Karen. Aunt Karen. She’s not even my aunt by blood, but I think of her as family. I’ve only known her for just over a year. She’s one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. Gentle, kind, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for sure. She was my husband’s saving grace when he was a child.
My husband grew up in a strange home. Don’t we all.
He lost his parents when he was very young. His mother died when he was still an infant and his father died when he was a toddler, too young to even form a memory of his face. He was orphaned.
He was raised by his paternal grandparents. His Uncle Guy and Aunt Karen were there for those formative years as well, living just next door.
I’ve known Karen for years, without the benefit of meeting her in person, because my husband described her so vividly. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel of mercy in a chaotic world. A calming influence on an energetic boy. He would tell me about her rubbing his back for naptime. (He still likes to have his back rubbed. Who doesn’t?) He was certainly enamored with his Aunt Karen.
He talked about how Aunt Karen could show discipline, not humiliation, in behavior correction. His grandmother and uncle often resorted to yelling and intimidation. But Karen. She was different.
Karen was the mother he needed. Tender. Patient. Feminine. She was the female ideal. The compassion he required as an extremely sensitive child. A soft place to land.
I finally met Karen just over a year ago. She was so warm and welcoming. Immediate hugs and she accepted me totally from the first moment. She was every bit of the angel Guy recalled to me. Karen has a generous spirit. She always asks questions and she lavished our daughter with so much attention.
She lives in Colorado, so we don’t get to see her much, but we have Facebook (thank God) and she’s so supportive of my blog. Thank you, Karen!
Aunt Karen just made the first donation for my trip. An extremely generous one. Thank you for believing in me and this journey.
I truly appreciate your kindness, generosity and the immediate acceptance as a member of your family. I’m just sorry we hadn’t met until just over a year ago. You’re a beautiful person. Inside and out. You changed my husband’s life and offered him grace when he absolutely needed it. You saved him from a harsh life just by being kind and showing him nice people exist. Thank you for my husband. Thank you for the kindness you showed him. Thank you for being a mother to him, even if for a short time. It stayed with him all through the years. You ARE an angel. I know he thinks that, too. xoxo
I’m your confessional
You unburden yourself
With apology’s song
I don’t need sorry
I require peace
Where fear will cease
Just remember me
When you stand accused
You won’t stand
For feeling abused
Put down your throwing rock
Throw away that scoring chalk
Turn back the ticking clock
Rattle the key and turn the lock
Open the door when you hear me knock
Let me off this prison block
Listen as much as you talk
Take my shoes and walk
i just realized that all the pain and hurt that i have felt over the years is not in charge of who i am or what i will be. God is in charge and i will choose to live by his command of forgiveness and peace and live without fear, revenge or regret. to give my abuse a second life by holding on to the past is robbing me of my present and future. that abuse can no longer have any more of my life or health! to live in anger only causes personal suffering. i was driving down the road the other day and i crested the hill. there was a child in the street and my first reaction was to be angry. judge him for his actions, his parents lack of supervision or any reason to be upset with him. a child. and then, within seconds, i chose to put that down and wave and smile and be friendly to the kid. i shocked my husband and even myself. it only takes a second to choose kindness. it only takes a second to choose a better path.
Choosing a good path today! Good luck to you, too!
Most of the time, on my medical courier route, I notice that many people avoid eye contact. When I walk into the hospital to deliver my labs, most of the doctors and nurses coming and going have their heads down and pointed at the ground, straight ahead, or usually, more often than not, pointed at a device.
They walk and talk, walk and swipe, or walk and text. I worry about some because they pay more attention to the screen than the pavement underneath them. Good thing they are very near a hospital.
I have started looking at my phone, too. Not as intently as most, but I’m still distracted. Plus, I enjoy not making eye contact. I have to force myself to look at people. And I typically find flaws when I really look at other people. Why don’t I look for the good? It’s just so easy to see the bad.
I struggle with trust. With past issues. With hating others. Always have. I look for the bad because I feel comfortable with that. I’ve seen so much bad, I’m kind of an expert on spotting f’d-up behavior. I’m not an emotional genius, more of a savant. I am intuitive, sensitive and have a keen sense of character. I’m a people watcher when they aren’t looking directly at me. I’m a watcher, not an engager. I became a student of behavior out of necessity, rather than innate talent. I mainly wanted to defend myself and understand my situation. For free. LOL
Today, I will smile. I have to reboot my thinking every once in a while. I will search out smiles and give them away for free. Willingly. Heartily. Sincerely. I will love others today. Even if they don’t return the favor. It’s a choice to see someone. Sometimes, a hard choice. And I will see the good.
I asked a WordPress friend to speak about charity. Here are her thoughts and answers.
Demi, known as The Lupie Momma on WordPress, is turning 27 this year. She is not disappointed about getting older, she’s planning a huge 30th birthday celebration. (Get it, girl!) But she is a little sentimental about her daughter growing up so fast. Demi has a sweet, little girl who is almost 4. Demi is a wife and mother by day, working gal by night.
She’s dabbled at blogging for a few years on a few sites, but recently she decided to finish her novel. While struggling with Lupus (autoimmune disorder), she’s been working hard on this memoir. Demi is right and brave when she says “…life is too short not to go after everything.”
What do you do to volunteer or donate?
I’ve always given my clothes that are in good shape, that I’ve outgrown, to people I think can use them. Now that I have a fast growing toddler, I have started giving her old clothes and toys to other families. We have been fortunate enough to be able to afford these things, but we realize that some people aren’t as lucky.
Demi told me more about her personal giving.
They have a friend, Brandon (name changed for privacy). He’s a single dad of triplets. The mother is not involved on a regular basis. Brandon has to provide for 3 children. On his own. Demi knows how expensive one growing child can be. So. She started helping in any way she could. Brandon’s children are just 6 months younger than Demi’s girl. 2 of the triplets are girls. So Brandon is fixed for “hand-me-downs”. Brandon is truly grateful for the regular supply of girl’s clothing that Demi gives every change of the season.
Right before Christmas, Demi was preparing for the incoming onslaught of new toys for baby girl. They found an unused toddler bed and chair. She messaged Brandon right away. A few days later, Brandon posted about bills and presents; how hard it would be to provide this year. Demi had thought about buying a few small gifts, but after the post, Demi’s husband went full-on Santa. Gender-neutral toys that all the kids would enjoy. Delivered to Brandon’s house just in time for Christmas Eve. They didn’t say a word, leave a note or want any attention for doing so. They did unto others as they would want for themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon shipping included the husband’s email and Brandon figured it out. Needless to say, he was very thankful.
Why do you volunteer or donate?
We donate to help those in need because we would hope someone would help us if the shoe was on the other foot. Whether it’s to Brandon and his kids or hurricane relief somewhere else. (The state of Florida thanks you, Demi!!)
How do you feel when you give?
It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more, but my husband reminds me that its better I do a little than nothing at all. (I agree with your husband! If we all do some, we can do it all. <—Has someone already said that? If not, it’s so true!)
If we all do some, we can do it all!
Are you Christian or other religious affiliation? Do you give for a specific reason?
We’re Christians, but not the “we think we’re holier than others” type. We aren’t going to spit out scriptures at you or chaste you for not going to church.
No specific reason we do–except for the Lupus Foundation as that is a close charity that I personally benefit from.
I don’t know if I was necessarily taught to donate or volunteer, I just think my mother instilled in us from a young age to help others when we can. I remember being out to eat as a kid and my mom giving me a few dollars to give to the homeless man sitting a few tables away. Since then, I’ve just always kind of done it. Giving money to a random homeless man, or buying them a meal, giving my clothes to someone who could benefit from them. And now that I’m a mother myself, I want to instill that in my daughter. That not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that it’s good to help others when you can.
How do your kids feel about your helping?
I’m not really sure she fully grasps the concept yet. She’s only three. Occasionally when we’re packing up stuff she hasn’t played with for months, we get the “That’s my toy!” but we explain that you know you haven’t played with it in a while, and there is someone else who would enjoy it. After a few pouts, she usually just drops the subject, goes and plays with something else. Explaining the Santa to Seniors, and why we were getting gifts for “old people who weren’t grandma or grandpa” was a bit tricky. But she picked out the names of the women we got, ‘all E’s because her name starts with E’ and picked out the bags to put their stuff in, she even threw in some hot chocolate packets for them. I hope that as she gets older, she’ll admire us for it. And continue to do it as she grows up.
While Demi regularly donates old clothes and toys, she was moved to go above and beyond this holiday season. She said, “…it felt nice buying gifts for other people that probably actually deserve the gifts.” Every year, people feel burdened in buying gifts for extended family members as an act of obligation. Holiday gift exchange can feel like a pressure cooker of negativity and resentment, boiling over by Christmas. And at the end of it all you may, like Demi, wish you had helped someone who actually needed (not wanted) something.
Demi left me with this thought from John Bunyan:
You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.
Let us know how the book is coming, Demi. I can post a link in an update. Thanks for sharing!
Please consider donating to the Lupus Foundation or to Demi’s personal fundraising goal.
Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, we gather at my grandmother’s house and celebrate. Celebrate=eating and lazing about.
The house is cold and has funny smells. It’s an old, large house so the smells could be many things: the renters upstairs—smoking cigarettes and cooking on hot plates; the occupants downstairs—natural gas, human gas, perfume, stale cookies in the cookie jar, turkey, deviled eggs, homemade stuffing, unbathed elderly people, dirty children, unwashed crocheted afghans, well-worn rugs, mothballs, fake logs, fake trees, fake food. Even fake has a smell. “Guess the Smell” could have been a fun, family tradition. But it seems that fun was not the focus of these feasts. Kids, though, steal fun whenever they can.
My sister, my nephew (only a few months younger than me) and I ran from room to room, trying to find the fun. If any was to be had. Sometimes, our same-age cousins were there to horse around and magnify any fun-having. We normally played outside, played games, told jokes, made jokes or snooped around the tree room, looking for the presents with our names. I think it’s socks again. Tube socks.
I am sitting across from Cousin Julie. I was asked to sit. Otherwise, I would be swiping food or fun. I don’t know what to say. People think I’m shy, but I just really don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable to look at Julie. Not because she is repulsive to me, but because I am scared that I will stare and ask questions.
Julie has spina bifida. That means her spine is open. She was born that way. She has a wheelchair, which is cool. I would like to ride around in it. That seems like it would be fun, but you can’t do that when someone needs it. I want to ask, but I’m not supposed to ask those questions.
“How are you doing?” Julie asks. Julie is beautiful. No one else thinks so, but I do. She has soft, light brown hair, large eyes, large red lips and a sweet, smiling face. I’m not sure if Julie combs her own hair. I don’t know if she is capable of combing her own hair. Her shoulder-length bob is curled and shiny, but looks slightly bygone. Her mother must comb it.
She is so kind. She has on a cozy holiday sweater and plain, stiff skirt. She is slightly overweight, but so am I. She’s so different from my own family. My sister would never ask how I was. But in my mind, I can’t accept Julie. She’s different.
My family does not engage weakness, illness or difference. Julie was rolled into the family room and locked into place. The people who happened by are the only contact she has. There are older people sitting with her, talking to her, but she is not capable of finding the fun. The moments she steals are connection and kindness.
Why is Julie so happy? I am sad for her. Sad that she can’t run, play, hide, snoop. Sad that she only has old people talking at her. I am sad for Julie because I see that people treat her with sympathy. They approach her wheelchair as a casket. I do too because that is what I see. That is what I learn.
I want to play with her. These are my goals. But she doesn’t play. She can’t play. I want to know Julie, but I can’t ask any questions. But Julie is happy. I see it in her smile. She makes me feel cute. I silently squirm, answering questions when asked, until I am released to find the fun again. I want to understand how to discover Julie, but the desire fades as soon as I am freed.
I never know Julie. I never seek her out. She is gone before I graduate high school and her memories and ideas are lost. We lose her to ovarian cancer and her experiences are not shared with me. I love Julie. I am thankful for her tenderness and brief kindness. I understand now why Julie is happy. She is happy to be alive. She was taught to be nice.
Les. His name is Les–in bright, white, shiny-stitched letters on a red oval just over the pocket. Dark gray uniform.
Mr. Les. Our elementary school janitor/maintenance man.
Les has a smiling face even when his lips may not be turned. His eyes are perpetually up/happy/sweet/youthful. Light blue, effervescent, smiling icicle eyes. Mr. Les takes our tickets at lunch. He takes our tickets and gives out winks and smiles.
He pinches the small carnival ticket between his thumb and the fleshy lower section of his curled up index finger. He does this with kindness, gentility and ease; as if he’s softly
offering his hand to a nervous dog.
His job does not diminish him in spirit or in body. He energetically does his tasks even
though his perfectly white hair reveals his age. And his pride does not grimace at the simplest/basest of tasks. He sprinkles magic janitor dust on vomit, pee and all manner of stains. Dutifully.
He is friendly to all. He is especially nice to me. I respect him. I have no reason not to. His humility and warmth are rare. He is decent. He is tender.
He is an uncommon man. Hero.
The air is crisp. The wind is swift. He carries me from the playground when I twist my ankle and can’t walk. He carries me all the way to the healthroom. I’m at least 100 lbs.
The air is warm. The wind is still. He puts his arm around me, pats my back, reassures me that I am loved and respected when a girl threatens my friends and me at recess. “We’re going to miss you around here when you leave.” Tears.
I love you, Mr. Les. I don’t know where you are, or if you’re even still here, but you were/are a good man. And you made this child happier. Thank you.
No. Not bear (growling animal) fruit. That would look like this.
No. As fun as that is, today, I get to bear fruit.
I am a budding tree and this is the spring of my seasons. The time for flowers and growth and fruit.
There are several fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, gentleness and self-control. Galations 5:22 These fruits are from Jesus’ spirit that he left on Earth to help us. As a kid, I never understood that the Spirit was Jesus’ spirit. I didn’t make the connection. Now I get it. I mean, I understood the trinity, but I just thought that God and Jesus were related and then they have a good friend, Holy Spirit. I mean, I knew that they were all one, but…yeah. Now, I got it.
So, after Jesus ascended, when He went to heaven for the final time (I know it sounds weird, Non-christians!), after a few days, He sent the Spirit. To help us. He promised His followers that He would send the Spirit because Jesus knew we would need help. ‘Cause we are so screwed up. He paid the price for our sins and now lives at the right hand of God. That’s His reward. We are separate now, as He has fulfilled His purpose. When we fulfill our purpose, we can be together. Yes?
I have this strange imagination and when I think of Jesus at the right hand of God, I picture God turning to Jesus and talking about me. They probably do this telepathically. Just FYI. I mean, it’s 2/3 of the trinity. Well. They probably conference-in the Holy Spirit, or something.
“So, tell me more about Martha.”
And what Jesus says is so sweet and kind and generous. Undeserved grace. He tells God,
“Well, Dad, she’s really smart, loving, loyal and caring. But. She’s been hurt. Like, you know, everyone on the planet. She gets angry, impatient, rude, ungrateful and downright hateful.”
God, “Yeah. Got it.”
“But! She really wants to be different. When she prays, she usually means it. And she does love Us.”
So, the point of that is, I get that Jesus died for me. He would have died for me even if I was the only person on the planet. That’s pretty specific. I don’t deserve it, I don’t have to earn it, I just inherit the kingdom of God. Boom. Done. Crown. Thanks. Forever.
And I bring this up because the rest of the verse concerning the fruits of the Spirit is this:
Galations 5 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.“
The last line gets me.
No. 1–I belong to Jesus. (D’aw!!)
No. 2–I have crucified my flesh by belonging to Jesus!
I have hung my sin and flesh on the cross and it has died! I have nailed my desire and passion to the blood-soaked wood and it has passed. Through Jesus, through His spirit.
I get that when God looks at me, because Jesus died in my place, that all God sees is Perfect Martha. Martha scattered/smothered/covered in Jesus. He sees a perfect child. The best Martha I can be. That makes me happy. And much more able to be patient. I mean, Jesus died so that I could be impatient about how long the stoplight takes? No.
Anyway, how long did Christ wait on me? Still waits on me?
I’ve been waiting today. Waiting on everything. Waiting on my husband for 2 hours while he’s getting an eye exam. Waiting on sales clerks, recycling attendants, stoplights, scanners, waitresses, phone chargers, emails, post office employees (grr! <<–there’s that bear fruit again) and endless lists of things and people.
I tried to be patient. But I usually failed.
I mean, I didn’t go crazy on anyone. And I didn’t rag on my husband all day. And I didn’t complain to a manager, call an 800 number or even give someone an obscene look, word or gesture. I certainly didn’t ram my car into the plate-glass window of Discover Vision Center.
I just had impatience circling above my head. Dark and brooding. Hovering and swooping. Preying on my thoughts. Scavenging my kindness. Vulturous and hungry. Sitting on my heart like a black crow. Waiting for me to drop my joy. Picking at my left-over love. Choking down my generosity, leaving bitter bones of resentment. Impatience stole my fruit.
I should be grateful for people, phones and cars. I should be thankful for husband, money and luxury. I should chug down a large glass of gratitude and get on with my day.
I’m trying to remember that I’m not patient. The Holy Spirit is patient. And if I ever successfully exercise the ability to be patient, it is not through my own power.
2 Corinthians 12:9 New Living Translation Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
It is because I allow the Holy Spirit to live inside of me. For Christ to live inside of me. That’s how Christ lives. Through us.
I know some Non-christians don’t understand the living Christ. (I get it, this is another weird one.) But He lives in us. His Spirit continues through us. When we love each other and help each other and do unto each other, we make Jesus live again. That’s the living Christ.
But how many Xians do you know that channel Jesus?
Although. His spirit has lingered for over 2,000 years. Swell and ebb, live and die. The church (# of true Christ followers) and the Spirit, in this world, are like the tides in the sea. High and low, at any given moment. But the ocean remains. His teachings and mark and LOVE remain.
Paul said: Galatians 5:14 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And Jesus said: John 13:35 NIV By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I don’t see much love every day, neighbor to neighbor. Can I just say that I love seeing my nasty neighbor picking up her dog’s crap when I arrive home? See. That’s not nice.
I do see love at home though. I see it online. I see it in some of our leaders. I see it around the world. I find it in unexpected places. Sometimes, I don’t find it where I think I should or will. I see people trying though.
Love is still there. The ocean remains.
I will be patient.
No. The Spirit will be patient. I will submit to the Spirit. And I will bear fruit.