Kindness. I must have been four or five years old when it happened. It happens to most kids at one time or another. I stepped on a piece of glass. I remember crying, probably more like screaming, when my father attempted to get it out of my foot.
“No, no, Dad! Don’t touch it!” I remember screaming.
“Lynne, sit still! I have to get it out!” my frustrated father replied.
“No! Not! You! I want Nana to do it!” At some point he must have resigned himself to the fact that if the glass were coming out of my foot, his mother was going to have to be the one to remove it, because my next memory was my Nana working on removing that piece of glass.
So you may be wondering what special skills my grandmother had – was she a surgeon? No. General practioner, then? No. Okay, how about a nurse? No. Any kind of first aid training at all that would make her qualified to remove offending glass from tiny, delicate foot? Not particularly.
But my Nana was trustworthy and kind. I knew that if it did hurt, then there was no other way to get it done. And she did get it done. I am pretty sure I cried, and she consoled, and it was all better regardless of whether it hurt because it was Nana.
I was reminded of my grandmother’s kindness as I worked on a talk I will be giving for a mother/daughter luncheon. If there were unkindness in her, it just didn’t show. At least that’s how it was in all the years I knew her. My father, well, he says my grandmother isn’t the same woman who raised him and he has muttered things about brooms and beatings – but if there is any truth at all to that, I would guess then he probably really, really deserved it.
I never saw her be unkind to anyone – even when people hurt her or the ones she loved. And more amazing, I never heard her say anything unkind to or about anyone. Oh, how I wish I could say that about myself! How I wish there were a kindness gene that got passed down, woven into my DNA, that would make me inherently kind; but, sadly for me, most times I have to work at being kind.
I wish my Nana were still alive, now that I have lived enough years to fully appreciate the depth and impact of her example, because I would love to ask her how she did it. When my grandmother died, she didn’t have a lot of stuff to leave her grandkids. No big bank accounts, or precious heirlooms. No fancy degrees or list of accomplishments. In fact, if I were to write her obituary today, I think I would say something like this:
Nana Rose is survived by many who loved her and she will be dearly missed. She was a loving woman, a great cook and she could be trusted to be kind.
I want to be trusted to be kind, don’t you? Now that’s a legacy.
A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Proverbs 11:16
Sacrifice. I sat in church this morning listening to the pastor talk about being a servant to others, and I began to think about my focus word for this past week ~ sacrifice. Had I ever really been sacrificial? I thought. And if so, at what times in my life? Two thoughts immediately jumped to mind ~ children and marriage. And just as quickly, the word joy also filled my thoughts.If any of you have ever been fully committed to another human being, maybe as a spouse, a parent or a caregiver, then you know full well that fulfilling that commitment will involve sacrifice, and probably lots of it. Over the years I have sacrificed time, emotions, physical comfort, money, pride, vanity, pleasure, preference and many other things out of love for my children and husband. Oh yes, I have sacrificed. To love well requires sacrifice! Now before you start thinking either (1) what a prideful woman I am or (2) you should submit my application for sainthood, know that I have also lived very selfishly alongside my children and spouse, choosing my own wants and needs over theirs many times. I said I have been sacrificial, not a perfect saint!
But with those sacrifices of self I also experienced an indescribable joy ~a sense that this is what I was supposed to be doing. In those times when I have poured myself out into them and their lives, I have felt that I was being refilled with joy. Not always, but often.
When I helped carry the burden of a broken heart, or worked to pay for school tuition, or set aside my time to be there for them, I could feel the joy that comes from sacrifice stretch the lining of my little heart, making it grow just a little more. The thing is, I know that on my own, this isn’t possible. It is only through God’s power and example that I am able to sacrifice AND feel joy.
I love what Mother Teresa said about sacrifice, “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness.” Amen, Mother Teresa! But be prepared for unexpected joy!
Today I listened to a friend give a talk about Jesus ~ our sacrificial lamb, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, the Word, Emmanuel. Her talk rekindled in me an awe at the depths of God’s love for us, that yet while we were still sinners, still thinking jealous thoughts, still turning a cold shoulder to someone in need, still lashing out with unkind words ~ that even though we are so imperfect, never good enough to be with a perfect and Holy creator ~ even in the midst, He sacrificed Jesus out of love for us. And what God tells us about that is even more amazing (note, emphasis is mine)…
For the JOY set before him he (Jesus) endured the cross (sacrificed), scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him (Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinners (YOU AND ME!), so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Keep sacrificing!) Hebrews 12:2-3
Focus. “Can I tell you something I learned from riding my motorcycle?” my co-worker asked from behind his cubicle.
I was curious to know what riding a motorcycle had to do with my marital crisis and separation. I had just been lamenting to my co-worker about my need for affirmation. After having been married for 19 years I now found myself separated at 40 and my insecurities were high. I shared with my friend that I wondered what it would be like to date again. Would anyone out there find me attractive? Is it possible for a nice Christian man to fall for a 40 year old woman with two kids? Should I start dating? What about online dating sites?
I wasn’t sure how motorcycles fit into all of this, but maybe it was a guy’s way of offering some dating advice and for that, I was all ears.
“Sure, I’m listening,” I said.
“You know, one of the first things I learned when I was riding a motorcycle was the power of focus and attention,” he went on, speaking with a slow Southern drawl. “If I were riding down the road, say, and I see a parked truck up ahead. Let’s say I just start to focus on the bumper of that truck. Well, you know what?” he asked with complete sincerity.
“No, what?” I asked.
“As sure as all get out, I will run right into that bumper. I will crash right into it, even though I know it’s there and I have the whole road around me. If I put my focus on that bumper, I will crash into it every time.”
“Hmmm…” I murmured, letting his words sink in and trying to see the correlation.
“You see, Lynne,” he continued, “you’re still married.”
“Separated,” I corrected.
“Still, is dating where you want to put your focus right now? Cause if you keep focusing there, you will go there, and I don’t think you’re ready to go there just yet. I don’t want to see you crash.” Of course he was right and I have never forgotten his words or the genuine care and sincerity with which he shared the truth.
During this time in my life, my focus was beginning to shift more and more to God, to His desires for my life, for my children, my family. It was a process and it wasn’t always easy. There were many times when I focused on the emotional pain I was in, the hopelessness I felt for my future, the sins of my past, the failings of my present. It was a dark time and if I had kept my focus there, well, I am not sure where I would be today.
Instead, I learned to shift my focus to God. I would go to His words to us in the Bible and read His promises. They reassured me that no matter what I went through here, He was with me. That no matter what anyone said, He could transform me. That no matter how bleak things looked, through Jesus, I had an eternity in paradise with Him to look forward to.
Though I will probably never ride a motorcycle, I have kept this safety tip tucked in my heart. God only knows how many crashes I have avoided by putting my focus back on Him! How about you? Where are you putting your focus?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Appearances. They aren’t always what they seem. Don’t judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. I don’t know why writers get so upset about clichés; after all, they do convey a message in an effective manner. I guess it’s because they are just so…well, cliché. But back to appearances, what I am trying to say is you don’t always get what you pay for and what you see is not always what you get.
Years ago I had an acquaintance who was a fairly wealthy young woman. She drove a very nice Mercedes but also liked to dress very casually. Sometimes she would run her errands wearing jean shorts with holes in them and an old t-shirt; sometimes she might not even wear make-up. One day her car broke down within walking distance of a Mercedes dealership, so she walked over to talk to them about getting her car fixed. Who knows? She might have even been interested in buying a new car.
On this particular day, this gal was dressed very casually, her hair might have been less than coiffed and she told me she was definitely wearing that old t-shirt and pair of jean shorts. By the time she got to the lot, she might have even been a little sweaty and disheveled. When she walked onto the lot she was appalled at the way she was treated. No one came rushing over to see if she needed assistance, the sales force wasn’t fighting to see who would get to show her the latest Mercedes model; in fact, she could barely get anyone to talk to her. Are you surprised that the dealership didn’t get any of her business?
It’s human nature to make assessments about life based on what we see or hear and that is not always a bad thing. In fact, this ability to make judgments based on our assessment of people and our surroundings has probably kept us safe in many situations. Even so, I believe this is an area of life that requires self-examination from time to time.
Am I treating someone differently because I believe they are wealthy? Or lazy?
Am I giving preferential treatment to someone who looks like me, assuming they are like me?
Am I avoiding those I perceive to be very different from me?
Am I ignoring the ones that might make me feel embarrassed?
Hard questions to ask; harder yet to answer. When I find myself making mental assessments about people based on their appearances, I am often reminded of my wealthy young acquaintance. It doesn’t always keep me from falling into the trap of faulty first impressions, but sometimes it does. Have you ever found yourself in that trap? If so, let’s remind each other of how God feels when we fall into this way of thinking.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4
Be.“You buzzed? Is everything alright?” the nurse asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I was just wondering why you haven’t brought my baby in yet.”
“Well, she’s sleeping. You don’t want me to wake her, do you? It’s 3am, why don’t you get some rest.”
This was my first baby and I was so excited to just hold her. I had heard how babies never slept through the night as newborns and so I was sure the nurse was holding out on me, keeping my baby away so I would have time to rest. And that would be a logical assumption considering I had just delivered my sweet baby less than 24 hours ago. I know, silly me, I should have cherished the rest. But I just wanted to be with my baby so much! I was the same way when my second child was born.
My love for these precious newborn babies knew no bounds. Even though they were completely helpless, ever so demanding and didn’t make any real contributions to the family, I still loved them so much. I simply loved them for “being”.
In a world that places so much value on “doing” it is so hard to appreciate the joy of “being” – like the joy of being uniquely created by God and the joy of being still in His presence.
Do you believe it is possible to be loved and valued by God even if you weren’t able to contribute one meaningful thing to this world?
Pause before you answer. Think about it for a minute. Really search your soul on this one.
The answer is absolutely yes! God is love. He created you just to love you. And He simply wants you to love Him. Of course, He has other things for you to do here, but that doesn’t make you any more lovable or valuable. Intellectually you may agree with me, you may say, “Yes, of course!” But is that how you feel in your heart? Or do you struggle, like I have, with being okay with just being?
That is one of the challenges to the practice of the spiritual discipline of stillness, silence and solitude. It feels so unproductive. Shouldn’t we be doing something? We should at least be praying or praising. Why? Why is it not okay to just be before God and let Him love us, to let Him speak to our souls in that stillness? God loves us in the same way that we love a newborn, not for the great thoughts they think, or what they can contribute or do, but for just being. Maybe that is why, in scripture, He is continually encouraging us to be like children.
I decided to use a scripture verse as a way to bring my mind back to a place of quiet during my time of stillness with the Lord. Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God, seemed perfect to me.
It starts with be. It’s a good place to start. Just be.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
Censorship. I was talking with a new believer about prayer.
“You know, I don’t pray for myself. I just pray for my family and people I love.”
“Why not?” I asked. “You know, God tells us we can come to Him with everything.”
Oh, I spoke so confidently, with such conviction and wisdom. Of course, I believed it when I said it but later I realized that sometimes I am guilty of my own censorship when it comes to praying to God. It goes something like this.
“Hey, Jesus, I know you’re busy, got a lot a stuff goin’ on up there, so I am only going to bother you with the big stuff. I’ll take care of all the small stuff.”
“Lynne, I’m big enough, I can handle the small stuff, too.”
“It wouldn’t be right to ask you for help with something I can do myself, Jesus. I should be able to handle it, so I won’t even ask. After all, you help those who help themselves, right?”
“Lynne, I help those who ask.”
“Love you, Jesus, and I appreciate the offer to help, but I got myself into this mess, it is my responsibility to get myself out.”
“Lynne, the mess you are in is so great that you could never get yourself out. That’s the reason I died for you. I love you.”
It is a sly thing, this subconscious censorship, this idea that I know what is and isn’t important enough to bring before the Lord. I hate to use the “h” word, but I am feeling a bit hypocritical. Do I somehow think that as someone who has followed Jesus for a while, I no longer need to rely on Him for everything, big and small? Do you ever censor your prayer life? Thankfully Jesus is merciful and patient and He loves us enough to give us His Word, not ours, to be the final authority. And as I shared with my new believer friend, Jesus does indeed tell us to come to Him with everything. Uncensored.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Mothers. One of my greatest blessings has been to be a mother. I wish I could say that I executed the role of motherhood perfectly. All the time. Without fail. No regrets. But if I said that, I have two beautiful children who would find time to leave me a comment or two to bring me back to reality. Reality is that I am an imperfect mother.
For example, it seemed our son had a bump or scrape on his head every day from age one to age two. It didn’t matter how closely I watched him, how near I kept him, or how much I padded the furniture, he just seemed to take one tumble after another that caused some kind of bump or abrasion on his poor little head. I was sure I was the worst mother in the world. But like most active little boys, he grew out of that stage intact only to enter another equally challenging phase.
My daughter was not as physically active as a youngster, but had her share of hurts just the same. Missing friends at birthday parties, not being able to try out for the cheerleading squad, broken hearts – it didn’t matter how closely I watched her, or how near I kept her, or how much I tried to protect her heart, there were hurts. At times I would have nightmares that one of my two children would end up on some talk show, speaking from the shadows with their voices altered by a modulator so that no one could identify them – all because of the mistakes I had made as a mother. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Scrapes healed, tender emotions passed and, to my knowledge, no one ended up on a talk show.
I love my children beyond measure, and yet my best efforts at being their mother have always fallen short of perfection. I am grateful that God does not measure my worth by my works – as a mother or in any other area of my life. He does not expect me to save myself by what I do or don’t do. What a wonderful gift is God’s grace that saves an imperfect mother like me!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8