Connection, Kindness

Choose Kindness

shutterstock_160575743A few years ago, my son was super into origami. Spending countless hours meticulously bending and folding paper into mini masterpieces, he protected his crafts with a ferocity rivaling a mother dragon. As only a nine-year-old boy would, he proudly displayed his creations in his bedroom’s origami museum to protect and admire his labors.

That’s why I nearly fainted when he offered one of his freshly crafted origami cranes to a stranger.

We had just come out of the library that balmy summer afternoon. Bustling along, clicking errands off our To Do list, I prepared to squeeze myself into our tin can of a hot minivan. Just before the leather seat threatened to scorch my hamstrings, I heard a little voice mumble something indistinctive in another direction. Realizing it was my son’s, and determined to attack our next task, I turned to bark some version of mama orders like “Get in the car! We’ve got things to do and can’t be late to pick up your sister!” But my “mama ire” was quickly stalled by a disheveled elderly man sitting alone in his car. Panning over to my son, I soon gathered that he was attempting a conversation with our chronologically gifted friend.

Like a freight train screeching to a halt to spare someone sprawled across the tracks, my attention laser-beamed on my son. Why is he talking to this man? Doesn’t he know not to talk to strangers? Plus, this particular stranger looked next in line for the Curmudgeon of the Year award, complete with curling lip.

“Sir, would you like my crane?” my son interjected through my protective panic.

And then it hit me… yes, my son knew all of those things, yet he chose kindness.

He chose to step across those invisible boundaries we erect for ourselves and our children. Ones grounded in good intention, but dividing us from real connection. Ones that mean to protect us and our children from harm – borne out of responsibility – but sometimes fueled by fear.

As our curmudgeonly friend’s face transformed into a picture of grace received, I knew God was whispering through my nine-year-old. I could hear his tender voice lift me on waves of eternal hope with these reminders…

• Busyness blames, but kindness cares.
• Fear kills kindness. Kindess bears love. God is love.
• Kindness can be an act of worship – paying it forward in God’s name.
• Kindness can be His love expressed, and there is nothing greater. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
• Kindness can be sacrifice – of time, of energy, of prized possessions. Yet Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Let’s follow His lead.

Like my son’s origami, God bends and shapes us to prepare to add us to His eternal museum in heaven. We are His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). As His masterpieces, let’s keep fear from leaving us reluctant to abide in His love, balking at our chances to choose kindness. Dare to choose kindness, as God boldly chooses grace for us everyday.

Reflect:

1. What is one small act of kindness you can integrate into your daily life?
2. How can you push fear aside to fuel love and kindness?

Resources:
A Case for Kindness by Lisa Barrickman
Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman

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Humility

Pride Monsters

 blog pride monster picI have a confession: I’ve been arrested by the “pride police” on many occasions.

By this, I mean I’ve been caught red-handed in major acts of mom hubris. I grin widely, giggle with glee, and feel that much better about myself when my kids get recognized at school or in sports. With toddler-like gusto, I post their accomplishments to social media, anxiously awaiting “likes” and comments.

Before I go any further, know that, in my opinion, celebration and pride are two very different things.

Celebration is totally acceptable and something God wants us to enjoy. The key is to give all the glory to Him. We’ve only arrived in Problemville when that gladness gives way to human superiority. When our identity shifts because of that achievement. When we give ourselves the glory instead of God.

Now that we have that established, let’s jump back into my impending arrest…

I revel in the glory of achievement and the approval of others. I’ll take a good pat on the back – in almost any form – any day.

But after the rush inevitably fades, I find myself drained – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Then I ask myself: “What was so great about that?”

That’s God’s way of starving my pride monster. I know it’s what I need, but don’t always want.

What is a pride monster?

He’s that snarly, scaly little critter who puffs out your chest and creeps into your heart to feast on your insecurity. He’s the evil gremlin who clutches your neck so you’ll stick your nose up to gasp for high-brow air. He’s the Enemy’s child and he’s always on the prowl for souls in need of earthly recognition.

I wish I could say that my pride monster, after many forced fasts, looked more akin to a shriveled gremlin instead of a fluffy moguai, but in the interest of full disclosure, he is somewhere in between. Just when I think I’ve deprived him of all nourishment by praying, Facebook fasting, and Bible study, he tilts his pitiful little head and thinly squeaks, “Feed me!”

I try to ignore his cries and tune them out with prayer, but he’s a tenacious little thing, ripping at my unbelief, reminding me how good that initial rush of recognition feels.

Then, I remember His Word…

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

The creature finally goes quiet. I breathe in and lean back into God’s arms. But I know he will be back and I’ll be arrested again. It’s just a matter of time. It’s just part of being human and the reason why we need God. Every minute. Everyday.

Reflect:

  1. What do your “pride monsters” look like? What are yours?
  2. What verses or prayers do you use to starve your “pride monsters?”
  3. How can you invite more humility into your daily life when “pride monsters” invade?

Dive Deeper:   A Platform of Pride. First 5, Day 11, Covenant Plan.

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Connection

Soul to Soul

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV)

“What is she thinking?”

That’s the question I ask myself hundreds of times each day.

She is our twelve-year-old daughter, who happens to have Down syndrome.

She is significantly delayed cognitively and physically, more than even most children with Down syndrome.

She is also a spit-fire strawberry blond who loves to run, laugh, listen to music, and give us a tween “stink eye” when she doesn’t get her way.

She is a gift from God who checks our “pride monsters” at the door.

She reminds us to slow our pace to God’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

She is so many things, just as we all are.

We are each a unique life bundle. Our lives are canvases of characteristics painted by our actions, choices, and thoughts.

And this is where my throat lumps. What are our daughter’s thoughts? Specifically, her deepest thoughts? Selfishly, I want to hear them because that’s how I connect on a soul level with others. I want to touch her soul with my words, but it’s like a wisp in the wind. I can see it – almost grab it sometimes when she peers into my eyes – but then it dances away on gusts beyond my reach…

Our daughter with Down syndrome does speak a few words, but oftentimes they’re out of context. That said, her immediate physical needs motivate her to speak in context…  like “want to eat,” “cookie,” or “please.” Her spoken word bank tops out around 10 to 20.

She has never used words to express how she feels, however. For feelings, she employs physical-behavioral means, which come in the form of a broad smile after that cookie, a hoe-down-worthy stomping after being told “no,” or her go-to for “mad:” a sit-down-and-won’t-budge.

Since she isn’t able to express her feelings with words, I feel distance between us. I’m a verbal processor. Words, language, and conversation are like oxygen to me. Our other two children adeptly express themselves with words – sometimes too well! Why can’t I have that with our twelve-year-old daughter?

This is when I plaintively pray for a device to plug into her brain that reports her thoughts!

Where is technology when I truly need it? I want to know whether she knows God. I want to know whether she loves me. I want to know whether she is happy living in our home.

God then tenderly taps me on the shoulder, interrupting my reverie. He reminds me of His truth about our girl: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

And I melt. Our girl, in all her meekness, is set for a beautiful inheritance.

Perhaps she has already moved to a higher plane and has a direct line to the deepest One of all? Maybe her unique-to-Down-syndrome Brushfield spots – tiny stars in her deep blue irises – were placed there by God to remind me of the mysteries and the majesties of His vast universe? Maybe He is just reminding me that my meager human understanding will always be just that? (Proverbs 3:5)

Maybe I’m the one with the shallow connection to God?

Maybe I’m not meant to connect with her the way I want to now – at least not on this earth? Maybe I’m to wait until we reunite in eternity? If so, I can’t wait to plug into her beautiful soul on that glorious day! I long to collect all her hopes, dreams, and deepest desires…

And this is when gratitude creeps in.

God knows me so well. He knows how to draw me close. With a sheepish side-grin and a wink upward, I clasp my hands together and close my eyes. I begin to pray, thanking Him for the gift that He has given us in our girl. The lessons that she teaches us. That God loves us enough to entrust us with her care. But mostly that our girl keeps me plugged into God, the ultimate source of soul connection and renewal!

Reflect:
1. With whom do you struggle to communicate? (Maybe they don’t have a cognitive or physical disability, but they have personality traits or habits that rub you the wrong way or prevent a healthy relationship.)
2. Write a prayer asking God to help sort out your struggle in His will.

Dive Deeper:
“Why Your Brand of Unique is Perfect” by Amy Carroll

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