Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not So Random Acts

A few years ago we started hearing about Random Acts of Kindness. As if it was a new idea. Actually, God started this a long time ago. And even though it’s fun to bless someone on a whim, it’s even better when you plan ahead. It still feels random to the person on the receiving end, but when you plan ahead, you can “act” more often.

What if we practiced kindness—not just randomly—but all the time, in different ways—so people would know there’s a God who cares and loves to bless them? Imagine how wonderful it would be when there’s a special offering at church or you see someone who needs some hope, if you were ready to do something about it?

Throughout the Bible we’re encouraged to “set aside” both money and time. It talks about setting aside your tithe (10% of your earnings) to keep the church running and help people at home and around the world.  “When you have finished setting aside a tenth…you shall give it to the Levite [the pastors of the day], the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied” (Deut. 26:12).  

 And Paul encouraged early believers to help others in need: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made”( 1 Cor. 16:2).

Maybe “random acts of kindness” sound like more fun than saving up. But you have to have resources so you can be spontaneous. Think of the possibilities.

Not So Random Giving
We put money in an envelope every payday. It’s so fun to see how God shows us how to spend it! Here are some examples: 

Giveaway bags for beggars—Money has a way of getting spent on drugs or alcohol, so instead, fill a bag with things they might need—socks, hats, food, toothpaste, vitamins, or a blanket. Include encouraging literature or a lightweight Bible, and a note to say you care.

Anonymous Surprises—Leave a note and $20 with a grocery store cashier with instructions—Apply this $20 to the bill of the next tired mommy (elderly person, single dad, or someone who’s going through a tough time), and give them this note. In it tell them they’re important, loved, or offer hope, and keep your identity secret.

Not So Random Time
This one is a challenge; we’re all so busy. That’s why it’s important to set aside time, before it melts away. Plan an hour to sit at a coffee shop and engage strangers in encouraging conversation, or extra time at the gym so you can listen to someone who’s having a hard day. Weed your elderly neighbor’s yard or take Gatorade to a construction crew on a hot day. Spend an hour a week building, sorting, answering phones, or serving people who need a helping hand.

Not So Random Words
Words have power, even when the grammar or spelling is imperfect. My daughter wrote this note when she was about six. I use it as a bookmark and it always makes me smile. It says, “Your my secret angle.”

Who needs words of affirmation, encouragement, or validation? Who needs a laugh or sigh? Who needs to know they matter; that they’re not alone?  Write notes ahead of time to give a waitress, waiter, sign holder, or teacher who needs to hear what a good job they’re doing. Include a gift card or extra tip. 

Note cards and emails can be read over and over without having to be deleted. Sometimes a text is just perfect. And a phone call or personal compliment can warm someone for days.

So go ahead, let the world think you’re practicing random acts of kindness, but you and I know it takes a little planning to change the world.

#randomactsofkindness #planahead #creativegiving #encouragingwords #loveonpurpose

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mom is a Verb

My body signaled it was under new management my first day of pregnancy. After a romantic weekend in the Pocono’s, the drive through New York City was punctuated by multiple stops to empty my already empty stomach. I thought I had the flu, but it was something much bigger than that. The action starts in the very first moments of motherhood.

It begins by changing our bodies as life grows inside. What a tremendous miracle—a tiny human is attached; growing and nourished by the cord of life between us! We wonder as our bodies stretch to make room. New changes at the end of pregnancy prepare us to birth and feed our child with uniquely formulated milk. We pray for this child we have yet to meet.

Delivery is a verb that strikes terror into the most courageous woman. But then there’s joy. We bond with this new person, known only by God up until now, where He knit them together in the secret place under our heart. The action picks up significantly.

Feeding, changing, rocking, singing, pacing back and forth in the middle of the night. Waiting for the first real smile, learning their coos and cries; being the only one who can understand what they’re saying. Sighing with pleasure the first time they hug us back. Wiping away tears, both theirs and ours, when we can’t figure out what’s wrong or make the hurt go away. And we pray.

As they grow, even more action is required. We move from carrying to chasing; from longing for them to say their first words to wanting to scream the next time they ask a “why” question. We still hug and kiss and tickle and play, but they’re on the move from our arms into the classroom of life. We pray even more.

In their teenage years, our action takes on more of an emotional element. We spent their formative years protecting, instructing, disciplining, and loving. They’re making more of their own choices apart from us now. We rejoice when they are kind, courageous, tenacious, and wise. We ache for them when they choose badly. We console and advise, and let them feel the pain and pray they will learn from it. We pray for wisdom to know when to rescue and when to urge them forward.

The action of the empty nest years takes new form. Our homes are spacious and quiet, but our arms sometimes feel empty. We encourage, rejoice, and learn from them. We listen when they call, biting our tongue when we want to say more than they’re ready to hear. We give when they’re needy. We work when they need a hand. We counsel when they ask and pray God will make them strong and give them joy.

And becoming a grand-mom is a different verb entirely. Back to rocking and feeding, singing and playing, only this time with more confidence and a store of memories from round number one. The “why” questions don’t bother us as much; we know that’s how they learn about the world, and God. We breathe in their baby scent, follow squirrels with them in the park, bend down to examine wildflowers, praise their efforts, and seek to build relationship. We want them to know they belong, they matter—to us and to God. And we pray for them and our children.

Moms of every age know how much energy it takes to do the job well. We blow it frequently, but God forgives, and often we get the chance to do better. Motherhood is the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding work we will ever do, but when we do it with all our heart, we feel God’s pleasure. He is our example and Teacher; He is our energizing power when we have nothing left to give.

To all you mothers, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you feel honored and special this weekend. 

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise” (Prov. 31:30-31).

#mothersday #whatmomsdo #tiredmoms #grandmothering #emptynest #proverbs31

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Feeling Invisible

Sometimes you want to blend in and go unnoticed, or bless someone without getting the credit. But for the most part, we want people to see us, remember us, and admire our work. Sometimes, we feel invisible and unimportant. Like an Amish doll with no face.

When I asked people what made them feel that way, they said:

“When people only know me if I’m with my husband.” 

“When I walked into my first college lecture and sat down with 200-300 other freshman I thought, ‘Who am I? Who even cares? Who would notice if I’m here or not?’ It was overwhelming after coming from high school honor classes with less than twenty students.”

“When I was in the army. I felt like I was just a number on a list, so they could schedule me for KP duty.”

 The first year of motherhood!” 

“When people who’ve known me for years still mispronounce my first name.”

As a child in an abusive home I learned to be invisible from a very early age. It's become a way of life.”

“In rehab. They told us we didn’t need to thank people, and we weren’t allowed to compliment others or have any physical contact (even hugs). This was very hard for me because I grew up in an incredibly loving and encouraging family who put emphasis on praise. And human touch was also huge. It was hard for me to feel good about myself when I never heard positive feedback.” 

“When I was the only vender at an event whose name was not listed on the program.”

“Sometimes as a busy wife and mom I feel all I do is clean, pick up, cook, and do laundry. With everyone’s busy schedule I think it gets taken for granted all the little things moms do to keep a house going. Then I remember God gave me this family to serve and it reminds me He is watching and He notices.”

 “Most days at church I feel invisible. I don’t know why.”

“At the end of my marriage my husband would enter and exit the room without acknowledging me; talk to me without making eye contact; and lay beside me in bed without touching. He didn’t see me anymore.”

“At my last job I felt unnoticed and ignored in my department, by my supervisor and other employees. People who still work there occasionally say, ‘Hey, haven’t seen you lately.’ I haven’t worked there for eight months!”

“When I walk in the door after work and no one pauses long enough to greet me anymore.”

“When all my six children were teenagers.”

If you can relate to these examples, you know how painful it can be to feel invisible.

Hagar was Abram and Sarai’s Egyptian slave. They got tired of waiting for God to give them a child and Hagar got caught in the middle. When she got pregnant by Abram, Hagar flaunted it; Sarai mistreated her. Abram caved to his wife’s demands, and Hagar ran away to the desert. She had reason to feel angry, used, afraid, and like she didn’t matter to anyone. That’s when God did a beautiful thing.

The angel of the LORD let her know she wasn’t alone.  He told her she had a future and so did her child. He said to go back and serve her mistress. After this visit from God, she felt like she could. Hagar said, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). 

Sometimes we’re mistreated by God’s own people. Hagar was. When God’s plan takes too long, His people sometimes try their own way, and we make a mess. We hurt people. They end up feeling unimportant and invisible. 

Hagar started comparing herself to Sarai and enjoyed feeling superior for once; the servant had one on the mistress. But then everything fell apart. Have you ever done that and ended up losing everything?  Then, ashamed and afraid, you run away. Worries come—How will you survive? How can you go back? Does anybody care whether you live or die?

Like Hagar, we have a Heavenly Father who knows us by name. He sees who we are and everything we do. He looks on our accomplishments and efforts with parental pride and delight. He is the God who sees you; you’re not invisible.  

“You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.” Psalm 139:1

Jesus sees each of us before we know Him personally and He wants us to come to Him and be loved. “‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’”John 1:48 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Even when your emotions tell you no one sees you or cares what happens to you, there is One who does. And He loves you unconditionally.

#Godwhoseesme #youknowme #Iseeyou #Heknowsmyname #feelingunimportant #nooneseeswhatIdo

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Warm and Spacious

I’m a little claustrophobic, so I hate being in places where there’s not enough room—like airplane seats, going to your kid’s school and having to sit in a child-sized chair for parent/teacher conference, restaurants where tables are packed in too tightly, and clothes that are too small because, well, maybe I’ve had too many desserts lately. 

This has even been used as a method of torture in prisons. Making people stand in a box that nails have been driven into from every direction. So every time they begin to fall asleep or slump, nails jab into their skin. Or putting them in a slot that’s just big enough to lie down in, but not tall enough to sit or adjust their position in any way. 

I also like to be warm and cozy, so standing outside in the cold is, to me, a form of torture. And have you ever tried to snuggle up in a blanket that was too small to cover you completely? Every time you turn over your feet or back hit the cold air and you wake up.

These are the things I think about when I read: “The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you” (Isaiah 28:20). What is Isaiah getting at here? He’s talking about what life is like when we try to get comfortable outside of a relationship with God.

I don’t mean religion. That’s a cold, hard bed with a very narrow blanket in itself. Turn from the list of man made rules and you’ll end up on the floor and out of favor. No, I’m talking about being a believer in, and lover of Jesus Christ, and following His lead. Walking and talking with Him, and trusting His plan.

That habit, that relationship, that job, that diploma, that sports car—they don’t satisfy for long. You’ll end up feeling cramped and desperate to break free of the confines around you. It won’t keep you warm enough to ignite your stone cold heart. I know. I’ve lived with God and without God, and baby, it’s cold out there without Him. But there is warmth, comfort, security, and joy in the presence of Christ.

If you can’t get a good night of sleep, because of guilt, worry, loneliness, an aching need to be loved and accepted, you know what it feels like out in the cold. Tossing and turning on a space too small to ever get rest. Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30, Message).

If you haven’t tried Jesus, what do you have to lose? In Him is freedom. In Him we rest and are warmed by His faithful love.

#roomtostretchout #bedtooshort #blanketoonarrow #satisfactioninJesus #Isaiah28:20 #Matt11:28