It’s The Little Things

I am oh, so grateful for every single thing someone does to encourage my heart.  

And I try hard to pass it on.

Because, really, when you think about it, it’s the little things that either wear us down or build us up.

says something small but fits into the empty space in your heart

 

The daily drip of encouragement or criticism is what shapes our hearts most. 

The hardest stone can be worn away by water over time.  And the softest earth can be packed firm and resist any new seed when trod upon and squeezed dry by drought.

Words are not neutral.  They either build up or tear down.  

And so many hearts are holding onto hope by the thinnest thread.  

I want to be the person that helps build it into a lifeline, not the one who snaps it in two.  

all you have to do is care coffee cups

 

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

just.

don’t.

say.

it.

THINK ACRONYM

I wish grown-ups would follow the same advice. 

Especially when it comes to offering up “helpful hints” to broken hearts.

In that instance it is rarely a case of another person aiming to be ugly or to hurt someone, but words are not neutral and they do hurt when tossed out carelessly by people who really just don’t understand another person’s pain.

So, for those who are tempted to fill empty spaces with empty words, may I help you apply the T.H.I.N.K acronym to the kinds of situations more likely to face us as adults?

T-Is it true?  You may think that giving out a Bible verse would automatically mean you were safe on this count.  Yes.  God’s Word is truth.  But how we use it and whether or not we understand the context can make a particular application of God’s Word UNTRUE.  And even if we get the context right, hammering a heart with a Bible verse may not be helpful.  You are not the Holy Spirit.  Let Him breathe truth gently into a wounded heart.

H-Is it helpful? This is tricky because sometimes what is helpful for one person is unhelpful for another.  I try to use this as my litmus test:  When have I ever been distraught and helped by someone pointing out the obvious? Or laying out a plan of action (when they don’t have access to the full picture)? Or reminding me that “all things work together for good” when right now all things really stink?  If there is any doubt about whether or not what I say will be helpful, I swallow my words.

I-Is it inspirational?  The word, “inspire” has roots in the the idea of breathing into someone or something.  Will my comment put wind in a person’s sails?  Will it breathe courage into his or her heart?  Will it lift them up and help them hold onto hope?  Is it the equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or am I instead sucking what little breath they have left out of their body?

N-Is it necessary?  This single criteria helps me hold my tongue so many times.  I might think of lots of things but is is necessary for me to speak them?  Am I warning someone of impending danger or am I just trying to make myself sound wise or insisting on making a point?  To be honest, very few things I have to say are necessary. Most of the time a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a smile, a friendly nod are the only thing someone really needs.

K-Is it kind?  The word kind comes from the same root as “kin”-which means family.  Is what I’m going to say something I’d want someone to say to me or my close family?  Am I treating (with my words) this person they way I want to be treated?  The Golden Rule, rules.

I can’t claim to always follow my own good advice.

But when I do, I find that I am building people up, not tearing them down.

There’s enough tearing down in the world.

I want to speak light and life.

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

A Trail of Love Crumbs

I used to read- a LOT.

By that I mean I often had five or six books going at a time and typically finished four in a week.

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven I find I rarely have the attention span for books anymore.

But every now and then I find a book that can hold my attention and I read like I used to-carrying it with me from the kitchen (where I read as I wait for cookies to come out of the oven) to the bathtub (where I read as I soak my achy joints).

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (and other lies I love to believe) by Kate Bowler is one of those books.

everything happens for a reason book

I heard an interview of Kate on an NPR program while driving.  She had me in tears and rolling in laughter all at the same time.

And this bargain loving, never-pay-full-price mama came straight into the house and ordered the hardback book off Amazon.

It lived up to every expectation.  I felt like I was sitting across from someone who truly “gets it”.

The author is not a bereaved parent but is living with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer.  Her life is, as she describes it, “Stuck in present tense.

So, so many nuggets of wisdom and truth hidden in these pages.

But the one that resonated with my heart the most is this:

My little plans [thoughtful gifts, words and actions] are crumbs scattered on the ground.  This is all I have learned about living here, plodding along, and finding God.  My well-laid plans are no longer my foundation.  I can only hope that my dreams, my actions, my hopes are leaving a trail for Zach [my son] and Toban [my husband], so, whichever way the path turns, all they will find is Love.

When I read it, I nearly shouted aloud, “THAT’S IT!!!”

Her heart sings the same song as mine.

Very few of us will do great things, remembered in history books or blazoned across the front of granite edifices.

Most of us will only do small things.

But we can do them with great love.

not all of us can do great things typewriter

Dominic left this earth before he even had a chance to do great things.  Twenty-three years taken up by growing to adulthood and going to college and then law school left little time for solving the world’s big problems.

But he left a trail of love crumbs.

One that can be followed from his heart to dozens of others.

IMG_1816

That’s what I want my legacy to be:  A trail of love crumbs. 

I want tiny bits of me scattered far and wide-a wild and winding path made by relentlessly giving away all I am and all I have.

My name won’t be engraved anywhere but on my tombstone.  

But I pray my love is engraved on many hearts.  

the answer is still and again love

 

 

Love in Action: Some Things Hurt

Bereavement has not made me a perfectly compassionate person.  I still say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and sometimes don’t do the right thing.

But it HAS made me more aware that what I do/don’t do/say/don’t say can either speak life or death to a struggling heart.

And I so want to speak life and courage to everyone I meet.

Before I lost Dominic, I know that I, like others who had never experienced the death of a child, undoubtedly said and did things that were hurtful instead of helpful.

I painfully remember sharing at a Thanksgiving women’s gathering and, meaning to encourage the ladies, said something like, “I think we are able to better face the big disappointments or trials in life, but find the daily drip, drip, drip of unfulfilled expectations to be a greater challenge.”  A bereaved mom in attendance set me straight (in a very kind and gracious manner!).

That exchange has come often to my mind in these months after burying my son. I wish I could go back and have a do-over.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Some Things Hurt

Life is Short, Be Swift to Love

Grief has worn away some of the sharp edges of my personality.

I’m still prone to impatience-especially when faced with incompetence or hateful behavior in others.

But I’m learning that walking gently through life is not only good for others, it’s good for ME.

Life IS short.  ‘

Not just the life of a child or teen or young adult cut down by accident or disease.

But even if I live my “threescore and ten” the Bible talks about, it will STILL be short.  Seventy, eighty, one hundred years set on the timeline of history or eternity is less than a pinpoint.

What do I want my legacy to be?  What do I want to leave behind for others to remember, to ponder, to carry in their hearts attached to my memory?

small things with great love

That’s easy.  I want my legacy to be love.

I want people to remember that I treated them with kindness, that I respected them as persons, that I reached out, reached down and never separated myself from them by false barriers, foolish divisions or fake measures of who is “better” and who is “worse”.

forget what you say 3

More than anything I want people to feel that I made their burden lighter, not heavier.

So much of life is hard. 

So many things happen for which there is no remedy. 

I can’t choose everything, but I can choose love.

Life is short and we have not much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark way with us. Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.

– Henri Fredric Amiel

One Little Word 2018

I used to spend every New Year’s morning with my Bible, my thoughts and my Lord.

I wrote each family member’s name in my journal and waited for the Holy Spirit to give me a verse to pray for them for the next year.

I would end with my own name and ask God what good works He had planned for me.

When I look back over these journals I realize that what I had essentially been doing for decades was asking God for “One Little Word” to focus my energy, resources and attention each year.

I honestly believe that every human on the face of the Earth is here for a reason. They are not a random collection of cells and neurons. They are created in the image of an Almighty God to impact the people around them in specific ways.

So I challenge you to ask the God of the universe to give you One Little Word for 2018. And then hold every potential commitment up to that light to determine if it is really part of God’s plan for you this year.

For some of my hurting parent friends the word may be “healing” or “rest” and that’s just fine. For others it may be “endurance” or “perseverance” and that’s fine too.

It’s between you and God.

May you hear clearly and receive with open hands.

Why I Won’t Forget Death: Lessons in Living

The other day I listened to an NPR interview of Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club among other best-selling titles.

Her brother and father died within an year of one another when she was fifteen.

I was spell-bound as she recounted some of how that experience shaped her adolescence and still shapes her today.  I identified with things I am observing in my children and things I feel in my own heart.

She said she thinks about death every day.  Not in a morbid sense, but in the sense that she is very aware death is every human’s experience, eventually.

Some of her friends call her paranoid.

Some of my friends call me gloomy.

But she went on to say that thinking about death gave her a precious gift:  It made her constantly evaluate if what she is doing right now matters, if it is truly her passion and if it is something she will be glad she did when her time comes to pass from this life into the next.

I think she’s right.

Solomon said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.”  Ephesians 7:2 AMP

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday details and forget the sweep of life.  It’s tempting to fritter away a day, a month, a year, a decade doing meaningless and unfulfilling things.  But my time is limited-whether I am 20 or 40 or 60.

Burying Dominic has made me zealous to make every day count.  It has made me impatient with foolish pursuits and material measures marking success or failure.

I will not waste the years I have left on things that don’t matter.

And I will measure what matters by the yardstick of death.

“Whatever will matter on our dying day, and then when we stand before the Lord, is what matters most today, right now, at this instant.”
~Ray Ortlund

life in your years