Category Archives: Harmony

Love wins

4 running shoesThis morning I went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was blustery and cold. Since it was also trash day, some lovely aromas greeted me and some extra barriers were in my path, including a couple large boxes hinting strongly about who got a big screen TV just in time for Superbowl weekend.

My spirit was downcast as I was missing my girlfriends who have been my winter walking buddies for years. Four pairs of running shoes sound more confident than mine alone. I trudged uphill against the wind, listening to their vox messages and holding them close from afar.

My heart was heavy as I prayed about a 3-week-old struggling in NICU, a friend wrestling with relationship hurts, another friend with a parent in the hospital, and one of my parents making a big life transition. I pressed on and rounded the corner.

thank you notePiled high on top of a trashcan was a bag of leaves with a note attached: “Just to say: Thank you!”

It warmed my heart and lightened my spirit to see someone reaching out to a hard-working stranger. Not a typical “love note,” but one with heartfelt sentiment just the same.

As I continued my walk, I thought about how this kind gesture may brighten the day of the intended worker, yet also each person passing by on the way to work or school today.

Sometimes we don’t know what to say or do to help someone who is hurting or struggling. If we are able to reach out just a little — even a small gesture with a simple message, Love Wins. Every time.

Love wins

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34



hmmm…

Love one another.

Love won another…

Patience…a little at a time

Patience plateWhen my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.

As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.

I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.binoculars

Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.

To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.

crayons

I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!

Coffee cakesAnother friend of mine likes to bake.

I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.

For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.

one foot in front of the otherPerhaps in the heat of the moment, you’re a “count to 10” person…or a “3 deep breaths” type?

The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.



“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11



 

Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot.  Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.

Patience

A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.

“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.

Amaryllis bent, but starting to bloomAmaryllis ready to bloomamaryllis bloomingAmaryllis full bloom

What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit three blooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.

Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.



“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18



Patience plate

Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers.  We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.

Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges. 

 

Kindness

Kindness plateHolding the door open for a stranger

Picking up a piece of trash off the floor and throwing it away as you head into a meeting

Returning a grocery cart to the store for a young mother with toddlers in tow

Reaching an item off of a high shelf for a person in a motorized chair

 

These are all acts of kindness, many of which we do each day out of instinct or because these little gestures were drilled into us as children. Now as parents we encourage our children to be kind to each other — to share, to take turns, to do something nice for a friend or neighbor, to be helpful to their teachers.

When we made our Fruits of the Spirit plates several years ago, my son drew over-sized Helping Hands. In fact, we do typically view Kindness as an action, something we do with our hands.



“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32



What if we take kindness a little deeper?

This verse in Ephesians clearly links kindness and forgiveness. I hadn’t thought about this connection before. Stick with me here…this verse stretches our usual idea of Kindness a bit.

Forgiveness is an internal act of kindness that’s verbally expressed and offered to another person to accept or reject. That has a lot more at stake than offering a helping hand, but potentially can be so beneficial.

As children we’re told  “Say you’re sorry” when we’ve said or done something to hurt someone else, but we weren’t necessarily taught how to respond to an apology or how to forgive that other person (especially if it’s a pesky sibling!) for whatever slight we experienced. It’s awkward. It’s messy. We try to push through and move on without trying to still look grumpy.

Forgive

Forgiveness involves softening our hearts toward someone who has hurt us in some way. We may bristle at a half-hearted apology or one that comes too soon that we aren’t ready to accept yet. Forgiveness involves mutual discomfort and vulnerability. This reciprocity is delicate.

When we have said or done something gut-wrenching that hurts a loved one and then offered a sincere apology, the sweet relief of receiving forgiveness is very healing. Forgiveness restores closeness; it preserves the relationship. Forgiveness puts us back at ease with one another, even offering a deeper connection that we’ve had before. It is kind.

Forgiveness is an Act of Kindness for the soul.

At this point in my life, I think I’ve got the simple acts of kindness pretty well in place and see multiple opportunities to offer kind gestures to others I encounter in my daily activities. Now the challenge is to move Kindness deeper within my relationships. Join me?

snow on pine tree

Faithfulness

During this season of Resolutions, dare we explore the concept of Faithfulness? Can we dust it off a bit and revisit what we’ve learned about it over the years? We’ve probably all heard statements such as:

“Stick to something you’ve started.”

“Hang in there when the going gets rough.”

“Keep focused on your goal.”

“Take baby steps toward a larger goal.”

“Put effort in daily to reach your weekly or monthly goal.”

What does this look like in our daily messy lives?

raindrops on windshieldSticking to something faithfully is hard. Some days are rainy and our energy level is low. We tend to be fickle and change our minds about things. It’s easier to rationalize our way out of something than look at the true motivation underlying our initial intentions.

It’s easy to get tangled up in the definition of Faithfulness. It’s personal for each one of us and changes throughout our lifetime. I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve observed or experienced as Faithfulness:

–a young Mom continuing to say “no” to her pleading child imploring for a treat at the checkout stand

–a daughter showing up over and over again to care for her aging parents

–a husband heading out the door to work each day while the wife and kids are home enjoying winter break

–following through on a workout plan by asking a friend to be an accountability partner because the motivation lapses are real, folks

–hearing the same story over and over, yet making eye contact and nodding at your loved one as they share it again

–a spouse doing an unspoken labor of loveboy mopping

–a stepmom helping her stepdaughter fix her hair even though it will make the family late for church

–a child keeping up with his chores

–saying those bedtime prayers with your squirming child when you feel exhausted to the core

–a parent asking a teenage son, “how was your day?” despite hearing the rote response of “fine” week after week

–a tired Dad helping his child with homework after his grueling day at work

–keeping scheduled appointments and checking in on time

–showing up for field trips and class parties for your younger children when the “all shiny and new” experiences with your firstborn have faded away

–making meals that are family favorites but may require some extra effort on your part or that may not be your favorite

–sending a birthday card to a friend rather than posting a quick one-liner on FB

–allowing friends or family  to have their own way of doing things without being judgy; figuring out what is “your way” and being constant in this

–carving out some Quiet Time in midst of the daily Loud and Busy

–following up with a friend who has shared some recent struggles

–being a cheerful giver

“…the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2

Faithfulness plateGod is faithful and just. He keeps His promises. Our attempts at Faithfulness may seem feeble as we strive to meet our daily purpose, but He is present and watchful of each little step. We inch along, ever so slowly, bit by bit toward His plan for us.

May the New Year provide us with many opportunities to be full of Faith in gestures big and small.

Fruits of the Spirit   Make-a-plate project

Thresholds

“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14



When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.

bridge

A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?

rock art

Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.

Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.

As a parent  it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.

So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…

pathThese last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!holding hands


“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:5