Saturday was World Kindness Day. It’s celebrated on November 13 every year to educate people about the importance of being kind to one another, yourself and to the world. It’s great to be reminded of the importance of spreading kindness but what a difference it would make if we put it into practice every day. I like the lyrics to the song Put a Little Love in your Heart:
Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
For you and me
You just wait and see
Another day goes by still the children cry
Put little love in your heart
If you want the world to know
We won’t let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
Take a good look around
And if you’re looking down
Put a little love in your heart
Hope when you decide
Kindness will be your guide
Put a little love in your heart
(Put A Little Love In Your Heart: Songwriters: Jackie De Shannon/ Jimmy Holiday / Randy Myers)
Click on the video below of a few of my sunset photos, put your sound up to hear a sample of the song I referenced (by Al Green and Annie Lennox) and then scroll to the end of my post:
Not just on World Kindness Day, but before the sun goes down every day let’s think of ways to spread love through acts of kindness and even to those we may feel don’t deserve it. Being kind will do their hearts good and in a mysterious way bless us as well. When others are a recipient of a kind act, it usually spurs them on to do the same for someone else. Let’s start a chain reaction and put a little love in our hearts today and remember to be kind daily.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4: 7-8
It’s November and autumn is still very much alive here. This month, known as the month to give thanks in the U.S., holds many things to be thankful for and one of them, for me, is the beauty of this season. There’s so much to love about autumn.
Me: God, I’m angry. I need help dealing with this.
God: You’re not really angry.
Me: What? You are all knowing. You see me, know the circumstances I’m facing and you’re telling me I’m not angry?
God: You don’t have to hide your feelings from me. I want you to be vulnerable and authentic.
Me: Huh? I am being vulnerable.
God: Today you finally stopped carrying this alone and brought it to me for help.
Me: Yes, I need help with this anger.
God: So why are you angry?
Me: You know how I’ve been hurt in that relationship. There’s so much that I don’t understand and after all these years of friendship to be treated like an enemy is hurtful and makes me sad. I tried to reach out to talk but she shut the door on all communication.
God: Ah, so you’re hurt and sad? Have you read Psalm 55: 12-14?
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. Psalm 55: 12-14
Me: Tears flow …
God: My door is always open to you. Read Matthew 5: 3-4 and mediate on those verses for awhile.
I come before the Lord empty.
Spiritually I’m destitute. I’m not strong enough in my own strength to handle this. I need Him. I open my bible to Matthew 5: 3-4:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
There’s no room for anger, unforgiveness or pride, not even a little wiggle room.
I humble myself, I’m truthful about who I am and what I’m feeling.
Lacking what I need, I open my hands. I’m ready to receive.
This is my vulnerable place.
My mind flashes back to when I first came to Jesus years ago. I was finally truthful with Him about who I was. That was the door to salvation.
He swung open the door and welcomed me in and here in this present moment He does the same.
That vulnerability that brings me to God comes through what the Bible refers to as lament.
Lament means: “To express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something.” Or: “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”
Jesus’ first sermon goes counter culturally to what our world says we need in order to be fulfilled and lamenting seems weak.
But God shows me, in the first beatitude, that being poor in spirit brings me blessing and that His kingdom is mine.
I read it again: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew 5:3
That’s present tense. That means right here; right now.
Honest lament and being truthful with God is the doorway into His presence and that doorway leads to His kingdom … on earth as it is in Heaven.
I share my hurt, sorrow, confusion, grief and I am transported above this painful circumstance.
I’m free to grieve. I’m free to be vulnerable. It’s ok to not be ok when I’m in His presence.
I mourn my loss. I read Matthew 5:4 again. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.
I am comforted, at peace and spiritually full. This is what it means to be blessed.
Since my husband, Bob, became critically ill 6 years ago, I’ve been referred to as his anchor. Mostly by his medical care teams and by his friends whom he confides in about what direction my role has taken in our marriage.
Being a caregiver to a spouse who has been hospitalized at least 12 times in 6 years with many of them being 1-4 week hospital stays has been daunting.
At the beginning of this journey, I knew that the only way that I was going to be able to fulfill my calling as Bob’s caregiver was to make sure that I took care of myself as well.
That becomes difficult when you feel the pressure to be the anchor of the family. The one who keeps the ship (so to speak) stable, secure, supported and free from floating erratically in the wind of the storm, keeping it in our safe harbor protected from invaders … or in our case, pathogens that can infiltrate the weak and vulnerable one on board.
The anchor is lifted when we have to sail to another medical procedure, treatment or check up and anchor in that harbor until it’s time to return to the safety of our home. Anchor down. Our life once again lived in our isolated stable environment. It takes its toll at times to be the support in turbulent times.
God knew long before I knew that this was going to be a difficult storm. One that would not be over quickly or easily and that Bob would be on deaths doorstep several times and I would be called upon to buoy him up and hold our ship steady. Miraculously his life has been spared time and time again and most recently when a palliative care/hospice physician released him from his care with the words, “Not time yet.” God knew and His plan prevails. How grateful I am to still have Bob here with me.
At the outset of his illness I knew that part of taking care of myself was remembering that I wasn’t capable, in my own strength, to be an anchor. It was too heavy for me. When I tried, when I became overwhelmed, I needed someone to help lighten the load. God provided everything that I needed in Jesus and through the harshness of the forces coming against us He became enough. He is still enough …
Enough to plant a deep faith in me
To show me daily what I need to add or subtract from my life to keep me in His peace
To supply the desire and strength to walk 2-3 miles most days to keep my body and mind healthy
To provide me with good nutritional choices to make balanced meals
To bring me resources to help keep my mind and emotions healthy
To give me gifts and hobbies to use and enjoy
To move in the hearts of family and friends to call or text me when I need encouragement
To show me who I can share my deepest thoughts with
To have good listeners available when I need to talk
To lead me to friends who won’t judge my words or emotions
To keep me from sharing too much so I don’t become a burden
To encourage me to share my story to help someone else
To reveal to me the good in the hard
To fill me with joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit
Enough, enough, enough…He is always enough.
And definitely enough to help me take on this assignment with grace for such a time as this. I feel deep in my soul that this is my best work. A deeply spiritual work. A job here on earth with remarkable meaning and purpose. A holy work. This job of taking care of someone who relies on me as I rely on God is truly holy work. I have to be mindful of this daily and to practice the presence of my Lord and talk to him throughout the day and not just during my designated prayer times. He is the anchor of hope and the anchor of storms.
That’s not to say Bob doesn’t rely on God. He does. I could never take that number one place in his life. Nor would he want me to. Bob has a solid faith, his soul is healthy and strong but his body is weak. Our anchor, our God, our all in all, is the one anchoring our lives in this storm.
It was a few months into the global pandemic and her husband left her for another woman. With a wounded heart and two young children holding onto each of her hands, she tried to muster up the strength to move forward.
Then came her cancer diagnosis. Suddenly the path ahead became a mountain to scale.
It was as if she was traveling through an ash heap of burnt up memories, promises and lost dreams.
Surgery, radiation, ongoing treatment and sorrow filled her days and I imagine trying to be strong for her children only made the load heavier.
She’s a woman of faith, a photographer friend who gave me permission to share a little bit of her story here.
She set her camera aside for awhile. She told me that she didn’t have the strength to pick it up anymore and her passion for photography was gone. Her brokenheart didn’t have room for it anymore.
But God. But grace.
He’s been showing her that beauty and sadness can coexist. He’s given her strength and the desire to pick up her camera again. She’s sharing her art and the beauty she creates but sometimes the titles or captions on her photographs reveal her not so beautiful emotions … her unseen wounds.
I wrote a comment on one of her instagram posts when the sorrow of her words didn’t match the beauty of her photograph. “This is art (I wrote)…when beauty and sadness occupy the same space. It is possible to have both together.”
And it’s true. Isn’t it?
I thought about how that could be a metaphor for life. In the deepest of sadness there will always be times of encouragement. It can come from God in many ways but one way is through the beauty we see around us and even through the beauty we create.
I’ve noticed that most of us have an innate desire to create. That takes on different forms but think about yourself. What are your interests? Do you like to cook, bake, paint, draw, decorate, garden, craft, tackle home improvement projects … ? Also trouble shooting and coming up with new ways to handle a difficult situation falls under the umbrella of creativity as well.
We were designed by ‘The Creator’ and we were created in His image. Therefore, we must have those same qualities in us. Right?
I think we were all designed to be appreciators too. When we notice the beauty we see in our environment and appreciate it, we become people of gratitude. Writing down something we’re grateful for in a notebook or a journal at the end of the day can help shift our focus from our problems and alleviate some of the stress we’re feeling. This is especially helpful at the end of a hard day.
I was happy to see my brave friend capturing beauty again and creating art. Her sadness isn’t gone, her emotional and health struggles are still there but she’s managing to scale her mountain while trying to keep her mind on …
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
Seeking the good through our trials, being able to see the beauty in spite of our battles, and trusting that the mountains we scale will produce spiritual strength and ultimate growth will help us persevere. The outcome …the strength; the growth … that’s a wonderful gift from God. He recycles our ash heaps and gives us beauty.
That’s grace. That’s mercy.
A Jewish prayer/blessing I heard recently and find myself repeating often lately: Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe, through whose word everything comes into being.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Trouble. Jesus promises us trouble. He didn’t say you might have trouble or there is a possibility of having trouble. He tells us we will have trouble.
His words are recorded at the end of chapter 16 in the gospel of John. Right smack dab at the end of His teaching to the disciples–which was meant to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection–He tells them what to expect and that it wasn’t going to be easy or comfortable.
He taught them but they really didn’t get it. He also promised them a gift…the gift of the Holy Spirit. When they received that gift after His resurrection, they understood and they received power to live as overcomers.
Jesus overcame death through the resurrection. And His followers will too. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
But what does all this mean for me today in the here and now?
In my present situation, it means that when the doctor tells me that I will be my husband’s nurse–post bone marrow transplant–and there will be daily infusions to give him in his chest catheter, flushing the 3 lines with saline and heparin, taking his blood pressure, temperature and watching him closely for signs of disease…I tremble! This is trouble!
And I cry out to God and I overcome my fears, not by bailing out, but by sticking in there with the help of the Holy Spirit.
When I am at my weakest, when I feel helpless and I look at Bob who is even more helpless, this is trouble!
And I cry out to God and somehow I’m uplifted and given strength that I could never muster up myself.
When I say, “I’m not capable for this task. I’m not a nurse and if I wanted to be a nurse I would have become a nurse,” and when I fear doing new things and organizing and administering 13 medications, preparing food that Bob can tolerate, keeping the house fit and sanitized for a transplant patient, and transporting him to hospital visits, I miraculously don’t cave under the weight of it. Humanly, I think I will. But I don’t
God knows ‘I can’t’ but through Him I can do all things. Just like Philippians 4:13 promises.
And in the midst of the trouble there’s even moments of repose, quiet and deep peace.
It doesn’t always come easy but it comes.
God is good in the midst of trouble and in our weakness He is strong. And that’s how we overcome.
(The above photo was taken in our home away from home near the hospital where my husband is being treated. I have been photographing indoor scenes since I don’t get out in nature much. My camera is my companion on this journey. I thought I’d have to give up my photography but how could I? It’s a gift from God, and all that I photograph are reminders of the small delights and simple pleasures that I have to be thankful for).
My husband, Bob, has been in the hospital for a little over two weeks. He’s already had 4 rounds of intravenous chemo and they just changed his oral chemo med tonight. The oral chemo targets the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. The intravenous chemo targets the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The CML mutated into ALL but the CML still exists. The doctors tell us that both cancers have the Philadelphia Chromosome, which makes his condition rare and difficult to treat. Since they don’t have much data to fall back on with this rare combination, his medical team came up with what they are referring to as a “hybrid treatment plan.”
He’ll receive round 5 of intravenous chemo this Thursday.
All his blood counts are in the range that the doctors expected them to be this week and overall his doctors are happy with how Bob is responding.
About 4:00pm yesterday, Bob’s chemo nurse told him that he would be receiving another chemo drug by injection on Friday and that his doctors would explain more about it in the morning.
Bob wasn’t expecting to receive anything on Friday so the news was overwhelming and hard for him to hear. He slipped into depression.
I wasn’t there when he heard the news. I returned at 5:00pm.
I usually park in the parking garage but decided to go in the emergency entrance when I got back to the hospital.
As I entered, there was a man sitting in a wheel chair by the door. He looked at me and asked if I was a volunteer. I said no. He asked, “Do you work here?” I replied, “No, I’m on my way up to the 5th. floor to visit my husband. The man asked, “What’s your husband’s name?” I responded, “Robert”. “Can you give Robert a message for me?” he asked. I nodded. Then he said, “You tell Robert that I’m praying for him and to keep the faith!” I smiled, thanked him and told him that I’d definitely give him the message. As I approached the elevator, he yelled out “You both keep the faith!”
How can we not keep the faith when God sends messengers (perhaps even angels) to encourage us daily?
Bob’s words after he heard the message? “Our God is good. He is reminding me that He’s right here with me and He’ll never leave me.” His spirits lifted.
Peace returned to Bob’s heart and he rested well last night.
It’s been a long goodbye this week. I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place. It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.
My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once. Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.
Letting go. It’s hard.
I spent the last few months in my garden. Weeding, working the soil, planting. It’s therapy. And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.
I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.
I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked. Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking. Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump. I dug a little more and released its grip. It was finally gone for good.
Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.
My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.
It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.
It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways. Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.
I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:
Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? Rumi
Ok, God. I hear you.
I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty. There are flowers blooming everywhere.
The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.
I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too. I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.
Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts… Jeremiah 4: 3-4a
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12
I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety. I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.
And you know what? The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.