I saw the sweetest thing the other day when a friend shared an idea for spreading the love this February. For each day of the month (29 this time around, for those of you counting), the parent would stick a post it note on the child’s bedroom door with something sweet–a thought, something they appreciate about the child, encouragement–you know, something showing love.
It stuck with me for a few days, and while I love the idea of focusing on the positive and surprising my children with loving messages, something wasn’t sitting well with me.
And then it hit me.
We are no stranger to post-it notes. I have used them in our homeschooling for quite some time. They serve a great purpose and kudos to the inventor. However, I know that nothing is permanent, and I could see those things fluttering down off doors, landing on floors, long before the 29 days were up.
And then there’s my sentimental side to deal with. What do I do? Throw them away when the month is over? I mean, I will have worked for 29 days to create the perfect message times 3, and then at the end, we just toss the messages? Ummm, no, I think not. But keep sticky notes? There’s just no good way to do that, and it will contribute to the clutter I’m trying so hard to be rid of, so, hmmmm, no, not that either.
It finally hit me two days ago what the perfect solution would be.
At first I planned to paint 29 hearts on each canvas to fill in with the loving messages, but I was worried about spacing and what if I wanted to say more on one day than another? That could happen. Today I decided to paint each canvas a signature color for each child, put their name in the middle and surround it with loving messages each day of February. I’ll write the message, surround it with a heart, and hopefully, this will create something lovely for each of the ones I hold dear. (I mean, I wish they’d clean up a little better, empty the dishwasher without being reminded, and put away their clothes for real, but I do hold them all dear. And no, I won’t be putting any of that in my messages.)
I’m excited about the idea, and I hope it will go well. I’m not even going to put a timeframe on when I write my message. If I want to do it at night, I will. But if it doesn’t happen until the next morning, that’s okay too.
After all, those elves just left not too long ago, and that was enough stress for a whole year. I don’t need that whole “I can’t go to bed until…..” or waking up at 3 a.m. and running for a Sharpie to get it done before anyone else wakes up.
This is about love and letting my people know how much they are loved today and everyday. Maybe this will start a new tradition, or maybe it won’t, but it in the words of my Mama, “It’s all for the fun of it.”
Wishing you all someone to tell you how much they love you each and every day!
Love to all.
Note of Apology: I was loading the photo from my phone into the WordPress App, and I hit publish accidentally. I apologize to those of you who got a confusing non-post via email. This is the corrected, edited version. Sorry about that. Best wishes to all.
As I was cleaning up the kitchen after supper tonight, I was thinking about my chipped mug. It’s one of my favorites. Cooter used it, it was in the sink, my cast iron skilled slipped, and there you go.
The story of How My Mug Got Chipped.
But it’s one of my favorites so I am going to make it work for me. Then I started thinking about the one that belonged to my Great Aunt. Nothing fancy just elegant like she was, and so I wanted to have it. Unfortunately someone put it in the microwave and it didn’t like it very much, so there’s a crack in it.
At the time, I was devastated. That was one of those times when I could hear my Mama’s voice. “It’s a thing. Things are replaceable. People aren’t.”
She’s right. But the mug wasn’t going to be easy to replace either so I put it on a shelf near the table where we eat because I can’t let go. Not yet.
I started wondering (I think a lot when I do the dishes…..or I phone a friend, both things help me pass the time without really thinking about how much time I spend cleaning up after meals) if there was something wrong with me that I can get so sentimental OVER A MUG. After coming to the clear conclusion that of course there is nothing wrong with that (ahem), I wondered if there’s something I could DO with these mugs. I mean, the law of averages pretty much states that I will have more chipped mugs in my possession as the years go by.
Might as well be prepared.
After the kitchen was done (okay, mostly) I sat down and decided to click on Pinterest just, you know, to check and see if anyone had given any thought to my predicament.
ALL THE BROKEN MUG PROJECTS, Y’ALL.
I AM NOT CRAZY. I AM NOT ALONE.
So many ideas of things to do with chipped or broken or without a handle mugs. It was a bit overwhelming, a little out there, and very encouraging that I’m not the only one who can’t let go.
Because honestly, our mug collection can tell some stories, people. And some of them are worth telling again.
Tonight I’m giving a shout out to Pinterest. It’s another happy place for me. I have even grown to appreciate that when I arrive, they have a whole new set of ideas for me to look at, based on what I’ve pinned before–“Picked for You.” Well, aren’t you thoughtful? Thank you, Pinterest.
As for the rest of you mug hoarders, much love. I get it. You are in good company. Let’s sit and enjoy our coffee or tea together and share a toast to the mugs and the stories behind them. (But let’s don’t clink them together, no need to go crazy and risk any more cracks and chips, y’all.)
This afternoon I got a call from my Fella. It’s not unusual for him to call that time of day. Sometimes he’ll call to see if we need him to pick up anything on his way home from work. But today, that was not his reason.
The gas gauge is broken in his vehicle. Well, broken is a strong term. Occasionally it works, only you are hesitant to trust it, because what if it’s not? So maybe malfunctioning is a better term. His gas gauge is malfunctioning.
He called because he had “broken down” right after leaving his office. Less than five minutes up the road. He thought it might be that he was out of gas, but then again, he wasn’t sure. He hoped that’s all it was.
The funny thing is he’s always so conscientious about filling up regularly because he never knows exactly how much gas he has left. “The one time I let down my OCD about filling up the tank…..”
We picked him up and did all that needed to happen to get gas back to his vehicle where it was stuck on the side of the road. He poured in the gas and then tried to start it up.
Thankfully, that was the issue. He closed his gas cap, and we were all on our way again. Back to the day to dailies and taking care of business as usual.
Three things occurred to me as I was driving to my next adventure:
*We do this ourselves, don’t we? We think we know how much “gas” we have left to get us through all we need to do, but sometimes we misjudge or we push the limit, and then we burn out.
*When we do run out of gas, patience and grace are the two things we need the most from those around us. When those around us run out of gas, that’s the best thing we can give them–patience and grace. (This observation is in *ahem* retrospect. I might not have been the best giver of these things today, and I’m sorry for that.)
*It takes help from others to get us going again–we just need to ask. Whether that comes in the form of a friend who sits and listens, someone who makes sure we rest and take care of ourselves, or someone who has our back and fends off the gas-guzzlers, we need the support and presence of others to get back up and running again.
Tonight I’m thankful for a vehicle that runs. And for the Fella making his day interruptible, so I could do what I needed to do after the refueling. I’m glad that an empty gas tank was the worst of our worries today. That’s not something we can say everyday.
Wishing you all a full tank and the rest to refuel when it’s not.
Sunday evening at the end of Evening Prayer, a young man in our midst whom I respect and treasure very much offered to say the prayers for the night. He asked if there were any prayer concerns. Our Princess spoke up and looked over at me as if seeking approval for her request. She shared about her upcoming piano recital and how nervous she was. I realized this was important to her, but what really touched my heart is that she felt comfortable in this group of adults to share her innermost feelings.
A couple of minutes later Cooter raised his hand. He shared that he had auditioned for a play and that he would be finding out about his part and beginning rehearsals the next day. He too was nervous…..and very excited.
My heart was overwhelmed.
As the young man offered a heartfelt, beautiful prayer for illnesses and diagnoses and peace and healing, he also asked for calming of nerves and the ability to do what needed to be done to do a good job and feel comfortable playing the piano, standing on a stage.
Bless him. His words were just right.
I will admit that I lifted my head just a little as our friend asked for peace for Cooter, who was sitting right in front of me. What I saw was so precious it moved me to tears. His countenance was turned to the sky and he was looking around, slowly, with a delighted look of anticipation. And then it hit me.
He was looking for God.
Oh my heart.
Prayer can do beautiful things and open up eyes and hearts looking for God.
There’s a story that is being shared rampantly across social media. The story of a daddy/daughter date at their local fast food restaurant. While there, they saw a man come in whom the dad writing this assumed, based on appearance, was homeless. The man went up to the counter and asked if they had any extra food. He waited on a manager, and the man watching him noted his kindness and the way he smiled at folks around him. When the manager came out, he offered a full meal, not just leftover scraps, to the hungry man who had asked for food, and the only thing he “required” was that the man let the manager pray with him. The “homeless” man agreed, and the manager stopped what he was doing and prayed what was described as a beautiful prayer filled with love. And at some point during this prayer, the daddy watching it all and writing about it snapped a photo of the hungry man and the manager.
At this writing, this has been shared over 109,000 times on social media. People are praising this manager and this restaurant for their Christian ideals.
A hungry man was fed. A good thing, right?
I don’t know if this man actually was homeless or not, because the person who wrote the about this didn’t share the man’s name or his story. He didn’t mention asking about it. The thing is I have friends who are homeless. They have names like Mac and Rick and Donna and Travis and Roger and Tonya. They have powerful and broken stories as to why they are without a home to find refuge in. They have stories of how they have been treated and what they have had to do in the face of hunger. They also have stories of kind people and people who have used them. And that is why this story tears me up inside.
What they have had to do to get food when they are hungry breaks my heart. That someone would require one of my friends to pray with them before getting food, not knowing how long it had been since he or she had last eaten…..that does more than break my heart; it makes me sick to my stomach.
In all fairness, I read some of the comments in the thread. I could hear how pleased folks were with what this manager had done. I wondered if maybe I was missing something, so I wrote my wise friend and advocate for those in the margins, Hugh Hollowell from Love Wins Ministries in North Carolina.* What he had to share opened my eyes even more, and he put what I was struggling with into words. Good words.
“The way to think about this is to replace ‘prayer’ with ‘whatever the helper wants to do.’ When seen that way, it is horribly offensive, and can be abusive. If Aub broke down, and asked for help, and some guy said he would give her a lift if she went out with him, that would be seen as creepy as hell. That is exactly the same scenario. Guy asks for help, the helper will only help if the recipient will do what makes the helper happy…..it is all about what the giver wants, and not at all about the recipient.”
My friends who are homeless will tell you they aren’t walking around with a lot of dignity. Folks aren’t eager to hear their thoughts on much of anything. They aren’t given the respect and consideration that other folks are given.
Think about it. This man’s picture was taken. It was shared OVER 109,000 times and, to my knowledge, no one asked his permission. I’m not sure anyone bothered to ask his name. Did anyone invite him to sit down and eat with them? The man on the daddy/daughter date watched it all and took a picture of the actual prayer to put with his story. While I don’t know what happened after the prayer was said, there is no mention of anyone reaching out to this man and taking the time to get to know him. I sure hope it happened that way, but I have my doubts.
It makes me sick to my stomach that prayer was used as a bargaining tool for food. A basic need. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do to get food for myself (let alone my children) if I were hungry and someone said, “Sure but first I require…..” That this has been hailed as a beautiful Christian act makes me realize once again why my friend Mac once asked me, when he was trying to figure out why I was giving him a ride, “So what are you? One of them…..Christians?”
That last word was said with disdain. Since reading this story, my heart has been heavy wondering just what all has happened to my friend at the hand of well-intentioned Christians that has him saying the word in such a tone.
It’s not okay, y’all.
We are supposed to love. Without conditions. Or demands. Or requirements. Just love.
Or, in the face of hunger, feed. That’s a form of love. No tests, no hoops to jump through, no questionnaires.
Prayer can be a beautiful thing. It is relational, something that makes it very holy to me. What happened on Sunday night, when Cooter and our Princess were prayed for, that was sacred. It was beautiful and it touched my children deep in their souls. Our Princess hasn’t blinked an eye of worry over the recital and has practiced intently ever since that prayer was offered for her. Cooter took it to heart and felt only anticipation and joy as Monday afternoon rolled around.
Prayer is beautiful. Those prayers were heartfelt. Because my children asked for them, specifically sharing their needs, in a room where they felt safe with people they felt connected to. And the prayers were offered by a young man who knows their names and listens to their stories and has a relationship with them.
And that to me, makes all the difference in the world. When prayer is asked for, and it is freely given, that is a beautiful, precious, and holy thing.
Tonight I’m thankful for the people in that room Sunday night who seek and build and nurture relationships and who try to love each other just as we were commanded to do. I’m thankful for a young man with a giving heart, one that listens for the whispers of grace and talks to God with unfaltering trust and faith. I give thanks for my friend Hugh and people like him who teach the rest of us about loving folks, all folks, and giving them the respect we all deserve and the love we all yearn for. I am thankful for folks who ask others their names, hear their stories, and build community such that when one needs a friend or guidance or peace, they feel safe asking for what they need and for prayer.
Prayer can be a beautiful thing. But it should never be currency. Or required. It should connect us, not separate.
Love to all.
*It is interesting that I went to Hugh for his input on this story. It was Hugh’s writing about prayer that first stirred my heart years ago and led me to work through some hard questions I had about prayer. If you’d like to learn more about or support his mission, please click here. You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter about the pursuit of beauty here.
Our Princess came in from reading her science book yesterday afternoon. She was quite upset.
“Mama, do you know why the pond down there isn’t running over with fish?!” she asked, referring to a fun fishing pond we’ve visited a couple of times. “Do you know? It’s BECAUSE THE FISH ARE DYING!”
Sometimes I cannot keep up with the trails her mind runs down.
“Ummm, okay? And why are the fish dying?”
“See, it says right here.” She held out her book. “Fish have a protective layer on their scales that protect them from bacteria and bad stuff in the water. When people catch them and touch them, even if it’s so they can release them back into the water, those fish are likely TO DIE BECAUSE THEY’VE LOST PART OF THEIR PROTECTIVE LAYER!!!!!”
She was really getting wound up now.
She assured me she would no longer have any part of “catch and release”fishing if there was even the tiniest chance she was harming them. “I mean, first of all, there’s a hook in their mouth…..”
I was thinking about that yesterday evening, and it occurred to me how we do this in life. With people. Folks we know and folks we don’t. We have good intentions. No plans to do any harm. We’re just hanging out, enjoying ourselves, living our lives, and we meet folks, spend time with them, and then we return back to our own story. But whether we realize it or not, we touched those folks. And sometimes without intending to, we have left a mark on them that could be harmful.
It could be something we said, something we didn’t say, how we really didn’t acknowledge their presence, how we didn’t see them, or how we made some offhand comment that was said in jest but really hurt. We have the power to hurt without even realizing it. Just in the way we touch someone in a moment.
We also have the power to heal.
I don’t think through the things I say or things I do nearly often enough. My girl reminded me how important that is. Fish are dying, people. So are tender spirits. It’s up to us to make things better.
I continually find myself amazed by, IN AWE OF these creatures I have been given to raise.
Sometimes I’m amazed that they can eat so much or what they won’t eat or how much of a mess they can make or how long they can put off doing something I’ve asked, but mostly–mostly I’m amazed at watching them become their own people.
As my oldest writes her own story at my alma mater, doing things I never dreamed of doing, I’m amazed. I watch her and think, She’s the cool one I always wanted to be friends with. And I’m lucky enough that we’re even better than friends.
For the past eighteen months, I’ve watched our Princess swim and swim well. I can hold my own in the water, but she knows strokes and dives and turns and the ins and outs and it just makes me wonder, where on earth did all that come from? She is something to see.
Cooter is figuring out who he is and what his thing is. Poor guy, he often gets stuck doing whatever his sister is doing. He enjoys it but still. He plays piano, does gymnastics, and after working really hard last summer, he also made the swim team.
But recently I saw him step out on his own to do something, and it took my breath away. In that moment I realized I was watching him move one step closer to figuring out and becoming who he is.
We watched a youth performance during Christmas, and it was wonderful. Cooter loved it, and I saw a spark in his eyes when they showed previews for their spring performances. He was intrigued. I mentioned to him that he could maybe try out, and he alternated between nervous and interested. Aub helped him pick out his audition lines and memorize them. Those lines stayed on our refrigerator where he could stand and practice them for over a week.
When the day came, he woke up excited. I suppose there were some nerves in there, but my little ham was ready. We dropped his sister off, and we were on our way. He was #2 in line. We walked to the back of the theater to the entrance to the back where he would be auditioning in front of two of the adult directors. The helper asked him if he was nervous. He shrugged and grinned. He didn’t seem to be very upset that I wasn’t supposed to go back with him.
I, on the other hand, was a mess. I held it in, but inside I was a rumbly tumbly tee-total mess. That was my baby back there…..
He went back for a few minutes. When he came out, he had a grin on his face and walked right past me, not even seeing me.
He’s been excited ever since. No question, no turning back, no second thoughts. He’s all about this play. He’s also had this day, TODAY, in his head as THE DAY for two weeks. It was two weeks ago that he auditioned, and today was his first rehearsal. He woke up reminding me of what day it was.
As if I could forget.
What a cool kid, y’all.
He found people he knows to sit with and never looked back. He clapped for others as their parts were announced and the look on his face when he found out his part was priceless. At least it seemed to be. I was all the way across the room with the parents.
Because he’s almost grown now, you know. He’ll be 9 very soon–or “hitting the double digits next year,” as he likes to rush things and remind me.
It was a lovely afternoon. The program is organized and fun and a really, really good place for these young people. The playwright, bless him, didn’t finish writing the play until he found out how many cast members he was going to have.
So he wrote a play with forty-six different characters.
That made me smile almost as big as Cooter when I learned that.
What a beautiful thing for these children. Each and every one of them matter. Each and every one important. I’m so thankful that we happened upon this theater program. Or, you know, were led there.
Tonight I’m thankful for the experiences I get to have because of these unique people I’m blessed to know and raise. My Mama used to say, “You brought them into the world, now let them show it to you.” Maybe she was quoting someone, I don’t know. But beautiful words all the same. And they’ve really hit home with me lately. I love the world my children show me. One full of love, laughter, justice, mercy, grace, teasing, storytelling, and joy. Sure, it’s a messy world much most of the time. But I will tell you this, I wouldn’t trade anything for it.