Uncategorized

Why It’s Important to Fill Up on the Fruit of Kindness

Four o’clock in the morning can be, for some, the worst time to be awake. The possibility of a couple more hours of sleep is a prize winning feat, or a tossing, sheet-twisting agonizing waste of time. But for a few of you out there, it’s the quiet before the business of the day begins it’s pulsing rhythm. As a Mama, I’ve seen four A.M. a whole book full of times. Sometimes, because of babies who needed feeding, dry sheets, or a thermometer under the arm. Or it’s my mind, waking with fears, anxieties, or lists that seem to be running their own race. But there have been a few times that four A.M. has been a place of changing. Changing my life, my very heart. A place of shifting to that other woman that I thought I would never have to become. Prayed I would never have to be, but, somehow now, grateful that I am.

Thirteen years ago this month, at four A.M., our first born son took his final breath. The stillness of the morning broken by the battered bewailing that emptied out of my soul. When it was time to leave him, my once broad shouldered husband simply hung by my side, his step no longer sure, but instead, reduced to a shuffle. His eyes swollen with the pooling. Somehow, our feet walked through doors to the place where his dad and step-mom sat. Waiting. At four A.M. they sat folded onto a hospital couch in a family room. Waiting. Stiffly, stifling their grief. We gave them permission to go home, and Ben and I found bathrooms to pour water over our faces.

To this day, I don’t remember the thought process that pushed me back through the doors and over to where our son lay under the lights. But here’s what I do remember. Their kindness. Their gentleness in handling me. The nurses had brushed rapidly at their own tears and with utmost care, removed every cord, tube, and IV from our baby. And with hands formed by a gentle God, they had wrapped him in a beautiful blue and white blanket. A blanket handmade by another woman I’ll never meet. Those nurses moved two chairs close together and gently tucked the baby into me. Ben sat too and held my hand. And finally, after a forever twenty-four hour period, we both slept.

Kindness is a noun. A concrete thing. Kindness is something every single one of us is capable of. Kindness opens eyes and sees the needs of others in all their flesh. In their vulnerability. In the bigger picture of erupting pain or stony silence, kindness can bridge the chasmic pits.

Mr. Roger’s (Neighborhood, from PBS), once shared a story of when he was a small boy and horrible things would happen, his mother, to help him process the scary thing, would always tell him, “Look for the helpers.” I translate this into looking for the kindness. To those who dip into the drama to hold humanity.

It can be hard. Sometimes, the ones who need the most kindness are the ones most difficult to approach. And sometimes, the situation grieves big and we’re overwhelmed, and we feel ill equipped. Yet Christ, who loves us so deeply and so consistently, lavishes kindness and goodness. Allows it to flow freely. Rhythmically. God does not grow weary in doing good, nor should we. And just as He laps the waves onto the seashore over and over, and cycles the seasons so we can work hard and harvest at times, and then rest when it’s time to rest, so He also moves kindness with a vagility to pulse into something that keeps moving. It does not and should not go stagnant.

Friend, what if kindness migrated? Could we be so gentle? Could we be like David who stands over his enemy with every ability to kill him, but instead walks away with just a small piece of his cloak? In 1 Samuel 24: 19 King Saul asks the question, “Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today.” And could we be like the men of Jabesh-Gilead who took the time to bury Israel’s first anointed king after he was killed in battle? In 2 Samuel 2:5-7, David blesses these men for their kind deed. The man who was hunted out of jealousy for years, is incapable of anything but allowing the fruit of kindness to flow freely from him. And how different, also, would our redemptive story be if not for the kindness of an innkeeper in a small town called Bethlehem who could not turn a young, laboring girl away, but quietly lit a light and led her and her fiancé to his stable?

Some of us can find a kind thing to do once in a while, when we suddenly have a moment of time on our hands and someone else’s emergent need scrolls through our Facebook feed, so we jump, because we impulsively can, and it’s the right thing to do. But what if we changed the habit of scrolling into a habit of sacrificing? Let’s be honest, habits are hard to change no matter how simplistic they look at first glance. But what if kindness flowed through our day, and our night, because it was the rhythm of our souls? What if YOU were the world changer because you changed the way you wanted the world to be?

Author Ann Voskamp writes “What if the truth really is that every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” What if kindness was what cycled bigger than the oceanic waves? How different would our hardships be if kindness was the power behind every motive? And in the still, early morning dawn, instead of being an island of shattering, what if small particles of healing could begin?

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9 & 10 (NLT).

Growing towards pure kindness,

~kathy b

Ann Voskamp, “Be The Gift”,( Zondervan 2017) pg.11

Family, Friendship, Grace, Uncategorized

The Fruit of Patience and Grace-Filled Waiting

Weather men aren’t always accurate, we argued with ourselves, it’s the middle of April, the “storm” is probably a little over emphasized to get better news feed ratings. So we didn’t wait for anything. Planned, prepped, postured ourselves for the next day ahead. A day of fun and visiting. A day of short travel and great friends and eating out at a new-to-us restaurant.

But the next morning, we awoke to a fresh foot of snow on the ground. Wind rattled our windows and ice pelted their percussion matching rhythm against the glass panes. The house was COLD! The old farmhouse isn’t well insulated and the drafts can make the curtains dance on a stormy day. My first clue of how bad it was should have been the four year old who had snuck into our bed around five or six in the morning. He’d lost his blankets and his body type doesn’t hold any extra padding, so with frigid feet, he’d pressed himself in between his dad and I and promptly fallen back to sleep. He hadn’t waited for anything either. With just barely enough consciousness, he’d thumped down the stairs and bee-lined for down covers and adult body heat.

Four days later, after my husband had made one perilous drive across town in his diesel engined truck to load up the back with wood for heating the house, and a quick stop at the grocery store to pick-up a few essentials, we had stayed officially snowed in. The driveway was drifted over. Cold snow waved itself up across the landscaping and pushed itself under our porch door. More climbed our basement door, requiring us to literally shovel ourselves out of the house.

Let me remind you it was April. The middle of April. The time of year we typically finish the last of our maple syrup making and clean up the buckets, tubes, and boiling pots. The time when we desperately search the woods for the first signs of green shoots. We wait for spring to officially awaken. Waiting is something we northern Michiganders consider ourselves to be pretty good at, since winter takes up the majority of our calendar year. But based on the texting I received and the Facebook posts I read, this year choked out most of our patience. The waiting timetable had run out and we were left clinging to strands of what we THOUGHT was suppose to come. The renewing. The new grasses, warmer sun, lighter jackets. The ability to put away the heavy boots, hang up the hatchet for splitting kindling, and shift the windshield scraper to the trunk. Some of us, and I won’t mention any names, didn’t handle the extended wait very well.

The fruit of patience I’m painfully aware of because it almost always holds hands with, what can feel like, the idle time of ‘waiting’. And in the words of Dr. Seuss, “”You can get so confused that you’ll start to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. THE WAITING PLACE……

….for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

Friend, I want to look very carefully at the fruit of patience and take you to a place that might be a bit uncomfortable. Waiting, for some, is one of the most painful things to do. I am married to an Entrepreneur. He waits for almost nothing. There are plans to make, codes to write, designs to draw, meetings to be held, phone calls, emails, purchases…you get the drift. He knows the existence of the business falls on him. He mostly let’s no puzzle go undone. Whatever problem arises, he WILL find a solution. And he doesn’t quit until a resolution is in hand. Having said that, the good Lord, in his infinite wisdom, has gifted my husband and I a few circumstances where the outcome was not in our control. The waiting became part of our story. And the glory of the Lord came in the quiet long suffering.

Six and a half years of infertility treatments. Yeah. Long years of doctors, medications, ultrasounds, dreams blooming, expectations shattered, a vision that seemed to rebuke us turn after turn, but still, the desire to have a baby of our own never went away. So we prayed. We cried. We spent our savings. And we waited. And if you know us personally or have ever read any of my other writing, you know how the story turned out. We have kids! However….those kids have required us to maintain a seat in the ‘waiting’ place. I think we deserve seats with our names gold plated on them for how much ‘waiting’ we have done, but that’s just me.

I’ll be brief, but the eight years after our first pregnancy (which I miscarried), became this building of patience. It seems like one should grow more impatient with all the waiting, but, I believe, through God’s abundant grace, we were gifted more and more patience that we could use to weave into the foundation of our marriage. Every hard thing required long-suffering, and each event demanded waiting.

We waited beside the isolates of our first babies. Twins born far too soon. And the waiting was different for each of them. Our son fell ill at seven and a half weeks old and the monitors went still 24 hours after his diagnosis. There has never been a period of waiting that has been harder to sit through for me than those 24 hours. Had my husband and I failed to cling to a cross baring another Son, I don’t honestly think we would have made it through that fire. The waiting for our daughter lasted 4 months in the NICU. I would never want to redo those days, but I also learned how to be a mama in those long hospital hours.

For our second son we were required to don the patience cloak in the form of adoption. The waiting felt weird, detached, and the expectations changed multiple times. But he’s ten today, and our life more complete because of our willingness to forget about ideals and instead focus on intent.

Our fourth and final child also spent four months in the NICU. Believe me, we did not WANT to redo those days, but we were called to patience, long-suffering, waiting, again. One more time we endured the days and nights of wondering if he would live or die. Our youngest son is now four. Feisty, fierce, and demands us to refresh our parenting tactics. I love them all more than my own breath.

Habakkuk 2:3 says, “Though it tarries, wait for it…”

‘Waiting’ and ‘Patience’ have different names in the Greek New Testament, but they have the same definition. “Endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance.” I believe the gifting of this fruit from the Holy Spirit is, possibly, one of the greatest. Friend, you hold it within you in two ways. First, you have the ability, no, the opportunity, to sit with those in uncertainty. I cannot begin to list the family and friends who have stopped their lives each and every time Ben and I faced a new, hard thing. We sat with our babies day in and day out, but our people formed a cloud of sacrificial witnessing around us. In so many ways waiting makes one feel helpless, but I want to go on record to say that your ‘waiting’ with us through the multiple valleys of shadow is one of the greatest, most distinguished gifts we have ever received from human beings.

The second way that makes the gift of patience so special, is that we also have the distinct opportunity to read and accept and hold onto the truth that we WAIT for Christ to come. We have a vision of something that is not just an ideal but an intent! “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5(NLT). We get to choose to step away from the arguing over causes and issues because we can choose to devote ourselves to God Himself! In His coming. In His gifting. In all the merciful justice that is His to give, not ours.

And with all due respect to Dr Seuss, I pray you won’t see the waiting place as useless space, but instead, as patience-in-the-presence.

“Though it tarries, wait for it…” Habakkuk 2:3

Purely holding onto patient endurance,

~kathy b

Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” (New York: Random House, 1990) pp. 26-28.