phenomenal insight into “What to say, how to say it, and when to say nothing at all”. (I believe I especially need help with that last one. Also, Sweetman seems a bit too happy that we are studying this particular book.)

I’ve had the privilege of reading Keep It Shut over the last month. There are far too many gems, throughout, to pick just one. (Or, ten!) In fact, there is so much wisdom packed into this book, that I would like to heartily encourage you to pick up a copy and join the study.

You can do that here.

You can buy the book here.

And, if you do decide to join the 20,000 plus people who’ve signed up already, you may just see me hanging around on the Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies blog.

Yes, you might just.

And we can learn to zip it together.

What do you say to that?

(Psst… say yes.)

I hope to see you there!

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I’m Not Catholic, But…

Too often, this past year, I’ve been walking around looking only to the interests of those who are mostly like me. Far from keeping my heart tender, it’s starting to harden it toward those who don’t experience life the way my family and I do.

I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that treating others the way they want to be treated means anything other than treating everyone the way they’d like to be treated. It’s The Golden Rule, true. But, it’s one that I want to follow better in spirit and letter, this year.

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve always been inspired by the many stories centered around Mother Teresa‘s servant heart. She went into some of the harshest, grittiest, most detestable places and poured out kindness.

We can’t all head out to the far-reaches of this globe. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think every person should, either. In fact, anyone of us can look within our own city or town and find some “others” who need to be treated the way so many of us almost always are.

With dignity.

And respect.

And kindness.

Much the way I imagine Jesus to have tenderly looked on the woman who wiped His feet with her tears.

I want Him to be able to look upon me, and mine, that way.

As we embark upon a new year, I’m envisioning new family goals. This is one of them, for us. I want us to think more “neighborly” and less individually. Thinking through ways we can practice this in our community, I’ve come up with a few ideas. I’m sharing three of those, here, in the hopes that it will spark ideas of your own.

And as far as resolutions go, I think this is one that honors both the spirit and the letter of that golden rule so many of us claim to hold dear.

3 Ways A Family Can Treat Others the Way They Want to Be Treated

1. Draw pictures. Then, visit a local nursing home and share them with the residents. Share why we drew them. Just share our stories in written or drawn form. Give them encouragement to tell theirs. I’ll never forget the day I took a short story I had written with me to the nursing home I frequented in college. What started as a project for a class turned into a desire to continue fostering relationships with these frail yet fully alive elderly friends. Two of these residents had minds that were so sharp, even at 82 and 90. I brought the short story to finish it while I waited in the “parlor” for my visit with Margie. But, she snuck up on me in her wheelchair and asked what I was doing. After I told her, she demanded I read it. And then, she shared a completely unexpected story of her own. My life was changed that day. Her daughter, living in another country, wrote to me after her passing. She said that Margie lived for my visits. Just to feel connected to the world outside of that Nursing Home. I’ll never forget that. My children need to know that sometimes, the ones who need the most kindness are the ones you’d never expect.

2. Serve at a local Food Pantry or Shelter Kitchen. This is something I haven’t done in an embarrassingly long time. My children only know what it is to be served. Not to serve others. I’m being very honest. I don’t like writing that or reading that, but, it serves as a much-needed kick in the shorts to expose them to more postures of service. To help them take that chin down a notch or three and bend low to lift the chin of another. The blessing is one big boomerang of hope and goodness.

3. Ask at least one person in our house how they could be helpful to them, each day.
This is where we’ll be starting. “How can I help you?” Those are five powerful words, and I want each one of us to make them such a natural part of our vocabulary that they tumble out without prompting. I’ve made a Servant_Heart_Chart and included the picture below. It’s not fancy, but it does the job. #practicalforthewin

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My hope is that these children, of mine, will go about their days, weeks, and years with a heart bent on considering how they can treat others better than they deserve. This, to me, is the most difficult challenge a human undertakes.

Well, this human, anyway.

It’s why I require so much grace for my days.

But it is given. Oh, how it is! And I intend to make pouring it out a priority – for myself, and for my family.

Yes indeedy.

Do you have an idea for how to teach children to treat others with kindness?  Or, do you know of a great book with ideas for family service or servanthood? Please, share!

 

The Gold of Repair

Nourishment comes in many forms. For the body, we can all point to the brilliant spectrum of colors that we should be eating from. For the soul, though, a different kind of care and feeding are required. We sometimes seek the physical to fill the spiritual, and find that we never quite feel satisfied. On the other hand, the line between filled and overflowing can sometimes be blurred. And it is good.

One of the Internet homes that I visit is called Be Small Studios. Although her artwork originally drew me to her site, it was her words, though written infrequently, that held me captive. And, although this post of Annie’s was written back in April, it is one that I have bookmarked to read over and over.

Lately, I’ve been thinking on the ancient Japanese practice of Kintsugi and wondering how much more beautiful the cracks that only Jesus can repair.

Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

When others, who watched us shatter into a hundred pieces over the affair, the death, or any other number of life-altering events – when they see that we are restored, what must they think?

Do they see the grace in the golden overlay?

Almost like a wounded animal, I find myself hunching over my cracked places and trying my best to hide them. Don’t we all turn our hurt places away, even just a bit, when others come too near to them?

Then, someone comes along, modeling Jesus with their kindness and gentleness, grace and compassion, and attempts to bind that cracked place. I find my soul deeply nourished in the process. Even just the sitting with me, the not-leaving-even-though-they-see, is taken in as much-needed sustenance.

Afterwards, I find myself treating those places, that have been bound up, with extra care. Knowing that I’m cared for, despite my crack-pot ways, seeing that there are others willing to stand next to me as they cup their hands under All The Leaking…that is the very best goodness for my soul.

God, working through the prayers and ministering shoulders and softest touches and endless hand-offs of tissues, shows me that He will make beautiful the cracked places.  And watching others go through bitter battles that they never wanted in the first place – seeing how Jesus can, and will, woo a hardened heart back to Him in the midst of it… that is like seeing the gold of repair melted down and drizzled out.

I look for the cracks in others, a little more intently, now. Certainly, I recognize them far easier. Some of those little fissures zig and zag almost exactly the same way some of my own do.

And, I long to come alongside, gently, with my cracks outward facing. Exposed. So that they can see. How I long for them see how The Only One Who Can has repaired some of my own broken places!

With restoration comes the ability to be filled and nourished. Sometimes, even, full to overflowing! With goodness and mercy spilling over the sides and spreading all over that gold of repair.

What grace!

 

 

Community Wide Joy

There are things that spread just as quickly as runny honey on a piece of toast.

One of those things is joy.

Joy can spread like wildflowers if given the right environment to do so.

And what is the right environment, you might ask?

The best place to grow joy, and then spread that joy, is a place filled with hope. Lots and lots of hope!  And you will find that right here, at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study Blog page.

We are a community of women who are seeking real hope for real life. We want to know more about the God who allows the deeper things to change us.  The God who brings us beautiful things like babies, and yet can allow hard things like infertility.

We don’t shy away from hard things in this community.  And, encouragement runs rampant.

Doesn’t that sound like a place you can take a deep breath and feel safe in?

Each week, we gather together to discuss a book, yes.  But, we also do life together.  We rejoice with one another when God provides victory, or relief, or healing.  We mourn with each other in the midst of tragedy or upheaval of families.  And, maybe most importantly, we pray for each other in times of crisis and questioning.

Sharing life’s happier moments right alongside life’s more tragic episodes might seem odd. But, isn’t that the way life is?  All The Easy mixed in with The Hard and shaken all up and poured out, every which way?

Shouldering burdens alongside one another makes hard times more bearable. And, certainly, experiencing others’ joy alongside them makes it seem as if it’s multiplied!

That joy quickly becomes community wide.

Especially in this one!

I hope you’ll consider joining in with this amazing group of people just seeking to find The Hope.

You will seek Him and you will find Him.

I promise.

HE promises!

Yes indeedy.

 Want to see what others think about the word “community”? click the button below.  I hope we see YOU there!

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inRL 2014 Conference Wrap Up

The pace of life can be so frenetic, at times, that I find it downright impossible to form connections in real life. I look for opportunities to meet others who share a desire to live life without just going through the motions.  I need flesh and blood people to come alongside and shoulder the burdens of life, with me.  I’m guessing you do too?

I’ll spare you the boring details of our whirlwind life over these past weeks, but suffice it to say that I am thrilled to be able to quietly sit down in front of my computer today and finally get to the important business of sharing about my inRL Conference meetup at the end of April.

The ladies of (in)courage deliver a constant stream of encouragement through that computer screen. To be able to share that with others is a gift.

We had another small gathering of five women, but make no mistake. Each one of these women were handpicked; by a God, who knows and sees.

Some arrived the night before to work together to get my home ready, to eat chocolates as we wrapped tissue paper around pretty little welcome gifts, and to laugh and cry as we watched the opening Friday night Keynotes. We sat around in our pajamas, quiet and comfortable, and listened as women opened up their hearts on the other side of the screen.

Saturday dawned beautiful. The rain that was predicted, wasn’t. There were calls made and emails sent, telling us that some couldn’t make it.  But, our spirits weren’t dampened a bit.  It’s almost as if with each new cancellation, our spirits were able to instantly see that this, this is exactly as it was supposed to be. The sun was streaming through the windows as we welcomed in two more brave souls.

We settled in to watch the Saturday Keynotes and it was obvious that heart connections were being made.  Community, the trials of living in one and the necessity of having one, was on full display.  Both in my living room and on that screen.

There were some priceless conversations about hurt.  And joy. Deeper bonds were forged. Friendships blossomed. As we stood around the table, eating and chatting together, I remember thinking that this is community. Right here, right now.

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Once again, I am so thankful for the vision that (in)courage had to provide this opportunity.  It helps me see, each time, how beautiful is the real life connecting to each of our sometimes web-weary souls.

And to the women who came… thank you.  Thank you for sharing yourselves.

Let’s do it again next year, okay?