Gentleness, Gifts & Talents, Uncategorized

How Real Women Use Gentleness

Gentleness is one of those words I hardly hear anymore. Try it out in your own mouth. Find a phrase where you might use the word ‘gentle’, and practice saying it, and while you do that, let me share a gentling story of my own.

It wasn’t that she used the word itself. She simply evaluated her job and the space we both occupied and she made a choice to be gentle with me.

Remember that trip out west we took? The one that gently turned us back into a normal family? The trip to one of Alaska’s peninsula’s, where we let God’s glory refill our drained souls? The trip began in Michigan, but we stopped the first day out to spend with my brother and his family in Washington. We capered around Seattle’s outdoor market and let cousin’s reconnect while they giggled at golden pig statues, wrinkled their noses at fresh caught fish flying, and soared high above the ocean’s edge in a slow turning Ferris wheel. When we hugged goodbye and returned to the airport for the next leg of our journey, there was an inward groan because we had to switch airlines and check ourselves in all over again. Once tickets were printed and bags checked we headed for the security line. Shoes off. Laptops out. Snacks separated. Cars, stickers, books, crayons, and one chewed on white-ish bear that the littlest sleeps with, all zipped up in backpacks. Oh! And that one card of mine. The newest one that brands me as a remolded human. Yeah, so I hold this one card out to the gentleman security officer who’s watching us eject all this stuff into bins. He nods and points me to a separate metal detector that spins around my body while I spread eagle and raise my arms above my head. And when the spinning stops, I’m instructed to step into her space.

She, again, had me lift my arms out away from my sides, and in the same breath asked me where my prostheses was? My arm? My leg? ‘No’, I answered…….and felt the hesitation sit long.

Her eyes met mine. And I didn’t know the proper thing to do. The big second hand in my head clicked loud and I had a lightning quick thought of the line of people waiting behind me, so I let it all.just.fall…. “My breasts. Everything’s just man-made product now.” And I let my eyes flick away from her face.

Her hesitation to respond to that lasted far less than mine. “You look really good to me.” Her words felt like she had just handed me a warm cup of tea.

Friend, I had felt the hand of the Gentle Healer. I had touched His cloak. And because that woman was on duty at that hour, He had used her to gently remind me that He makes all things new. That I was still made in His image. The world did not know that I had been rearranged to save my life. She knew because I told her, and she had been brave enough to look into my soul and gently guide my thoughts away from shame.

She was and is a stranger to me, and yet, there were things I was feeling, stuffing, and unbeknownst to both of us, her words echoed Simon & Garfunkels song.

“When you’re weary, feeling small.

When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough….

I’m sailing right behind you.

Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will ease your mind.”

And woman to woman, face to face, it felt like a shared hymn of grace.

Oh, if we could all be so gentle.

Here’s a little something else for you to think about while you’re searching for your phrase. Jesus took three years to minister to people. People of all shapes and sizes. The young and the old. The rich, the poor, and the painfully average. The Jew, the Gentile, and the demon possessed. In those three years, it would be impossible to know how many people he healed and made well. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t find a single story of restoration that He did out of anger or annoyance. Each person was treated with gentleness. Even when the room He was in sometimes buzzed with condemnation. It wasn’t and isn’t Jesus’ nature to scold you for being broken. It’s just not how He does things.

Ephesians 4:2, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (NLT). Remember, love does not boast, neither is it proud. It protects. And, sometimes, we need protection from our own battering thoughts. Sometimes we devalue the walk because what seems momentarily untrue may be the product of a new start.

Remember when Jesus had called Matthew to be His disciple? Matthew did not hesitate, but instead planned a big dinner with all his tax collector friends. Jesus walked into that house and immediately heard the Pharisees whisper in the windows, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” I am always humbled when I hear His response. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.” (Matt. 9:11-13 NLT).

And here’s where I feel myself slowly move to the proverbial floor to sit at Jesus’ feet. Because I’ve been that sick one. Because His mercy sends a stranger to realign my scope. Because there’s so much He can teach me, and His gentle manner draws me in and I want to be blessed.

Jesus gently heals us. He gently comforts us. He gently whispers to us. And, when necessary, He gently corrects us, because He loves us. Because way back, near the beginning of time, when the first two children had eaten that which was forbidden, and when they had found the first hiding spot, it wasn’t a great big wave of violence that God met them with. He came quickly to find them. He didn’t wait for those two guilt ridden mortals to crawl to His proud throne, but He went straight to the place where they were, and called to them. His pursuit of lost humanity began that moment.

Here’s what else I know, sometimes you’re the one called to do the gentling. Maybe through a long-awaited phone call, or a slow walk, or even those quiet words that needed to find their own space. It might be that extra four bucks she needed to cover some bread, or arms of compassion wrapped around his shoulders. It might be an easy high five, or a storybook read out loud in the middle of chaos. Because here’s the heart of it, not one of us hasn’t been roughed up a bit by crude noise and the constant race of real life. Not one of us hasn’t cried a lament. But God, in His gentle way, stands us up and looks into our eyes and says, “You look pretty good to me”. And. He. Means. Every. Word!

Growing in Gentleness,

~kathy b

Gifts & Talents, Giving, Parenting, Thankfullness

Growing up with Linda

In four weeks a group of old friends will gather on a campus full of highschoolers and reminisce about thier own styles and cliques and adventures full of poor judgement.  They’ll remind each other of hours spent working for free to cover a broken rule, of love lost and found, and they’ll talk about the craziness of 50 years gone by.  They’ll pass their phones around showing off pictures of kids and grandkids and that camper they always wanted.  They also decided to take some time and talk about those who are no longer among them.  Those who have passed away.   One of those is my mom.  Here is the tribute I wrote to be read at that gathering.  I love that they chose to not forget fellow classmates and honored that they asked me to describe what is was like growing up with Linda as my mom.  Here is my, somewhat tearful, walk down memory lane.

   
 

  
Encapsulating the life of your Mom is maybe one of the more difficult things. Mapping out a timechart of motherhood roles and duties requires a scroll of paper across the kitchen floor because the kids have full bellies and safe play and always, always a shoulder to lean into whenever it’s needed and how do you chart that? Growing up with Linda as a Mom was busy and full and secure because she literally took care of everything! Linda was an extrovert but absolutely wanted, needed, to stay home with her kids. So she opened a daycare in our home and filled it with kids and made friends with other Mama’s who needed her multi-tasking, her practicality, and her Christian boldness to help raise their offspring. For roughly 13 years she took care of multiple kids alongside her own 4. At times there were between 15 and 20 little beings pounding up and down the stairs, hanging from trees, splashing in the pool, and snacking on graham crackers with left-over cake frosting smothered on them. She embodied the “old” woman who lived in a shoe and the chaos fueled her. And while the mundane of scrubbing dirty floors and dirty dishes might literally scrub out the very creativity of a God-designed soul, she battled that with a small business on the side. Word got out that Linda made wedding cakes, and so, blushing couples sat side-by-side on our brown patterned couch and talked colors, styles, and dates and there are many memories of helping Mom transport multi-tiered cakes to church after church, the upside, for us, of course, was the start of a new tradition. Leftover wedding cake frosting smeared on graham crackers! Mom and Dad were conservative Seventh day Adventists which meant there was no caffeine, no meat, no alcohol, and no rock-n-roll. Instead, there was church and school involvement. Everything from teaching/leading Sabbath School and heading a group in a potluck rotation to attending music programs and gymnastics shows for all four kids, and eventually starting up a preschool program at Hinsdale Junior Academy. Linda was an early bird, a roadrunner, for the rate of speed at which she could accomplish things was amazing. She started every day ahead of her kids, but that also meant bedtimes were early because mama was tired and she needed to be done at the end of the day.
 Our home was always full of people. If the 6 of us was not enough, we often had people in various transitional places in theirs lives staying for days or weeks, or, occasionally, months. Every Sabbath a special lunch was prepared and it was not an unusual site to have invited guests over for Sabbath lunch. Holidays were the same. If we did not have family around to share a loaded Thanksgiving table with, then she would seek out a single person or two from the church or school and add another place-setting. Hospitality was defined for me by my Mom, and she seemed to have a soft spot for single mothers, because my memory lists quite a few that found a warm smile, a heart that didn’t judge, and a flexible drop-off and pick-up place to bring their kids. The Christian atmosphere was just a bonus.

 Linda was a high-energy, bossy, woman, but she was equally kind, gentle, and nurturing and how you pour all of that into a 5’2″ woman is a wonder to me, but that is how God designed her.

 Her “working” life after kids was that of her in-home daycare until 1988 when she started a preschool program at Hinsdale Junior Academy. It was into her second year there that she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44. She took that on like everything else, with fury. She scheduled herself, her kids, and her job around her single mastectomy surgery, her chemotherapy, and her radiation treatments. She never lost her hair that time. I think she was too stubborn and bossy, even the hair follicles learned who they were dealing with. She chose no reconstruction, but instead bore those scars as any good soldier would. You do what you have to do to survive so you can take care of your kids. Because that was her only prayer, “Lord, please let me finish raising my kids.” And she did.

 From the school she left and went on to run a daycare center in an elite business district in a western suburb of Chicago, eventually starting a private school within its walls. When she reached a point where she could no longer give her whole heart to those kids and their families, she switched careers and worked for a financial investment group. When the main broker that she worked for went to start his own company she left and went to work for a Honda dealership close to home, where she retired from when her own mother got sick with cancer. 

  She left and went to FL and stayed with her mom until her death in March of 2005. Struggling with where to stay and live from there, she and Alan, who had retired from Hinsdale Hospital, sent prayers heavenward for direction, never dreaming that a few weeks later they would get an anxious call from a hospital in Grand Rapids, MI where their second daughter, (me) had just given birth to micro-premie twins at only 24 wks gestation. She shed tears and packed her bags and sat by my side for all of the fours months required. This is where she also buried a grandson. The loss of her mother, who was one of her closest friends, and her almost 2 month old baby grandson whom she had held only once, finally took some of the wind out of her sails. Once her daughter and granddaughter were safely home, she and Alan moved down to Nashville, TN to live near her oldest daughter, Diana. Life grew quieter there.

 Linda was a ‘busy-body’, and although she had slowed some, true “retirement” nearly drove her crazy, so she got involved in a free medical clinic for the poor and put her efforts into running the office there. But in January of 2008, the same day grandchild number 7 was born, she received an early morning call from her doctor who told her that the weakness in her left hand and the drooping of the left side of her smile was because of an inoperable brain tumor. For the next two and a half years she took the recommended treatments until finally there was nothing else and the tumor was growing so fast she declined every day. Her family gathered quickly and on June 2, 2010, after a peaceful five day coma, her heart stopped, and she rested quietly. It was a strange quiet for a woman born with a fire burning in her. Linda was 64 years old.

 I miss that Mama every day. I miss how she would stop her entire world if you called her and needed her. “Ok, honey, what can I do to help? Do you need me to come?”

 Always. Every time.

   
    
 

Gifts & Talents, Giving

David, The Sweet Psalmist

The truth is, I’ve never thought much about writing. Never felt a talent for it. Sure, I scribbled things down now and then over the years and Dad and Mom would say things like, “You need to write!” But I always took those words as kind of like being poked with a needle. Sharp and maybe ‘NO’. Stop! Stop saying that! It sounds like a commitment that maybe I don’t want. Like babysitting your younger siblings who you knew would never respect you and secretly had already decided to ignore everything you said the minute your parents left. And I struggled with the biggest question, “What would I write about?” I’m not a Tom Clancy, or a Kay Kuzma, or even a Gertrude Chandler Warner. I have only rambling thoughts and, most of the time, interruptions, and I NEVER keep a journal or bullet points or…….
OK. You get it, I’m a mess!

And then God spoke.

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I don’t type those words easily. This was not a light show or a boom of thunder or a firm grip on my shoulder holding me down in a chair “til you finish that job” kind of moment. This was a ‘quiet in the night’, ‘solo drive down the highway’, ‘lonely hotel room’ kind of conversation. Writing is not a career path for me. It’s a holy walk.

What is YOUR holy walk?

2 Samuel 23 is subtitled ‘David’s Last Words’ (NLT). David was a writer. A poet. A singer/songwriter. He was also a warrior, a shepherd, a king, and a “man anointed by the God of Jacob.” That’s a tall order. How did he balance all those talents? I ask this honestly and globally.
If God gives you gifts, (and you ALL have them), how do we balance them with a seemingly endless list of to-do’s? And how do we accept them without including exhaustive sighs and overwhelming fears of not-good-enoughs?

Friend, please realize that your talents, your gifts, are God given. And there are so. many. ways. to package them in our ordinary lives. Those of you with the gift of song raise that music to glorify the Lord and the rest of us are served with the sound. Those of you with the gift of culinary savvy spin spoons and feed the weary, serving the hungry. And those of you with the gift of organization put to order rooms and programs to serve our senses and you’re following God’s law of order in this big universe. And you’re following King Solomon’s Proverbs 18:16, “Giving a gift works wonders; it may bring you before important people!”

And who’s more important than the children of God?

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Take a moment this week and write down your gifts. You’re already using them. It’s the happy joy tool designed just for you that brings you satisfaction at the end of the day. It’s the true art within that helps you unwind when life’s a bit upside down. And it’s that red thread that reminds us to be thankful unto the Lord, keeping us from becoming foolishly selfish. Then ask yourself if God is nudging you to step out and use it in a slightly new light. And if you feel so inclined, if you feel your own talent walking towards holiness, share with us?

purely searching for gifts,

~kathy