Saturday, February 23, 2013


26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1

            Sitting.  Seems harmless.  Seems unproductive.  Seems like a waste of time.  Sometimes "sitting" is a waste of time, but other times it is an expression of love and kindness that can touch every family member.

            Some recent examples in our family include the following:
                        being gone from home for 12 hours—with most of that time sitting on bleachers—so I could take a daughter to a traveling recreational basketball tournament;
                        repeating the above the next weekend;
                        driving 4 hours in one direction for a college visit, spending most of my day sitting in parent and general information meetings, and then driving home again;
                        repeating the above again for another child going the opposite direction to visit a different college;
                        leaving home at 5:30 and driving 2 ½ hours to take my kids to a group-rate skiing trip and then spending 10 ½ hours dividing  my time between waiting (and reading) in the lodge and walking out to check on and watch my kids on the slopes; and
                        simply watching a good family show together

            How can this be an expression of love?  The investment of time can often be more valuable and appreciated than the receiving gifts, money, or even special privileges.  The 1970's introduced the idea of parents concentrating on spending quality time with their children and worrying less about spending quantity time with their children.  The idea became more solidified and put into practice in the 1980's and 1990's.  However, the long-term results have shown this idea to be greatly flawed.  Yes, having some "quality" time between parents and children is important, but often memorable, quality time comes as a result of spending quantity time.

            For example, on the return trip home from a college visit, my daughter stopped in the middle of a conversation and said, "This is kind of weird." 

            "What do you mean?  What did I say?"

            "No.  That's not it.  It's a good kind of weird.  It seems like we are always doing this or that, and our conversation is usually you telling me what I need to do or my asking you questions about what I need to do or questions about homework.  This is nice.  Just talking."

            That conversation happened because I took the time to be with my daughter and spent enough time with her to allow the "urgent" to fade away and to allow a time of pondering and reflection to drift to the top of our conversation.

            As I am writing this, the majority of my children are playing a game on a coffee table with another daughter sitting next to the game while reading her book.  A few feet away from them, my husband lies on the floor watching another daughter build with Lego blocks.  I am purposely positioned near all of this.  Despite some differences in our hands-on activities, we are spending time together as a family.  I know it will not technically fit everyone's definition of spending time together, but too often choosing to stay together in the same room for an evening is overlooked as making a difference.  Contrast this to a family that spends its time in separate rooms (or bedrooms) every night.  The overall relationships are different.

            Another example would be my grandson yesterday.  I have not seen him since Christmas.  Although he was not terrified to have me at his house, he did rush into my arms.  In contrast, after spending time with him—sitting on the floor next to him while he played and gradually talking to him and playing with him—he began leading me around the house to show me things and was willing to give me hugs and kisses.  This did not happen because of something wonderful I did with him (quality time), but because I had spent an extended amount of time with him (quantity time).  He did not need me to bring him a bag full of presents.  He simply needed me to spend time sitting with him.  My sitting with him whispered words of love and kindness that touched his almost 2-year old heart.  Even though "sitting" can sometimes be a lazy escape and a waste of time, at other times sitting can be powerful and life changing.  How has "sitting" made a difference in your life?

Monday, February 4, 2013

#15—Thank You for Your Patience

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#15— Thank You for Your Patience

             I barely made it through January and the "wind left my sail."  The good news is that I had no funerals or visitations to attend this past week.  Woo Hoo!  Now, it's time to get back to work.  At this point I make no promises when I will finish this series, but hopefully, I can get back to a fairly dependable routine and find a way to touch your family.

            Today, the expression of love and kindness I would like to suggest is patience.  I admit that I chose this topic for selfish reasons because I definitely need a little mercy from you and your gift of patience as I have failed to keep up with the writing schedule I originally proposed.  One of the daily verses that come to my email inbox this week was on this very topic:

            "A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense."  Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)

            As you can see here, a person's patience is not an indication of what another person deserves, but it is more of a reflection of the character of the person extending the patience.  Unfortunately, this verse also condemns me for not being very wise.  If I were a wiser person, I would extend more patience.  I do not know how I can be so painstakingly patient some days or regarding some situations but so explosive with impatience at other times. 

            This gift of patience may be easy for you to express to others with love and kindness.  Yet, it is something I have to continually choose to possess and express.  Even so, I am banking on your patience for my lack of writing for the last two weeks and for the long delay of posting the photo above.  For those who have been reading my blog, I referred to a story about this footstool on November 9, 2012—My Footstool of Memories—and said I would dig it out of the closet and post a picture of it.  I finally did it today.  Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

#14— Stepping Up to the Plate

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#14— Stepping Up to the Plate

            I did not grow up in a sports family.  Our television was often found broadcasting the same types of shows over and over, but sports was not usually included in our family's line-up.  I played some park recreational basketball while in elementary school, but that was about the extent of my playing sports.  (Although I got involved with cheerleading, the pom pon squad, and martial arts, I do not consider those the same as playing—and then being able to coach—team sports.)  

            As a result, I would consider the tireless efforts of volunteer park league coaches as true acts of kindness that touch an endless number of families.  Recreational team sports have taken a toll on our family with seven children playing basketball, softball, and soccer if it is available.  However drained we might feel with the time (and money) commitment that accompanies these activities, it is not the same as if we were coaching these sports as well.

            So, here's my hat off to the coaches, score keepers, clock runners, etc., that make recreational sports possible for our community's young children.  Despite the fact that you may have gotten involved only to keep the program alive so your children could play, no family would be able to participate if you had not been willing to step up to the plate and carry some of the responsibility that make park recreational sports possible.

#13— A Little Time for a Stranger

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#13— A Little Time for  a Stranger

            Sometimes an expression of kindness can simply be sharing some minutes out of your day to listen to someone else.  I had the privilege of touching someone this way (and receiving the same courtesy) just this week. 

            I made arrangements to meet with a delightful woman I was acquainted with several years ago.  She has reached a different stage in her life and had some questions for me.  (In other words, I am much older, and she wanted to talk to someone who has been there and done that.)  Conveniently, we met at a fast food restaurant about half way between our two towns. 

            Regardless whether I was of any help to her or not, I was energized and refreshed after our two-hour discussion that sped by before we knew it.  However, my emphasis is not on this discussion, but on the one that followed.  After we expressed our good-byes and I was gathering up my things, a woman from a table nearby came over to me.  "I'm sorry that I overheard part of your discussion.  I was not meaning to eavesdrop, but can I ask you some questions, too?"

            Apparently our original discussion was exactly the same topic that this woman had been discussing with a couple of her friends over the past few weeks.  Isn't it amazing how we "happened" to be sitting there together?  God knew who needed to talk to whom that day.  Well, I spent a few minutes discussing the topic on her mind, but then she went on to tell me an hour's worth of semi-related stories while her husband read the newspaper in the next booth.  This delightful woman obviously had a lot on her mind, and I will probably remember some of the things that she shared for a long time. 

            Although I had no obligation to listen to this stranger and had no promise of financial gain by doing so, my expression of kindness to listen to her ended up touching me—and my husband since I went home and shared some of her stories—and all it took was a little of my time.

#12—The Power of a Cookie

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#12—The Power of a Cookie

            Traditionally, when someone passed away, neighbors, friends, church family members, and extended family members would provide meals for the family as an expression of love and kindness.  To a certain extent that is still done today, but I do not think it is as common as it used to be.  Yet, families are touched and souls are nourished by condolences expressed through food.

            I had intended to carry on this tradition with a recent loss of a family friend, but I was not sure where to take a meal.   The family was often absent from the house of the deceased to take care of related legal matters.  Therefore, I opted to provide cookies to the family.  Some of the cookies were the soft, delicious kind from the bakery section of a grocery store, and others were homemade.

            The homemade cookies came from a recipe we had received from the man we now miss.  I do not know if it is a cookie he had shared with his family or not.  I hoped it was.  I thought it might both trigger fond memories of his good cooking and exhibit some of the influence he had had on our family.  I know nothing I did to touch this family wiped away their pain, but I hope the cookies had the power to say, "Your loved one was special to us, and we miss him, too."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#11— Burned Biscuits That Taste Like Love

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#11—Burned Biscuits That Taste Like Love

            The following tips are NOT mine.  I would love to give credit to the author, but I received it in a forwarded email.  However, I thought it fit perfectly with my theme for this month, and I hope it will touch you and your family.  Enjoy.  I will add a comment of my own at the end.

            When I was a kid, my Mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.  On that evening so long ago, my Mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad.  I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed!  Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my Mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that ugly burned biscuit.  He ate every bite of that thing; never made a face nor uttered a word about it! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my Mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits.  And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned biscuits every now and then."

            Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired; and besides a little burned biscuit never hurt anyone!"

            As I've grown older, I've thought about that many times. Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults and choosing to celebrate each other's differences is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. 

            And that's my prayer for you today... that you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God.  Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker! We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!  So, please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burned one will do just fine.  Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. "Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - it has no point"

            --Now you are back to me.  What a wonderful expression of love and kindness!  How about choosing to eat a burned biscuit this week?  What will your burned biscuit be?  Literally, a food that is less than desirable?  An inconsiderate co-worker?  Being taken for granted by your family?  If you put your "burned biscuit" in light of the above perspective, you might discover that it tastes a little like love.

#10—Kindness Isn't Always Easy or Fun

26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1
#10— Kindness Isn't Always Easy or Fun

            Have you missed me?  Sometimes a glitch in life can throw off the best of plans.  I will try to get caught up on a few expressions of love and kindness in the next few days, so I can hopefully end the month well.

            This past Friday, my husband, my 18-year old daughter, and I visited a dear neighbor in the hospital.  Over the past few years as our neighbor, he has touched my whole family and earned a special place in our hearts.  As we approached the hospital, we met a mutual friend in the parking lot, and she warned us, "If I did not know it was supposed to be him in the bed, I would not have recognized him."  This statement is very similar to one I made to my husband a couple of weeks ago, but I knew his condition had deteriorated even more rapidly since then.

            Sometimes expressing love and kindness to someone who really needs—and wants—it can be difficult.  Yet, that's where we were on Friday.  This dear man did not look like or respond the way we had become accustomed to seeing him.  Even so, he was the same worthy man that deserved to be reminded that he was loved and appreciated.  A person's outer appearance or physical condition does not determine his or her worthiness.  We were there for him.  We were there to hold his hand and remind him that he was loved.  Despite our intentions, we realistically knew that we may not receive any indication from him that he appreciated or understood our presence.  However, for one brief moment, he had complete clarity as he looked at us and clearly expressed words of thankfulness.

            We left him after a very short time, because we did not want him to keep working hard to try to be conscious for us.  At the last minute, we stopped at McDonald's for a drink (and a snack for one of us) before going home.  While there, we received a message that the hospital had begun preparing him for I.C.U. and had called in his family.  We thanked God that he allowed us to visit when we did, so we could have, what would mostly likely be, our last visit with our neighbor.

            Expressing love and kindness is not always easy or fun, but it is worth doing.  Both you and the recipient will be rewarded.